Mar•a•thon Read: \ˈmer-ə-ˌthän\rēd\ [noun] 1. A book that compels the reader to go from start to finish in less than the time it would take to run a marathon. 2. A book read in one sitting. 3. Long distance reading event.
Welcome to my first Marathon Read of 2009 – Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent. It has all the qualities of a compelling, easy read -
- Short chapters
- Dramatic plotlines that start and end quickly
- A conversational tone
- High interest to the reader
Why exactly a book about a midwife did this for me, I have no idea, although I suspect heredity might have something to do with it. Midwife memoirs are one of my mother’s pet “genres” (along with books about mountain climbers), and after reading a few choice passages to my smaller sister, she is now whipping through Baby Catcher almost as quickly as I did.
Let me give you this gist of this book. Peggy Vincent was studying to be an obstetrical nurse in the 1960s, a time when childbirth was basically performed upon a woman while they lay, occasionally etherized, on a table. But when a busy day led Peggy to be the sole caretaker of a young mother, one who not only refused painkillers, but who chose to stand on the table when nobody allowed her to walk around the room, her entire view of her future career changed. During the 70s and 80s, Peggy was a part of a midwifery boom that allowed her to make good money attending home births around the San Francisco area, and this book is mostly her memories of that experience. Birth stories abound! They range from the inspiring (reluctant fathers transformed by the appearance of their new children) to scary (sudden complications leading to heart-racing drives to save a life) to downright weird (a recent transexual and his 400-pound prostitute girlfriend? It is San Francisco, I spose!)
Each birth is a little drama unto itself, and the chapters disappear like a big tub of movie popcorn. You’r so strangely enthralled you don’t notice they’re disappearing.
This book is rather…uh… bloody-gutsy, so if you are squeamish (or would prefer to be etherized when you or your female counterpart give birth) beware. But it might be good medicine, too. Because even after I read about 100s of placentas, people putting hands in places I didn’t think entire hands should go, and all the mess and clean up involved with a home birth…
the book still made me kind of want a million babies.
Little sister agreed.
And you thought we had a big family NOW.