When I found out that I was pregnant, I had no idea what to expect. I was never the person who fantasized about having children. I knew very little about what to expect in pregnancy and I knew absolutely nothing about birth. The two things I knew for sure were: babies are born in hospitals, and I will probably get stretch marks. So, when I saw those two lines, I immediately started searching the internet for answers. I feel like there’s a lot of information on pregnancy and birth but it’s often very biased towards the standard medical model of care. Everything seemed like a snippet from WebMD. I would go to a website and see a question like, “How do I manage pain during labor?” and the response would be, “Ask your doctor what medications are available”. There I was, celebrating this unique miracle inside of me and I had to read responses and statements that seemed cold and regimented. This was such a cherished moment in my life, and I didn’t want to blindly leave it in the hands of someone else. I felt that I needed to dig deeper and increase my understanding of pregnancy and childbirth. I went on a search for better resources and found a few books that completely changed my worldview and opened my eyes to a whole new birth world. Here are my top 5 MUST READ books on pregnancy and childbirth. 1. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin This was the first book I read after finding out that I was pregnant. A friend of mine passed it along to me as a gift during the first weeks of my pregnancy. The author, Ina May Gaskin, is an American midwife who wrote this book after 30 years of practicing midwifery. I loved this book so much because it empowers women in their ability to birth naturally and safely without medical intervention. She placed a heavy focus on natural physiological birth and how it is largely impacted by the birthing environment. It dove deeper into the processes of labor in a way that I had never even considered before. She also includes a section solely devoted to sharing other women’s positive, unmedicated birth experiences. You can check it out here. 2. Birth Without Fear by January Harshe The funny thing about this book making the list is that I found it by accident. I was on Instagram, and I saw a video of a doula giving book recommendations and she quickly mentioned reading Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Reed. I typed it into google and saw that there was an audiobook version. As I started listening, I realized that I had purchased “Birth Without Fear”, which is a totally different book. Blame pregnancy brain? It ended up working out in my favor because this is also a great book. This book is a judgement-free zone. The author shares stories that are sensitive and deeply personal as she discusses pregnancy, birth, and postpartum life. She did a great job discussing how you can have an empowered birth no matter the circumstance. The emphasis is on being educated enough to roll with the punches and feel good even if/when your plans change. Her willingness to be vulnerable helps to drive home the message that we are all imperfect and our births will likely be the same way. You can check it out here. 3. Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize
I picked this one specifically for the spiritual women in the room. I was amazed by this story. As the title suggests, this book is about experiencing a birth that defies nature. In the author’s case this essentially meant a quick and painless childbirth. The author and her husband share stories about their own personal experiences with supernatural birth along with testimonies from other people with similar experiences. According to the author, these types of births are accomplished through having a solid faith in God’s promises. As a Christian woman, I loved hearing about the power of prayer and unshakable faith. With that being said, if you are not a religious person, this might be one to skip! You can check it out here. 4. The Fourth Trimester by Amy Einhorn I had never heard this term prior to speaking with my doula at my 36-week appointment. She said, “It’s time to prepare for the fourth trimester” and we began talking about three months after the baby is born. It’s that time when you and your baby are figuring each other out and learning how to live as two individuals. There’s so much that happens in the fourth trimester, but it doesn’t get much focus. This was a such an easy and fun book to read! It is broken down into purposefully “convenient to read” chapters that detail various moments in the fourth trimester. These moments include “witch hour” crying and sleep deprivation. I love how there is humor added into some of those very difficult moments of the newborn stage. It provides comic relief while also touching on very important and informational topics. Definitely worth the read. 5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Okay you got me; this is not a pregnancy-related book! I had to throw this in here for two reasons. I DID read it during pregnancy and it was such a great read! It tells the story of two young magicians who wind up in a twisted game of fate. There is magic, wonder and love sprinkled beautifully onto its pages. I found myself unable to stop reading at the end of each chapter. While all the books on my list are incredibly helpful, it’s good to take time for fun and enjoy your pregnancy. This story is whimsical and suspenseful; a perfect combination to get lost in for hours. If you’re looking for something to take your mind off reality for a little bit, definitely check out The Night Circus.