The Power of Women
Instinctual Birth Stories

Reviews


Libby Ruth for the National Childbirth Trust’s New Digest, No. 52 October 2010

“I found myself reading this book long into the night as I was unable to put it down.”

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Shari Maser for the Midwest Book Review

“If you want to think deeply and learn compassionately about the feminine mysteries, the struggles of women and the art of midwifery, you will want to read The Power of Women.”

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Cathy Daub, president of Birth Works International

“Birth stories are the ‘Word Medicine’ of the soul. They touch the heart in a way nothing else can and deepen a woman’s own feeling of power… I found myself constantly hanging on to the poetic phrases of wisdom used throughout the book almost as a song.”

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Jennifer Toohey, mother of three

The Power of Women leaves me feeling inspired by the wisdom and strength of each mother, and I can’t wait to share it with my daughter one day.”

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Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, certified childbirth educator, the CAPPA book reviewer, and the Citizens for Midwifery blogger

“If you are an aspiring or current midwife, doula, or childbirth educator and wish to deepen your understanding of birth, read this book. If you are a pregnant woman hungering to dig deeply into instinctual birth and the wisdom and power of story, read this book.”

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Sunday Tortelli, CCE, CD (DONA), HBCE, LCCE, CLC, Director of Publications, DONA International

“This book is a delightful compilation of birth stories, rich with culture and representative of courage and instinctual mother knowledge. Sister MorningStar respects each woman’s story and portrays her honorably. The book is a shining example of Sister MorningStar’s ‘word medicine.’ No one can read this book and still doubt the simple elegance of birth as it merges with the wisdom and power of the universe held in every woman’s womb.”


Marion E. Allen

“I could feel the power of author Sister MorningStar’s love for her life’s work flowing from her heart—‘word medicine’ indeed.”

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Complete Reviews


Libby Ruth for the National Childbirth Trust’s New Digest, No. 52 October 2010

I found myself reading this book long into the night as I was unable to put it down. The Power of Women is a collection of birth stories from MorningStar’s perspective as a midwife, and they are both heart-warming and at times uncomfortably direct.

Sister MorningStar is a Cherokee hermit living in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Her lifetime vow “to preserve simple and sacred birth” maintains the books focus on empowering women to find their own innate ability to instinctively birth their babies through storytelling and self belief. MorningStar believes that “it is hard to birth in power without privacy and love and a place called home. It is hard to birth in power if you are scared or sick or tired.”

For generations the art of storytelling has been used to pass on knowledge and understanding. MorningStar believes that by teaching obstetrics and anatomy in order to make informed decisions, the art of telling birth stories to empower women to birth their babies in tune with their instincts is being lost. “When it comes to saving lives the knowledge and wisdom of midwives passed on through stories of their powerful experiences is what feeds my first actions,” she writes. Her experience has shown her that women love to listen, read and go on to create their own powerful stories.

The book is bound in spirituality and a specific culture, both areas I am not familiar with, but it has spoken to me and I will develop my classes to incorporate the art of storytelling whilst tempering my use of obstetrics and anatomy in the hope that I can open women’s hearts to their instinctual ability to birth.


Jennifer Toohey, mother of three

I love the stories I have read so far! I have cried, smiled, been inspired and felt a loss. I just stopped after reading page 46 to think about how and why I didn’t decide to birth powerfully.

In part, I know I had another big hill I climbed before birth, but I still feel like I question my choice. Then I realized I AM birthing powerfully. I’m birthing MYSELF!

As I read the stories of the women feeling fear, pain, joy, anticipation, exhaustion, hope, loss, instinct, community, love, and POWER, I realize my work to birth myself is like that. I’m devoted to this and some days are easier that others, but I know that all my fear, pain, hope, growth, love, loss and joy is part of the process. If I stay with it, I know the power will grow and the “birth” may not look like the others you have written about, but the love, joy and reward will feel the same.

So maybe I didn’t birth my babies powerfully, but perhaps with my own work and your wonderful book I will be able to help my own daughter birth powerfully one day if she chooses!

I love the book. I love reading the stories and I don’t want it to end. Each story I read inspires me to keep working on my journey. POW leaves me feeling inspired by the wisdom and strength of each mother, and I can’t wait to share it with my daughter one day!


Molly Remer, MSW, ICCE, certified childbirth educator, the CAPPA book reviewer, and the Citizens for Midwifery blogger

Occasionally, a book comes into my life that touches me so deeply that I am at a loss for words. The new book, The Power of Women, by Sister MorningStar, is one of those rare books. A treasure. A gem. A rare jewel. A delight. These are the words that do come to mind. However, superlatives—though true—do little justice to describing the actual book.

