Holistic Midwifery: A Comprehensive Textbook for Midwives in a Homebirth Practice, Vol. II:
Care from Onset of Labor through the First Hours after Birth
by Anne Frye, CPM
[2004, Portland, Oregon: Labrys Press, $130.00, 1475 pages, hardback]
[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 73, Spring 2005, © 2005, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Jill Cohen.]
At long last, volume II of Holistic Midwifery has come to fruition. Anne Frye has once again created a book that is thoughtful, informative and innovative. She introduces ideas and concepts never before offered in textbook form. Anne's hope is that writing about what midwives think will lead to more understanding and respect for their standard of care. She incorporates ideas from many midwives with historical texts that reveal the ancient art and science from which midwifery originated. Thus, the reader learns that many old ways are still valid today.
The table of contents provides an important overview. Much like the first volume, the second reviews anatomy and physiology. Uncomplicated labor, birth, baby care and the hours after birth follow. Additional information is then supplied for situations that require more skills, including an extensive section on high risk neonatal and mother care. There is also a comprehensive list of equipment that may be needed at birth.
Careful use of words and phrasing is important when learning midwifery. Anne has gone to great lengths to utilize proper yet innovative language. One example is the use of the word yoni rather than vagina. Another is the phrase "ways in which the baby's body adapts during descent" (italics added). This implies a natural, cooperative connection between baby and mother, as opposed to that suggested by more antagonistic phrasing found in other texts. New and considerate language could help to reform care and rekindle a more positive approach.
While the text is scientific and research-based, a depth of feeling and consciousness is also woven through the book. The wisdom of the midwives' tricks, the intuition and the heart put into every detail on a physical, emotional and spiritual level adds a dimension not found in other textbooks. Besides scientific explanations, the reader will find more eclectic definitions, such as: "Labor is also the transformational opening of a woman's entire body." The incorporation of facts, experience and emotional reflection gives the reader a multifaceted perspective on midwifery.
Anne also does an outstanding job of presenting the information on transport. The reader learns to identify when transport is needed and to create a safe and effective mode of action. This is not only informative, but elucidates the midwifery philosophy of care for hospital care providers who may wonder when and why midwives transport.
Another incredible feature of this text is the many detailed illustrations, e.g., diagrams of various positions for the birthing woman, pictures of the breech baby as it descends and emerges. Two full pages on fetal head positioning in the section on performing internal exams give the reader a great visual image of what the hands can only feel.
Doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas and anyone interested in birth or midwifery will glean a wealth of insight and information from this text. Elizabeth Davis sums it up beautifully in her forward: "At all times [Anne] has been exhaustively inclusive and yet discriminating in suggesting appropriate responses to labor and birth complications." With intuition, compassion and skill, Anne has created a magnificent learning tool for the aspiring as well as the seasoned practitioner.
Reviewer Jill Cohen is associate editor of Midwifery Today magazine and senior editor of The Birthkit.