Sunday, March 27, 2011

Catching Babies

If you've read my other blog you'll know a few things about me including these three very important things - I'm very pro-life, very pro-midwife and very pro-adoption. Babies before they're born, as they're born and after they're born (and abandoned). Babies have been a passion of mine since I was in diapers myself.

I was recently given the opportunity to review the book Catching Babies by J.D. Kleinke and was excited because it fit in one of my passions and that is how babies are born.

Catching Babies is a fictional story with true birth stories intermixed. The book is fast-paced and dramatic! The excerpt from back of the book summarizes the book perfectly:

"Welcome to the world of Catching Babies. In the halls of a busy metropolitan teaching hospital, a group of OB/GYN doctors complete their residencies and embark on ambitious careers, all while trying to hold their lives together at the seams. Jay is running from a life he’s tried to leave behind, while Katie sacrifices everything she has to serve an endless parade of needy patients. Anna is out trying to save the world, while Tracy is trying to save twins dying in utero. Based on true stories from delivery rooms and labor decks, Catching Babies spins the doctors’ stories into a gripping mosaic of the obsessions, the anxieties, and the heroism of doctors who have chosen to preside over life’s greatest medical drama—high-risk childbirth."

The resident OB characters themselves are very colorful and range from neurotic to quiet, from selfless to selfish, from homosexual to straight, from pro-life to pro-abortion, from married to divorced or single, from midwife to OB, from religious to non-believing. Just about every controversial subject that can be hit on is hit on. The book seamlessly follows one resident to the next as they try to figure out the woman's complex body in one of the most beautiful and defining moments in her life; the birth of her baby. They are all connected in their crazy, upside-down world of high-risk obstetrics as they also fight the demons of their past, present and future.

The main thing I gleaned from this book is that obstetricians, the men and women who catch babies in the delivery room, are human just as I am. They have deep emotions and feelings about the work that they do, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. They're thrown into a residency that is so demanding of them emotionally and physically because it deals mostly with the high-risk and impoverished. The obstetricians find they do not know what a more "normal" birth would look like unless they happened to stumble upon the phenomenon randomly.

You'll meet an OB who absolutely hates doing cesarean sections and another OB who is very pro-woman and really listens to what the woman wants for her birth, even in a high-risk situation. But on the flip-side you'll meet an OB who finds women coming in to give birth as numbers to check off a chart and is emotionally detached from the each birth; it's just very medical to them.

The book gave me a better understanding of why our maternity care is the way it is in America. It gave me a better idea of why obstetricians treat birth as something to be controlled rather than a natural physiological event. I walked away feeling a little disturbed by how obstetricians are trained and wishing they were given the opportunity to witness both ends of the spectrum: the no/low-risk and the high-risk respectively. But high-risk is what they are thrust into in their training, it is what they know when they graduate from residency and become doctors.

The author, J.D. Kleinke, has a very impressive resumé that made his novel even more enticing. Not only is he an author but he is a medical economist, policy expert and health industry leader who has helped create health care information companies. He is a man who has been "on the inside" of the hospital wards. His book is riddled with the stereotypical "saving-my-own-butt doctor" who updates medical records when someone else catches his mistakes and nurses who make nasty racist comments to patients. I have a feeling, even though they were fictional in the book, that there were more than a few inspirations for those characters in Kleinke's real life experience.

All-in-all I think the book is a cannot-put-down-must-finish-now read. I would stay up late and get up early to read it. I have always said that a good book makes you feel something and this book had me on a roller coaster of emotions! I felt saddened, sorrowful, outraged, vindicated, offended, defended, disgusted, joy, elation, fear, justice, injustice, incredulous, shocked... the list just goes on and on. You never stay in one emotion for very long as I had mentioned it is fast-paced. I think the book is an important read because it exposes a side of maternity care that needs to be exposed.

Because I feel so passionately about the subject of our current maternity care crisis here in the USA and because this book is just so complex and captivating I will link you to an interview with the author that touches on important questions about the book (there are some mild spoilers over there). So go visit Birthing Beautiful Ideas!

If you want to purchase Catching Babies you can find it on Amazon.
Also join the Facebook page and give J.D. a shout-out!

PLEASE NOTE: If you are currently pregnant please read this book after you have had your baby. There are very disturbing and graphic birth scenes with horrible outcomes. While I am pregnant and did read this while pregnant most of these birth stories were ones I already knew, were similar to ones I have known and because I almost-daily immerse myself in this particular subject by way of research and other blogs I knew I was fine to read it. Just keep that in mind because if you're highly sensitive and need to put yourself in a state of peace while pregnant then definitely read the book after your birth. This is not a birth book.


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