"In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children," commands the Bible, and for centuries childbirth pain was judged woman's inescapable burden. Then in the 1950s arrived a revolutionary new technique for dealing with it, named for its inventor and tireless promoter, a French doctor named Fernand Lamaze. Lamaze proposed a simple yet radical way by which women could not only ease their labor but also take control over it. The rest is obstetrical history. For half a century, Lamaze's "painless childbirth method" has been employed in hospitals and clinics worldwide.
Yet to millions "Lamaze" remains just that-a method, a technique, even a brand name, rather than a figure of flesh and blood. Caroline Gutmann, Lamaze's granddaughter, brings him to life in this remarkable book. Through her exclusive access to her family's papers and letters. Gutmann lovingly but honestly pieces together the story of her famous grandfather, showing how and why he struggled to make childbirth safe.
It was a struggle that foreshortened his own life. Though often associated-rightly or wrongly-with "natural" childbirth, the Lamaze Method was born into controversy. Introduced during the height of the cold war, it was to some a godless Communist plot to undermine Western tradition (Lamaze had gotten his inspiration from Soviet medicine and from the work of Ivan Pavlov). In France and elsewhere, the medical establishment-and almost exclusively masculine domain-saw it as a threat, for it wrested power from the obstetricians and gave it to women.
The controversy continues. Today some argue that the wondrous epidural has made the Lamaze Method quaintly irrelevant: others, believing that childbirth has become dehumanized-a procedure rather than a process-argue that the method is essential. Derided or embraced, Lamaze's legacy remains key. When women use breathing exercises to control the pain of uterine contractions, and when men stand by them in the delivery room (Lamaze was the first to insist that their presence was crucial), they are invoking him and his work.
The Legacy of Dr. Lamaze is an intimate portrait of a passionate, courageous, and contradictory man who forever changed the way children are born.