Birth: A Literary Companion
Kristin & Lynne Kovacic & Barrett University of Iowa Press, 2002 Library of Congress PS509.C5154B47 2002 | Dewey Decimal 810.80354
Parenthood is full of secrets. The pregnant body, labor, the mysteries of a new child, the transformation of relationships—men and women are themselves reborn as they become parents. Birth: A Literary Companion collects the work of fifty accomplished writers to guide new parents through this complex emotional terrain.
Arranged chronologically—from early pregnancy to late infancy— Birth can be read solidly or dipped into in the middle of the night. Here, a curious reader can find a frank, funny essay about breastfeeding, a vividly accurate story about labor, or a tender poem about the terror of holding a newborn child. Birth covers the huge emotional spectrum that new parents pass through—from fear and loathing to uncontainable joy. Embracing all kinds of parents—gay and straight, mothers and fathers, married and single, adoptive and biological—the book unlocks, through literature, the secrets of parenthood that science and society rarely reveal.
An enduring guide to the emotional and spiritual changes of parenthood, Birth will be an important addition to both parenting and literature bookshelves.
"Treating birth as ritual, Reed makes clever use of his anthropological expertise, qualitative data, and personal experience to bring to life the frustrations and joys men often encounter as they navigate the medical model of birthing."-William Marsiglio, author Sex, Men, and Babies: Stories of Awareness and Responsibility
In the past two decades, men have gone from being excluded from the delivery room to being admitted, then invited, and, finally, expected to participate actively in the birth of their children. No longer mere observers, fathers attend baby showers, go to birthing classes, and share in the intimate, everyday details of their partners' pregnancies.
In this unique study, Richard Reed draws on the feminist critique of professionalized medical birthing to argue that the clinical nature of medical intervention distances fathers from child delivery. He explores men's roles in childbirth and the ways in which birth transforms a man's identity and his relations with his partner, his new baby, and society. In other societies, birth is recognized as an important rite of passage for fathers. Yet, in American culture, despite the fact that fathers are admitted into delivery rooms, little attention is given to their transition to fatherhood.
The book concludes with an exploration of what men's roles in childbirth tell us about gender and American society. Reed suggests that it is no coincidence that men's participation in the birthing process developed in parallel to changing definitions of fatherhood more broadly. Over the past twenty years, it has become expected that fathers, in addition to being strong and dependable, will be empathetic and nurturing.
Well-researched, candidly written, and enriched with personal accounts of over fifty men from all parts of the world, this book is as much about the birth of fathers as it is about fathers in birth.
A Colonial Lexicon is the first historical investigation of how childbirth became medicalized in Africa. Rejecting the “colonial encounter” paradigm pervasive in current studies, Nancy Rose Hunt elegantly weaves together stories about autopsies and bicycles, obstetric surgery and male initiation, to reveal how concerns about strange new objects and procedures fashioned the hybrid social world of colonialism and its aftermath in Mobutu’s Zaire. Relying on archival research in England and Belgium, as well as fieldwork in the Congo, Hunt reconstructs an ethnographic history of a remote British Baptist mission struggling to survive under the successive regimes of King Leopold II’s Congo Free State, the hyper-hygienic, pronatalist Belgian Congo, and Mobutu’s Zaire. After exploring the roots of social reproduction in rituals of manhood, she shows how the arrival of the fast and modern ushered in novel productions of gender, seen equally in the forced labor of road construction and the medicalization of childbirth. Hunt focuses on a specifically interwar modernity, where the speed of airplanes and bicycles correlated with a new, mobile medicine aimed at curbing epidemics and enumerating colonial subjects. Fascinating stories about imperial masculinities, Christmas rituals, evangelical humor, colonial terror, and European cannibalism demonstrate that everyday life in the mission, on plantations, and under a strongly Catholic colonial state was never quite what it seemed. In a world where everyone was living in translation, privileged access to new objects and technologies allowed a class of “colonial middle figures”—particularly teachers, nurses, and midwives—to mediate the evolving hybridity of Congolese society. Successfully blurring conventional distinctions between precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial situations, Hunt moves on to discuss the unexpected presence of colonial fragments in the vibrant world of today’s postcolonial Africa. With its close attention to semiotics as well as sociology, A Colonial Lexiconwill interest specialists in anthropology, African history, obstetrics and gynecology, medical history, religion, and women’s and cultural studies.
Americans at the end of the twentieth century worried that managed care had fundamentally transformed the character of medicine. In The Medical Delivery Business, Barbara Bridgman Perkins uses examples drawn from maternal and infant care to argue that the business approach in medicine is not a new development. Health care reformers throughout the century looked to industrial, corporate, and commercial enterprises as models for the institutions, specialties, and technological strategies that defined modern medicine.
