I was recently contacted and asked if I would review a new memoir book called Second Chance: A Mother's Quest for a Natural Birth After Cesarean by Thais Nye Derich. I'm not able to review all the books that come through my inbox, but I am glad I answered "yes" to this one. Following is my review and reader recommendations for Second Chance.
Second Chance is a primarily a book about self-discovery through the passage of births and a typical experience in today's US maternity care system, but it begins with an introduction from the author that gives insight into the relationship with her estranged mother. As you read through the book, it becomes apparent that this is a critical thread throughout Derich's story.
This book could have been just another birth story book (of which there are many), but the way in which it's told -- the interwoven unfolding of two birth stories, side by side, the style of narration, and the author's ability to describe and recount a scene with such detail, makes Second Chance a memorable and engaging book that I found hard to put down. The chapters are short and succinct, each one providing a poignant snapshot of interaction with the many players involved, layering upon each previous chapter to build, in real time, the story of her first birth alongside her second. In the first part of the book, each chapter alternates with a new title that's associated with either Derich's first child or her second. In a flip-flop story like this, there's potential for the reader to feel confused and disoriented, but I'm happy to report that I experienced neither. It flowed and connected beautifully. In fact, as I neared toward the end of Part I, I found that the last few chapters blurred the lines (purposefully?) between the two children's births, revealing how they were inextricably bound.
While I personally have not experienced a cesarean or VBAC, the book resonated with me on many levels. First, as a mother with three different birth experiences that ranged the gamut of disappointment and joy, evidence-based care and not. I could identify with Derich's recounts of her first birth in which she wants to say something, to speak up, but can't find or use her voice. Second Chance also struck home with me in my work as a doula and childbirth educator. I've been witness to the many shortcomings and failings in our maternity care system that Derich reveals through her experiences. It's frustrating, scary, heartbreaking, and infuriating, just like how I felt after reading some of the passages in the book. Derich does a phenomenal job of portraying tension. Moments with her husband, her OB, and the nurses had me clenching my stomach and holding my breath.
Second Chance is a beautiful and gripping memoir, but it also has a broader purpose and message to share about the current state of maternity care in the United States. While Derich's story is uniquely hers, it's also one voice in a choir of many who have experienced non-medically necessary cesarean, trauma from the experience, and sought desperately to have a vaginal birth after cesarean. At the end of the book, the former president of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) summarizes Derich's "quest" and places it in the broader context of those who venture on similar journeys. Following this piece, the author provides a short note with current statistics on birth trauma, cesarean, and VBAC, and provides resources for support and advocacy.
Second Chance is a beautiful read for anyone. I would recommend this book first and foremost to families who have already experienced birth, as it could be overwhelming (without follow up support and a foundation for understanding) for first-time expectant parents. This book may be especially welcome for those preparing for VBAC, as it does provide a good example of reaching out to a variety of support professionals to help you in the process. The book also may be helpful for those who have experienced traumatic birth, as that is a concurrent thread throughout Derich's story. It's important to note that Second Chance does describe, in detail, Derich's first birth (which was traumatic for her), as well as a story about infant death. Those who are easily triggered by those topics or who have not yet processed their own experiences may not be able to take on the weight of another's. Second Chance also is an excellent book for birth professionals -- it provides a unique look into the inner thoughts of a pregnant and laboring person -- thoughts that aren't often shared, and therefore important for professionals when caring for families during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
About the Author
Thais Nye Derich was born in Carmel, CA. She graduated from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration, a minor in French, and a Technical Writing Certification. During college, Thais spent two years living in Belgium and France studying French before returning to Northern California. In 2003, Thais started her own software training business, allowing her to travel around the United States teaching software operations at Fortune-500 companies. A few years later, she and her husband decided to start a family, prompting Thais to leave the business in order to stay at home full-time. During that time, she dabbled in her passion for writing by starting a successful food blog, as well as sold her line of healthy granola bars at her local Rainbow Grocery store, and, most notably, she focused on writing Second Chance. Derich’s past work has been published in Salon, BlogHer, BabyCenter, Literary Mama, Wild Violet Literary Magazine, Forge Journal, SFGate, the San Francisco Examiner, among others and performed live at the Listen to Your Mother show. A chapter of Second Chance was a finalist out of 500 entries for the Creative Non-Fiction Magazine’s baby anthology. She now lives in beautiful Marin County, where she is writing her second book, running the writing program at a women’s communal workspace called The Hivery, and supporting the CEO and Founder of Equator Coffees as her Executive Assistant.