One of the beauties of #MatExp and our ‘Whose shoes’ maternity workshops is to start to see each other as equals and as people , breaking down assumptions about roles and views. Last week I got into an exchange on Twitter that I believe exemplified this. Catherine @BerksMaternity suggested that those involved in #MatExp might like to read ‘Birth: A History’ by Tina Cassidy. I think she was surprised when replied that I had read it twice over its a brilliant book that my mum gave me. It’s a fascinating history of birth through the ages. In fact it’s there on our Pinterest maternity whose shoes board as I tweeted about it last August. We then started an exchange of other books and a comment about the importance of reading & reflection.

This Twitter exchange made me think about the idea of a #MatExp book group idea. We all share a common interest of improving maternity experience and with it the desire to break down barriers between people so we can work constructively together. There maybe other books that we share a love for, there may be books or extracts that are useful in prompting reflection and thought about how we perceive others. I can immediately think of all sorts of books that influence my thinking that I could share & I’m sure others can too. There are some obvious books to share an comment on those directly about maternity such as Sheena’s @SagefemmeSB wonderful collaborative book ROAR. There are books that fact or fiction that have nothing directly to do with maternity but that influence the way we think. To use a quote from one of my all time favourite books:

All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” Mr. Darcy

So I would like to suggest that together we ‘improve our minds’ by sharing some of those books some may be books we recommend are worth reading others may be about sharing the impact they have had on us. To kick us off I will share two.

A Glasgow Manual of Obstetrics Edited by SJ Cameron 1936

I found this in a second hand book shop many years ago & I love to dip in and out of its pages. It has some fascinating diagrams , horrific descriptions of destructive procedures and is like a window into the past. It shows some things never change like the mechanisms of labour and others have changed completely. One of my favourite paragraphs describes not getting out of bed until ten days postnatal and not going outside until week four. This book is the reason why one of my favourite cards in ‘whose shoes’ MatExp workshop asks ‘what do you think we do now that we will look back on and wonder why’ a question promoted by Gill’s mum recounting use of castor oil in her time!

The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

I love many of Maggie O’Farrell’s books my favourite is actually ‘The vanishing act of Esme Lennox’ more of which another time. In The hand that first held mine she writes a very powerful description in the first few chapters of a woman’s experience of a massive obstetric haemorrhage and the immediate postnatal period afterwards. It is an incredibly terrifying description both of the events but also her confusion with the well meaning midwife, health visitors etc who come and do her home visits afterwards. I highly recommend dipping into it and have sometimes read excerpts as part of training sessions. 


 So there are two books to get people thinking, I’ve picked at random there are many more I can and will suggest. So calling all #MatExp friends what books do you recommend or what do you get out of them that you could add to the #MatExp book group conversation ?


Florence Wilcock
Divisional Director Specialist Services
Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust


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