More, Nurse!

Here are some works that I have found illuminating, inspiring, or otherwise useful. There are a million more and I have not read everything out there on this subject. Due to my personal interests, many listed here are supportive of the midwifery model of care. I am not an expert and cannot officially endorse all of these, even though I found them helpful in my own journey. It is important to educate yourself with a variety of sources and viewpoints. Interesting criticisms are available for many of these via the Internet. I am happy to discuss questions and critiques in private discussion. Likewise, I am happy to consider adding suggestions to this list.


  • Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, CPM. Read stories of Ina May’s first deliveries and direct accounts of women on The Farm who turned to one another for their pregnancy and birth experiences. There are also some great passages for expectant fathers and couples who are interested in ways of working together through what can be a very profound experience.
  • Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin, (Introduction by Ani DiFranco). Gaskin asserts that “the way in which women become mothers is a women’s rights issue” in this recently published call to awareness and action. Having attended more than 1,200 births and working towards awareness and education about midwifery for almost 40 years, Gaskin has a lot to say here.
  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. This is a more detailed book that delves into actual research and technique for natural birthing. Also includes some great stories and explanations of the non-physical aspects of the experience.
  • Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First by Marsden Wagner, MD, MS. No lie, this can be a difficult book to read. Physician and scientist, and former Director of Women’s and Children’s Health at the World Health Organization, Dr. Wagner has seen it all. Here, he reveals the sad state of maternity and infant care in the U.S., the seemingly insurmountable pressure put on obstetricians to be “all things to all women”, and why our current system isn’t working. The anger, sadness and frustration I feel for the women who have suffered up  into the present is balanced out by hope, knowing that Wagner and other doctors are working towards positive change, in part by working cooperatively with midwives.
  • Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy. How did we get to state of maternal care we have today? Cassidy encompasses much of the history of the relatively young science of obstetrics and also touches on evolutionary influences on human childbirth, cultural differences across time and space, and where we, as a society, have failed and succeeded at improving outcomes.
  • Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care By Jennifer Block. This is another toughy. Block is pretty angry about the corruption, money, and ignorance that plagues some aspects of the modern health system. Be prepared to be shocked and perhaps angry.
  • Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent. This memoir follows a young nurses journey into the labor and delivery ward, and then into midwifery. I think its a great story that reveals what (early) nurse-midwives faced in terms of personal strength, defining the profession, and skepticism from hospital institutions. Supposedly this work has received some harsh criticism from various sides of the birth issue, but I think its worth a read. Includes some very touching stories of home birthing families.


Robbie Davis Floyd, PhD – This cultural anthropologist has some great articles on childbirth, midwifery, alternative medicine and more.

Melissa Cheyney, PhD and Midwife – I haven’t had the chance to read much of this medical anthropologists work yet, but I am looking forward to her take on evolutionary medicine and cross-culturalism.

Christa Craven, PhD – I have yet to read this anthropologists recent publication. She writes about activism within the midwifery community and other feminist/social issues.

The Cochrane Library – This is a fantastic resource for independent, evidence-based health research. You can search for the topic of your choice.


The Business of Being Born, produced by Ricki Lake. This documentary on the current system of American hospital birth (and alternatives) has received a lot of attention, from critics and fans alike. Check it out for what I consider a radical, yet rational, and very important narrative of a few women’s experiences and how business interests are screwing up health care for Americans.

Pregnant In America, produced by Steve Buonagurio. The father-as-producer follows his wife’s pregnancy and the questions they face as a couple, as they decide what kind of birth they want and the obstacles they may face.

Laboring Under an Illusion, by anthropologist Vicki Elson. A childbirth educator, Elson explores media-generated myths about childbirth and the discrepancies between what we see in popular culture and what we experience in real-life birthing situations.


Originally, I was going to include a list of links to other blogs that discuss childbirth, obstetrics and midwifery. I’ve decided not to for a number of reasons, including: 1) The blogosphere is filled with misinformation and propoganda, 2) The debates around natural childbirth are, sadly, filled with name calling and over-simplifications of what are essentially complex issues, 3) I can’t take on the responsibility of linking to someone’s live site when I see so much virtual venom spit across debate lines.

I will speak from my experiences and my understandings of these issues. I may occasionally link to blogs or even discuss viral topics and conversations. For the most part, however, I think that people have (as we do in so many arenas) set up camps and decided to argue it out until one point of view dominates. If I have learned anything in my twenty-something years, it is that there is very rarely a black and white answer to anything and the “grey area” is where most human experiences fall. I think that’s a good thing. Skepticism is healthy. So is passion. But, as Obi-Wan Kenobi says, “Only a sith deals in absolutes.”

More to come….

2 Responses to More, Nurse!

  1. cbdooly says:

    Hey Jess, did you include the film that we got from Beth that you and I viewed in V’ville together one day last year? I don’t remember the name… it showed women birthing at home w/ their families, etc…

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