From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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. (Apr.)
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What boosts Sloan’s book above other pediatrician memoirs is his Captain Kangaroo–like humor and compassion. Indeed, his decision to become a pediatrician sprang from one of his med-student obstetrics experiences. After failing to recognize a breach birth and misidentifying the baby’s bottom as its head, he was advised, “If you can’t tell a baby’s head from its ass, maybe you’re in the wrong business.” After attending roughly 3,000 births, however, and tending the medical needs of countless other children and their moms, he seems outstandingly suited to his specialty. The topics he discusses were born, if you will, out of his own experience, professional and personal, so in talking about them, he combines anecdotes and overviews of the various aspects of fetal development and birthing. Hence, we learn that Queen Victoria is the patron mother of anesthetic medication for the pain of childbirth and that Aristotle advocated plunging newborns into a cold stream to “harden” them. With its crisp and upbeat tone, Sloan’s book is good company for parents experienced and prospective alike. --Donna Chavez