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Birth Work as Care Work: A Review in SQUAT

Alana Apfelby Angela Anderson
SQUAT
April 2016

Break out the tissues and breathe deeply. Alana Apfel imbues Birth Work As Care Work with intimacy, empathy, and buckets of love.

I had the great honor to witness the development of this anthology. While working towards our Master’s degrees in Anthropology and Social Change at California Institute of Integral Studies, I cried tears of awe on many a train ride as I read the drafts of these stories. In our graduate work, Apfel and I were trained in scholar activism - creating knowledge that is useful to the communities portrayed within. Simultaneously training as a doula and a scholar activist, Apfel united compassionate birth work with the political: radical activism, postcapitalism and commitment to intersectionality.

Apfel hits that mark in this anthology, with a call to action and a commitment to birth justice for all birthing people. Unique to books about birth, Apfel explicitly recognizes that birthing people can be of any gender. The collection opens with an invitation to recall our own births. It was not until reading the narratives Apfel co-created with other birth workers that I realized how profoundly our own births affect us for the rest of our lives.

Stories range the spectrum of birthing experiences: from traumatic birth and disappointed parents to transcendent, communal births full of love and light. Apfel expands her analysis of birth through the politics of working as a doula, pointing out that many of the uncritically glorified ideals of birth are rendered unavailable to some birthing people on the basis of class, race, and other factors. Rounding out this holistic approach to birth work, Apfel includes a collection of herbal recipes beneficial to pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people.

Through Birth Work As Care Work, Alana Apfel calls for deeper awareness of the
experiences and lives of pregnant, birthing, and postpartum people. I was fortunate to read parts of this collection before I gave birth, and the perspectives I encountered certainly helped me birth my child without attachment to outcomes and without fear. This collection on birth is truly rare and precious. As pointed out, birth is a part of all our lives - for this reason, I encourage everyone to take this collection in.

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