Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: Survivor Moms

Book Review: Survivor Moms: Women’s Stories of Birthing, Mothering and Healing after Sexual Abuse
By Mickey Sperlich & Julia Seng
Motherbaby Press, 2008
ISBN 978-1-89-044641-3
245 pages, softcover

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, CCCE

Past sexual abuse is an unfortunately common experience for women. Anyone who works with women of childbearing age should be mindful and informed of the effects of an abuse history on the woman’s experience of pregnancy, birthing, and mothering. Indeed, I consider this awareness to be a fundamental professional responsibility. Enter Survivor Moms, published by Motherbaby Press. This book is an incredibly in-depth look at the experiences and need of survivors of sexual abuse during the childbearing year.

One of the best and most unique features of the book is the “tab” format used for much of the clinical, research-based, or fact-based content in the book. Rather than lengthy chapters reviewing research and analyzing the phenomenon, textboxes containing quick facts and reference material are printed in the margins of many of the pages. The bulk of the narrative information in the main body of the text is then in the voices of mothers themselves, interspersed with commentary by the authors linking concepts, explaining ideas, and clarifying essentials. This is a powerful format that makes information readily and quickly available for reference as well as making the overall book very readable and approachable.

As someone with no personal abuse history who is currently pregnant, I did find the book to be a very emotionally difficult, intense, and almost overwhelming read at times. This is not a criticism in any way—sexual abuse is not a light or cheerful topic and it can be one that many people prefer to avoid. This is all the more reason for birth professionals to make a specific effort to be educated and informed.

Written both for mothers themselves and for the professionals who work with them, Survivor Moms is an essential part of any birth professional’s library. As noted in the book’s introduction, “We need to understand the impact of childhood abuse on birthing and mothering deeply, from hearing women’s stories. We also need to understand it broadly—from looking at the impact on samples and populations, on the body and on the culture.” Survivor Moms offers an accessible way of hearing those critically important stories and developing the necessary understanding to care compassionately for birthing women.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Posting Hiatus

I have once again come to a point in my life where, "something's gotta give." As someone who is deeply committed to multiple causes, I reach this point several times a year and have to take some steps back to assess my life's path and priorities! I read somewhere--and agree--that it is BORING to hear about how "busy" someone else is, so I'm not going to give a laundry list of all my other commitments, responsibilities, and callings (and perhaps some "excuses" as well!), but I do want to post this notification that I am going to take a posting hiatus from writing this blog until after my new baby is born in January. I have struggled a bit with writing this post, because the last time I wrote something similar (fall of last year), I then had a miscarriage at 15 weeks, followed two months later by a miscarriage at 6 weeks. I'm now 21 weeks into my fifth pregnancy and finally feel like I probably really will have a living, healthy baby in the next couple of months! A new baby brings necessary downshifting into one's life and I'm attempting to alter my schedule as much in advance of the birth as possible to be able to joyfully welcome new life as well as to take time for self-care and self-nurturing. I am planning another homebirth and look forward to yet another opportunity to experience this powerful rite of passage and life transformation. I also look forward to sharing the experience with my other children. This baby is eagerly anticipated and already much loved and there has been more heartache along the childbearing journey for our family than I could have imagined several years ago.

During my break, I welcome guest posts for this blog--they can be submitted to me here and I will gladly consider them. Please make sure any guest post is specifically relevant to midwives, midwifery, the midwives model of care, homebirth, or birth activism. I am not usually interested in "generic"/101-type posts about pregnancy or childbirth.

I will continue to post regularly to the Citizens for Midwifery Facebook page where I greatly enjoy hearing from midwifery supporters across the country. Please take a moment to touch base with CfM there!

CfM Blogger

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Book Review: My Name is Mary Sutter

Book Review: My Name is Mary Sutter
By Robin Oliveira
Viking, 2010
ISBN 978-0670021673
384 pages, hardcover, $26.95

Reviewed by Molly Remer, MSW, CCCE

My Name is Mary Sutter is a new novel about a young Civil War era midwife who longs to be a surgeon, but is denied entry to medical school because she is female. Historical fiction has always been a favorite genre of mine, but historical fiction about a midwife? The best! After some initial chapters involving midwifery and family life, the main character, Mary Sutter, seeks work first as a nurse in desperately undersupplied and overworked Civil War hospitals and then directly on the battlefield following the soldiers with a cart of medical supplies. Mary is a strong female protagonist and there are some complicated male (doctor) characters as well. A couple of mild love stories serve as sub plots.

Midwifery quickly takes a back seat in the saga as Mary becomes a nurse on the bloody battlefields of the Civil War. However, her work continues to be informed by her midwifery experiences--for example she uses memories of turning malpositioned babies as inspiration for finding the right spot to amputate wounded legs.

Some famous historical figures like President Lincoln, Clara Barton, and Dorothea Dix make appearances in the tale. The slaughter on the (famous) battlefields is tightly wrought and makes you feel as if you’ve “been there.” The reader feels exhausted and battle weary right along with Mary. The novel is a third person narrative throughout, but it almost felt like a first person account—as if the author was writing from personal experience. Be prepared for a variety of personal losses for the main character.

Riveting, well constructed, and tightly paced, My Name is Mary Sutter is a gripping story of one woman’s tenacious will and her drive both to learn and to serve.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.