I will admit that my pregnant friends probably think I’m really obnoxious when it comes to books about pregnancy. I am always asking them what they are reading and giving them my recommendations. You know – because I’ve had one kid, so I know everything. Right? Nevertheless, I have actually been-there-done-that when it comes to the first pregnancy, anyways. I consumed any and all media about pregnancy that I could get my hands on. Yet, I still failed to read some of what I would now consider essential (e.g. Dr. Sears). The following list is what I consider to be essential during pregnancy (or before!). Of course, there is even more you should read once the baby arrives, but we can cover that in a future post, or you can visit our book recommendations page.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth – This was the first book my midwife recommended that I read after our first meeting. I’ll admit to you right now that I didn’t read the whole thing from cover to cover. I read the parts that were important to me. The author tells you in the beginning that she is introducing the midwifery model of care for pregnancy and childbirth. No matter what kind of birth you are planning, this book will give you the information you need to make decisions about your care. I had pretty much already made up my mind about most things by the time I picked up this book. My husband and I decided that a midwife would manage my care during pregnancy and birth, and the hospital where we delivered had certain rules and regulations they had to follow. Yet, there was still plenty of information in this book about the choices I would still have control over, despite delivering in a hospital with my midwife.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth is thorough. This book is thick, and the information contained within it is priceless. When I became pregnant, I did not know anyone who had seen a midwife for her care (at least, I didn’t think I knew anyone. It is amazing what you learn about people once you are actually pregnant). I thought the medical obstetric model was the only model of care available. This book, along with some of the other books and movies I list here completely opened my eyes to the choices I would have during pregnancy and childbirth. Even if you are seeing a doctor for your pregnancy, this book will give you information about everything that you’ll need to know for pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation – And this is the second book my midwife recommended to me. This book was written by Certified Nurse Midwife, Pam England (so yes, another book from the midwifery-model perspective). This book largely focuses on natural birth methods, but I will admit that this book also gave me the freedom to accept my birth experience, no matter how it ended. If you are the type of person who does not even want to consider the thought of something besides a natural labor, this book might not be for you. However, if you want to find a way to accept your situation no matter what (which is a good idea, in my opinion), read this book. Birthing From Within made me excited about childbirth. I looked forward to labor and delivery. I couldn’t wait, actually. This book also gave me the strength to accept being induced at 2 weeks past my due date. I so badly wanted to go into labor on my own. I had read how induction would make natural labor more difficult (though not impossible!), and I really wanted everything to progress naturally. Yet, there I was, past my due date with no sign of baby. I had absolutely no progress. I referred back to my Birthing From Within book, and I pulled myself together, and I decided that I would make the best of the experience, no matter what. I ended up with pitocin and an epidural, but you know what? I feel like I had such a great experience, even though things didn’t go as planned.
I think this book would also be beneficial to those who have had a less than desirable birth experience in the past. The book talks about overcoming your past experience. England discusses birth art and how to use birth art to think about your own birth experience. The book turns pregnancy and birth into a spiritual experience and helps the reader get in touch with what she really wants from the experience. There is also a section for dads and a section about what to expect once the baby arrives. The book also includes worksheets that help guide you through the book. If you don’t read any other book while you are pregnant, at least read this one. The Birthing From Within website has more information about the book, classes based on Birthing From Within, and articles.
The Complete Organic Pregnancy – This book is perfect for the person who is just starting down the path towards natural living (which was me before I got pregnant). This book provids step by step information on the changes you should make to live a more natural life. This book discusses everything from clean drinking water to safe make-up to giving birth naturally. It covers everything. If you’ve been at the whole organic/natural living thing for a while, you can probably skip this book. However, this book is perfect for the person who wants to live a healthier life for her baby but doesn’t know where to start. You’ll learn about avoiding toxins in fish, natural remedies for pregnancy symptoms, and how to avoid toxins in your home, among many other things.
The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and Updated Edition) – The entire line of the Sears Library is great, but I think this book should be on the bookshelf of every parent-to-be (and parent!). The book introduces you to attachment parenting, and then it briefly discusses pregnancy, labor and delivery. The majority of the book addresses medical and developmental issues associated with babies and young toddlers just like all of the other baby books out there, but this one offers an attachment parenting perspective throughout the book. Even if you don’t completely subscribe to the attachment parenting theories (but you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t!), this book is complete in its medical and developmental information. A friend of mine gave me this book when Gavin was a few weeks old, and honestly, I could have cried as I read it because I finally felt like someone understood my perspective on being a mother and offered solutions that I could agree with. This book shows you how you can address your babies needs by following your instincts.
Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent – I didn’t read this book until recently, but I wish I had read this before I even had a baby. This book shows that much of what our culture believe are truths about raising babies (e.g. colic, schedules, sleeping alone, crying, etc.) are actually culturally-based norms. This book examines other cultures and how other cultures raise babies. Although the author often withholds judgement, she does clearly show that our way in the U.S. isn’t always the best way. She shows how frequently babies in some culture nurse (!Kung San babies nurse an average of every 13 minutes!), the importance of human contact, and how co-sleeping is the norm in other cultures (yet SIDS and suffocation are not). I especially like how she discusses the biological evolution of mothering. She talks about babywearing, which is interesting for those of us who love to wear our babies. She also discusses “parenting goals.” She talks about how western parenting goals often focus around being independent, and this book encouraged me to examine my own parenting goals and how they fit within my own society. I will admit to you that my undergrad degree is in anthropology, so this book really appeals to me, but I truly believe that it will appeal to a wide audience that is interested in research and parenting. I think the most important thing you take away from this book is that there is more than one way to be a good parent, and I feel that this is crucial for every new parent to understand.
So That’s What They’re For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide 3rd edition – Meredith already reviewed this book, so I will just link you to her post. She recommends this book because it provides a little bit of humor and entertainment along with solid breastfeeding advice. Read through it while you are pregnant, and then consult it again once your baby arrives.
That is a lot to read during those hectic 9 months, but if you have time for a few more, these are a few others we think are worth reading:
Anything by Ina May Gaskin. She is the midwife of all midwives, and her books are informative and positive. I loved reading the birth stories in Spiritual Midwifery, and Meredith recommends Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth for the information and birth stories. Ina May Gaskin also has a breastfeeding book, Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding. I haven’t read it, but it is worth looking into. I liked The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International Book) for breastfeeding information, and I consulted it regularly during the first few months of Gavin’s life. I also read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition, which is a great guide to natural childbirth. It helps if your husband is on-board with this method or if you have a doula. Otherwise, I found Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation was more empowering. If you want to read up on vaccines before your baby is born, The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child (Sears Parenting Library) will give you all of the information you need to make an informed decision. The author, Robert Sears (not to be confused with William Sears or Jim Sears, but all are in the same family), also offers an alternative vaccination schedule for those who are not comfortable with the traditional vaccination schedule. And finally, if you want to read about infant sleep before the little night owl arrives, The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night will give you a head start. No, there isn’t much you can do about newborn sleep, but the author, Elizabeth Pantley, does have some tips.
The Business of Being Born – This movie was such an eye-opening movie for both my husband and I. Before I got pregnant, my husband was pretty much dead set on a hospital birth with a doctor because he thought that it was the safest and most reliable way to have a baby. Then he watched this movie and said, “Okay, I think you should see a midwife for your pregnancy.” To be honest, this movie scared me about a going through my pregnancy with a doctor (and rightfully so). The trailer explains the premise of the movie better than I can, but essentially, this movie explains how in the U.S., birth is treated as a medical event and it is dictated by business decisions. One of the scenes from this movie stood out to me throughout my pregnancy. It was a scene of a woman in labor who had been induced and had gotten an epidural. She had an oxygen mask on her face. This is an image that stuck with me and was a big motivation for me to try for a natural labor. Ironically (or was it a self-fulfilled prophesy, I don’t know), I became this woman. Twenty or thirty minutes after I received my epidural, they lost my baby’s heartbeat. All of the doctors and my midwife had just walked out of my room, but the nurse was still in there. She and my husband had to rock me back and forth while they searched for the heartbeat. The nurse ran out of the room and yelled into the hallway for the doctors and midwives to return and find the heartbeat. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised in the least (nor was I all that scared for some reason. I just felt like they would figure it out) because I knew the chances of something like this happening. My husband, on the other hand, was terrified. They did find the heartbeat and they put an oxygen mask on me, which I kept on throughout the duration of my labor (and maybe the delivery? I can’t remember). Anyways, the movie was oh-so right about my pitocin-induced/epidural hospital delivery. This movie is worth watching (and then you’ll read The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth so you will know more about what to expect), and it is really worth showing your husband, especially if he is convinced the hospital and a doctor are the best and only option for your pregnancy.
Mothering: This is the magazine for parents who lean towards natural living and attachment parenting.
Dr. Sears: Medical and parenting information from the family that institutionalized attachment parenting.
Kellymom: Up-to-date research that focuses on breastfeeding, but offers other evidence-based information on other parenting topics, too.
Le Leche League: Breastfeeding information.
Penn Medicine Pregnancy Center: When I was pregnant, I was obsessed with this tool that shows your baby growing week by week. However, this website also offers a lot of information about pregnancy and babies.
Midwife.org – find a midwife: Provides a directory to midwives in your area.
Cloth diaper links – We will have our own cloth diaper page soon, but until then, I couldn’t decide which one I liked the best, so here are a few to choose from: Resources at Jillian’s Drawers, Diapering Basics at Pin Stripes and Polka Dots (I especially like their detergent guide), and Diaper Pin, which offers cloth diaper reviews from parents.
Dona: Find a doula or read more about doulas.
SafeFetus: You should always check with your healthcare provider about any medications you take, but you can double check at this website. I’ve often received conflicting advice about medications. This website helps me make the decision myself.
Nursing Freedom: Breastfeeding in public (if you want to breastfeed for a while, this will likely become an important issue for you), breastfeeding laws, and ways you can take action on issues related to breastfeeding.