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:
- The evolution of human childbirth -- or, why do gorillas have it so easy?
- The first five minutes of life -- scuba divers, astronauts, and the amazing adaptations that transform a fetus into an air-breathing, out-in-the-world baby
- Cesarean section -- a look at its origins, its future, and how it came to be the most frequently performed operation in American hospitals
- Pain and politics -- the age-old quest for painless childbirth, starring Adam and Eve, Queen Victoria, a nineteenth-century medical brawl, and the rise of today's epidural monoculture
- Daddies -- raging paternal hormones, hiddenanxieties, and the emotional evolution of men (including the author, his father, and grandfather) as they approach fatherhood
- The five senses at birth -- does light enter the womb? how loud is it in there? what is a newborn baby searching for with those first anxious glances?
- A tour of the newborn body -- springy skulls, hairy ears, innies and outies, the advantages (and disadvantages) of looking like your father, and why the United States is one of the world's most circumcised nations
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.)
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.