Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga
by Carol Leonard

Bad Beaver Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-0-615-19550-6.
Reviewed by Jennifer Melville
Posted on 12/28/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Body Language

The hospital birth of Carol Leonard's son Milan was demeaning and traumatic. Yet, apart from a beautiful baby boy, Leonard gained more from the experience than she could have ever imagined. She found her life's calling. Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga is Leonard's first-hand tale of how she became a midwife, her role in making midwifery a legal and respected profession in New Hampshire, and the many beautiful births she has attended and the lessons she learned along the way. As a mother, I was enthralled by Leonard's quest to make birth a wonderful experience for a mother as well as a family affair.

My favorite birth story was that of Aaron. He was born in breech. Without being too vivid, Aaron first tests the air with his foot "as if he is testing the water to see if it is safe to come out." As soon as his bottom was born, he "pees a fountain of urine into the air." Leonard wondered if this was an expression of the baby's personality.

I loved Lady's Hands, Lion's Heart: A Midwife's Saga and recommend it to anyone who has children. As a warning, it is very detailed and vivid and may be too gory for the weak-stomached reader. Having given birth to three children myself, it was nothing gruesome or shocking. I felt so many emotions while reading this book. I cried when a couple miscarried in their second trimester. I laughed when Leonard attended a midwifery hearing and the OB warned her that some greasy midwife would be coming to speak, not knowing that she was the said greasy midwife! I learned so much about the birthing process and loved reading about all the newborns. I have never before felt so many emotions from a single book. This book is a keeper!

Carol Leonard is a foremother of the modern midwifery movement. She has been a practicing midwife for over three decades. Her work to improve maternity care in Moscow was featured on 20/20 and was written into Congressional Record. She is currently building a 400-acre farm in Ellsworth, Maine called Bad Beaver Farm. Visit her website.

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