I have long maintained that the Library can help you with anything: right now it’s helping fuel my child’s Paw Patrol obsession, but I’ve found the Library useful for less trivial things as well.
Three years ago, I was pregnant, and like any pregnant lady I was faced with about a thousand decisions I’d never had to make before. What would we name the baby? What baby gear was actually necessary? What kind of birth experience did I want to have?
Fairly certain that I wanted to have an unmedicated birth, I buckled down and started reading. Since other authors have already shared some favorite intimacy books and favorite pregnancy books, I figured maybe we'd complete the cycle and write a blog post about books to prepare for the actual birthing process. The books I share with you here were my favorites in helping inspire and prepare me for the kind of birth experience I wanted to have.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to give this disclaimer, but I will anyway: these are books that I found useful. They were wonderful in helping me prepare for labor and delivery. Books are great, but they don’t replace doctors or midwives. Read some books, but see medical professionals too.
I should also note that all these books have a strong preference for unmediated labor and delivery. If that’s not really an opinion you share, I might not recommend them. You make the choices that work for you.
Ina May is probably the best-known midwife in the country; though I admit I’m still a little skeptical about her claims that childbirth can be pain-free (mine certainly wasn’t!), my favorite thing about her books is the fact that they are packed full of stories of women being strong and having successful birth experiences. I think some books about pregnancy and childbirth spend a lot of time focusing on ALL THE POSSIBLE THINGS THAT COULD GO WRONG, so I appreciate hearing stories of all the ways that things can go right. It's nice to feel empowered into decisions rather than scared into them.
When doing preliminary research on natural childbirth methods, there were so many people raving about “The Bradley Method” that I decided to check it out. As I understand it, the basic Bradley approach goes something like this: “Animals in labor relax through it. You can too.” (I'm probably way over-simplifying that. Don't freak out.) The Bradley method emphasizes comfortable labor positions and relaxed breathing, trying to dispel the myth that childbirth needs to involve screaming in agony. There are probably classes you can take and other books to read, but I found that this book was sufficient for me to help me be more relaxed about the labor process.
This was the book one of my midwives recommended, and I’ll be honest: I didn’t finish it all the way. I’m really open to breathing exercises and meditation and things, but I start to draw the line at suggestions that I get a canvas and paint my feelings about birth. You might think that’s super awesome, and if so, read this book all the way through.
I include it in this list because the book starts with a simple but engaging question that proved incredibly useful as I prepared for labor: we need to ask our own questions, and then honestly seek answers to those questions in order to be prepared for birth.
So many birth plans ask questions for us, but BIRTHING FROM WITHIN emphasizes discovering our own big questions. My biggest question was this: “How do I handle pain?” Realizing that that was my biggest concern, everything I read and researched was in service of figuring out the best ways to handle my pain in ways that were beneficial.
This was my favorite book, hands down. I actually bought a copy to have on my Kindle so that I could be sure to have it with me in the hospital. If you don’t practice yoga you might not think that this book is for you, but the breathing exercises, stretches, and general information it provides are useful for even the casual yoga practitioner (I would put myself in this category; I love to practice yoga, but I’m certainly not doing it every day).
I loved this book for two major reasons: first, though nearly every book I read contained a description of what happens during the labor and delivery process, I thought this one was the most straightforward and helpful description of all the steps my body and my baby needed to go through in order to get him here. Second, I loved that it offered a trimester-by-trimester series of poses that could help relieve some of the pain and pressure associated with pregnancy.
Did I do yoga in my hospital room? No, I did not. I did, however, breathe in the ways it suggests, and I actually still find those breathing exercises useful for unmedicated pain relief. Now that I'm pregnant again, you can bet this one's on my reading list.