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
"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
Birthing From Within
by Pam England, CNM and Rob Horowitz PhD
And what about after birth?
The Baby Book
by Dr William Sears M.D. and Martha Sears R.N.
" 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.
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!