Archive for the ‘Midwifery’ Category

Book Review – The Midwife of Venice

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

What I’ve recently finished:

**The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich**

World Catalog

What is it about?
Hannah Levi is a young, recently married young woman living in the Jewish ghettos of Venice, Italy in the 1500s. She is known in her community as being a very skilled midwife because she constructed “birthing spoons” that help her with some of the most challenging of labors. Late one night, a Christian count appears at her doorstep and begs her to assist her in the labor of his wife who was delivering her fourth baby. His desperation came from the fact that if he did not produce an heir before his fiftieth birthday, from which he was months shy, his title as well as fortune would go to his rather selfish brother. The previous three children his wife had, unfortunately, died in childbirth or soon thereafter. It is very well known that if a Jew assisted in this procedure that it is punishable by torture or even death. Hannah takes this request, however, because she needs the funds to get her husband back as his ship was overtaken in Malta. This story centers on the ramifications of her actions in assisting with this birth as well as encouraging Hannah to reunite with her husband.

Why did I read this?
I honestly don’t know. Hmmm. I think I came across it in Jermaine’s store and thought it was interesting so why not?

What impressed me about this book?
The story’s simplicity! I know that can almost sound like a bad thing but I certainly don’t mean it as such. 2012 has been a year filled with wonderful mysteries that are often complicated with a handful of plot lines. This story was written from the point of view, mostly, of Hannah and her husband and, as a reader you’re cheering them on as they get closer and closer to a reunion. There is, of course, disturbing anti-semitism that existed during this time period. That was rather difficult to read. For example, Hannah’s husband is rescued from the life of slavery in Malta by a nun. She brings him to her house and offers him a life at a convent if, and only if, he converts. She, basically, is offering her Christian virtue so charity so long as he converts. That of course was hard to read but unfortunately that much of the thought back then–that it was Christ’s teaching to punish Jewish people.

But looking at this at its basic levels this story was about a wife doing something rather dangerous to get her closer to her husband and, as a reader, I really couldn’t help but cheer them on.

What disappointed me about this book?
I know this seems odd to say but nothing really. The story was not too complicated so it’s not like I felt that the author could have done a better job at explaining certain components.

I will say though…this should be taken as a compliment to the author…she describes horrible living conditions of the ghetto as well as the bubonic plague quite well. Sometimes too well if you get my meaning :-& amp;

Historical Relevance:
Alright I thought I was going to have make something up with this component but a two second google search had me reading a rather interesting article on the history of forceps! Milestones in the evolution of obstetric forceps Bryan Hibbard asserts that in the Middle Ages the Church was often the only source to discuss midwifery and forceps were often used as a “last resort” when the child was likely dead and they were trying to save to mother. This “procedure” was believed to assist mothers in challenging births in the 11th century. (upon reading this you’ll be thankful for modern medicine)

When there is a difficult labour with a dead child place the patient in a sheet held at the corners by four strong men, with her head somewhat elevated. Have them shake the sheet vigorously by pulling on the opposite corners, and with God’s will she will give birth.


Interestingly enough the Chamberlens family in England at this time were fashioning some of the first versions of forceps. The article I linked is quite interesting. Give it a read!

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade? Rating: ★★★½☆


What I’m reading and knitting…

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

No I did not die. Work picks up in the spring time for me…taxes…and hello surprise root canal…bad Laura is bad!

I recently saw a blog post where the knitter, Carole of Carole Knits, who also does a fair amount of reading, posted an entry about what progress she was doing on both. I thought–What a great idea!

Lately there has been a lot of balance between these to great loves of mine so why not share them? Goodreads is doing a contest on Book Bloggers and I’ve been checking out some blogs to add to my “reading” bloglist. I was quite drawn to the format of Reading with Tequila’s reviews. I think it might take some pressure away from me writing reviews and over thinking if the paragraphs flow well. (Yes. I still get that “I’m-writing-for-an-English-class vibe when I know that I want to write these )

What I’ve recently finished:

**The Birth House by Ami McKay**

What is it about?:
Dora Rare is the only female born into her family in five generations of the Rare family living in Scots Bay near Nova Scotia in the early part of the twentieth century. Eyebrows start to raise at her mere existance because she’s the only female born to her family but also because at the age of seventeen she befriends Miss Babineau, a very experienced midwife who has had something to do with almost every birth in town (and some outside of it as well) When most of her family and friends are searching for husbands, she is given a very eye opening apprenticeship working with Miss Babineau. Working with her, she encounters abusive marriages, an overall lack of sensitivity to women in childbirth, unfullfilling marriages and sex lives, all during a time when no one discussed such things.

But wait–the plot thickens! Dr. Gilbert Thomas comes in and builds a maternity ward nearby and insists that he can assure a way for the town’s women to experience a “painless childbirth.” Granted I’ve never given birth but even I can see how that would make a woman say “You have my attention”

Why did I read this?
You know…thinking about it, I don’t remember…I think I went searching on Goodreads lists. It appealed to me because of its “in with the new/out with the old” quality it had.

What impressed me about this book?
As corny as this might sound, the bonds between the town’s women. At a time when the point of view of women was hardly listened to, you saw characters stand up for delivering their kids according to their own terms. And with some you didn’t. It was interesting to think about these women’s motivations for their actions.

What disappointed me about this book?
Her loveless marriage. It was pretty surprising for me to see a character who has experienced so much of bad experiences of marriage through assisting a midwife that she turns around and tolerates it from her own husband. I won’t say much but there was a satisfying resolution with this aspect of the book

Overall Grade? (out of five)


Now Knitting!

I picked up my Apres Surf Hoodie and not I simply can not put it down. It’s pretty funny because I started it over a year ago. Perhaps I might be able to wear it to MDSW?? Maybe?? That said I secretly mock people that wear ridiculous handknits for an outdoor May fesitval. Should you be proud as hell at yourself for steeking that fair isle sweater? Ab-so-lutely but come on…It’s been known to hit 90 degrees…not very bright.

Anyway, I’m quite proud of the progress:

Apres Surf Hoodie

This was taken over the weekend too…I’m more than halfway done with one sleeve too

Are you going to MDSW this year? I’d love to meet up!! :-)


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