First up is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. I came away from this book feeling like birth is a natural process, that God designed it this way and it isn’t scary. The way they present birth on TV, even on shows like A Baby Story, there is ALWAYS some kind of dire emergency situation or drammatic occurance…. “The baby’s heart rate is decreasing, that means the baby is in distress. If we don’t do this procedure now you and the baby are going to DIE!” So for the longest time I was really afraid of being pregnant and giving birth. First, of all I thought that my pelvis was way too small and I’d never be able to push a baby out. Second, I was afraid of the major surgery that is a c-section. I really loved all the birth stories at the beginning of this book. It made me feel super empowered about birth and not afraid at all. Ina May definitely convinced me that my body is not a lemon! Some of the stories are just so amazing and full of so many things that most people just don’t tell you about giving birth. It is presented in a way that isn’t scary either. There are complications that are discussed, but the way it is dealt with is so much better than most of the other books I have read. I really have faith in the process of giving birth, God’s design, and in my body after reading this book. Even if you plan to have an epidural, go to a hospital, etc. I would still recommend this book just for the confidence in your body that it will give you.
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition by Susan McCutcheon-Rosegg is really great if you are planning on a natural birth. There is lots of great information about pregnancy in general in this book too. It has detailed descriptions and illustrations of the Bradley techniques. It is presented in way that is easy to understand and follow. However, I do wish there were some kind of DVDs out on the method, because that would be easier to get Stephen to go along with since he’s not a big reader. Luckily we’re going to take a class, but it is cutting it pretty close to my due date (the last class date is the week I’m due). I also really like how Bradley is about breathing naturally and deeply rather than memorizing altered breathing techniques like you have to do for Lamaze. Just thinking about those Lamaze breathing techniques makes me want to hyperventilate!
I honestly think that Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, or at least some version of it, should be given to every girl when they hit puberty. There is so much information in here that NO ONE tells you about your body (a woman’s body, that is). The OB doesn’t, your mom doesn’t, and 6th grade sex ed class doesn’t. Now, I have had a few friends get pregnant when trying to use the the methods described in here as birth control, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for that. I also have a few friends that found the constant charting and temperature taking to be very stressful when they were already stressed about “trying.” But for me, a person that likes to be in the know, I loved this book. Even when my body was still quite a bit wacky, I felt like I had some glimpse into what was going on. I didn’t get all the answers and I definitely wasn’t ever able to look at one of my charts and see where in the heck I ovulated, but it was still nice to know why some things were happening and that there was a purpose behind it. And it was certainly more information than I was getting from my OB. So anyway read this book and get to know your body.
I’ve read a lot of reviews of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better birth by Henci Goer and a fair amount of them say that the title is condescending. I really don’t think this. When you get pregnant, everyone has some kind of “advice” for you… like the woman at church that always tells me that if I just eat a little bit all the time I will feel better (if only that were the cure!). I can’t tell you how many times in off-handed conversation other women have said, “Oh you’re getting the epidural right?” or “Get the epidural. It’s like heaven,” or “Make sure as soon as you walk in the door to the hospital you get the epidural. The epidural is the best.” Everyone seems to have something to say about every part of pregnancy too. So if you wanted to, you could just go through your whole pregnancy on the random advice of friends and family… the same friends and family that will tell you the sex of your child based on some arbitrary factors like what kind of food you are craving or whether your wedding ring spins or swings when you dangle it from a string in front of your belly button. I’ve met plenty of women that didn’t read a single pregnancy book and have several kids. They just went along with whatever their doctor or mother said was the best way to handle pregnancy. But if you are someone like me, you just can’t do that. I need studies. I need information overload. I need evidence. That is what this book offers. So now when people tell me to “just get the epidural” I have all this information swimming around in my head to where I can say back, “Actually, epidurals aren’t that ‘heavenly’. They can slow the progress of labor, cause low grade fevers, and slow the baby’s heart rate among other things. This will then cause your OB to recommend a cesarean for the sake of saving the baby. I’d rather deal with some pain than have major abdominal surgery, thanks.” Of course, you know that is what I’d say in my perfect world where I don’t stammer when I talk and I say exactly how I feel in all situations with perfect confidence and eloquence. Ha! Anyway, this book addresses all of the common practices that happen at a hospital birth and uses studies to show whether those common practices are good or bad. There are plenty of pages of great resources and questions to ask your doctor/midwife about.
Your Pregnancy Week by Week was only like $2 at Rite Aid one day when I was picking up a prescription. I wanted something that had the week by week development because I just wanted to know what was going on in my body and with the baby each week. I found a few websites that had some information, but a lot of it was hit-and-miss depending on the week you were looking for information about. Anyway, my plan is to keep reading this book week by week until the delivery, but I already have an opinion… First, it is obviously very mainstream… like you have to have an OB and a level-2 or level-3 hospital in order to give birth safely. Each chapter/week also contains tons of information about every possible complication that could happen at this point in your pregnancy. In other words, there is a lot of fear mongering that goes on. Oh, but then my favorite part is that after they’ve pumped you full of fear, they tell you not to worry and stress out about anything because that’s bad for the baby too. From the reviews I’ve read though it seems more people liked this book over the classic, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and thought that it was full of much less fear mongering than that book (needless to say I haven’t read, nor do I plan to read, that book after such glowing reviews). I do like that there are simple exercises at the end of each week that you can do to stay fit and help you be strong for labor. So that along with knowing what is going on week by week (how big the baby is, illustrations of the baby, etc) is nice.
And I must give credit to my SIL Ruth here, with the exception of my week by week book, the rest of these books are on loan to me from her. I probably never would have known to pick them out just by going to the bookstore.