Monday, July 30, 2007

The Childbearing Years

When you start telling people that you are expecting a child, you will quickly find that there are a sea of recommendations for preparatory reading on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. When I work with a new doula or prenatal massage client, I like to give them this list of books; it's short, the books are engaging and I consider them to be an excellent foundation.

All of these books are usually available at the People's Co-op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Drive, 604-253-6442 . If they don't have one in, it is likely already on it's way. Support our small booksellers!

May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

A truly wonderful book that will inspire you to embrace the experience. Gaskin is an internationally-respected midwife (the only midwife to have an obstetrical manoeuvre named after her, "The Gaskin Manoeuvre") who has attended thousands of births.

The first section of the book is dedicated to the stories of women who have had their babies with Gaskin. They describe their experiences in their own words with some commentary by the author. The births that are detailed in these stories are extremely varied and yet they are not just a rare sampling of successful outcomes as you can see when you look at her records spanning over 30 years of practice (in all that time her C-section rate has remained below 3%).

The second section focuses on the clinical aspects of natural childbirth with solid and well-presented information on the realities of current medical practise around birth.

As one reviewer said: "she once again relies on her story-telling techniques for getting across her central message: If you're surrounded by people who believe you can do it and who support your own belief that you can do it, then guess what? You can do it."

Birthing From Within by Pam England, Rob Horowitz

This a wonderful book that focuses on what each individual woman and her partner can do to prepare for their own birth as well as for the post-partum period and beyond. It has a holistic approach, meaning that it addresses not just the need for clinical-type knowledge (i.e. stages of labour, cervical dilation, Braxton-Hicks contractions etc.) but also the couple's need to explore the emotional and spiritual aspects of the radical changes that they are going through. England makes good use of creative exercises such as drawing and sculpting to encourage parents-to-be to dig deep into their unearthed feelings (positive and negative) about pregnancy, birth and parenthood.

Birthing From Within provides accurate, evidence-based information on the various options available to women, and yet it is non-judgemental in terms of individual choices. Following the exercises in this book will help couples work through their "issues" and prepare for the best birth possible for them.

The Breastfeeding Café : Mothers Share the Joys, Challenges, and Secrets of Nursing

by Barbara L. Behrmann

Another book that mixes storytelling with information, it is a wonderful companion to have at your fingertips as you negotiate the challenges and joys of breastfeeding. The stories are brief and engaging and cover a very wide range of women's experiences.

Not Recommended!

What to Expect When You're Expecting

This book is a wonder of marketing. Amongst birth professionals it is commonly called "What to Be Afraid of When You're Expecting" due to the way that it focuses heavily on the possibility of complications. As one reviewer wrote:

This might be good material if you are still planning and have nothing to fear. Or not.

In my case, the idea of pregnancy was a little scary at first, so I bought this book in order to be as well informed as I could... the results were: a whole week crying in desperation and fear that all those awful things could happen to me at once, and the urge to make a bonfire out of the whole book.

Another thing that gave me shivers was the authors' obsession with the nearly demonic effects of eating refined sugar. It seems that all problems in pregnancy are caused by sugar... It's amazing to think how millions of women throughout the decades have had so many kids and are still alive, in spite of the sinful sugar consumption.

Luckily, I have understanding people around me who eased off my mind from the horrors of pregnancy. Now I am prepared to enjoy every stage of this awesome part of my life. With another book, of course.

If you find that the things that you are reading are making you feel stressed, take a break and check in with you body, with your partner, or with a friend to try to figure out what it is about the book that is making you feel anxious. While reading and getting prepared for your birth are excellent endeavours, don't forget to take time to relax and enjoy yourself as well.

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