Thursday, November 6, 2014

To All The Pregnant Ladies

So, you're pregnant, and you want a book to read about it?

Way back four years ago or so when I got pregnant for my first time, I was scared and excited and completely ignorant about everything that was going to happen, so off I went to my local library to search for whatever they had on "Pregnancy". I think the very first book I checked out was What to Expect When You're Expecting, and if you want to know physically what is happening to you at every stage, and freak yourself out reading about all the warning signs of things that could possibly go wrong, and want a very ADA approved list of foods to eat and avoid, this is a great book to start with. Go for it. Very safe and not controversial at all.

Also kind of completely useless when it comes to preparing yourself for labor (at least it was in my case).

This second time around, I wised up a bit and rather than ask my library, I asked my friends for recommendations for good pregnancy books, especially about labor and delivery. My good friend Sarah really came through for me, and let me borrow her entire pregnancy library. So here are my thoughts and recommendations on some good/interesting books to read while you are pregnant.

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan

Check out my full review of this book here. So be prepared for some pretty crunchy-granola stuff, but I completely recommend this one with a grain of salt. She spends a lot of time talking about how labor can be painless and even enjoyable. Yeah, no. That was certainly not my experience. But all of the advice about mentally and emotionally preparing, the relaxation techniques, all of that is golden. If you can, take the class. I've only ever read the book, but this is by far the most helpful for practical ways to endure a natural labor.

Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz

Okay, if you thought HypnoBirthing sounded fringe and crunchy-granola, this one is even beyond that. This book is more like therapy for the pregnant woman. There's all sorts of talk about exploring your emotions and creating pregnancy art. Yeah, I don't know much about therapy, and it sounded pretty weird to me at first. There's all sorts of art pictures from actual students that took her classes, pictures of baby bumps and female bodies and vaginas and stranger stuff. The art is all about helping women (and men) process their emotions about pregnancy. I couldn't bring myself to actually paint a picture, but I did try some journaling using the recommended questions because I really did suffer some trauma from my first pregnancy, and that was a nice therapeutic experience. This one is definitely interesting, but also very weird and not conventional at all, so just be prepared for that.

Active Birth by Janet Balaskas

This one is less touchy-feely, more medically mainstream. Sort of. The premise here is that women should be active during labor, moving into different positions, delivering in a squatting position, that kind of thing. It goes over all sorts of exercises to prepare for labor, all the positions to labor in, etc. At first I thought this one was great and very helpful. One of the major reasons I didn't want an epidural was so I could labor in different positions if I wanted to. Then I went through labor without an epidural and discovered changing positions was the last thing I wanted to do. In fact, what I wanted most desperately was to NOT MOVE at all. I remembered all the pictures and stories of women laboring in standing positions in this book, and I thought How? How? How? I barely had the strength to breathe, I don't know how any woman has the strength to labor in a standing position. So, this one ended up not being my thing, but I still recommend it. Warning though, there are some very graphic pictures of completely nude women in the process of laboring. It's not sexualized at all, but I still found myself skipping over the pages with photographs a lot. It's just a lot of naked woman.

The Gift of Giving Life by a collection of LDS women

By far my favorite of any of the books I read this pregnancy, this one is not so much a How-To, but more a series of essays and birth stories reflecting on the spiritual side of pregnancy and birth. Yes, all the authors are LDS and they write for an LDS audience familiar with the doctrine, but I think this one could translate well to any Christian faith. Just a note of caution to even the LDS readers, the first section was a bit rough for me, and I almost didn't continue reading (the first few essays talk about Heavenly Mother, and they delve into some very questionable grey area that is NOT mainstream doctrine), but I'm glad I pushed on because nearly everything else about this book was completely beautiful. With my first pregnancy, I thought a lot about the physical preparation of bringing a new baby into the world, but I never thought about spiritually preparing for this experience. I loved the way they compared labor and delivery to the atonement, and using the power of the atonement to help you through your hardest moments in labor. Also, I really appreciated the section on meditation. The birth stories are fantastic too. I love birth stories, and there are hundreds of birth stories in this book. Honestly, I think reading all these birth stories was more helpful during my own labor than any other book I read, because the thought that kept me going was if all those other women survived, I will survive too. I do want to reiterate that this book does not come from church leadership and should not be considered church doctrine (with 90% of the stories being about natural labor, someone could walk away from this book feeling like they are sinning if they get an epidural), but there is some beautiful stuff in here for every pregnant woman (I do NOT recommend this book for those suffering from infertility). I want to reread this book with each pregnancy, which is why I now own it. And I plan on giving it to all the pregnant women in my life.

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