I’ve noticed something about pregnancy books, which is that being mainstream or natural will affect what they talk about. The mainstream camp will spend a lot more time on the pregnancy, what to eat and wear, dealing with relatives and heartburn. For labor, they’ll talk about the three stages, and tell you that modern birth is safe and to do what your doctor says. The natural camp will of course tell you what to avoid during pregnancy, but basically tell you to pay attention to what your body needs. They will spend the bulk of the time on labor and birth – preparing for it physically and emotionally, what it feels like from your perspective, the side effects and risks of common medical interventions and well as the effectiveness of various non-medical pain relief techniques, various labor and birth positions and their benefits. Both because no medical intervention is risk-free and because I’ve known people who decided in advance on an epidural and then had it not work for them, I recommend that everyone read about birth from the natural perspective whatever their plans for labor. I’m also including books for fathers and soon-to-be older siblings, for hopefully obvious reasons. [Edited 2/13/09]: because more of my friends are having second or more children now, who need their own books, as do fathers. Links are to my original reviews, where available.
How to Have a Baby and Still Live in the Real World by Jane Symons This is a mostly mainstream book, but being British, appears to consider things like homeopathy and herbs mainstream and includes advice on them. I fell in love with its keen sense of humor (though it isn’t a humor book) and retro illustrations, as well as it assuming that you, the mother-to-be, are an intelligent woman. My midwife would want you to skip the labor and birth section.
The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger
This one comes recommended by the midwife, as well as several knowledgeable friends. I liked it as well, though I first read it rather late in my own pregnancy. [Edited 2/13/09 to add:] Sheila Kitzinger is one of Britain’s foremost birth experts and activists. And if you ask why all the Brits, I can only say that from what I’ve read, Britain puts a whole lot more effort into making birth safe than we do here in the States
Maternal Fitness by Julie Tupler There are a lot of prenatal fitness workouts out there. Most of them, as far as I can tell, are aimed at maintaining overall fitness without hurting yourself. Maternal Fitness is designed to strengthen you specifically for childbirth – “The marathon of labor”, as Tupler calls it. Tupler, an RN, went so far as to become a doula to follow up on her trainees during their labors.
The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook by Cathe Olson I know I’ve mentioned this book before. I’ll just add that it has lists of which recipes are best for which trimester, as well as postpartum and nursing, including lots and lots of smoothies and teas?
I think it took me about until the third trimester to be ready to read about this the first time around. Here are my absolute favorites. I have read other great books on birth, but these are the ones good to read while actually pregnant. These are in order of importance (and it’s fascinating to see how my opinions have changed since I first reviewed some of these.)
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin If you’re feeling unsure about the whole labor and birth thing, read this book. The first section is birth stories, lots of birth stories, from hospital and home, and it is inspiring. Ina May is a renowned midwife, whose community in rural Kentucky has an astonishing c-section rate of .1 percent, including the high-risk cases they send straight to the hospital. I didn’t experience quite the orgasmic birth she talks about, but hey, it’s worth shooting for.
Birthing from Within by Pam England This is a book about a birth system, like Lamaze or Bradley, but focused on you the parents and your internal reactions to things rather than breathing or nutrition. England starts with art therapy to help you face your fears about birth, continues with really hands-on pain techniques, and finishes with techniques and lists of questions to help with good communication with hospital staff. This has reached classic status, and you can look for a class near you.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer As I wrote in my original review, most books (and doctors) assume that you will decide for yourself whether you want a natural or standard hospital birth. But how are you supposed to cut through the hype on both sides to decide that? Goer talks through each standard medical procedure, with factual information backed by lots of studies, cited in the text and together in the back. Though my original review said for women only, I’ve met fathers who like to recommend this book to other men because of the scientific, fact-based approach.
The Expectant Father by Armin Brott This is the one my love used. This is aimed at the Sensitive Involved Daddy, with short section month-by-month on what’s going on with baby and mother, and longer sections on Daddy’s emotional state and things to do to stay involved.
Hit the Ground Crawling by Greg Bishop I haven’t read this yet, but it’s by dads for dads, and come recommended by Mothering Magazine. Recent author blog entries on Amazon were talking about how not to lose your partner in the Mommy Vortex. Bishop is the founder of Boot Camp for New Dads.
There are a lot of picture books for children about new siblings, many of them assuming that older sib wants to sell new baby. While these can be helpful if that’s how your child really feels, these books start with a positive approach.
We Have a Baby by Cathryn Falwell This is a beautiful book for the young toddler with a new sibling. Simple text paired with bright illustrations lovingly illustrate a family taking care of a new baby. Illustrations such as Mama, toddler and nursing baby all snuggled in a chair together make it clear that a new baby means more love to go around.
Baby on the Way by William and Martha Sears. Illustrated by Renee Adriani The preschooler or early grade schooler will likely notice some changes when Mom is pregnant. This book cheerfully addresses changes in Mom, like needing to eat, drink and sleep more, as well general getting ready for the baby. A companion book, What Baby Needs deals with matters after baby’s arrival.
Welcome with Love by Jenni Overend. Illustrated by Julie Vivas Acclaimed Australian artist Vivas illustrated this outstanding story of a family birthing a baby at home. If you’re planning a home birth, this is one of very few books for children on the topic. Even if you just have a curious child, this book shows the actual birth process beautifully and in much more detail than any other I’ve seen. This is first-person from the point of one of the younger members of a large family, all joyfully welcoming the newest addition.