Thursday, March 3, 2011

I thought I would talk a little bit about some of the books we have been reading during pregnancy, for those of you who may find it helpful. I tend to be a planner, a researcher, a bit of a worrier. But in this pregnancy I have seemed to take on a little more of Ben's laid back approach, and I think it is working well for us. There's a much larger handful of books that I picked up through the pregnancy, but these are the only ones that have stuck....

Ina May: I have both of Ina May Gaskin's childbirth books, Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I started with Spiritual Midwifery, which is mostly a collection of home and natural birth stories. It is supposed to be good to read a lot of positive birth stories, and I did enjoy doing so, but eventually lost a little interest. I didn't need that many birth stories. The second half, a "technical manual" was briefer than I hoped. And it might be a little far out trippy for anyone more mainstream than myself. I much more preferred her Guide to Childbirth, which balanced a nice dose of birth stories with practical insight and guidance on the childbirth process/experience from the author. I especially appreciated reading about her sphincter law, which explains that sphincters (excretory, cervical, and vaginal) function best when we have privacy, and are relaxed. As a girl who gets pee shy (seriously, if I am in a public restroom next to another woman and it is silent I CAN NOT PEE. It is stupid.) this makes so much sense. It really helped me accept the truth of the mind/body connection. It isn't just hippy talk, folks. If my mind knows there is someone next to me, my body will not perform. A lot of the stories in Spiritual illustrate women using visualization and verbal techniques "I am a flower, I am opening..." and before I understood the sphincter theory I thought this was a little bit of B.S. But now I am on board. Of course, just saying it isn't enough, you have to believe it in order for your body to catch up. But I can see how a repetitive mantra (verbal or visual) would eventually cause you to believe what you are hearing/seeing/saying.

Dr. Sears: Next I read the Sears' Birth Book. I kind of loved it. I think it is a little more unbiased than some of the other "natural" childbirth books. I think it is a really great primer for anyone looking to understand all of their birth options, and the benefits and drawbacks involved with each one. They outline the stages of labor and everything associated very thoroughly. And they brought up something I had not read anywhere else: why pain has a purpose in labor. This is something I already sort of intuitively believed, but I had not given much thought to logic of why. The Sears' explain that the pain of labor is a tool to tell you how to assist in delivering a baby. Something physiological is happening in your body, it causes pain, you need to do something about it, obv. For example a very painful contraction experienced on your back will encourage you to find a more comfortable position that eases the pain, like leaning or squatting. This new position will most likely also assists the baby into getting into position for delivery, instead of gravity working against you like on your back. It also ties into relaxation, if you are able to let go and relax tense muscles you will experience less pain, and (see above about sphincters) assist in the labor process. Maybe this is common knowledge to everyone else? But I had not heard/read such a succinct discussion on it before.

As for pregnancy books, the day we took the pee stick I made Ben go to the bookstore for What To Expect When You Are Expecting. I always thought it was the quintessential mandatory guide. It's... fine? After about the 5th month or so, though, it feels a little unnecessary. You may or may not be experiencing any or all of these symptoms that you might or might not have been experiencing last month.... After reading and loving the Sears' birth book, and a bit of the end of their Pregnancy Book I do wish I had picked up this one from the start. I like those Sears.

Ben is currently mid read in The Birth Partner Book. I have flipped through it and it looks so practical and informative, I admit I am tempted to read it too. And this month we will start getting familiar with The Sears' Baby Book, so that next month we might be (a little) prepared.

I am dying to read Pushed, but am waiting. Honestly I am kind of already afraid of hospitals, and I am not sure that it would help. ;)

And, I think I have said enough to last a month.

What books do/did you find indispensable?


  1. Reading/have read all of these. I agree on Ina's two. Now I'm reading Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (sounds silly but it's making some good points) and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I'd recommend both of those as well.

  2. Just found out I am pregnant last week and was looking for some recommendations. This was so perfectly timed! Thanks

  3. i can be of zero assistance on content here, but i do appreciate that the books are all the same size. library aesthetics!

  4. I have a couple good birth books (ones you've mentioned above), but I hadn't found a good baby book yet - Think I am going to pick up the Dr. Sears Baby Book.

  5. Another vote for the Gaskin Guide to Childbirth and the Sears Baby Book. My favorite part of the Sears book was the "When to Call the Doctor" bits in the sections about illnesses. Very clear and helpful. Some of the attachment parenting parts were a little heavy-handed, but it was easy to tune out the few parts that seemed excessive.

  6. i heard the "what to expect" book could be a bit scary at times. almost too informative? i liked "the joy of pregnancy" and "the baby center essential guide to pregnancy and birth". both books taught me a lot and never made me worry that something might be wrong. also, i have not tried the techniques yet, but "happiest baby on the block" was fascinating. some of it was redundant at times, but i think it's just trying to drill the information in your head.

