Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth by Randi Hutter Epstein, MD
c.2010, W.W. Norton & Co. - $24.95 / $31.00 Canada - 320 pages
You’ve known for days.
The urpy-ness before breakfast (when you can eat breakfast), the swollen bits, the tender bits, all good indications. Even the home-kit was positive but it wasn’t “official” until the doctor said it: you’re pregnant.
But after leaving your first prenatal exam – and after more tests than you’ve had in your lifetime - your mother (overjoyed) read through some information you received and said she never remembered half that stuff when you were born. Grandma (ecstatic) said she wasn’t even awake when your mom was delivered.
Have we come a long way, baby?
Yes and no, as you’ll see when you read Get Me Out by Randi Hutter Epstein, MD.
Let’s start in the year 1530. You’re about to become somebody’s Mom.
Because a sign on the door of your room says No Boys Allowed, you’re surrounded by girlfriends, female relatives, and a midwife (if you could afford her). They would have herbs for you, food and drink. Someone might consult a book of pregnancy advice (available for thousands of years). You’d labor with people you knew.
But as an almost-mom in 1530, don’t expect anything for your pain. In 1591, a laboring mother (of twins!) was burned at the stake because she dared to ask for relief.
Fast forward three hundred years.
You’re at a Lying-In Hospital, so-called because post-delivery recovery takes weeks of bed rest. You might be allowed visitors, but no midwives; male doctors have convinced the general population that midwives are dangerous. Giving birth away from home and family, you’re told, is best for you and the baby.
But there at the hospital, mortality rates are sky-high. A woman might deliver on Monday, feel a little feverish on Wednesday and be dead by Friday. Wouldn’t simple hand-washing be a good idea?
Fast forward a century-and-three-quarters.
By now, doctors know how to repair fistulas (thanks to hundreds of slave women who were operated on without anesthesia), we know that what goes into Mom crosses the placenta to Baby, and we know how to make a baby in more ways than one.
Fast forward to you.
You’ve got lots of options; more, for sure, than ever before. And if you don’t like any of them, you can join the Freebirthers and do-it-yourself because, hey! That method appears to have worked for millions of years.
Lively, slightly saucy, and nowhere near a how-to advice book, Get Me Out is a great read that’s purely for the curious, whether a parent or not.
Author Randi Hutter Epstein looks closely at the entire baby industry in this book, moving easily between the Middle Ages and modern times, in the laboratory and in the bedroom, from AHA! moments to plenty of major oopses. I liked that she dusted out the corners of reproductive history and made me smile while she did it.
If the doctor just said “Congratulations!” to you, if you’re a grandparent-to-be, or if you don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies, you’ll enjoy this book. Get Me Out is one to push for.
Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri is a professional book reviewer who has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book.