Top critical review
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Where do I start???
on 31 October 2014
I bought this book while pregnant with my daughter, along with several other books on childbirth and midwifery - as I found myself more and more intrigued about the whole process as my pregnancy advanced. I have since had my baby, and finished reading this book and am really annoyed - mainly with myself for buying it.
Firstly: there's the constant NHS bashing. Sometimes it's very blatant, e.g, referring to the group of midwives she worked with there as the 'Bison' - not nice, not really necessary and highly unprofessional in my opinion. Other times it's a bit more subtle, e.g the constant underlying message that pregnant women aren't listened to on the NHS, don't receive continuity of care (not in the way you would with a "devoted" midwife such as Ms Howes, who ironically enough will send you a bill for the privilege!) and don't have their choices listened to / respected. Well, having given birth myself in an NHS hospital only a few weeks ago I could not agree less. The standard of care I received was first class in every way. I saw the same midwife for all my antenatal appointments, who I grew very close to. On the day of my labour, I had three midwives, due to their changing shifts. All three were amazing: calm, supportive and encouraging. I had a lovely meal, gas and air as soon as I requested it, use of a birth pool in the room - and even aromatherapy oils for my partner, should he wish to massage me. I could not fault the hospital in any way.
The examples given in the book of the NHS "not respecting women's choices" of having a home birth were perfectly understandable: they were clearly situations where the women were high risk pregnancies, which generally means they recommend consultant led care, rather than midwife led. Which leads me to my second point...
Home births: I did actually want a home birth early on in my pregnancy, and my midwife encouraged it - saying I was a perfect candidate as I was not scared of labour, and had a low risk, straightforward pregnancy with no complications. However, my partner was not comfortable with the idea so our baby was born in hospital and in retrospect, for the reasons mentioned above, I'm glad I listened to him. I felt calm at the hospital, and knew that if anything unexpected happened, I was in the best place. Also, having seen the mess that comes with labour, I'm quite pleased I wasn't at home! However, for many of the women in the book, the NHS appear to have discouraged a home birth for various reasons which seem perfectly sensible to me - only for these women to turn to Ms Howes, who happily agrees to perform a home birth despite them being high risk. To me this sounds unbelievably reckless. All this babbling on about women having the choices she never had with her four children is ridiculous - if it's a choice between a risky home birth and a hospital birth with doctors on standby I know which one I'd choose!
There are also references to Ms Howes' company throughout, and I can't help but feel this book was a marketing ploy, rather than a "story of dedication". She has also taken part in filming births, despite saying she hates most of the midwife programmes on TV as they show 'midwives sitting around drinking tea while the women are left alone. And the icing on the cake: towards the end is a page or so about independent midwives now having to have professional indemnity insurance - something I agree wholeheartedly with this as giving birth is not without risks - and Ms Howes reaction? She is involved in setting up a charity, The Independent Midwifery Trust. "The goal of the trust is to raise money to support the ongoing aims and ideals of independent midwives including a hardship fund for women who would benefit from one-to-one care but cannot get it". If I hadn't been a few pages from the end of the book at that point, I would have stopped reading.
In short, I can thank Ms Howes for a few things: for making me value the NHS more than ever before for the fantastic bunch of midwives it has, and for putting me off the idea of ever hiring an independent midwife!