A familiar fulmination on the rigors—and epiphanies—of pregnancy, motherhood, and the medical conspiracy that puts women in labor on a clock geared to the hospital’s convenience.
With chapters organized from first month to ninth month, Wolf (Promiscuities, 1997, etc.) covers a lot of territory, from the horrors of fertility treatments and “selective termination” to the lack of social and government support for women in pregnancy and postpartum. Going back to notes of her first pregnancy, and supplementing with interviews from friends and others, Wolf uses the advantage of hindsight to wish that she had known about dulas and independent birthing centers and about the practice of such renowned midwives as Ina May Gaskin of The Farm, a commune in Tennessee. Figures about the unnecessarily high rates of Caesarean deliveries, of episiotomies, of fetal monitors, and the fact that no one told her how much childbirth really hurts are all incorporated into this personal memoir cum investigative report. (It should be noted that Jessica Mitford covered the investigative part better in The American Way of Birth, 1999.) Moreover, there are questions of fact. Wolf asserts, for instance, that half of all pregnancies in this country end in abortion, a serious misstatement. At another point, she proclaims that the main source of postpartum support for an American woman is her husband, which puts in question the reality of the ever-increasing number of single mothers in the US, not to mention their supportive families and friends. There are some insights on grieving the old, pre-motherhood self and on her struggle with acknowledging powerlessness and vulnerability. A chapter on the emotional complexities of breastfeeding also offers some fresh thoughts.
Women like Wolf—independent, educated, and convinced of their uniqueness—who are facing pregnancy and motherhood, will find this information compelling, even a little frightening, but closer to the truth than most of the sugar-coated advice books for expectant mothers.