Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey
by Patricia Harmon

[2010, Beacon Press: Boston, 286 pages, paperback.]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 100, Winter 2011/2012, © 2011, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Toni Rakestraw.]

Set to the refrains of many familiar tunes like “Morning Has Broken” and “Johnny Appleseed,” Patricia Harmon shares her journey from living simply on the land to revealing her first tentative steps as a birth attendant; from becoming a certified nurse-midwife to finally referring to herself as a midwife.

Harmon gives us a look into the early days of the homebirth movement in the 1970s through tales of her apprenticeship in Texas and midwifing births in West Virginia. She also describes her hospital training and work towards earning her CNM. Told in simple remembrances and stories, she shares how her life changed as her family grew up.

By the time you finish this book, you’ll feel you know Patsy Harmon and her husband, Tom. They’ll become a part of your family; you will grieve as they grieve and you will share their joy in such pleasures as seeing a passing eagle or a babbling brook.

I would recommend this book to any practicing or aspiring midwife or doula. Harmon’s story gives insight into the life of a midwife and the recent history of midwives in the United States. Most important of all, it is a work of great inspiration.

Reviewer Toni Rakestraw worked as a doula before the demands of her children required her to stay home. Now, she spends her time writing and editing book manuscripts in between interruptions.

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