Title: Catching Babies
Author: Sheena Byrom
Publisher: Headline, 2011
Reviewer: Carlson Coogler, English and medical student
What was it like?
As readers follow the development of the author’s career, they learn along with Sheena that “satisfaction in midwifery came from doing less to individuals and doing more with them.” Funny and serious anecdotes show how tea, baths and listening to concerned moms are important empowerment tools. As Sheena witnesses the wonder of new life, marvels at the endurance and strength of mums, and fights for equality in healthcare, readers get the chance to share in some of the rewards of supporting and witnessing the everyday beauty of birth.
What were the highlights?
As is fitting for a book written by a midwife, the central highlight and strength is the portrayal of extraordinary midwifes and resilient women. I particularly liked the depiction of Carla, an Italian midwife who treated her colleagues to food and hand-knitted booties; Mrs Quinn, a midwife whose ideas for bettering care were ahead of her time; and, Jill, a farmer’s wife who fed cows during her contractions because her work was not yet done. I also thought the description of how Nadia and Paul, a couple with a stillborn baby, learned to heal their grief through service was lovely. My favorite moment, however, was the presentation of a signature list to the author in the midst of litigation. Signed by mothers and community members, it showed the impact caring midwifery can have on the lives of women and the trust that results from this relationship.
Strengths & weaknesses:
Perhaps because of the consistent witnessing of new life and death, the writing style is often emotional. Though not seriously off-putting, it did cause me to read it in smaller increments. As already mentioned, the characters and stories from her career are a real strength. Because of the breadth and complexity of careers, memoirs can tend to be uncentered. But, Sheena’s constant dedication for supporting and empowering mothers keeps Catching Babies from falling into this fault.
Who should read it?
I would recommend this book to anyone who is a midwife or is interested in studying midwifery. I also think anyone who is interested in fighting for changes in the status quo or in empowering women in healthcare situations will find the anecdotes inspiring.