Review: Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart–A Midwife's Saga
Reviewer Sonia Reppe holds a B.A. in vocal performance, gives voice lessons in the Chicago area and spends most of her time reading and taking care of her daughter, husband and cats.View all articles by Sonia Reppe
Author: Carol Leonard
Publisher: Bad Beaver Farm
Carol Leonard, cofounder of the Midwives Alliance of North America, and midwife of thirty years, helped to make midwives legal and certified in her state of New Hampshire. Believing that women should have an empowering experience of giving birth, and have the option of a home birth, she felt drawn to helping women after the birth of her son, and started assisting doctors and learning all she could. This remarkable memoir is the journey of one woman finding her calling as a midwife and finding love on the way.
It is always rewarding to read about someone's passion, and it is even better when the storyteller is a good writer and presents a thoughtful, vivid, and inspiring account of her experiences. This book is mainly about Leonard's professional life and how it entwines with–or rather, takes over–her personal life, but the reader will feel like they get to know the author intimately; her outlook, her humor and her personality are effortlessly conveyed through-out the writing. Although partly anecdotal when relaying some of her more interesting labor and delivery experiences, the anecdotes are so detailed and chronologically interlaced with her personal story that the result is a thorough and well-flowing narrative that spans her first twelve years as a midwife.
I enjoyed the elements of humor, drama, tragedy, romance, and motherhood. Her subtle descriptions of various doctors let the reader know exactly what she thinks of them. She meets a beloved obstetrician who at first is wary of home-birth practices but then helps support the midwife movement. Some of my favorite passages were about this generous and compassion doctor, and I admit, I adored him; the skillful writing brought this character to life, and I predict he will be a favorite with female readers.
As for the political aspect, Leonard was pulled into the 1970's political movement of midwives because of iconoclastic obstetricians who thought home-birth was an unsafe, barbaric practice. One of the problems of bringing politics into a memoir is the tendency to become didactic and dry, but this does not happen here, as Leonard summarizes the legalities and keeps these parts engaging; we can see how the politics pertains to her, and how it is a huge part of being a midwife. Don't worry, she doesn't come off as a pushy advocate, she has an altruistic and humble attitude that shows in her writing.
Saga means narrative of heroic deeds. I am in awe of anyone who can keep calm in emergency situations, especially those in health-care. I think A Midwife's Saga is a perfect subtitle for this book.