Book Reviews










The Birth of Hope

By Jeane Rhodes PhD.


This refreshing and important book, The Birth of Hope, could instead be titled, Hope for Humanity. It is a novel which is not only engaging and well written but also highly relevant to people of all ages, cultures and lifestyles. While Hope, the book’s namesake and main character ‘appears’ only on the final page I could not help but feel that she was somehow directing the action, as well as having an influence on the other characters. It is my fondest dream that The Birth of Hope will become required reading for all teenagers as part of their curriculum in sex education classes, as well as have an impact on social workers, therapists, expectant parents and the general public.


What would life be like if everyone understood the significance of the experience every baby is having, and we had, while in the womb? Let Hope provide a few of these answers for you! This truly is a love story. www.thebirthofhope.com



Baby's Here! Who Does What?

by Duncan Fisher


If awareness is the first step on the road to change, especially social change, then UK parents have a lot to be grateful for with the publication of Duncan Fisher's first book, Baby's Here! Who Does What?.


Mr. Fisher’s dialogue illuminates virtually all of the important and relevant topics ever present for new parents like shared responsibility, earning and spending, caring for children, time management, and most importantly maintaining a strong relationship in the midst of it all. If left without proper support and guidance day to day family life can become nothing but hard graft and too often leads to overwhelm or neglect in some of these important areas.


I believe parenting can be to be a fun and a joyful exploration of life within relationship. This book models how parents can speak about, and sort out, most of the daily details, in co-operation and awareness. Everything else, then, has the space to be experienced with more grace, and the love that was intended. That, to me, is what this book can provide for modern-day parents in their quest for a rewarding family life.


Leap Before You Look

by Stephane Goldsand

Review by F2B's Patrick Houser:

This first documentary by NYC based filmmaker Stephane Goldsand, represents what could be called … “Where the rubber meets the road”… regarding contemporary parenthood.


Utilising alluring multi-media techniques Mr. Goldsand has committed to telling a story, an intimate personal story, which very few men would dare. Throughout this 22 minute sojourn the viewer is invited into Goldsand’s inner sanctum, as well as his family of origin, in order to explore his ambivalence (dread may be more accurate) at the prospect of becoming a father. We also engage with his beloved and charming wife Cristina, ripe for motherhood within the evolution of their long-term relationship.


Welcome to a creative, provocative, and heart-warming piece of filmic excellence from a man who is destined to be a successful filmmaker; as well as a fantastic father.

Be on the lookout for this important documentary at film festivals world-wide.

For more please visit www.leapbeforeyoulook.com 


Leap Before You Look - Trailer Lo Res from Stephane Goldsand on Vimeo.


DOULA, the ultimate birth companion

 Film Review

by Patrick Houser


Doula…I have had ambivalence about that weird, foreign word since I first heard it more than a dozen years ago. Somehow a new documentary, ‘Doula, The ultimate birth companion’ by Toni Harman of Alto Films, makes me feel better about it.


The filmmaker, a new mother herself, has shown great courage in making a film about birth, and the viewer is richly rewarded as a result. However, in a unique and almost simplistic way, this film is actually more about support than birth itself. A most crucial and compelling necessity for birthing families is the need for support, and doulas deliver.


Family life today has become ever more complex and demanding. In the distant almost ancient past birth was part of extended family and village life, but no more. We have culturally ‘forgotten’ how to properly begin family life and this film is a modern antidote.


Scene after scene of this moving and visually beautiful film demonstrates what is possible in the realm of support, for mothers and fathers, during life’s most essential transition, the birth of the family. With the love, skill and commitment provided by a professional doula, she can be ‘the ultimate birth companion’.


Doulas are good news for Dads too. Rather than a doula replacing you she can provide tremendous relief and support for you. More opportunity to be intimately with your partner rather than you needing to be some kind of a birth expert yourself.


The Secret Life of Babies

By Dr. Mia Kalef


The Secret Life of Babies is a scholarly yet very readable body of work. As one discovers, and perhaps hopes by virtue of the title’s promise, the secret life of babies…thanks to Dr. Mia Kalef… is not a secret anymore. Kalef discloses the inner workings of a child’s development bit by bit; not unlike a magician who is finally willing to reveal how his most famous piece of magic is done.


The conception, development and birth of a child are nothing if not mystical. While science has learned more and more on the physiological side of the equation in recent times what has been illusionary is an understanding of the experience the baby is having, and the effects of it on them…and the resultant adult.


