What an anti-racist and social justice activist who constantly deals with stressors of social issues and inequality relishes, are moments like these when we receive children’s books such as Mama Midwife, to review.
Mama Midwife, A Birth Adventure, is a self-published text by California resident, Christy Tyner, mother of two, whose children’s playtime activity sometimes includes stuffing their clothes with animals and playing ‘midwife’, acts as one of the inspirations behind this creative work. More inspiration comes from Christy’s partner — a midwife, and the text also served as a way to appeal to children, helping to curb some of the potential trauma inflicted through ‘Hollywood scenes where every birth is an excruciating emergency in a hospital that requires intervention.’
Mama Midwife is told through the eyes of young Miso, who finds herself in an interesting story-telling situation when explaining her mom’s work. During Miso’s first slumber party, mama is called that night to work, and that sets Miso’s friends on curios path full of questions. After the friends decide Miso’s mama is not a ‘secret agent,’ but is instead someone who ‘helps babies come out of their mommies,’ and ‘takes special care of mommy while the baby is growing inside,’ the remainder of the story unfolds, and shows an eager to help out, Miso, who eventually gets a chance to assist her mother during a birth.
Mama Midwife is filled with fun, rich and colorful illustrations, along with a story of participating in safe, woman-centered birthing. Mama Midwife displays diversity with a range of characters from elephants to snails, to a raccoon and others. It is not focused on just one category of species, but encompasses a varied selection of those from different groups, which is just as important as the message about birth itself.
Ironically, however, my favorite scene in Mama Midwife, just so happens to be in the area where I also find the largest weakness of the text. The impending delivery of Mama Grizzly is near, and she has called on the midwife. This scene captures a spectacular image of a laboring bear leaned-up against a tree, and receiving encouragement by her partner, and other family before being submerged into a birthing tub and delivering a healthy baby cub. After the delivery, however, there is no mention of breastfeeding this new baby or any other mention of mama’s milk anywhere in the text — at all. Not even when Mama Grizzly is herself drinking chocolate milk with her scrambled eggs as she is recuperiating after labor. A breastfeeding scene would not only add to this story’s rich detail, but it would solidify the message of healthy first foods, in natural birthing and infant feeding — that children also must be exposed to.
I’m also made me think of the lay and professional birth workers and advocates I know and have encountered, and reminds me of how they are appreciated for all of the woman-centered, healthy birth outcomes, and the positive impressions they make on us, especially when their work gets conveyed in stories like Mama Midwife. As I said earlier, for me it was refreshing to be able to shift the focus from the more serious areas of my work, and relax and read about a heroic birth worker. Mama Midwife has me thinking of going on the hunt for more children’s books on the topic or ones close to it. This one was definitely a treat for me, and it certainly helped me exhale.
Author: Christy Tyner
Publisher: Self-Published @ CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform