Category: Non-fiction (Memoir)
Synopsis: Peggy Vincent tells of being a midwife in California from the early 70s until the early 90s. In those years she caught over 2000 children and she has some hilarious, sad and interesting stories to tell. She also tells the tale of the poor care women sometimes get at the hands of the medical profession, for something that is actually perfectly normal.
My Thoughts: Although this book has been on my radar since I read Eva at A Striped Armchair’s review late last year I didn’t start reading it until this week. The week my little sister is due with her first. Isn’t it strange how some books, despite being on your bookshelf for months don’t move to the top of the TBR pile until just the right time. Yes my sister being pregnant had something to do with me reading this book, but she has been pregnant for 9 months now, why did I choose to read the book now? I really don’t have an answer for it, but it did fit well right now.
Before I go any further I am going to warn sensitive readers that there is a strong risk that this post might veer into TMI territory. It is just that kind of book, and I am just that kind of person.
This book had me laughing, crying and angry all within a few pages. It also made me count myself lucky that I live in Sweden and not the US. One of the ongoing themes in the book is the constant battle midwifes have to engage in with regards to the medical community. Here, in Sweden, midwifery is firmly entrenched in the medical community. I have never seen a gynaecologist, my sisters pregnancy has been monitored by midwifes the whole time. That is the norm here. For your woman business you see a midwife, whether it be pregnancy, birth control or the pap-smear it is the local midwife. Now everything isn’t rosy when it comes to midwifery here, my sister has had some bad luck. Because midwifery is part of the regular health care here we will not have the same midwife at the birth as does our pre- and post-natal care. And the midwife at the surgery where my sister is registered quit, then her partner buckled under the pressure of a babyboom and a new management that were, well not very good. So at the end of a pregnancy that has not always gone smoothly (poor thing had hyperemesis) she ended up with agency midwifes. So although Vincent talks about midwifery being more excepted in other countries, it is not always a rosy picture here either. That said I think I prefer our system, at least there isn’t the antagonism that there is in the states. And we don’t have the insurance issues.
All that said though, the events that caused me to see red and rage against the medical profession would, to my knowledge NEVER happen here. Vincent tells a story at the end of the book of a woman who comes into the hospital and wants to have a midwife present. She wants a birth on her terms. The doctor on duty decides that she is progressing to slowly and starts her on pitocin and breaks her water while Vincent is attending another woman. All because HE doesn’t want to be woken up should there be need for a caesarean. To my (slightly limited) knowledge births here are rarely medicated. Births are allowed to take the time they take. I was so angry I actually had to put the book down for a while.
However most of the stories Vincent tell don’t have that component of anger. Most of them are simply lovely stories about the strength of women and the camaraderie that birth brings out in the women present. It is also a story of family. I recognized Vincent’s children in myself. Although my mother isn’t a midwife, she is a nurse and so is my sister. Dinner conversations in our house, like those in Vincent’s house would probably horrify most people, but in our house they are completely normal.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it.