  7. I enjoyed Birthing from Within. A little hippy/hokey at times but sounds like you can tolerate a bit of that! Sara at is a wealth of resources too I would definitely recommend her website.

  8. What, you didn't read "A Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy"?!

    I really liked reading these reviews, despite not being anywhere near pregnant. I hadn't really heard much about what Sear's said about labour pain, I think that's really interesting. It makes me think of how we're always trying to reduce fevers, but they actually serve a clinical purpose (to a point).

  9. This is going to sound really random, but has anyone had a good experience with some advice for partners that came in a non-book medium?

    My best friend is pregnant, and her husband is an all-around great guy, except... he hates reading. It's not that he's opposed to it on principle, he just doesn't like to do it himself. Has anyone seen an episode of a show, or an online talk, or something that addresses how to be a good birth partner?

  10. @sara P might be time for an actual class?
    @celia going on kristina (lovely morning) rec i was just going to watch the dvd of happiest baby. ;)
    @natasha congratulations!

  11. I've been reading through Ina May's books, as well as Your Best Birth. I got the Hypnobirthing book to see what that was all about and haven't really read too deep into it yet. I'm enjoying Active Birth though. it's pretty dated, I think it was published in the early 90s? but yet still has a lot of good positional information for natural childbirth and dealing with pain.

    I just have to point out how amazing it is that all of your books {and mine} are the same width! it's like an unwritten law for pregnancy novels.

  12. @lauren and alyson

    I KNOW.

    I didn't even have to curate it. Those are all the ones I had in my house.

  13. I also loved Gaskin's book. I would recommend reading The Birth Partner yourself. My husband and I are reading the same books (or I am nudging him to) so that we are on the same page and coming in with the same knowledge.

    We both found TBP to be really informative. However, while I found it encouraging, he found it a little frightening - evidently the part that stuck with him most is that if I have to deliver in the car he needs to lie under me so the baby doesn't hit the, okay?

    I assured him the hospital is only 15 minutes away.

  14. I read Pushed before I was pregnant and I loved it. I also watched The Business of Being Born and loved it as well. I became rather fired up about home birth and began following home birth blogs and watching tons of home birth videos online. Then I became pregnant and assessed the birthing options actually available to me. I live on an island in Southeast Alaska without birthing centers, midwives, or hypnobirthing classes. Home birth is just not an option for me. My option is to labor and deliver at a small hospital. I too am not comfortable in hospitals. But I’ve just had to work to change my perspective out of necessity. I would definitely encourage you to read Pushed but maybe wait until after your little one has arrived!

    I really enjoyed reading Birth Day by Mark Sloan and found it to be the most neutral of the books l’ve read so far.

    By the way, I've really enjoyed your blog. My friend Rebekah and I are two days apart in our pregnancies. We're due March 26th and 28th!

  15. Did anyone say Womanly Art of Breastfeeding yet? The new edition is so great! And you don't have to feel like you need to read the whole thing before the baby comes :)

    Anyway, love your book choices! Definitely a lot of the ones I recommend when expectant moms ask me :)

    As far as "parenting" books go, the one that totally blew my mind was Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.

  16. Two Australian books i would definitely recommend are:
    Juju Sundin's Birth Skills - she's a physiotherapist who specialises in prenatal/birth preparation. She, too, talks not just about what the pain will feel like, but WHY we feel it. She talks a lot about the "healthy" pain - exactly what birthing is. She gives key ideas to use during birth to help your body not focus on the pain (visualistion, vocalisation, movement, etc). I'm half way through my pregnancy and i will read this almost every week until delivery day, i think!

    Also - Cheers to Childbirth - written by Sydney doula Lucy Perry. This is designed for the birth partner (she runs antenatal clases for men in Pubs called Beer & Birth). I've bought this for my (very queasy about blood-and-guts) husband. He's loved this book so far.

    ah, sorry for the long comment! Thanks for your book list - definitely going to try and find me a copy of Sears!

  17. i really loved this book.

    Let the Baby Drive: Navigating the Road of New Motherhood by Lu Hanessian

    Such a great read. More just one woman's story of becoming a mother vs the who to style of so many pregnancy books

  18. yes to Sears and Gaskin! Also Birthing from Within is good, though perhaps not suited for everyone. I didn't see The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth listed above--useful and relatively balanced, with a bias toward less intervention. Also have you seen the old school Frederick Leboyer books?

  19. Childbirth Without Fear


    Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth

    They are both amazing and life-changing.

  20. Looks like everything has been said but I love the Sears book too. I have them all, the Baby Book, but also The Sleep Book, The Fussy Baby Book, The Attachment Parenting Book...

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