The Blue Cotton Gown

The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife’s Memoir
By: Patricia Harman

Published: 2008

# of pages: 289

Quote:  “The couple had made the baby by accident and given him away on purpose, a gift to a family that couldn’t conceive. . . . I’ve never forgotten their courage.”  -pg. 60

Official description:Heather is pale and thin, seventeen and pregnant with twins when Patricia Harman begins to care for her. Over the course of the next five seasons Patsy will see Heather through the loss of both babies and their father. She will also care for her longtime patient Nila, pregnant for the eighth time and trying to make a new life without her abusive husband. And Patsy will try to find some comfort to offer Holly, whose teenage daughter struggles with bulimia. She will help Rebba learn to find pleasure in her body and help Kaz transition into a new body. She will do noisy battle with the IRS in the very few moments she has to spare, and wage her own private battle with uterine cancer.
Patricia Harman, a nurse-midwife, manages a women’s health clinic with her husband, Tom, an ob-gyn, in West Virginia-a practice where patients open their hearts, where they find care and sometimes refuge. Patsy’s memoir juxtaposes the tales of these women with her own story of keeping a small medical practice solvent and coping with personal challenges. Her patients range from Appalachian mothers who haven’t had the opportunity to attend secondary school to Ph.D.’s on cell phones. They come to Patsy’s small, windowless exam room and sit covered only by blue cotton gowns, and their infinitely varied stories are in equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting. The nurse-midwife tells of their lives over the course of a year and a quarter, a time when her outwardly successful practice is in deep financial trouble, when she is coping with malpractice threats, confronting her own serious medical problems, and fearing that her thirty-year marriage may be on the verge of collapse. In the words of Jacqueline Mitchard, this memoir, “utterly true and lyrical as any novel . . . should be a little classic.”

My opinion:  After reading The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman, I was eager to read The Blue Cotton Gown, one of her non-fiction memoirs.  I was eager to read more birth stories since she had put variations of real birth stories in her novel.  I wasn’t disappointed in the birth stories in The Blue Cotton Gown, but I do wish there had been more of them.  Harman follows several of her patients over the course of a year.  They aren’t all pregnant and they have many different physical and emotional problems.  I was impressed by how Harman cared about each of them, even when she didn’t want to.  I wish my midwives spent as much time with me and cared about my personal life so much that they would recognize me later.

The only thing I didn’t like was her attention to her and her husband’s financial situation.  It started feeling like a big pity party after awhile.  Sorry, but it was hard to feel bad for them when they have a vacation home on a lake in addition to their everyday house!!

There is a small amount of bad language.  Sexual descriptions.  Discussion of rape/molestation.  Miscarriages.  Graphic descriptions of the female anatomy and birth.  If this doesn’t bother you I definitely recommend!

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Harman has an interesting life and I enjoyed reading each of her stories.  However, I didn’t enjoy reading about her sex life or such a large amount about her financial situation.

Other reviews:
Have you reviewed this? Let me know and I’d be happy to post yours as well.


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