The Power of Women is a book of “instinctual” birth stories told through the eyes of a gifted and sensitive midwife. The stories are from her perspective, not the mother’s. Each story has either a lesson to share or is a glimpse into that deep inner wisdom and strength found in birthing women that is so easily ignored or dismissed in our modern birth culture. This book is good “word medicine” and the empowering stories within it shine a light to help other women trust their instincts. This light also helps other birth professionals rediscover the magic and mystery and wonder of birth and women.

The Power of Women also touched me in a special way because the author divides her time between my own native Missouri and a birth center in Mexico. Some of the stories shared take place in each location (more from Mexico). I found it delightful to discover the power of my own Missouri midwifery activist friends represented throughout the book. Familiar names and faces graced the pages for me and it was a treat to experience that connection.

The book consists of twelve chapters, each containing 5–9 different stories each. The stories themselves are not long, narrative birth accounts, but are moments captured brilliantly for the glimpse of powerful truth they share. Some are only 1/2 page in length—but the depth in each is great. The chapters are titled things like “Stories of Power” or “Stories of Courage” or “Stories of Community and the tales shared therein are loosely bound together with that common thread.

To be clear, not all of the stories are “happy” or are necessarily “good” birth stories, some are even fairly scary and even depressing. All are powerful.

My only critique of the book, which I hesitate to share because it seems petty in light of such a beautiful and wise book, is that the formatting of the text is odd. The font size is small and the text tightly spaced with very small indents.

If you find yourself in a place where you feel trapped alone in a world where the birth you love so much is becoming a “mythological story,” read this book. If you are an aspiring or current midwife, doula, or childbirth educator and wish to deepen your understanding of birth, read this book. If you are a pregnant woman hungering to dig deeply into instinctual birth and the wisdom and power of story, read this book. The Power of Women is a powerful, touching, and magical journey.


Shari Maser for the Midwest Book Review

Every time I visited my great-grandma Gertie, she fascinated me with tales from her childhood. I always gained incredible insight and understanding from her stories, even when I found it challenging to bridge the gap between her reality and mine. Reading The Power of Women, a collection of intimate personal stories of powerful and empowering childbirth experiences, I almost felt like I was reconnecting with my great-grandmother. I was awed, intrigued, sometimes mystified and continually inspired.

The author, Sister MorningStar, is a long-time midwife who uses the art of storytelling as a venue for exploring the mysteries of birth, death and womanhood. She openly expresses her spiritual beliefs and her philosophy of maternity care, and she is not shy about addressing difficult topics such as stillbirth, homebirth, poverty, unwanted pregnancy and misogyny. She also gives expression to the voices and visions of dozens of other mothers, daughters and midwives, recounting how each woman discovered her own inner power and employed the power of others around her in order to meet life’s challenges with feminine strength. Sister MorningStar asserts that storytelling is an effective way to share information and an important way for traditional midwives to teach the next generation of maternity care providers. “See with a thousand eyes,” she says.

Through The Power of Women, Sister MorningStar passes along the stories that have touched her own life as a woman and a midwife. Life stories are never simple and this is a complex book, raising—as well as answering—questions. If you want to think deeply and learn compassionately about the feminine mysteries, the struggles of women and the art of midwifery, you will want to read The Power of Women.


Cathy Daub, president of Birth Works International

Birth stories are the “Word Medicine” of the soul. They touch the heart in a way nothing else can and deepen a woman’s own feeling of power. Sister MorningStar, in her book, The Power of Women, highlights this Word Medicine.

“My baby and I are fine,” said the woman in labor. Wet with sweat, sipping through a straw, she said to her sisters, “Tell me stories of powerful women who don’t give up.” MorningStar goes on to say, “You are a powerful woman,” and then has the woman say, “I am a strong woman.” This is word medicine in action.

I found myself constantly hanging on to the poetic phrases of wisdom used throughout the book almost as a song, and never tired of the countless stories that ranged from birth to midwives, trials and grandmothers. Because each is told within the framework of a story, the impact to the reader deepens. Such phrases include, “Women birth everywhere;” “It’s hard to birth in power without privacy, love and a place called home;” “It’s hard to birth in power if you’re scared or sick or tired;” “We could trust it more if we thought about it less;” and for the midwives “It’s hard for a midwife to help you if she’s far from help herself, and especially if she doesn’t know how to make good Word Medicine.”

I was struck by the genuine practice of spirituality that surrounds every birth story told in the book. MorningStar is very connected to the spirit world and communicates with the soul of each woman and her baby before, during and after the birth. Connection is the practice of birthing in the spirit.

“Shannon’s firstborn son slipped out underwater and under a full moon. Sometimes babies design a mother’s birth.” And, “I started to touch the tip of the baby’s head to assess capillary refill, talking all the while to baby in my mind.”

