Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey
The author of The Blue Cotton Gown recounts living free and naturally against all odds—and discovering her true calling as a midwife—in this deeply moving memoir
In her first, highly praised memoir, Patricia Harman told us the stories patients brought into her exam room, and her own story of struggling to help women as a nurse-midwife in medical practice with her husband—an OB/GYN—in Appalachia. Now, Patsy reaches back to the 1960s and 1970s, recounting how she learned to deliver babies and her youthful experiments with living a fully sustainable, natural life.
Drawing heavily on her journals, Arms Wide Open goes back to a time of counter-culture idealism that the boomer generation remembers well. Patsy opens with stories of living in the wilds of Minnesota in a log cabin she and her lover build with their own hands, the only running water being the nearby streams. They set up beehives and give chase to a bear competing for the honey. Patsy gives birth and learns to help her friends deliver as naturally as possible.
Weary of the cold and isolation, Patsy moves to a commune in West Virginia, where she becomes a self-taught midwife delivering babies in cabins and homes. Her stories sparkle with drama and intensity, but she wants to help more women than healthy hippie homesteaders. After a ten-year sojourn for professional training, Patsy and her husband return to Appalachia, where they set up a women's health practice. They deliver babies together—this time in hospitals—and care for a wide variety of gyn patients. They live in a lakeside contemporary home, though their hearts are still firmly implanted in nature. The obstetrical climate is changing. The Harmans' family is changing. The earth is changing—but Patsy's arms remain wide open to life and all it offers.
Her memoir of living free and sustainably against all odds will be especially embraced by anyone who lived through the Vietnam War and commune era, and all those involved in the back-to-nature and natural-childbirth movements.
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