The clue is in the subtitle, ‘How decoding the cultures of birth, love and violence begins with recovering the people we once were.’ While this may sound a bit like a line out of the film Back to the Future, I assure you it is precise and exact as to Ms. Kalef’s accomplishment.


I believe we can all agree that who we are as humans is multidimensional and has significant emotional/psychological components. What is revealed here is the minutia of detail as to where the foundation of who we become is derived from in our very earliest development as emotional/psychological beings. The wonder of the knowledge presented is that it is relevant and pertinent to everyone, man and woman, whether preconception, pregnant, a baby/child or an adult. And best yet, there are means and methods for resolving and healing the effects of early events in our lives, even the prenatal ones.


Dr. Kalef has created an ideal marriage between head and heart as well. The end result of a perfect union between knowledge and love is wisdom, and it is plentiful in these pages.


Fathers at Birth

by Rose St. John


Expectant fathers today are often challenged with finding their place at birth as well as in the mine field of information on the subject, primarily designed for women. In her book, Fathers at Birth, Rose St. John handles both.


With the depth and breadth of the information, exercises and personal stories presented men no longer need to go on a voyeuristic journey through women’s literature. They can learn most of what there is to know about pregnancy, birth and the breastfeeding time in a book that is written for them and speaks directly to their questions and concerns, fears and hopes, needs and values.


Ms. St. John’s vast experience working with couples over several decades shines throughout. She also insightfully enlightens the reader about the nature of motherhood and what it is like for a woman. This is highly valuable for men during a time that begs answers to the age old question, what do women want; more specifically what do pregnant and birthing women want? Help is at hand!  www.fathersatbirth.com    review by Patrick Houser


Father's Home Birth Handbook

by Leah Hazard

What do a Dutch university lecturer, a US Marine, a Scottish artist, and an English engineer have in common? They have all experienced the transformative power of home birth, and their stories-and many others- are told in this groundbreaking book. You may be surprised just how wonderful, and safe, birthing at home can be. Guys...this is a great one. www.homebirthbook.com


The Modern Mom's Guide to Dads

 Ten secrets your husband won't tell you

by Hogan Hilling & Jesse Jayne Rutherford

This is a great book for supporting mothers to understand dads. Highly recommended.


Parenting for a Peaceful World

Robin Grille

Full of brilliant anthropology, sociology, psychology and hope for the future of children  and the family. An anthology of the past and future history of our culture

vis-à-vis parenting. Compassionate and visionary.


Heart To Heart Parenting

Robin Grille

If ever there was one book that a parent could read that would provide everything they need to know for the emotional development and health of their family, this is it.

Compassionate and visionary.


Elmer Postle reviewed the following 2 books for AIMS 

(Association for Improvements in Maternity Services)

Men At Birth

                                                 edited by David Vernon

The moments men discuss the birth of their child is often brief, left to a brotherly, perhaps internal sense of awe and often a preference not to go down that road verbally.

'Men at Birth' edited by David Vernon firmly sets out a series of footprints into which men becoming fathers could step. He allows space for touching sometimes intensely moving stories told by men for each other and with that strides past any taboos there might be around discussing the subject. It becomes clear after reading this book that
the mumbled glance or 'best wishes', or 'good luck mate' is simply not going to satisfy what men deserve in the time of birth. He takes thirty stories from a number submitted by men from all over Australia. These are men who became fathers in a variety of circumstances; home birth, hospital, birth centre, Caesarean, no intervention, beautiful, more difficult etc, etc. What comes through is a steady sense of respect for this kind of dialogue. You begin to realize you haven't heard very many, if any, of these kind of voices even in quite enlightened birthing circles and this book helps it feel ordinary.
One of the interesting things about this is the way in which the men’s voices heard here are acknowledging, as one man memorably puts it, 'the real power in the situation' is inside the birthing woman. Why this is important is that for a long time its been possible to argue, often with some reason, that the problems with hospital protocol getting the better of more human values is to do with men being too much in charge of the process. And it is true, men are more often than not in positions of power and the whole chaos of the birthing system owes a lot to the over determination of what has been a male enthusiasm for the process and control of collective health. There is much anger from women about male dominance of birth and rightly so. Indeed the noted researcher and author on child development, Joseph Chilton Pearce suggests that much of the rage in women towards men has to do with the over zealous involvement of men in this most female of times. However, as this book makes clear, we now have a situation where men becoming fathers are intensely involved in the birthing process, often in a significant supportive role and doing it really well. We hear stories of men filling pools, driving across town in the longest ride of their life, running interference with medical staff and systems, holding their wives for hours then collapsing exhausted and joyful as the child miraculously appears and the sense is of being in service to the birthing woman’s power.
The most deeply moving parts of the book are where men share their intense awe at the beauty and love they feel at the arrival of their child. We hear stories of profound bonding as well as horrors of separation and somehow the telling of all of these helps create a voice which has men in alliance with the creative process of birth and
therefore of women. The split and probably the excuse that men are to blame and in power evaporates before the truth and wisdom elicited through the telling of these stories.
In many textbooks on birth, anecdotal evidence is seen as not being good enough evidence to support a change in practice and thinking. There's a great deal of material in this book to support men and then their families as they move through one of life’s biggest transitions and it comes via open hearted communication by men.



