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Having Faith Paperback – May 6, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Steingraber (Living Downstream) offers the commonest of stories how she got pregnant, gave birth and fed her baby in a most uncommon way. A cross between the quirkily thorough detail of Natalie Angier's science-writing and the passionate environmental advocacy of Rachel Carson, Steingraber's style would have been insufferably heroic if the pregnancy had been smooth, mind-over-matter. Instead, it's one long tale of everywoman's worst moments from the urge-to-pee problem to the terrible nausea of morning sickness followed by "round ligament pain" (these are "the bungee cords that anchor the uterus in place"), Braxton-Hicks contractions (which "rehearse the body for labor") and the general nuttiness of each trimester of pregnancy. Readers can identify with being ideologically opposed to, say, episiotomies, but then agreeing to one under the duress of childbirth. The climax, however, is not her daughter Faith's birth, but the dilemma over the safety of breastfeeding. The medical benefits of breast milk are compelling: it provides excellent nutrition and important immunities. But with rising environmental pollution, biomagnification implies that deadly toxins like DDT and dioxin will concentrate in human milk, the top of the food chain. The only answer: fight this pollution and make the world safer for nursing babies. With humor Steingraber compares childbirth to rocking a car out of a snowdrift or angling big furniture through a small doorway to leaven the scientific forays, this is a positively riveting narrative. Parents-to-be or anyone concerned with environmental pollution will want to read and discuss this and act.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

According to many popular guidebooks, pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting are happy experiences that proceed smoothly to bliss and contentment. Wolf and Steingraber beg to differ. Both feminist writer Wolf (The Beauty Myth) and Steingraber (Living Downstream: A Scientist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment), an ecologist at Cornell University, feel that consumer guides do not offer women enough information about the reality of the birth process. They argue that childbirth preparation classes make medical intervention seem harmless, normal, and expected. This leads women to stop trusting themselves and their bodies, allowing physicians to take control. But while the two authors agree about some issues, their respective books look at their own pregnancies from different points of view. Wolf focuses on how the psychological and social aspects of pregnancy and impending motherhood changed her sense of self. Coming from a generation of women who identify themselves as independent, equal, and entitled to power, she felt a sense of loss despite having wanted a child. She also began to reexamine some of her basic beliefs about a woman's right to choose and the balance of power in relationships. Wolf concludes that society neither values nor supports parents despite its emphasis on family values.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reissue edition (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425189996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425189993
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #746,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Pearson on December 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
You don't have to be pregnant to read this book. Steingraber is a poet and a scientist, sometimes both at once. From the very first paragraph of the preface, her poet's eye pulls us into the "ecosystem of the mother's body," and we share her amazement that she had "become a habitat. [Her] womb was an inland ocean with a population of one." Before she finishes, she has also realized that contrary to received opinion, "man" is not the top of the food chain: the nursing baby is! There are many more pithy and poetic observations, but I won't give any more of them away as they are a large part of the book's power to enchant.

The science, especially the toxicology, is perhaps a little detailed for the expectant mother to assimilate in one reading, but one can always go back and take up one topic at a time, as Steingraber does in the course of the monthly chronology she follows. The early passages on the formation of the fetus are wonderful. The story of which cells start where and the landmarks of their migrations reads like a travel narrative. But then abruptly, S leaves behind the high art of embryology and her pregnancy "becomes empirical." Her toothbrush feels too big for her mouth, she is cranky, the bread of her sandwich is the wrong kind, and it's cut wrong. After some personal perspective on morning sickness, she once again adopts her scientist's perspective to investigate the causes of this nearly universal experience and why there is so little expert knowledge about it. We have soon learned more than we have ever heard about it before. In similar manner, alternately technical and lyrical, she covers both the science and personal experience of amniocentesis, congenital defects, fetal growth, prenatal education, birthing, and nursing-through to weaning.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By M. Dilg on August 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sandra Steingraber is my new heroine. Her writing is magnificent, and her concerns very much my own. She manages to explain the inexplicable (we are poisoning our babies, and don't stop even when we see the evidence) in a way that does not frighten as much as persuade. She indeed has faith, and I am so grateful to her for facing these fearful realities during her pregnancy -- as she points out, if pregnant women don't face these things, who will? Her refrain "We shall not abstain" -- asking why it is pregnant women who must restrict themselves, not producers of toxics -- is common-sense political brilliance and unmasks the hypocrisy of a society that pretends to protect the vulnerable with technological might, but is really not interested when facts run counter to the fantasy of omnipotence. Her writing is so vivid that I burst into tears at the end of her labor-and-delivery story, as I do at any filmed depiction of birth. Thank you, Sandra.I'm giving it to all my friends, and sending it to some politicians!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joe D. Bryant on November 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Sandra Steingraber, a trained scientist, tells the story of her pregnancy at age 38, weaving it into very readable science. She describes the day-to-day development of the fetus and how we KNOW at exactly what point birth defects are caused and, in many cases, which chemicals cause them. I was horrified to learn how many chemicals are being passed to our children through mothers' milk. And I can't stop telling my friends how the waters of the Arctic are the MOST polluted in the world, just the opposite of what you might think.
This may be one of the most important books you will ever read. Like Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring", it should wake us up to the damage we are doing to our environment and to ourselves.
The book is fascinating...and very, very scary. Every American, AND EVERY LEGISLATOR, should read it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
An avid reader and expectant mom, I can honestly say this book is the best I've read in a long time (especially among the mostly run-of-the-mill pregnancy and childbirth genre). The writing is beautiful, the story simultaneously heart-warming and compelling, and the science thorough and thought-provoking. Perhaps the most gripping part of the book is when Steingraber explains that unborn babies and nursing infants are at the top of the food chain, so toxins and pollutants reach them in greater quantities than any other species on the planet! While her language is not the least bit alarmest, the information she shares serves as a call to action to anyone who truly believes that "children are our future."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By sarahmacred on April 26, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Currently pregnant, I hesitated to read this book because I didn't want to become more paranoid than I already am about various environmental problems. I was impressed by both Steingraber's voice - the intimate telling of her own story is funny, telling, and compelling without any of the other details - and with the unremitting rigor with which she marshals her facts. Instead of being overwhelemed by information on one or the other side of various US environmental debates, I found that the author brings a very well-researched and sensible perspective to the conversation. Beautifully written as well as informative - well worth my time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nicole L. Tierney on December 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Sandra Steingraber's book, Having Faith- An Ecologist's Journey To Motherhood is a memoir of poignant insight backed by ecological conscience. Pregnant for the first time at the later age of thirty-eight, Streingraber grapples with the idea of her own growing child within the context of, and intermingled with, the life of the world outside of herself that she has studied for years as an Ecologist. Extraordinarily honest in both her scientific backing of her own personal passage from scientist in the most colloquial sense of the word, to governor of the very habitat in which her baby is growing, Steingraber's writes with candor and sincerity.

Steingraber chronicles the pregnancy and birth of her daughter Faith, and throughout the memoir provokes the reader to always remember the direct and immediate connection between humans and their environments by descriptions of the very fragility of her own developing baby. The very name of her child connotes, too, the faith that Steingraber, and truly all expectant mothers, have to possess within themselves amidst a modern world of both spectacular technology, but also chaos and disorder.

Infusing the reader with both a deep hope for change, and a new awareness of the changes that we need to begin making now, Steingraber's memoir is essential for not only women to read, but any citizen with any environmental and ecological conscience or concern, to read as well.
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