//-- Book Review: "Misconceptions" --//
Reviewed by Roberta Waters
(MISCONCEPTIONS) TRUTH, LIES AND THE UNEXPECTED ON THE JOURNEY TO
by Naomi Wolf
Naomi Wolf's newest book, Misconceptions, is a testament to her own
experiences and prejudices about childbirth. Ms. Wolf shares her own
culturally-learned fears about childbirth but fails to recognize that this
is in response to 100 years of medical society propaganda. Although
she has access to research and
studies documenting the safety of homebirth and non-medical midwifery, she
paints birth outside an institution as dangerous. She chose to give
birth with obstetricians in high risk hospitals and had cesareans both
times. I think the book could have been more aptly titled,
"(Misrepresentations) My Pain Phobia
and Justification for My Cesareans."
I heard about this book through discussions on the internet which praised it
for setting the record straight about childbirth. After looking at the
book myself, however, I have come to an entirely different conclusion.
It is simply another book, written to justify the unwarranted use of medical
sequelae, unnecessary cesareans, and excuse bad maternity care decisions. Instead
of accurately depicting birthing choices in America, Ms. Wolf used this book
as a vehicle to promote her own opinions and discredit traditional midwives,
homebirth, full-time motherhood and ecological breastfeeding.
Ms. Wolf places great importance on the book "What to Expect When
You're Expecting", as though this is some highly regarded research book
or the childbirth Bible. Sadly this book is written to promote the
medical model of care and justify the many interventions foisted upon women
who choose to have hospital births. She carefully goes through the
many routine hospital procedures and explains the many risks and few
benefits of each, yet she apparently did not believe her own research.
Those who have fought for years to eradicate the meaningless term "lay
midwife" will immediately recognize Ms. Wolf's superficial
understanding of birth attendants. Her repeated use of this term is a
clear indicator of her lack of research and knowledge of childbirth. I
half expected to see the terms "redskin" or "nigger" pop
up during discussion about minority statistics.
She writes as a fact, "homebirth is now as safe as hospital
birth." Now as safe? It has always been at least as safe!
An entire book, The Five Standards by David Stewart, gives thousands of
studies and statistics which conclude that homebirth is safer than hospital
I took great offense at her term, "Naturalists," (pages 182-186)
to describe anyone who would dare to promote or give birth without
high-technology. She explains that this option "has been
presented as so rigid .with such extreme requirements of courage and faith.
It was for that reason that my husband and I
would not consider it as an option." I wonder, what research led
her to this conclusion? Judging from many comments which salt her
book, it would seem she is her own source of "factual"
Anyone who promoted birth without drugs is included in this Naturalist group
and portrayed as romanticizing the birthing event. Ina May Gaskin,
however, is somehow exempt from this group and given the title, "The
Patron Saint." It is obvious that Ms. Wolf is in awe of Gaskin,
yet wasn't converted by her to better educate herself and choose a less
interventive childbirth. It is also apparent that Ms. Wolf did not
read the original Spiritual Midwifery book. If she had, she would have
learned that Ina May wasn't exactly "a self-taught, lay midwife"
but that her earliest training had come from an obstetrician (who also
provided medication and instruments) and a local physician who provided
friendly back-up for years. She also would have
learned that the Farm clinic included a physician.
It is curious that Ms. Wolf is intrigued by free-standing birth centers and
offers them up as a perfect choice for women. She is somehow under the
impression that pain-relieving drugs are readily available for those who
give birth at these centers, yet her depiction of Elizabeth Seton indicates
a transport to the hospital for those who wish an epidural. How this is an
improvement over one's own home is a mystery to me. Perhaps it is her
fascination with institutions? and her phobia about pain?
Complete Mother readers will find her descriptions of breastfeeding
revolting: "become someone's addiction." And quoting Sarah
Hardy, "once nursing begins, bondage is a perfectly good description
for the ensuing chain of events (and) lives on a mammary leash."
How sad she didn't bother to go to a Le Leche League meeting or meet someone
who was content breastfeeding. We can only guess that she probably was
bottle fed, and lacking the nurturing of being breastfed herself, is
compensating by portraying reastfeeding in a dim light.
Her social programs which would improve the world basically abdicate
parental responsibilities to the government. She wants paid extended
maternity leave, tax deductions and benefits to relatives who come to help
the new mothers, on-site day care and nurseries, lots of hospital support
programs, hospital statistics disclosure, parentless playgrounds monitored
by "young people" so "an active, thoughtful mother, father.
(won't be) uncomfortable at the playground." Basically she wants the
government to act as nanny so she can get her work done. "Work"
being something far more important than caring for her children herself.
Save yourself a few hours of frustration wading through this tripe.
Instead, make a pot of raspberry leaf tea, give the older kids a fun project
to do, put your feet up and put baby to breast and read the books she
ignored: The Five Standards, Under the Apple Tree, The American Way of
Birth, Being Born, Birth at
Home, Your Baby, Your Way, Special Delivery, Labor Pains, Silent Knife,
Malpractice: How Doctors Manipulate Women, Obstetric Myths Versus Research
Realities, Gentle Birth Choices and back-issues of TCM.
Reviewed by Roberta Waters
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