The Birth House
So, here I am again, getting antsy on what I am going to read. I have found a book I had set aside a couple of years ago, so I will finish that in the meantime. I started the Case of the Exploding Mangoes, and just couldn't get into it yet...not the book for me at the moment. I will try to revisit that one. It has been a busy time at our home lately, so making the time to get out and find a book on the list has been a challenge. either way, as long as others are reading 'The Blue Sweater' than I am all set for now because I read it and loved it. Is anyone reading it????
So, instead of finding ones we were discussing, I chose to write about a novel I have read a couple of times now and loved.
The Birth House
I read this book two years ago, on our way to the east coast of Canada where this novel is set. A tiny little community called Scots Bay, in the Annapolis Valley region in the province of Nova Scotia. The author, Ami McKay, wrote the book after learning that the home her family purchased was once a ‘birth house’ where the women of the Bay came to give birth. I just finished re-reading it, and loved it even more the second time.
The book is set in the early 1900’s, around the time of the first world war and focuses on a major issue of the time- that of the midwife being challenged by the newest medical technologies to give women a “painless” childbirth. Dr. Thomas is the director of the Canning maternity home, and does all he can to discredit the safety of birth at home.
The midwife in reference is one Marie Babineau, an older wise Creole woman who helps mamas to ‘bring them babies down’ with a whole lot of intuition and natural remedies. She is often paid with a share of the family’s new crop of potatoes or a few cabbages from the root cellar- which fits her just fine in exchange for the mothers trusting her with the baby’s and their own lives. Of course, Dr. Thomas is more than happy to provide a more proper birth for the women, as long as they are ready to take the long trip over North Mountain to his clinic- and buy a share in his pursuits of the finer medicine for proper women.
At the heart of the story is Dora Rare. The only girl born in the Rare family in generations, and as her fate would have it, the successor to Miss Babineau’s provision of midwifery services in Scot’s Bay. She is so beautifully written, that honestly, it is difficult to believe that she doesn’t exist. Even though I have been to Scot’s Bay, she is so brought to life in the novel that I would fully believe I could go there to find her.
Dora faces so many challenges because of her willingness to continue to give the women of the Bay an opportunity to have their babies birthed at home, and fights the often-scheming ways of Dr. Thomas, not to mention the women in the Bay who are now being led to believe that his way may be the best after all.
There is love, loss, hope, discovery, history and at the heart of it the age old issue of women having choice and support to choose their place of birth, and how that birth will happen, as much as is possible in such an unpredictable endeavor. The book is this, and so much more.
A wonderful book by a Canadian author, and an intelligent glimpse into the world of the fight between a woman’s right to be informed, the support to let her strength come through versus the experience of being told what is best for her with little information.