Book Review: Labor of Love by Cara Muhlhahn

Labor of Love: A Midwife's Memoir

Earlier this week I hopped on my bike and headed to the library. I had two books in mind and this was one of them. At first glance I did not realize that this is the Cara whom was the featured midwife in The Business of Being Born and the moment I realized this (as the forward is written by both Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein) I was hooked. I knew I’d love this memoir before I’d finished the first chapter.

I’ve tried now for several days to find the right words to summarize this book but I’m at a loss. Though she does not make any mention of it in her book, Cara should add “inspiring writer” to her resume. Throughout the memoir you never get the impression that Cara had any intentions of writing about her journey into midwifery but because of the unexpected fame that The Business of Being Born has brought her she was able to put into words everything I was wanting to know. Cara’s words are humbling. She is the epitomie of the kind of midwife whom I would a) want to help me deliver my next baby and b) aspire to become someday. (No, I have no fantasies of becoming a home birth midwife.)

As a whole, this memoir is exactly what every aspiring midwife should read, even if home birth midwifery is not your ultimate goal. It’s not mine. In fact the thought of a home birth is both nerve-racking and thrilling at the same time. Cara’s perspective is so genuine and even I have softened up to the idea of a home birth-maybe.

The memoir begins with Cara sharing her life before midwifery and while I was taken aback at first as to why this was important in a memoir about being a midwife, her childhood and early adulthood shaped her into the kind of midwife she is today. Without giving too much away, her early adulthood included traveling all over the world, being sucked into a cult in California, being kidnapped by her parents and ultimately having her very own child via home birth.

Cara gave the most honest portrayal of a controversial career in midwifery that I’ve ever read. Midwifery is not accepted and welcomed in our society the same way it is in other countries all over the world. Cara has experience working in a hospital, birth center and independently in home births. Being well-rounded in each area of birth makes what Cara does even more valid. She has the research and knowledge to help guide any mama, whether she is totally comfortable with a home birth or not, in the right direction going as far to say that she does not hesitate to suggest hospital births to those mamas who are no where close to being comfortable with a home birth. This honesty is what makes the book so real. There is not one ounce of it in which I thought, “really? I don’t know about that…”.

As a mother myself, one of the greatest aspects of the memoir is how she does not hold out on how difficult it is to be on call 24/7 and manage being a mom at the same time, even admitting that the pager does in fact come before her son. WOW! Can you even imagine how difficult that must have been to admit? That someone else is more important than your own flesh and blood…I was floored. I have since stopped saying any “I have/will nevers” when it comes to being a wife and mom but I do hope and pray that I don’t ever admit those stinging words. This is one of the biggest reasons why I am certain home birth midwifery is not for me. I NEED a schedule and as long as it includes still being a wife and mom then I am okay with that.

After reading this book there is no doubt in my mind that Cara was always meant to be a midwife as I feel there is little to no doubt in my mind I want to become one as well. There are still a million questions I would love for her to answer but I suppose that will have to wait.

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