Imagination is the practice of mental imagery and MorningStar uses this effectively at births to empower women.

Retelling the story of one special birth, MorningStar states, “‘It will be HUGE, dear. The biggest thing you’ll ever do,’ I repeated every time she asked. When she had her little pink miracle in her arms, she called, ‘Aunt Sand, I just kept telling myself, “Lynze, don’t react to this one, it’s going to get huge.” I said that over and over and then she was here. It worked.’ The icon and the Word Medicine.”

MorningStar conveys the message of how important it is to relax in labor to allow for more effective contractions. “When you tighten your muscles, that’s what it feels like. Your baby is pushing down and making it worse. When you loosen your muscles, it makes more pressure, which is scary, but it hurts less. It hurts you less and it hurts the baby less. Here we go, breathe, relax your shoulders, your butt, your body, open, open, open…” Hearing it in the context of a birth story helps us not to forget.

MorningStar addresses the despair many midwives feel in dealing with the medical/legal side of birth, managed hospital births and midwives on trial. In a letter from a colleague we hear, “…The last 10 births I’ve done have ended up in hospital, including that of my own grandchild. … I talk to them about un-drugged babies, babies that get to snuggle to breast and stay there—how they thrive and grow. (But now) There’s nothing fulfilling for any of us and the babies are pulled, cut, yanked, and isolated, poked, bottle-fed and scanned, X-rayed, monitored and treated like specimens. I’m constantly disappointed, sorrowful and sad. … Birth hasn’t been beautiful for me for a long time … I’m done. I’m taking a long, long break from midwifery as soon as the last of the mothers I’ve committed to births…”

But MorningStar walks her talk by responding with word medicine, “Wisdom will guide you. I don’t know your destiny, but your destiny knows you. It will call you in the whisper of a distant wind beckoning you to it … You must be more than what you appear to be now.”

“That’s the journey calling you,” MorningStar states. “You must do harder work than all the work you just described. But it will be your work to do … Before the divine in you can radiate to light your way, like all of us, you must travel the dark night of the soul.” This Word Medicine enters deeply into my soul, and I find them applicable to both birth and life.

The wisdom contained throughout the book sees birth as a part of life and our lives are forever changed after giving birth. MorningStar states, “When you birth in power, you live in power. … And as a woman lives, so shall she birth.” It appears that the truth may become, “As a woman births, so shall she live.”

Even though the book is about the power of women, the title could easily have been Word Medicine in Birth, to be even closer to the intent of the book. The picture on the cover of the book could also have been more intimate by having the baby held close to the mother. Finally, the font could have been a bit larger for easier reading. However, these are small considerations for this beautiful book full of MorningStar’s Word Medicine, best summarized by MorningStar herself, when she states, “The power of women is beyond life and death. It is beyond time and space. It is beyond words. It reveals itself in the mystery of birth.” May we always hold onto these words in our hearts.


Marion E. Allen

So pleased was I to read your book, The Power of Women. I could feel the power of author Sister MorningStar’s love for her life’s work flowing from her heart—“word medicine” indeed.

I am a woman who has never had a child, and yet this book seemed so personal to me. There were times when I said, “Yes!” aloud and times when my tears flowed. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to read the next story. Frequently, I just wanted to savor what I had most recently read. MorningStar’s style of writing about her personal thoughts and feelings made me feel like she was my best friend. At the same time, she is someone who is having far different experiences than I would want for myself.

A story in the first chapter titled, “The Power of NO!” spoke to me on several levels. It seemed to be about honoring the presence of the Great Creator in all circumstances. While initially assessing the situation involving the young Patricia, MorningStar acknowledged the young woman’s fear and then acknowledges the oneness with all creation—be it humans or deer. MorningStar remembers the fear from a previous situation, (when she encountered a baby deer caught in a barbed wire fence) and that calling for divine intervention released the fear and freed the body, stating, “There is a creator of us all who loves this creature more than I. Come! Do what I would do if I could, and free her!”

MorningStar’s book reminds us that there is a divine, right way-one that is in harmony with all. Being true to one’s own ethics, while at the same time acknowledging and being open to divine guidance, creates this divine, right way. As MorningStar writes in her book, “I am not going to violate this woman and kill her spirit to save another life. May God help us.”

As the laboring, fearful woman’s trust for MorningStar developed, she granted permission for the midwife to touch her and the way was created for a happy healthy baby and mother. This book seems to me to be about the natural power of women in childbirth, with a natural connection to spirit. I loved the pictures, stories and lessons. I loved MorningStar’s personal life “herstory” and her faith in the Goddess/God. This is truly a book of “word medicine,” a term MorningStar uses throughout The Power of Women.


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