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HAVING BABIES by Thomas Congdon

HAVING BABIES

The Patients, the Doctors, the Dramas and Joys, Nine Months Inside an Obstetrical Practice

By Thomas Congdon

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-76708-9
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 A look at pregnancy and childbirth as they are experienced by patients of an obstetrical practice in a wealthy New Jersey town. In the prologue, longtime book publisher Congdon informs us that he decided to write about the ``adventure'' of childbirth because ``women try to inform each other, but...the accounts sometimes grow sensational...the purpose can be to impress, or appall.'' This patronizing tone taints much of the book, which centers on a story-book couple, Susan and Tracy MacGregor. From the time the handsome, home-owning newlyweds arrive at the doctor's office to be told that Susan is pregnant, the book follows their smooth progress at a distance while giving detailed descriptions of how a fetus develops and its mother changes during pregnancy. Snapshots of other pregnancies, many of them far from trouble-free, are offered as the author observes--and the doctors and nurses maintain a running commentary on--a range of patients. There are also descriptions of often horrific obstetrical theories and methods in vogue at various times in the past; a discussion of the pros and cons of ``natural'' childbirth; a carefully constructed argument for the array of obstetrical technologies offered today, especially epidural anesthesia; and more than any lay reader is likely to want to know about the growing pains this small New Jersey practice experiences in adjusting to the presence of a new partner. Then Susan feels her first contractions, and the narrative zooms in for an extreme closeup of her son's birth, devoting six compelling chapters to her labor and delivery. This book may be most valuable decades from now as a portrait of state-of-the-art obstetrics in the 1990s. Meanwhile, it offers mothers-to-be and their partners a clear and accessible, if somewhat condescending, explanation of the mechanics of birth.