In the case of perinatal care, the business model emphasized specialized over primary care, encouraged the use of surgical and technological procedures, and unnecessarily turned childbirth into an intensive care situation. Active management techniques, for example, encouraged obstetricians to accelerate labor with oxytocin to augment their productivity. Despite the achievements of the childbirth and women’s health movement in the 1970s, aggressive medical intervention has remained the birth experience for millions of American women (and their babies) every year.
The Medical Delivery Business challenges the conventional view that a dose of the market is good for medicine. While Perkins is sympathetic to the goals of progressive and feminist reformers, she questions whether their strategies will succeed in making medicine more equitable and effective. She argues that the medical care system itself needs to be fundamentally "re-formed," and the reforms must be based on democracy, caring, and social justice as well as economics.
Having a baby is an elemental human experience -- profound, even sacred to some women and their families. At the same time, it is a significant component of health care. The medical model of childbirth emphasizes the pathological potential of pregnancy and birth, while an alternative model championed by midwives focuses on the normalcy of pregnancy and its potential for health. Now available in paperback, this definitive account of the many forces that intersect over the issue of childbirth explains in a comprehensive and authoritative manner the conceptual and philosophical differences between these models. The author has brought together in in a clear and readable fashion the myriad strands of history, culture, science, economics, and policy that have resulted in the current condition of maternity care in the United States. She describes the disparate backgrounds, training, and roles of certified nurse-midwives and lay or direct entry midwives, and explains the contributions of both groups. Rooks believes that maternity care and childbirth in America can, and should, be better than it is today, and offers steps to take in the direction.
According to the Latina health paradox, Mexican immigrant women have less complicated pregnancies and more favorable birth outcomes than many other groups, in spite of socioeconomic disadvantage. Alyshia Gálvez provides an ethnographic examination of this paradox. What are the ways that Mexican immigrant women care for themselves during their pregnancies? How do they decide to leave behind some of the practices they bring with them on their pathways of migration in favor of biomedical approaches to pregnancy and childbirth?
This book takes us from inside the halls of a busy metropolitan hospital’s public prenatal clinic to the Oaxaca and Puebla states in Mexico to look at the ways Mexican women manage their pregnancies. The mystery of the paradox lies perhaps not in the recipes Mexican-born women have for good perinatal health, but in the prenatal encounter in the United States. Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers is a migration story and a look at the ways that immigrants are received by our medical institutions and by our society
Compelling essays which underline the central place pregnancy and childbirth hold in women’s writing. Embracing three centuries of prose and poetry, the anthology traces the evolution of American maternity literature, exploring the difficulties mothers faced as they struggled to transform themselves from objects into maternal subjects. Women as diverse as Anne Bradstreet, Anne Sexton, Sharon Olds, Kate Chopin, Toni Morrison, and Louise Erdrich all labored to reclaim the birthing process by giving voice to experiences and emotions long devalued by a patriarchal culture. Their voices resonate throughout this collection.
If you told a woman her sex had a shared, long-lived history with weasels, she might deck you. But those familiar with mythology know better: that the connection between women and weasels is an ancient and favorable one, based in the Greek myth of a midwife who tricked the gods to ease Heracles’s birth—and was turned into a weasel by Hera as punishment. Following this story as it is retold over centuries in literature and art, Women and Weasels takes us on a journey through mythology and ancient belief, revising our understanding of myth, heroism, and the status of women and animals in Western culture.
Maurizio Bettini recounts and analyzes a variety of key literary and visual moments that highlight the weasel’s many attributes. We learn of its legendary sexual and childbearing habits and symbolic association with witchcraft and midwifery, its role as a domestic pet favored by women, and its ability to slip in and out of tight spaces. The weasel, Bettini reveals, is present at many unexpected moments in human history, assisting women in labor and thwarting enemies who might plot their ruin. With a parade of symbolic associations between weasels and women—witches, prostitutes, midwives, sisters-in-law, brides, mothers, and heroes—Bettini brings to life one of the most venerable and enduring myths of Western culture.
Women seeking to express concerns about childbirth or to challenge institutionalized medicine by writing online birth plans or birth stories exercise rhetorical agency in undeniably feminist ways. In Writing Childbirth: Women’s Rhetorical Agency in Labor and Online, author Kim Hensley Owens explores how women create and use everyday rhetorics in planning for, experiencing, and writing about childbirth.
Drawing on medical texts, popular advice books, and online birth plans and birth stories, as well as the results of a childbirth writing survey, Owens considers how women’s agency in childbirth is sanctioned, and how it is not. She examines how women’s rhetorical choices in writing interact with institutionalized medicine and societal norms. Writing Childbirth reveals the contradictory messages women receive about childbirth, their conflicting expectations about it, and how writing and technology contribute to and reconcile these messages and expectations.
Demonstrating the value of extending rhetorical investigations of health and medicine beyond patient-physician interactions and the discourse of physicians, Writing Childbirth offers fresh insight into feminist rhetorical agency and technology and expands our understanding of the rhetorics of health and medicine.