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on 19 December 2001
I have read a variety of pregnancy books, but this is the only one which focuses on the emotional changes women go through during pregnancy. It is an honest account of the author's experiences during her pregnancy which takes the reader through all nine months and discusses both the physical and emotional changes she is undergoing.
What struck a chord with me is that she does not negate the existence of conflicting emotions. They are explained by the fact that first-time mothers have to say "good-bye" to their former selves and construct a new self as mothers, which can be a painful process. Apart from a personal account, it is also a sociological study of motherhood in the industrialised word which is characterised by partriarchial and profit-orientated institutions which do not cater for the female and non-profit making experience of child-bearing and rearing. Some aspects of the book are not particularly relevant for British readers, since the author's experiences reflect the particularities of US society and especially of US medical institutions. The only flaw of the book is the epilogue which is full of the kind of feminist utopia familiar to readers of "The Women's Room" by Marilyn French. I wholeheartedly recommend the book as complementary reading to all the pregnancy books dealing with the physical aspects of pregnancy.
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on 23 October 2001
... but bordering on infuriating for mothers who've already been there.
Wolfe tells the emotional story of her own pregnancy in such agonising detail it does feel at times as though she is the only woman who has ever been pregnant and found it less then absolutely brilliant.
Interestingly, her experience of being a mother (as opposed to a mother-to-be) fades to the background in the later part of the book and Wolfe gives other women a chance to complain.
While this sounds negative, she provides very valuable food for thought (not necessarily gospel truth, mind) for pregnant women about to be inducted into the Mother Club for the first time. Misconceptions will also be an important book for future historians and sociologists who will hopefully be shocked at how little mothers - and indeed children - were valued at the turn of the millennium.
For mothers who don't have a hobby (or profession) in gender studies, Misconceptions will make mildly irritating reading. There isn't anything in here that mothers don't already know and Wolfe doesn't provide very many practical solutions. Her willingness to point out the faults of Western culture is not helped by her peculiar eagerness to believe, and without much evidence, that less-industrialised cultures are much better places for mothers.
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on 14 May 2002
I am a feminist myself and The Beauty Myth was a crucial text in developing my views. I'm now planning a family and my (very enlightened) husband bought Misconceptions, read it and raved about it. I started reading it, and while I agree with many of her views I found it grindingly negative reading. It instilled fear and depression in me about what I was letting myself in for: losing my figure, my youth, my independence, and so on. I'm not sure this is what feminists should be doing to one another.
It's great that Wolf is normalising the ambivalence of maternal feelings, but her emphasis on the negative is just too disheartening for me.
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on 17 September 2001
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I went to a bookshop and bought about 5 books. I wanted to know as much as I could in order to make informed decisions. Naomi Wolf's 'Misconceptions' beated all of the other 4 glossy books with detailed illustrations. Although focusing on the American Health Care system, she brings pregnancy into the political sphere with the most honest account of her own experience: 'Where are the roles models for pregnant women?, she questions while exposing the treatment of mothers to be as insane and children as commodities. Every pregnant woman should read this book before reaching the shelves for patronising, out of date publications that treat expectant mothers as if they had the same mentality as their babies. The book is a humane account that if taken seriously might be able to ignate positive changes in the society.
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on 19 February 2002
I found this book interesting and readable, although it's clearly describing the experiences of American women, and I like to think that in England women giving birth are treated much more humanely (partly because midwives in this country have more clout than they apparently do in America)! Perhaps the book will make women think twice about asking for an epidural, since it can lead to many more forms of intervention. It's rather a pity that Naomi Wolf is so prejudiced against "natural childbirth" - which she fails to investigate in any detail.
The most significant aspect for me is Naomi's articulation of the change in the relationship (or balance of power) between wife and husband which follows a child's birth. Women and men, who have been equals up to this point, are suddenly faced with all the old stereotypes kicking in, and it's very hard to fight against them. She describes this dilemma well, although she offers few solutions.
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