Mar 12, 2011

Labor of Love

A Midwife's Memoir
by Cara Muhlhahn

Muhlhahn traveled the world as a teen and early on discovered she wanted a career in a medical profession, helping people in need. When she decided to deliver babies she first worked as an apprentice to a lay midwife, then realized she wanted more training and went through the schooling to work in hospitals as an RN. Eventually she became frustrated with rigid protocols and left the hospital scene to open her own solo practice as a homebirth midwife in New York City. While I found it interesting to see her insider's take on the politicking and other dynamics among medical personnel in the various settings- especially the hospital- I was a bit disappointed that this memoir focuses more on the midwife herself than on birthing stories, or the women she worked with. It got dull after a while reading about all the paths her education took; around page 60 I started skipping passages to read the more personal stories. But there weren't enough of them, and all too brief and on-the-surface to satisfy. The women she helped to give birth hardly have any presence in the stories she tells; there's more about her own birth (constructed from stories told to her) and that of her son than of any of her patients. It's all mostly about what she does at school, or in her various jobs, how she questions the status quo and thus eventually comes to make her own path. There's one chapter almost entirely about her frustrations with traffic and parking tickets, and the last chapter is about a documentary film she was in: The Business of Being Born. I've not seen it, have any of you? As far as memoirs about birth go, I much preferred reading Baby Catcher, or more recently, The Midwife, to this Labor of Love.

Rating: 2/3 ........ 256 pages, 2009

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