Monday, November 26, 2012

The best books about birth

I sometimes get emails from friends and family asking me to recommend books about childbirth. Here is my short list of books worth picking up.

A Midwife's StoryA Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lovely book with a very genuine and earnest voice. I'm not sure I would be entirely comfortable reading this book if I were a die-hard hospital birther, but on the other hand I think it has the potential to change some minds, or soften some viewpoints, and that's a good thing. This book's peek at the lives of both a midwife and the Amish is fascinating.

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard TimesThe Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is like a less tidy version of Baby Catcher. The stories in The Midwife aren't quite as pat and refined as Baby Catcher's, which they shouldn't be, considering the differences in time and place (post-war East End London vs. modern-day California). But the writing in The Midwife is slightly clunkier, too, which makes the birthing and medical scenes abrupt and visceral.

The stories in this book are at once inspiring, heartbreaking, nauseating, disturbing, and entertaining. But prepare to be shocked - midwifery and medicine among the very poor in 1950s London was a messy business and the author tells it like it is (was).

(Just a note - I somehow ended up with the large-type edition of this book, which broke up the reading experience somewhat. I'll have to read the regular edition someday and see if I like it better. But obviously I liked it quite a bit as it was.)

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth: Updated With New MaterialIna May's Guide to Childbirth: Updated With New Material by Ina May Gaskin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's a lot of good stuff in here but it still comes off as crunchy at times.

Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children FirstBorn in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First by Marsden Wagner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was kind of shocking and negative through most of it, with a laundry list of horrifying anecdotes. The author redeems himself at the end with real, concrete suggestions for improving the maternity care situation in this country, but still.

Also, I'm not sure this lady is the one you want as your poster child for a woman's right to refuse a C-section. I'm just sayin'.

In short, this was like the man-version of Pushed, but with a lot more hate for OBs. Like, a LOT more hate. If you had to choose one book to read on this subject, I would recommend Pushed or Birth over this one for sure.

Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity CarePushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I already had the blogorrhea about this one a few years back.

This book is THE BEST. If you're only going to read one book about birth, let it be this one. Please.

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern MidwifeBaby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What I learned from this book? How to give birth naturally. If I have a second favorite (behind Pushed), it's this one. Be warned, though: the last few chapters are not a happy ending and it could be distressing if you read it while in the last stages of pregnancy.

Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive RevolutionPandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution by Robin Marantz Henig

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good for background about in-vitro fertilization.

Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are BornBirth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book changed my life.

Yay! Now when someone asks for a recommendation, I can just point them to this post.


Glenda The Good said...

I sort of feel like I should write my blog in response to this because frankly I'm sick of writing blogs right now but I do want to say a few things. One, I loved Baby Catcher. Great book. Two, have you ever watched the show The Midwives on PBS. Gives you a little taste into 1950s London, fabulous show. Three, last night I was watching More Business to Being Born, the vbac edition. I don't know why. I'm not really at this moment planning on having kids although I guess the fact that I was watching this says maybe I'm not ready to say that just yet. It was interesting. Apparently the chances of having a rupture aren't nearly as bad as I thought they were and of having a catastrophic rupture are even less, something like 1 in 2000. That being said my husband would never sign off on that. 1) because he was on call in the NICU a night one happened and the outcome was horrifying. 2) The cut I had birthing Cheetah makes my chances higher, darn that baby, in such a hurry to get out and then hiding. 3) If I did have another I would definitely be getting my tubes tied, because that is it. So it would be a c-section for me. And that was not so fun, so really maybe I'm just done with the whole thing :) Four, I looked up that lady and I guess they dropped the charge to child endangerment because she had drugs in alcohol in her system. So it sounds like she really was a mess. But it's kind of too bad she wasn't because really I think this would have otherwise been a great case to bring before a higher court. I mean personally I would have just done the c-section but the idea that the state seems to think that they should be able to force you to have a surgery, well I have a problem with that!

Alanna said...

Great list! I've read a bunch of these, but I'm excited for some new ones! (I'm expecting my 4th in March and have had all sorts of crazy experiences-- emergency c-section, accidental home VBAC, mean doctors screaming at me, and now we're finally hoping for a planned home birth with a midwife-- so I'm really into all this birth stuff!) I would add that The Big Book of Birth by Erica Lyon is a great book to prepare women for labor. It has very realistic descriptions of what each stage of labor is all about and gives TONS of options and advice for managing pain and understanding what all your choices will be without sounding preachy or telling you what to do. Which is pretty rare these days!

Holly Mayer said...

The only on on your list I have read is the midwife story, which i enjoyed but didnt love.
My favorite book about birth is, Ina May's guide to childbirth.
I am due with my 3rd in February and am looking forward to a third hypnobabie, natural birth.

Lisa Lou said...

If you're interested in reading a birth book with a religious note, I'd recommend "The Gift of Giving Life." ( I personally liked the sections about how to have a spiritual c-section and the comparisons of pregnancy and birth to the atonement.

Aimee said...

I also have been meaning to mention the PBS series "Call The Midwife" which is based on Jennifer Worth's memoir. It is really great. I LOVE the books Pushed, Birth and Ina May's Guide to childbirth. Ina May's new book Birth Matters is a very informative one as well. For certain people, Birthing from Within by Pam England is very good, although it wasn't for me. Since we are talking about birth, pregnancy comes first and I love The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Jill Romm, Sacred Pregnancy by Anni Daulter. I always love your recommendations for books and since this is a very special topic to me, I really love this post, even though I have read most of the books already!

Jen said...

Pushed changed my life.


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