I've been reading voraciously for the past two or three weeks. I don't know why, but all I want to do is escape into a book. See, normally I LOVE to read for the sake of reading, but for much of my life I've also used it as an escape mechanism. So much cheaper and healthier than drugs. Well, I'm reading almost frantically, like I do when I'm trying to escape something, but I don't really get what it is I'm trying to get away from at this time! The weather is (mostly) nice, my body is (mostly) cooperative and functioning, my kids are (mostly) good and (definitely) now emotionally stable (no more pee/poop/separation anxiety problems), my husband is home, my job on hold, my annual education credits done and logged, my annual patient contacts done and logged, my house good, money okay, vehicles running, etc, etc.
Perhaps this is retractive escape from when Brent was away and I had no time to read, think, play, rest, or take care of my health. Perhaps it is a side effect of nesting and logging hours of reading before the baby comes and I have no time to read then, too. Perhaps (and this is most likely) I'm actually a bit afraid of giving birth and am trying to escape it.
Much of what I'm reading is educational materials that pertain to giving birth, so that's a funny way to try and escape the topic. Anyways, some books I've read in the past few weeks:
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Ina May Gaskin
(the natural childbirth guru, dudes)
Excellent book. A balanced combination of case studies (127 pages of birth stories), personal experience by a medical practitioner (2028 births makes for an intense amount of experience), and scientific research (some based on those 2028 births, but most based on research studies). This combination is the best as far as I'm concerned because medical books can be too dry, and birth books can be devoid of much valid medical research. The best thing I gleaned from this book was an intense confidence in my body's ability to give birth naturally. The second best thing I gleaned from this book was the broad gaps between best practice as acknowledged by the World Health Organization and other impartial agencies, and actual obstetrical practice. Much of what happens in the USA in obstetrics is driven by (a) financial or (b) fear of malpractice and (c) overconfidence in medical science and its practitioners, and much of what happens in Canadian obstetrics simply follows the US model without the financial/insurance concerns and with far less fear of medical malpractice suits. Culturally, sometimes we follow the US model and no one really knows why; it just develops this way. Much of our medical education is based on US resources, most of our TV/media exposure is from US sources, and much of our continuing medical education (seminars, courses, etc) are literally across the border. Anyways, I found this book to be an invaluable resource on childbirth.
Ina May herself is an almost hilariously granola hippie, and she knows her stuff.
The Tenth Circle
This is the author I've posted about before whose endings I do not like, the queen of the deus ex machina ending. Her subject matter is so fascinating that I keep reading her books despite her technical irritations. This book tackled the grey zones of date rape amongst teenagers. Lots of deus ex machina in here. Not just the ending. My official review of this book would be medium. 5/10.
Remember I posted about a medical book I found called "Better" that I read while on vacation in Hawaii? This is by the same guy. I LOVE HIM. He writes about much that is wrong/missing/skewed/broken/true/positive/good in the current US medical system (which, for the reasons listed above under Ina May's GTC, often translates to the Canadian system) and opens up a dialogue about the culture of medicine. I think the main reason why I think these books are so important is that Gawande clearly articulates something I've known and felt unsettled about since I started working in medicine 5 1/2 years ago, but couldn't quite put to words; and he points to innovative ways of thinking and practicing that could improve medical outcomes drastically. The main thing I see wrong with medicine today is that most people do not take charge of their own health care. We have a wonderful system (particularly in Canada, with universal access) and many highly educated, motivated, and compassionate people working in health care, but because we are human practitioners, we have weak areas. We are fallible. Many people I see have too high of expectations of doctors, and too high of expectations of medicine in general. Most people also have an almost scary trust of a physician's recommendations; this stems from fear and a lack of knowledge regarding medical conditions; a physician, after all, is an expert in his/her area and we, after all, are not. The thing is this; a doctor is a valuable resource regarding medical issues and care, but it is WE as individuals who are ultimately responsible for our own health. We must make our own decisions regarding our health care, and our doctors are advisers in this. Their advice should be given much weight and much merit, but it should not be blindly followed without question.
In an emergency, there is little time to question, research, and make decisions, and that is when we trust medical practitioners even more, and should. We can still make decisions and refuse interventions we don't want, but for the most part practitioners know better what to do or not do in an emergency. But I'm talking about non emergent times. Your kid is diagnosed with asthma. You are trying to decide whether or not to circumcise your son. You have back pain. You have a heart condition. You need a knee replacement. You are diagnosed with a mental illness.
Research, research, research. Look into alternative medicine: foods or vitamin supplements that help control asthma, the World Health Organization recommendations for circumcisions, the research surrounding your condition, chiropractic or acupuncture therapy for back pain, dietary or lifestyle changes to improve your heart condition. Ways to prepare your body for joint replacement. Alternatives or adjuncts to medication to treat mental illness. Trust your instincts. Weigh your doctor's recommendations heavily, but MAKE YOUR OWN DECISIONS.
Gawande's book doesn't talk about this issue of taking charge of your own health care so much, but it does dismantle the pedestal that we place the medical profession and its practitioners upon. It acknowledges our areas of weakness and strength and opens up an imperative dialogue on the relationship between medicine and its people.
Highly recommended. 10/10.
Life in the Driest Season
I was entranced by this one. It is a 'family memoir' written by a journalist named Neely Tucker, about his family's journey through adopting a little girl from Zimbabwe. Lots of political and social context, tons of painful descriptions of personal experience, and some very moving moments. Beautiful. 9/10.