The author—a doula, hospital chaplain and new mother—reflects on birth, death and everything in between.
Glenn refers to her debut as a set of meditations, but it’s also a memoir. She begins by guiding the reader through her Mormon childhood in Utah, her eventual rejection of the Mormon Church, her intellectual embrace of comparative religion and philosophy and her discovery of Unitarian Universalism. Glenn became a doula after serving as her sister’s birth partner and later decided to become a hospital chaplain at a New Jersey hospital “to experience the bookend of doula work.” Journaling and other “healing modalities”—along with the love of her husband, Clark—allowed her to open her “tentative heart” and become a mother. The love she discovered for her young son led her to stop her later career as a high school philosophy teacher, which had taken her from a private school in New Jersey all the way to Bogotá, Colombia. For Glenn, it was “impossible to imagine that anyone else should spend the day caring, nursing, and loving my baby boy.” Glenn’s experiences have clearly given her deep insight into how to comfort people entering, and leaving, this world. She notes that even hospital chaplains sometimes shy away from engaging with patients in pain: “one’s own religious tradition can be used as an emotional shield in this regard.” The author incorporates quotations from philosophers, religious figures and others into her meditations; for example, she quotes statistics from the World Health Organization about cesarean section rates as she describes her own long, painful labor. Sometimes, however, the sheer volume of quotations threatens to overwhelm Glenn’s ideas; at one point, she quotes a journalist, a Zen master, a psychology professor and a philosopher, all on a single page.
Philosophy, religion and love infuse this thoughtful set of observations.