Touching Bellies, Touching Lives: Midwives of Southern Mexico Tell Their Stories by Judy  Gabriel
197 pages, $27.95 list
eBook availability
Touching Bellies, Touching Lives
Midwives of Southern Mexico Tell Their Stories
When I got there, I found the girl lying on the floor, naked and screaming, with the baby’s foot sticking out. Judy Gabriel gives humble, authentic voice to the personal experiences and practices of scores of traditional midwives in rural Mexico. The midwives talk about their childhoods, marriages, losses, rituals, and techniques. The rich narratives describe childbirth before modern medicine redefined it.

Intended to engage, enrich, and inspire, Gabriel’s work tells of the women who received generations of babies into their hands when knowledge about childbirth came from women’s bodies, from instinct, from dreams, and from other women. The stories unfold in the context of high-intervention obstetrics and soaring Cesarean rates, a world that often degrades women and violates the sanctity of birth.

An ideal supplemental text for courses in cultures of Mesoamerica; the anthropology of reproduction, midwifery, and birth; medical or biological anthropology; and midwifery practice in historical and cross-cultural context.
“An informed and informative body of deftly presented scholarship... of special interest for academia and nonspecialist general readers with an interest in Mesoamerican culture with respect to midwifery.” — Midwest Book Review

“I love this book. It fits so well with my desire to find and learn from traditional midwives in Mexico before we lose their amazing techniques and wisdom. You can see Gabriel’s love and compassion throughout this lovely book. Make Touching Bellies, Touching Lives part of your library. You will be glad you did.” — Midwifery Today

“I fell in love with this book immediately! The deeply personal connections between the author and the midwives and their families is beautiful. True to the title of the book, almost all of the midwives have access to nurturing touch—but hardly any other resources—and yet almost all of them report never losing a baby or a mother in childbirth. Touching Bellies, Touching Lives is sure to get you hooked, warm your heart, and open your eyes to the important work of granny midwives. Wholeheartedly recommended!” — Holistic Parenting Magazine

Touching Bellies, Touching Lives will attract the interest of anthropologists, sociologists, and those in the medical profession for its groundbreaking insights into what midwives in Mexico have done and are poised to do to help pregnant women give birth at a time when there aren’t enough doctors to go around. So, too, general readers, especially those interested in Mexico, will be gripped by the human stories of how these women perform valuable services and save lives in parts of Mexico where help is needed. The techniques they use surprised me, as they would some doctors. Mexico is more than tourist beach resorts and ancient pyramids. This book takes readers deep inside one of its most human traditions.” — Patrick Oster, author of The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People

“For anyone interested in the lives, the wisdom, and the practices of traditional midwives in Mexico, and the effects of modern influences, Touching Bellies, Touching Lives offers fascinating stories and rich insight. Gabriel, a doula and childbirth educator with long ties to the women whose stories she shares, writes with empathy and warmth.” — Robbie Davis-Floyd, Senior Research Fellow, The University of Texas at Austin, author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage

“Important both historically and anthropologically, Touching Bellies, Touching Lives is most of all a compelling ride on a magic rebozo via the recorded stories of skilled (but rapidly disappearing) traditional midwives of southern Mexico.” — Peggy Vincent, California midwife, author of Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife
Table of Contents
1. How It Began
The First Birth / Becoming a Doula / Oaxaca / Congreso in Oaxaca / The Rebozo Club

2. Oaxaca
Huesera, Healer of Joints: Ignacia Cruz Rivera (Nachita) / Poop on the Face: Paula Pérez Martinez (Abuelita Paulita) / Still Finding Romance: Francisca Silvia Moreno Martinez (Silvia) / Sidelined and Sad: Marcelina Antonio Felix / Widow of a Doctor: Marta García / The Hospital / Reviving a “Dead” Baby: María Magdalena Hernandez Rosario (Lena)

3. Huajuapan
Stern Teacher: Delfina Morales Diaz / Daughter of a Great Midwife: Juana Graciela Cruz Lopez / A Failed Seamstress: Margarita Mendoza Zamora / Saving the Unborn: Jovita Loyola Cortez / Mourned on the Day of the Dead: Casilda Marin Garzón / A Pinard Changes Hands: Isabel Rangel Cruz / Successful Outcomes in the Traditional Setting / Fundal Pressure / Nettles: Eduiges Mendez Jimenez / Home Again

4 Zihuatanejo
Ay, Qué Susto: Isabel Valadez Mulina / Saved by a Baby Chicken: Bricia Jimenez Hernandez / Busier than Ever: Lorenza Torres Hernandez / The Belly Massage / The Old Scolder: Mariana Oregón Lopez / Birth in America: María de Jesús Rosa Ruiz (Chucha Rosa) / Isabel Gives a Massage / An Angel in the Hospital: Sara Castro Mondragón

5. The Hospital in Zihuatanejo
Toco / How to Get a Pregnant Woman Upside Down: Silvina Rosas Villegas / A Chance, Almost, to Help a Woman in Labor / A Birth in the Night / A Reluctant Midwife: Alvina Salas Valdorinas / Un Aparato for Isabel / Birth on a Rock: Mariana Gomez Sanchez / Loved and Missed: María de Jesús Vandolinos León (Doña Chucha) / Cesarean or Vaginal? / Mother and Daughter: Antonia Alonso Vargas (Tonia) and Norma Hilda Jaime Alonso / The Birth of Saira’s Baby / Last Class and Goodbye

6. Chiapas and Tabasco
Quadruplets: Emiliana Ruiz Mazariegos / El Congreso / Why Are There So Many Cesareans in Mexico? / Birth by the River: Ana María Moren Hernandez / Do Storks Deliver Babies?: Francisca Orduño Armenta / Born, Not Made: Francisca Catalina García / Tenejapa Midwives / Adoption / A Proper Courtship: María de Jesús Pérez Torrez / Not Very Friendly, Luisa
Recent Widow: Lucía Jiménez Mendes / Rattlesnakes in the Kitchen: Laura Aguilar Landero

7. Yucatán Peninsula
Mayan Mother and Daughter: Antonia Echeveria and Elena Uk Kupul / Blond Mayan Midwife: Sabrina Speich / A Breech Great Granddaughter: Filiberta Quijano Tun / Paciencia: Francisca Montantez Aldana (Panchita) / Indentured by Her Don: Feliciana Cocom / Campeche: Feliciana Cocom May / Touched by a Don: Leonisa Trujeque Fuentes / The Congreso

8. Vera Cruz, Puebla, and Morelos
The Birth of Rosa’s Baby: Socorro Espinosa Sanchez / The Birth of Lucita’s Baby: Angelina Martinez Miranda / Musing on the Bus / Congreso in San Cristóbal

9. Oaxaca and Home
A Family of Doctors / Silvia Hears Her Story / Lena Gets a New Dress / Daughter and Granddaughter

Epilogue: Hope for a New Midwifery in Mexico