“Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank” by Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D.
As a book-nerd, when I got pregnant, I immediately started looking around for books to get me through this life-changing and awesomely crazy time. Though I easily found the best of the best how-to books (“What to Expect when You’re Expecting,” of course, as well as Jenny McCarthy’s “Belly Laughs”) I also wanted some history on this whole process. I wished my beloved Mary Roach would have tackled the subject of childbirth through history in her wonderfully scientifically weird way.
Well, Mary Roach hasn’t taken on babies yet – but she doesn’t need to.
Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D.’s “Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank” is the book about babies I wanted Mary Roach to write. I stumbled upon it while browing the racks at the awesome Women & Children First bookstore in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, and I’m so glad I did.
Did you know that, for years, women were coming down with (and often dying from) something called “childbed fever” after delivering their babies? One smart doctor thought it might have something to do with a lack of cleanliness from the doctors, who would frequently deal with sick or dead people, then head right into delivering a baby. This doctor instituted a rigorous hand-washing program and childbed fever deaths plummeted. Of course, then the staff got bored of the hand-washing, went back to their previous ways, and back up the deaths went.
Let’s put it this way – I’m now really glad I live in the time I do. Having a baby in past centuries sounds like it was frequently a god-awful and deadly experience.
From the horror of DES hormones to the silliness of ancient times when a piece of the amniotic sac left on the baby during delivery was considered a sign that the baby would accomplish great things, “Get Me Out..” is a treat for history nerds, mamas and mamas-to-be, and anyone who’s ever been curious about the incredibly mysterious 9 months it takes to grow and deliver a baby. Also, it manages to remain humorous – despite a lot of subject matter that’s really anything BUT funny. Hearing of one old-time doctor who did horrible experiments on slave girls to learn about female anatomy is downright awful, but hearing there are statues of him in parks is even worse.
Informative AND interesting? I’m there.