Jessica and Justin

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Van, TX, United States
I am a farmer and a doula. My husband and I are recently planted into the soil of East Texas. Together we seek, we learn, we dance, we sing, and we grow vegetables, and I attend births. This blog is the ongoing story of our farming and birthing journey.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


That's it, I'm fed up.

Recently I had the 4th, (get that? FOURTH!) friend in the past 2 years come to me and say that this book made them want to stop reading about pregnancy and childbirth, stop thinking about their soon arriving labor, and put the whole thing on hold until they were less scared.  Scared?   Of birth?!

In an attempt to repair some of the damage caused by the book What To Expect When You're Expecting, I've decided to give you my list of recommended readings for pregnancy and childbirth.  First, let me tell you why What To Expect really sucks:

What To Expect explains in detail every possible problem that could happen to you and your baby in birth. Am I against women knowing about complications that can arise? Absolutely not! It is very important to inform women in a way that empowers them to go out and do something! To make choices for the health of themselves and their baby. To ask questions and get answers. However, What To Expect is far from empowering. It writes to its reader in an almost condescending tone, as if she's a 10 year old girl.  AND in addition to explaining all possible problems, it promotes how a well equipped Labor & Delivery unit and high-tech NICU are going to save the day when emergency strikes for you, which it surely will, just look at all that can go wrong for you, you poor thing, all pregnant and helpless!   This book confuses the heck out of women and makes they say "Ok, I give in! Yes please, doctor, test me for all of that and the above, just don't let any of these things happen to me or my baby!!"  Can you see where this leads? It in turn, fashions women into complicit, obedient patients that are easy for doctors to manage, and who have given up control of their bodies, their babies, and their experience of birthing.

Where is the trust in women's bodies?  Where is the belief in a women's ability to birth?  The affirmation of women's brains to seek out information and make smart choices?  Well, I can tell you that it's NOT in What To Expect When You're Expecting.  

If you've recently purchased or been given What To Expect, go tear up that load of bull crap and add it to your compost pile. If you've given this book as a gift, call that women and apologize and recommend one of the following.

Here are some of my favorites:

The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth 
by Sheila Kitzinger
This book covers everything. It's objective and it promotes women taking an active role in their birth process. It explains LOTS of medical options for parents, it includes week by week development, practical guides for pain management, and delves into an assortment of safe birthing options, including home births. This book is great for women who are nervous about childbirth and open to the idea of natural birth, but at the same time, this book will not be a turn off to the woman who is skeptical of anything too hippy-dippy.  Honestly, I would recommend anything by Kitzinger.

Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn 
by Penny Simkin
This book is easy to use and very up to date. It has tons of charts, pictures, and diagrams.  It covers conception, development, childbirth, and infancy, including high-risk pregnancies, vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), and breastfeeding help.  It goes over medications to avoid throughout pregnancy and lactation, as well as an in-depth look at the drugs commonly administered to women in hospital births.  The author is a world renowned doula and as such, she generously devotes time to the emotional aspects of labor as well as comfort measures and the partner's role. I would trust Penny Simkin with my birth any day.

Gentle Birth Choices 
by Barbara Harper, R.N.

Going a little deeper into the world of natural birth.  This book brought me to tears many times at the beauty of this natural, womanly rite of passage.  It begins with a great history of birth in our country- how birth moved from the home to the hospital over the last 80 years, and what we gained and what we lost from that major shift. It sharply critiques much of modern medicalized birth, but backs up it's harshness with tons of research and statistics.  Besides, is our current birth situation in the US undeserving of a harsh critique?  It is packed with the science behind the benefits and safety of natural birth choices including birthing centers, doulas, midwives, water births, and homebirths, and rounds itself out with a chapter on having a satisfying hospital birth. One of my favorite things about this book are its 2 apendices: "Questions to Ask a Doctor," and "Questions to ask a Midwife."   Also, it has gloriously beautiful birth photography.

The Birth Book by William Sears
I love this book. It is absolutely the best introductory book to women making their own educated choices about birth.  It is very approachable and will not overwhelm someone who is not quite sure about natural birth.  I read a really nice review of this book, so I'll include it rather than write my own:
"Dr. William Sears gives you the good, the bad, the ugly, the best - all in very readable format and without the scare tactics. He gives you the options as well as the risks and benefits of each - no sugar coating it. There is adequate information on various childbirth options, plenty of birth stories to peruse, and no lack of information - this book helps women to become educated to their options without having an obvious bias, treating them as individual's, proactive consumers in their own healthcare options."

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
by Ina May Gaskin
Deeply inspirational, this book is Ina May saying "Women! Don't be afraid! All of us can do this, and here's how." This is a book for those who are already interested or at least on the fence about natural birth and alternative forms of care- and is not at all for the critic of natural birth (this one falls into the aforementioned category of "hippy-dippy" and could be a turn off to a serious skeptic) This book challenges conventional thought on the terror and trauma of birth and reminds us of the innate and ancient birth wisdom within all women. The most empowering and inspiring birth book I've read.  If you do read this, and like it,  I encourage you to find a copy of the long out of print "Spiritual Midwifery" by Ina May Gaskin.

Birthing From Within 
by Pam England, CNM and Rob Horowitz PhD
All about the emotional and psychological aspects of birth, it prepares a woman in that fashion for this momentous event. Many women are terrified of feeling real pain for the first time, and being unable to cope with it. Many women who've already had a baby and are expecting again are unsatisfied with their previous birth experience, they might remember feeling out of control, being pressured, treated like a child or manipulated. For women seeking to prepare themselves emotionally for a rewarding birth experience, there is NO BETTER BOOK out there to help you process your fears, regain your inner confidence and prepare for your future.  To all women approaching childbirth this book asks, "So, what are you afraid of?  Now let's deal with it!"  Again a possible turn off to a natural birth skeptic, but for those already headed down a natural birth path, this book is a GREAT guide to childbirth preparation.

And what about after birth?

The Baby Book 
by Dr William Sears M.D. and Martha Sears R.N. 
This is the "Attachment Parenting" couple....and I know that for many, those two words really cause you to raise an eyebrow, but don't let that turn you away!   Here's what one review said about the book,
" The Baby Book focuses on the essential needs of babies -- eating, sleeping, development, health, and comfort -- as it addresses the questions of greatest concern to today's parents. The Baby Book presents a practical, contemporary approach to parenting that reflects the way we live today. The Searses acknowledge that there is no one way to parent a baby, and they offer the basic guidance and inspiration you need to develop the parenting style that best suits you and your child."
 Doesn't that sound nice?

The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins, R.N.M.S.

This book is lighter on the sappy, frilly, mystical experience of breastfeeding (which is real! don't get me wrong) and heavy on real technique, positioning, charts, diagrams, medication information, and extremely legit troubleshooting guides.  This book is jam-packed with fantastic information. You'll use it over and over and over again.

For those who would like to know, every one of these books and a dozen more are available in my lending library for my doula clients (and friends!).  If you've read any of these books, let me know what you think of them!  If you have other great books that you think should be added to the list, tell us all about 'em. I'd love to know! For recommendations on other great reads, and several films on this topic, just ask!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I've got a brand new adornment!

This is an idea 5 years in the making, long deliberated over and recently with the help of Rachel K. has been put first onto paper, and then onto my skin.  :)  It's far from finished, but the outline is now complete.  We'll do all the shading over the next 2 months and when it's all done I'll post a good finished picture. For now you can just envision the whole project in your minds.      

Amy Robertson Griffin, thanks for being my snap shot taker and my moral support!  And for not laughing at my whining and wincing.  I'll be there with you when you get yours!