Contemplating the Strength of Women

Thursday night I introduced Jennifer Margulis at Vroman’s bookstore. It was a convergence of brilliance as she and Dr. Fishbein talked about prenatal care in America, birth, homebirth and baby’s first year (with an emphasis on baby’s first hours). Predictably the conversation left me with pain in my womb.

I did not love being pregnant. I did not want to experience labor and I will forever remember being alone in my apartment, a newlywed, and looking at my growing belly while recognizing that there was only one way for this baby to leave me and that it was very much the wrong size for my vagina. I panicked and cried for an hour or so, and then I cried for another 5 months.

If anyone would have suggested homebirth to me I’m unclear if I would have killed them or myself. I only know that someone would have died. So you see this isn’t a book that I would “want” or “enjoy” but it’s investigative journalism and it’s meticulously footnoted journalism. It’s the kind of writing that makes people uncomfortable, forces them to think and has the ability to either shatter or reinforce previously held beliefs.

I didn’t read the chapter on circumcision. I just couldn’t.

I did read the chapter about vaccines and I still don’t know what Jennifer’s statement is on vaccines. I know what mine is. She offers up evidence all sorts of ways both pro and con. I don’t have much patience for the anti vaccine crowd their love of pseudoscience and anecdotes makes me punchy.

I do think hospital births make breastfeeding more difficult and I recognize that as a massive problem. Books like this won’t bring an end to formula marketing in birth settings but if enough mothers read it maybe they’ll feel empowered to say, “No, my baby won’t go to the nursery.” If you want to give birth in a bathtub go for it, but if you love me please never tell me about it. I get woozy.

I’m rambling. I guess I felt like it was important for me to state that though I am completely and utterly in awe of Jennifer Margulis’ research and writing skills I would probably kill myself before I’d give birth without an epidural. In fact you can change that probably to definitely. Jennifer wrote a book that’s going to make people uncomfortable. She offers up facts and I think almost a third of the book is footnotes so it’s clearly not much in the way of opinion.

For the record: My opinion is that 89234893 footnotes aren’t enough to make me rethink my epidural. Are you seeing a theme?

Here’s what happened and I’m curious to see if anyone else is more than slightly horrified. <– that’s me being not objective. I am a blogger. I specialize in opinion and hyperbole.

The New York Times published a scathing review of the book. Not just bad, but mean spirited and it ends with the words, “Just because something is for sale doesn’t necessarily mean it’s suspect. Caveat emptor has been good advice for a very long time; I advise you to apply it when considering whether to buy ‘The Business of Baby.'”

After I picked the jaw up off the floor I was like, “OMG what did Jennifer to do piss her off”? Because that was personal. It was almost like an ex writing your book review. Then something truly shocking happened, I searched for Annie Murphy Paul on facebook. I was trying to find the source of the venom when I realized we have 34 mutual friends. One of our mutual friends is Jennifer Margulis.

So she reviewed her friend’s book? Also with friends like this who needs…. you know how that sentence ends.

Oh Facebook, you really have redefined friend for us haven’t you?

Annie Murphy Paul Facebook
The fourth from the left in the blue shirt? That’s the lady whose book she reviewed.

I love bloggers for what they are. I love that we’re unedited and unrestrained. I love that we point fingers and tell you who we like and don’t like. I love that bloggers don’t have journalistic standards to adhere to and when bloggers show little bits of journalistic integrity I can get super excited and feel like I just found a chupacabra or a leprechaun (pick your region).

I love that bloggers and journalists are so very different. I enjoy The New York Times so much I even enjoy a paper version (to be fair it’s always BBQ season in LA and I need the paper to stuff the chimney).

I was deflated to find that a New York Times Book Review was written by someone who knew the author. I don’t know if they’re friends IRL (mom, that stands for In Real Life) or if their circles of friends are so incestuous that they just sort of needed to know each other, but I love those staid old papers. I love journalists and journalism and all that blogging isn’t for me and my peers. I look to the New York Times Book Review for solid recommendations and now, knowing this, I just can’t. I just don’t.

It’s a huge bummer.

 

 

 

 

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