Awwwww … newborn babies! I am a bit excited by the image of an innocent, soft, wrinkly newborn baby these days, for obvious reasons. Less than eight more weeks until a newborn daughter joins my family!
I found Birth Day by Mark Sloan (published 2009) one day when I was browsing the shelves looking for something about pregnancy or babies, and it was just perfect! Dr. Sloan is a pediatrician, regularly on rotation at the hospital to care for the newborns who may need a little assistance getting started in the world. But Birth Day is far more than a memoir of doctoring: it’s a reflection on his own experiences as a husband to a laboring woman, a personal account of his own experiences as a man becoming a father for the first and then second time, and a researched history of childbirth practices throughout history. The subtitle is “a pediatrician explores the science, the history and the wonder of childbirth” and that is an apt description. All those aspects are central to the book, and Dr. Sloan’s casual voice and personal presence makes it a pleasant read.
Birth Day begins with Dr. Sloan’s personal experiences on the maternity ward rotation while a medical student in the 1970s. His honesty as he reflects on his cluelessness is quite amusing (although it would not have been had I been the laboring mother!) but it also provides a background for the rest of the book: what does it mean for a mother to labor and deliver a child? With what methods are the woman’s pain and medical needs addressed? Who helps the woman deliver the child? And, finally, what is so different about this newly born human being?
I loved the chapter that discussed what actually happens when a child changes from being a fetus-in-utero to being a living, breathing human being. As Dr. Sloan discussed the scientific changes that happen during those first moments, I was once again in awe of the incredible transition that is “being born.” Subsequent chapters address the historical and contemporary culture of childbirth: Cesearean sections, the various types of pain medications used for labor throughout history and the current “epidural” culture of America, and the attendants and medical practitioners present at childbirth. I also enjoyed the later chapters in which Dr. Sloan, as a pediatrician talks about the newborn baby’s body.
Can you doubt that this book got me even more excited to meet my own little one in just a few weeks?
As I mentioned above, interspersed throughout the book are Dr. Sloan’s own personal experiences as a doctor, father, husband, and friend to mothers. These personal bits gave the book a delightful tone. It is the perfect kind of popular science book: a melding of personal with scientific and historical tidbits. I think it’s sure to please the parent-to-be or anyone interested in the miracle and science of childbirth.