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Birth Day: A Pediatrician Explores the Science, the History, and the Wonder of Childbirthby Mark Sloan
Synopses & Reviews
I delivered twenty babies in the summer of 1977. I was hardly more than a baby myself, just turned twenty-four and starting my third year of medical school. — from Birth Day
So began Mark Sloan's three-decades-long exploration of the wonders and oddities of human childbirth. Pediatrician, husband, and father, the author has attended nearly three thousand births since that long-ago summer, encountering everything from routine deliveries to tense labor-room dramas. In Birth Day, Sloan draws on his personal and professional experience to weave the strands of memoir, history, science, and culture into a fascinating — and often funny — tapestry of this fundamental human passage.
Birth Day takes the reader on a remarkable journey, from the dawn of human history to the quiet efficiency of a modern operating room; from Aristotle and Julius Caesar to a trailblazing, cross-dressing British army surgeon; from a recent past filled with the horrors of childbirth gone wrong to a present day, in which every pregnancy is expected to end happily. Some of Birth Day's many topics include:
Delightfully instructive and entertaining, Birth Day offers a fresh, sometimes irreverent take on a universally familiar topic. Warm, reassuring, and packed with stories from the author's work and life, this unique book is one pediatrician's meditation on the hiding-in-plain-sight marvels of human birth.
"California pediatrician Sloan has helped deliver more than 3,000 babies, and he marvelously captures the precarious nature of childbirth — both its joys and its anxieties — while treating readers to an informal and captivating history of the medical practices surrounding birth in America. Sloan shares his first bumbled attempts at delivering babies as an intern, which leads him into reflect on why doctors persist in having women lie down to give birth when standing or squatting are better physical postures for it. Sloan ranges surely and splendidly over epidurals, cesarean births, premature birth and neonatal nurseries, as well as the state of an infant's five senses at birth. For example, he points out that the fetus not only smells the foods its mother eats, it remembers them after birth and tends to like what it remembers. Sloan counsels that women cannot prepare for labor, because events change rapidly during the process. He advises women to surround themselves with the people they love: 'unlike other labor pain relievers she may choose, their benefits will last the rest of her life.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
You might expect a book about childbirth to be written by an obstetrician. But the author of "Birth Day," an exploration of the science and history of childbirth and early infancy, is a pediatrician. His decision to "throw in my lot with the babies" translates into a book focused more on the results of childbirth than on the act itself. Sloan, who practices in Northern California, is a graceful writer,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) and his narrative, like the works of Jerome Groopman, flows easily between memoir, anecdotal reporting and hard science. In a chapter on the first five minutes of life, for example, he contrasts the stories of two babies — one born vaginally but with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, the other in a more complicated emergency cesarean — to illustrate how a newborn makes the precarious transition to breathing on its own. Given the subject, "Birth Day" has a natural audience in curious, new and expectant parents. But anyone interested in the complex, and yes, miraculous, way we all make it into this world will find much to wonder over and ponder here, too. Reviewed by Nora Krug, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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About the Author
Mark Sloan, M.D., has been a pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics for more than twenty-five years. He is one of the highest-rated pediatricians (by patients and peers) in Kaiser Permanentes Northern California region. His writing has appeared in the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications. He lives in Santa Rosa, California, with his wife and two teenage children, who continue to provide him with a wealth of practical pediatric experience.
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