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Reader's Guide for Arms Wide Open by Patricia Harman

Reader's Guide for Arms Wide Open by Patricia Harman

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Published by Beacon Press

In this prequel to the highly praised The Blue Cotton Gown, Patricia Harman reaches back to her youthful experiments in living a fully sustainable and natural life in the 1960s and ’70s in rural Minnesota and on a commune in Ohio, forming alliances with the eco-minded and antiwar counterculture. From those riveting days as a self-taught midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on farms, sometimes in harrowing circumstances, Patsy takes us into the present day, where she faces the challenges of running a women’s health clinic with her husband, mothering adult sons, and holding true to her principles and passions in the twenty-first century.

In this prequel to the highly praised The Blue Cotton Gown, Patricia Harman reaches back to her youthful experiments in living a fully sustainable and natural life in the 1960s and ’70s in rural Minnesota and on a commune in Ohio, forming alliances with the eco-minded and antiwar counterculture. From those riveting days as a self-taught midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on farms, sometimes in harrowing circumstances, Patsy takes us into the present day, where she faces the challenges of running a women’s health clinic with her husband, mothering adult sons, and holding true to her principles and passions in the twenty-first century.

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Published by: Beacon Press on Nov 30, 2012
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Beacon Press Reader’s Guide
ARMS WIDE OPENA Midwife’s Journey
Patricia Harman
Contents
 
About the Book
 
Praise
 
About the Author
 
Questions for DiscussionAbout the Book
In this prequel to the highly praised
The Blue Cotton Gown,
Patricia Harman reachesback to her youthful experiments in living a fully sustainable and natural life in the 1960sand ’70s in rural Minnesota and on a commune in Ohio, forming alliances with the eco-minded and antiwar counterculture. From those riveting days as a self-taught midwife,delivering babies in cabins and on farms, sometimes in harrowing circumstances, Patsytakes us into the present day, where she faces the challenges of running a women’s healthclinic with her husband, mothering adult sons, and holding true to her principles andpassions in the twenty-first century.
Praise for
 Arms Wide Open
 “Harman is a gifted storyteller. Her writing is honest, vivid, and moving.”—
 NaturalChild Magazine
“A sparkling, vivid story of how a midwife is born—and survives. This story takes youplaces you never expect to go.”—Tina Cassidy, author of 
 Birth: The Surprising Historyof How We Are Born
 
 
2“It’s good to hear these stories, good to remember the fervor against the Vietnam Warand our collective voices raised in protest. It’s heartening to know that the indomitableMidwife Harman still carries on the legacy of those years with a message that is still vitaland necessary all these years later.”—Carol Leonard, author of 
 Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart: A Midwife’s Saga
 “There are more honest, revealing moments here than in many memoirs. Harman, whoseprose is sparse but not simple, covers a span of decades, deftly revealing her ownyouthful struggles with identity through the children we witnessed her raising earlier inher book, revealing, in short, a full life.”—
Publishers Weekly
 “Patricia Harman’s unflinching honesty and soaring poetry unfold the dream and thereality of the rural communes, political activism, and urban counterculture in the 1970s,and what we, the veterans of that particular era of bohemian life, have become today. Sheweaves in the telling details—the songs we sang, the clothes we wore, the glories of nature we witnessed, and, most especially, the causes for which we organized, and theausterities we endured willingly, for the sake of the earth and all her children.”—AliciaBay Laurel, author and illustrator of 
 Living on the Earth
 “The heart of 
 Arms Wide Open
is birthing, but its soul is sustainable living and a spirit of environmentally friendly management of resources. Harman’s commitment to this themepermeates her book, and with similar focus on other contemporary issues, it is relevantfor a vast array of readers.”—
 Rain Taxi
About the Author
 Patricia Harman, CNM, has published in
The Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health
and
The Journal of Sigma Theta Tau for Nursing Scholarship
along with alternativepublications. She is a regular presenter at national midwifery conferences. Haram beganas a lay mid-wife on the rural communes where she lived during the ‘60s and ‘70s beforeshe became a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case WesternReserve University, and West Virginia University. The author lives and works nearMorgantown, West Virginia, and has three sons. Her first book,
The Blue Cotton Gown
,was published to acclaim. This is her second book, which is a prequel to her first.
Questions for Discussion
1. Patsy Harman begins her memoir by recounting the hippie lifestyle she and her lover,Stacy, have chosen. It is a difficult life without the conveniences of electricity, runningwater, indoor plumbing, or a vehicle. “But it’s my choice,” Patsy writes (p. 2). Can youimagine yourself giving up all the luxuries of a modern life for your principles andvalues?2. Patsy recalls the violence and hatred aimed toward hippies. She notes, “This is thecountry we were born in, but we are strangers in a strange land” (p. 6). How does thisfear of the “other” or fear of difference still isolate people in America? How might you
 
3unconsciously perpetuate the alienation of others in your everyday life? Even in moredire situations, when Patsy as a midwife must consider bringing her patient into a hospitalsetting, she notes how ridiculous it would seem, nine hippies in a hospital. Even sherecognizes the absurdity of this image, but when the parents make such a choice due to anemergency, should their appearances (and particularly their different appearances)matter? Think of a time you felt ostracized because you looked or seemed different. Doany of us truly fit the “norm”? Why do we have a “norm” to begin with?3. Thinking about her first time giving birth, Patsy recalls the strength her lover gave her,and says, “The pain would suck you down under the earth. People who love you are youranchor to life” (p. 15). Has there been a time when someone supported you through anextremely difficult time? Would you have made it through without that person? WhenBrandy gives birth to her second child, now with a husband and her first son to supporther, she seems more emotional. When Patsy asks her about the birth, she replied, “Iwasn’t afraid. I had everyone I loved around me, and I had you” (p. 219). How do thepersons around you affect your psyche during moments of pain or difficulty?4. Money is a sensitive issue even in a commune, or perhaps especially in a commune.The policy is “To each according to his need and from each according to his ability” (p.16). Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself dealing with thesensitivity of money? How do we make assumptions about others who have need andthose who cannot give? Looking at the latest non-violent protests of today’s skewed classdivisions, the Occupy movement, how can we begin to broach the topic of money, the1%, and the 99%?5. For a period of time, Patsy is discontented, commenting on how frustrated she has beenwith her and Stacy’s lack of progress, when she “gets upset because nothing ever getsfinished” (p. 30). She tries to comfort herself, thinking of the wonderful home she hasthat many people are not lucky enough to have as well, yet she continues to easily get“pissed.” Everyone has heard of the phrase “think of the starving children in Africa”relating to an unfinished plate. Does this kind of juxtaposition really help us when we feelupset in our lives? If not, how should we try to rethink ways of empathy and solace suchthat we are able to feel gratitude to what we have rather than focusing on what we don’thave?6. Do you believe it was irresponsible for Jody to not get prenatal care or to arrange for ahospital birth or a midwife? The birth of her son Hawk turned out fine, but, as Patsy fretsand points out, what if? On the other hand, it seems that money problems coupled withstigmatism at the Health Department discouraged Jody from seeking professional aid forher birthing altogether. Should money or judgments matter or affect how doctors andaides treat pregnant women? Why do money and social judgments allow us to forsake theneeds of others?7. “Can we find a way to live sustainably?” (p. 69). Patsy, her lover, and her son live outin a cabin near the wilderness, trying to find a way to live sustainably. Has this necessitychanged today? How does their journey to answer this question compare and contrast

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