In The New Republic, for my Fatherland column, I review a new collection of essays about labor and delivery, co-edited by the great novelist Eleanor Henderson. I don’t love the book, although I love many of the essays therein. One choice paragraph or two, from my review:
But the co-editors, Henderson and her friend, novelist Anna Solomon, have drawn their contributors almost entirely from the pool of MFA-credentialed women who, for reasons of genuine conviction, cultural indoctrination, or weakness under pressure presume that “natural” birthing is better than unnatural birthing; that doulas and midwives are better than doctors; and that the birth experience is supposed to be profound. As a result, many of them end up in alternative birthing centers, or ABCs, instead of in traditional maternity wards. And in those birthing centers—if these essays are to be believed—the women can relax in Jacuzzis instead of mere showers or hotel-style tubs.
Because, as Ina May Gaskin and indigenous midwives from throughout the Third World can tell you, the electric whirlpool bath has for millennia been integral to the authentic, woman-centered birthing experience. It just took the Italian-American Jacuzzi brothers to market the idea to post-war America.