I tell pretty much every pregnant woman I know to come check out the Mothering lending library. It has an extensive collection of books and other materials ranging in topics, from natural parenting to childbirth preparation to medical texts. Knowing that at any given moment there could be someone rummaging through the books, I should have been more prepared when I was confronted by that book.
I was astounded to find What to Expect When You are Expecting lying on the floor. Thinking my co-worker, who is a midwifery student, had selected the book, I shouted my objections loud and clear, only to turn around and discover that there was a bewildered pregnant woman staring back at me.
I apologized profusely, but instead of being offended she was quite interested to learn why I objected so. My life revolves around pregnant women. Not only do I work at Mothering, but I am a doula, childbirth educator, and prenatal massage therapist, so any opportunity to sit down with someone to talk shop is a welcome one. I told her about my experience 8 years ago; I remembered it so well; I was about 3 months pregnant sitting in the bathtub with highlighter in hand. I was so ready and so eager to learn all I could and well, let’s just say What to Expect When You are Expecting was not what I was expecting at all!
Don’t get me wrong. The book was informative, if all you want to read about is every possible complication you could experience while pregnant. The book terrified me. The diet portion of the book was militant, and everything about labor and the birth of your baby was quite medical. I believe that pregnant couples should take an active role in their education, and should inform themselves about all aspects of this miraculous journey. But at the same time, there is power in the positive and for one source to focus so much on all the bad things that could (though rarely) happen is unfortunate.
I felt relieved and could only wish that someone had been there to warn me all those years ago in my bathtub. This library visitor and I had chosen that book for all of the same reasons (because it’s popular, because we wanted to learn all we could) but now she had placed it back on the shelf. However, now she looked to me to provide her with some alternatives. There is nothing I enjoy more than sharing a good book, especially books about pregnancy and birth, and I have pretty much read them all. Lucky me, right at my fingertips I had my favorite books to bless her with.
The first one I recommended was Having a Baby Naturally by Peggy O’Mara. Sure, she is one of my heroines, but in addition to that, it is just such a wonderfully positive and empowering read. It is pretty much the antithesis of What to Expect. It is full of ideas for achieving memorable, healthy pregnancies and empowering births.
I also strongly suggested she check out Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. In our culture we are inundated with images of women in agonizing labor—screaming at their doctors and partners, rushing off to the hospital the second their water breaks, and because drama sells, eventually something goes wrong and the woman and/or baby must be saved. In both of Ina May Gaskin’s books (Spiritual Midwifery and Guide to Childbirth) the reader is exposed to beautiful birth stories as well as practical information about pregnancy and childbirth. The stories are not overly idealistic. Occasionally there is a complication, but the reader learns that even these obstacles can be handled calmly.
An additional favorite is Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, and Ann Kepler. I always recommend this book because I read it first as a pregnant woman and the second time as a student doula. This book is no-nonsense, and covers everything from the anatomy of the pregnant woman to the history of infant feeding. I think it is very well organized and not at all overwhelming. I continue to use it as a reference and have worn the binding down.
Another Penny Simkin treasure is The Birth Partner. This book comes with me to every single birth I attend, even my own. Everyone should read this one—moms, doulas, and partners—because it really is “everything you need to know to help a woman through childbirth.” All the tricks of the trade right there in your hands. It is simply invaluable.
In coming to look for informative reading materials this woman stumbled upon me who was only too willing to spend the day talking about natural childbirth and all of the options available to her. We discussed the difference between doulas and midwives as well as the difference in care under a midwife, family practitioner, and OB.
As a doula and educator, by the time I meet the pregnant couple they are usually already in their third trimester. When I was pregnant the first time around, I chose my doula before I had a doctor, or even before I told my family. There is great value in establishing this relationship early on. It allows for a level of comfort and trust that grows with the pregnancy.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have been given the message early on that birth is a natural, normal, process. Others discover the beauty of childbirth along the way. I am eternally grateful to the student doula in my woman’s studies class whose presentation sparked the interest that put me on this path. It’s fascinating to consider that had I just skipped that one class, I may never have been exposed to the concept of a doula, natural birth or Goddess forbid, Mothering Magazine. I have a funny feeling something similar occurred that day in the library.
Simone Snyder is the Product Fulfillment Manager/Street Teams Coordinator at Mothering Magazine. She is a certified doula, childbirth educator, and licensed massage therapist, specializing in prenatal and postpartum massage.
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