I'm really excited to chat about this first one: The Microbiome Effect. You might have heard of the film Microbirth that was released in 2014. I didn't manage to make it to the local screening of the film, but the book contains QR codes and URLs linking the reader to relevant video footage to complement each chapter, so you get access to a lot more content than just the book itself. The book itself contains a wealth of scientific information and research brilliantly presented in such a way that the non-scientific me could easily understand. The book discusses the relationship our bodies have with the other organisms that live on and inside us, and how this relates to birth. In particular, the authors are concerned with the differences that occur between babies born vaginally and exposed to vaginal and fecal bacteria, and those born through Cesarean section who are not, and instead receive their initial bacterial cultures, or "seeding," from the air of the operating theatre. Through reference to a large body of research material, the authors show that as a woman's body prepares for birth her bacteria shifts towards a higher concentration of the bacteria needed for newborns to digest breastmilk. There is a detailed discussion of the possible outcomes for Cesarean section babies, including the emerging practice of vaginal seeding. I think this is something all expectant families should be considering when making birth plans, since every mother needs to have a contingency plan in case of Cesarean. One of the things that really touched me throughout this book is the authors' inclusion of their own birth story. Since their daughter was born by emergency C-section the work of the book is highly relevant to their own experience, and they do discus it in light of their findings, but in such a way that is not self-pitying or self centred. For me, this was the best writing feature of the book. I was so impressed by how professional they were able to be about such an emotive subject. I really hope this becomes a subject more widely discussed antenatally, in order to help women and families make the best informed decisions for themselves and their births.
I also returned to and finished Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery. Although republished, this is a much earlier work than her Guide to Childbirth (which I love!), and contains information from a very different point in her journey, with a lot of pictures of mothers on their backs, hands-on midwives, and other practices that she has left behind. One thing that troubled me about this book was that the midwives frequently seemed to tell the mothers off for having a bad attitude in labour, although I do agree that negative feelings can inhibit labour and make a birth more difficult, and should be dealt with in advance. The women in this book are so beautiful in their outlook, and feel so positive about their births, that their smiles shine out of the pages. The book itself is beautiful too, with lots of spiritual illustrations. The spirituality of the experiences of the women in the book show that birth can be deeply spiritual, and I believe that this applies however you experience spirituality in your life. Again, highly recommended!
I was lucky enough to meet the wonderful Ina May earlier this year at the Chichester Home Birth Conference, so here is a cheeky photo of us both, with her permission of course. If you ever do get the chance to hear her speak do take up the opportunity, she is inspirational! We also had a chat about knitting!
Apart from that I have read two murder mysteries by Canadian author Louise Penney. I do love her writing, especially the landscapes she creates; I feel like I am in the Canadian countryside when I read them! Every so often I find one at a local discount bookshop and treat myself! I also read Sycamore Gap by L J Ross. Like her previous book, I was drawn in by the Northumberland location, and the story is gripping, but the editing poor. One moment she is describing a suit made of paper, then the next the same suit being made of plastic. Sad times, I don't think I'm going to pursue her next one. I have picked up one of my ancient Ngaio Marsh mysteries gleaned from second hand bookshops, and that will very nicely fill the gap while I choose my next serious book.
Before I sign off I thought I'd share the beautiful day out I had with Bob this week. We headed down to the seaside in the mist and had the entire beach to ourselves!
We examined and felt all of the different types of seaweed we could find. Many of them are edible, but I think the water of the Solent is too mucky to eat them. We found these shrimps abandoned by the ebbing tide.
We climbed on rocks and found some fossils!
Then we finished our outing with an ice cream for him and a hot chocolate for me. The sweetest day out we have had for a while!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on my reading material, and any suggestions you might have for future reads!