Is There a Father in the House?

by James Torr

For the father of a toddler, the effect of James Torr’s book, 'Is There a Father in the House?', is to bless the presence of the father in the home. This territory, who looks after the children and the issues surrounding men’s involvement, Torr explores in his rewarding book.  A personal angle: about 20% of the time I am at home looking after my son during the day while my partner Nicola, works. I find the background pressure of needing to bring in income, as a freelance worker, can mean there is pressure I put on my being with my son. Probably, some of this is real and, I think, some is imagined. I can sometimes find myself in such fear of not having enough income that I am not 'present' emotionally as I look after my son. I might find I am behaving in a perfunctory way, looking past the (divine) present to when I can get on with something 'more important', My Work. And, of course, this means I am not receiving the gift of my son’s presence, nor of my own fatherhood as if this isn't My Work also! A common enough perspective, I suspect, and one that James Torr with his book has created more space around, and an alternative vision for. He has made a small clearing where we can pitch a tent of 'involved father' more firmly and more satisfyingly.

His journey from city solicitor to 'daddy at home', strongly involved in parent-toddler groups, while his wife/partner is the key breadwinner is a courageous one. He has put himself into the cross currents of politics surrounding childcare and through doing so has elicited much fascinating information. This decision also gives him a unique vantage point to observe the process of how childcare is managed. His central thrust and interest has to do with the opportunity pregnancy and the time of birth offers for men's deeper involvement in the family. Torr points out the interesting fact that most men want to be present at the birth of their child. He therefore sees this as a time, which he supports with the available evidence, when there is an opportunity for bonding. This interest, growing over the last 20-30 years, he suggests, is a golden opportunity for the agencies that work with men to make the most of improving father/child relationships and therefore society. The case for 'why' this is important was not made so strongly, however. What you feel is that he is pointing towards the moment of birth as the time where there is potential for evolution in the way men are fathering and therefore how parenting is done.

It is interesting in this context to refer to Lloyd DeMause, author of 'The Foundations of Psychohistory' and the 'History of Childhood' among other books. DeMause says that parenting is evolving with each generation and actually our parenting has radically improved over the centuries. It used to be normal for infants to be exposed to the elements to die, in Greek and Roman times if they were inconvenient or supposed to be 'an offering to the gods'. It used to be usual for beating of children and sexual abuse within the family to be tolerated in society as a whole. What DeMause points out is that this evolution is based on parents becoming a little bit more aware than their parents before them, deciding, however subtly, that they are going to 'do it differently' than the way their parents brought them up. Whether to smack your child or not is the current edge of parenting evolution, its possible to argue, with DeMause and others insisting smacking internalises rage in the child with long term consequences. Some people carry on as their parents did before, others step into the new and decide something else; improvements take place over the generations. Sometimes things slip back and the 'snakes and ladders' counter slides down the snake to the bottom of the board and we have to start over, but/and there is incremental progress overall.

Whether you agree that its evolution or just an ongoing mess (and is there a difference?), Torr's observations about men and the moment of birth suggest he's seeing the point where an evolution in parenting DeMause talks about is taking place and is most visible. How men want to be at birth, are they involved or not, are they more there than ever, what does it mean? The questions he raises and the information he elicits are particularly useful when it comes to trying to persuade people in organisations to think differently or at least know there is another way of thinking about the beginnings of fatherhood. He offers practical thought provoking checklists to help ensure men’s involvement.

To sum up, it seems that Torr is talking about two things. Firstly a phenomenon; the evolution of men’s involvement in the family, starting with birth and secondly (at the same time), he describes, as Kazanstakis said, 'the 'whole catastrophe' of how we do it as families, men and women at this time, and it is rich in that. The book is a blessing, by a man, of men’s involvement in parenting.