Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Baby Catcher - Peggy Vincent

I have had two high-risk pregnancies.  Before, during, and after, I never would have considered a home-birth and thought that anyone who did was crazy and really asking for trouble.  But, reading this book definitely changed my mind.  Sort of.  I delivered my children at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California - the same hospital where the author of this book worked before becoming a licensed midwife. At Alta Bates, women labor (and usually deliver) in individual rooms.  Only when there is an issue, or a need for a c-section, is the woman moved to a more sterile operating room.  I was moved both times - the first because they thought I might need a c-section, and the second because I was delivering twins (which by protocol are always delivered in the OR).  But, each time, before I was moved, I appreciated being able to labor in a room with my friends and family, where I could watch TV or listen to music, have my blankets from home, and generally try to be as comfortable as possible.  So, given that during this process I wanted to have all my creature comforts, why wouldn't it make sense to labor and deliver in my actual home, where I am the most comfortable?  Vincent's memoir chronicles the birth of many many women - most go smoothly and seem much less difficult than I felt my birth was - but perhaps it was the attitude of these women that helped it go more smoothly?  Or perhaps it is self-selective in that the women who can afford to deliver at home (not financially, but logistically) are the ones who have not suffered any difficulties in their pregnancies.  Of course there were times when Vincent did have to take her patients to the hospital when complications arose - and I felt she laid out the interesting and ever-changing dynamics between the doctors and the midwives well.  This book definitely opened my eyes to the beauty of the home delivery - and in working with a midwife (or doula or other such person).  There is so much that is very personal about pregnancy and delivery - the choices that one wants to have, a birth plan, and contingencies - in this area I feel like there is a lot of pressure to be "all natural" and that women are often made to feel "less than" when medical conditions or unforeseen complications necessitate the use of drugs or a c-section.  It is unfortunate because every birth, no matter how it comes about, is an amazing, difficult, and treasured experience.  I think Vincent did a good job in her book of not being judgmental, but of presenting an option for women, and one I would certainly consider if I ever had another kid and my medical conditions allowed for it.

The Spark - Kristine Barnett

When the author's son was about two years old, he stopped talking and developing at a normal rate.  After taking him to a number of doctors, he was diagnosed with autism and his parents were told that he would probably never talk.  He was viewed as mentally retarded and his parents were counseled to manage their expectations. But, his mother knew that there was something else going on.  As Jacob spent hours staring at sunbeams or creating complex designs out of yarn, she knew there was something inside that she just needed to unlock.  A daycare provider by profession, Barnett began opening her home to other children with autism.  Instead of forcing them to abandon the areas they were interested in to focus on practical life skills, Barnett found ways to incorporate their true passions as a way to unlock their hidden genius.  In her son's case, he truly was a genius.  As the years passed, it became clear that during all the time staring silently seemingly into nothing, Jacob was actually working out complicated theorems.  By the age of 12 he began working on an original theory in astrophysics.  While every child (or hardly any) actually possesses this type of genius, it is really Barnett's attitude about how children learn that shines through in this book.  This is a great book for anyone who has a child or who works with children - an excellent reminder that sometimes we need to let go of our ideas of how children are "supposed" to learn or what they are supposed to be learning - and just let them explore. I went to an elementary school that really gave students the freedom to explore the things they loved to learn, and several of my friends from that school are now parents who are homeschooling or unschooling their children and really allow them to pursue their passions.  I am one for a little bit more structure of traditional schooling, but think there is a lot I can be doing at home to help my children really unlock and pursue their inner passions.