Monday, July 28, 2008

Book Review: "Two at a Time: Having Twins"

Any reader will no doubt wonder why I am reviewing this book on this blog, being that it has absolutely nothing to do with midwifery, homebirth, or natural childbirth. Well, I have decided simply to post reviews on any book having to do with pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or infant health, and this is one of those! Unfortunately I read something like 30+ books on childbirth and etc. before thinking of this blog, so I am going to have to read most of them all over again before being able to post reviews. However, I can use the review! And I'm in no hurry, so it'll give me something to do when I'm running short of ideas for articles.

So, without further ado.....

"Two at a Time: Having Twins: The Journey Through Pregnancy and Birth"
Jane Seymour and Pamela Patrick Novotny
Pocket Books, 2001, 205 pages

I picked this book up randomly at the library, needing something new to read and having read through most of the available natural childbirth literature. I realized that there were fields of childbirth out there that I hadn't yet explored (miscarriage, infertility, multiples, etc.), and so grabbed this one pretty much because it had an attractive cover.

Having never seen "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," I didn't realize that this book was written by the star of the show, Jane Seymour, and that this book was in essence a celebrity memoir.

What I liked:

This book is essentially one woman's personal story of the conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum period of her twin boys, Kris and Johnny. Personally, I think that every woman who has a child should write a book like this - an in-depth story of one's experiences. This book will be truly precious to her children as they grow older. It's got lots of details and personal experiences and is a fun and easy read. She did a good job with this book.

Jane had a lot of experiences with her pregnancy that mothers of multiples will probably be able to identify with, and which would probably be helpful to read about - things like pre-eclapsia, preterm labor, double morning sickness, baby apnea, babies in the NICU, etc. Those were illuminating to me, who, having never dealt with most of those issues, was a bit clueless.

What I didn't like:

I was disappointed that this book didn't hold more information useful to other twin parents or those, like me, wanting to learn more. This book is almost entirely experiential rather than informational. Little snippets of information are offered in occasional side-bars, but that's about it. Most of the information that one can glean from this book will be from reading about Jane's personal experiences. While it may be comforting, there's a lot lacking in terms of pure information.

When I read the reviews on Amazon for this book, a huge majority of the reviewers put Jane down as a "spoiled brat celebrity mom." And she can come across like that occasionally, but I think that it is mostly the effect of writing of a pregnancy occurring while she was the star of a major television show. Of course she was going to be showered with love!

Americans have a weird love-hate relationship with wealth. We all want to be rich, but as soon as anyone becomes rich, we turn on them like piranha and tear them apart as "spoiled snobs, etc." I don't blame Jane in the least for the privileged status she held as a celebrity mom. But at the same time, most of the advice and experiential information she gives is not useful for the average mom, just by virtue of her celebrity status and high level of affluence. 99% of moms are not going to be able to afford personal chefs to help them through morning sickness, personal wardrobe designers to sew individualized maternity clothes (Goodwill, anyone?), day and night baby nurses, a nanny, etc. etc. etc. It's just not going to happen. So most of that advice has to go out the window in terms of usefulness.

At the beginning of the book, Jane says, "I'm keenly interested in homeopathic care and other forms of alternative medicine," (p. 3), so I was very hopeful that this book would be full of naturopathic pregnancy care suggestions (homeopathy, herbs, childbirth prep, etc.). However, on this count I was keenly disappointed. Barring one sidebar on pages 200-201 which gives a short list of "natural paths to health," there is absolutely nothing naturopathic about the book or her pregnancy. She had an extremely medicalized pregnancy with nothing natural about it, and no mentions of any attempted natural remedies or management. Quite disappointing! Of course I know that multiples pregnancies tend to be more complicated and need more active management, but there is still a lot that can be done naturopathically for pregnancy management.

Also, as a fan of natural childbirth and its subculture, I prefer maternity books that encourage mothers to think for themselves, examine statistics and evidence-based literature, and make decisions about their healthcare for themselves. There is nothing more annoying to a natural-childbirth-fan than a maternity book which preaches "Do what the doctor says, dearie, and don't ask any questions" ad nauseum. This is one of those books. Jane never mentions weighing options, reading literature, taking serious childbirth classes, discussing pros and cons, etc. - it's just an endless repetition of "My doctor had me.... My doctor said.... My doctor decided.... My doctor told me to....." It got pretty annoying!

I am again afraid of coming across as anti-doctor here. Rest assured, I do have respect for doctors' opinions. On several occasions over the past years I have visited a doctor and had a question answered or a problem righted by their expertise quite simply and quickly, when my own research was leading me in the wrong direction. Expertise and training do matter. But I have also been on the receiving end of advice from doctors which was incomplete, biased, one-sided, unethical (to Christian standards) or, occasionally, dead wrong. Thus, I am a proponent of the "informed consumer" model of receiving medical care. In other words, I will visit a doctor and get his advice, but I do my own research as well - best of both worlds.

Overall, this book gets a "whatever" rating. I liked it and disliked it at the same time. If you want to read it, go ahead, but make sure you fill up on the real "meat" of good pregnancy books which give you actual information and also encourage informed decision-making. Mothers of multiples will want to check out subject-specific books which offer more concrete and thorough information. I can't really recommend this book, but I'm not going to go on a tirade against it either. But I'm definitely not going to purchase it, and it's going back to the library pronto!

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