- Hardcover: 296 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press (October 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807072893
- ISBN-13: 978-0807072899
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 137 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,406,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir Hardcover – October 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
A nurse midwife struggling to keep solvent the women's health clinic in Torrington, W.Va., that she ran with her surgeon husband shares poignant stories about her patients over the course of a year. A self-described former hippie who lived on a commune with her three sons, Harman later went to nursing school and became a midwife while her husband, Tom, attended medical school. Although their practice took off, they were strapped with debt, back taxes, growing bills for malpractice insurance, constant threats of lawsuits and the discovery, over the year, of Harman's freak ailments—a gangrenous gallbladder and uterine cancer requiring an immediate hysterectomy. Harman conveys the hope inspired by her patients' stories, such as the seven-time mother who never tried birth control and couldn't decide which husband to stay with, and the lesbian horticulture professor who wanted to become a man. Wearying of the financial pressures and tensions with Tom, Harman tells in this heartfelt memoir that she dreamed of leaving the practice, though a genuine love for helping women, and her great faith both in God and her spouse, sustained her. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The many moving stories of the women that Patricia Harman cares for as a nurse-midwife add up to a remarkable account of a life spent listening, helping, and taking care. Inviting us into her clinic in rural West Virginia, she shows us the joys and sorrows of listening to women's stories and attending to their bodies, and she leads us through the complicated life of a healer who is profoundly shaped by her patients and their journeys. —Perri Klass, author of The Mercy Rule and Treatment Kind and Fair
"Nobody writes with more candor and compassion about women's woes and women's triumphs than nurse-midwife Patricia Harman. Her behind-the-exam-room-door memoir is a bittersweet valentine to every woman-young and old-who has ever donned that thin blue cotton gown, to every dedicated healthcare provider, and to every husband-wife medical team. I couldn't put The Blue Cotton Gown down."—Sara Pritchard, author of Crackpots and Lately
"This luminescent, ruthlessly authentic, humane, and brilliantly written account of a midwife in rough-hewn Appalachia-a passionate healer plying her art and struggling to live a life of spirit-stands as a model for all of us, doctors and patients alike, of how to offer good care."—Samuel Shem, M.D., author of The House of God, Mount Misery, and The Spirit of the Place
"Patricia Harman has opened for us a window, a glimpse into her life as a midwife and the lives of those women who have entered her exam room. And as the touch of her careful and caring hands learned the story of their bodies, into her heart they poured their life stories-stories of joy, of sorrow, those bright with promise, those dimmed with grief and pain."—Sheila Kay Adams, author of My Old True Love
"As the mother of seven children and veteran of eight pregnancy losses, I knew when I ran my bath that I would be unable to resist Patricia Harman's memoir of midwifery. What I didn't realize was that it would cause me, a sensible person, to get into the bath with one sock still on and rise from it when the candle was gone and the water cold. Utterly true and lyrical as any novel, Harman's book should be a little classic."—Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Cage of Stars
"Patsy has the ability to put a knife in your gut, to make you long for things you have experienced and things you have not." —Penny Armstrong, co-author of A Midwife's Story
"In The Blue Cotton Gown, Patsy Harman, midwife and women's health care specialist, reveals herself as a real person-a wife and mother who has trouble sleeping, who has financial worries, who has suffered betrayal and loss, and who always runs late-someone with whom we can identify. But her faults and troubles seem inconsequential when we witness her compassion, wisdom, and good judgment in this gripping and heartwarming 'love song to women.' Through her clients' compelling stories of misfortune, survival, and triumph, Patsy Harman has composed an unromantic, down-to-earth idealization of women as told through their stories of loss and triumph." —Penny Simkin, childbirth educator, doula, and author of The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman Through Labor
"Patricia Harman, Certified Nurse-Midwife, writes a book that tells the story of the reality of life as a midwife in private practice with her obstetrician/gynecologist husband. She also tells the stories of the women for whom she provides health care. Patsy Harman tracks her life, the lives of the women, and her periodic interaction with them through the seasons of the year. With compassion, forthright honesty, an eye for detail, and talented writing, the author draws the reader into all of their lives-the memories of whom last long after the book is finished." —Helen Varney Burst, CNM, original author of Varney's Midwifery
"The Blue Cotton Gown is a seductive read! Read it to understand the fragile thinness between the care-giver and the cared-for. Patsy Harman does not shy away from her narrative. She does not shy away from controversial topics. She grabs the reader by the literary throat." —Judy Schaefer, editor of The Poetry of Nursing
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Her book is uplifting, sometimes heart wrenching, but always shows how women and their families manage to survive no matter the circumstance.
As stated in other reviews there isn't much written about birthing but there is plenty written about women's health.
An expert midwife like Patsy has crafted her sphere of loving influence combined with many years of finely honed experience. This craft is developed by watching women labor and birth, and by staying connected to nature, which develops an incredible sense of intuition and deep respect for women and families. I call this talent "White Magic". Even though Patsy isn't catching babies anymore, she still uses her white magic to intuitively sense what is needed next for each situation. Midwifery is a spiritual art combined with the art of medicine. Patsy also eloquently lets the reader know that her craft is fret with uncertainty, stress, and worry, often from the realms beyond. These realms are difficult to articulate, and sometimes the reader is left wondering about what it all means and we are left to ponder on our own. We don't know why one young patient overdoses, or why another feels she is a man instead of a woman, or why another stays in an abusive relationship. Patsy leaves that up to the cosmos to figure out, and stays out of the way of playing God.
I don't know if I really would have understood how Patsy practiced if I read this book as a student or new midwife. But after 15 years of honing my midwife craft, I really do get it. And if you care about women, about good stories, about struggles to own a business, or about the spirit of midwives and what makes them special, then read this book. I gifted several copies to my friends and each of them have enjoyed it as much as me.