What to read during pregnancy
February 5, 2008 § 7 Comments
Here’s a list I put together of my favorite books to read during pregnancy. I’ve also added parenting books.
I’ve been re-reading Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. The first part is all birth stories. I had forgotten a lot of them. Bilingual papi and I read a bunch to each other during my first pregnancy and here I am again reading them. They are so energizing. I can’t help but cry during most of them. Especially when the laboring woman surrenders to the waves, the rushes, and finds herself in an almost different world, separate but part of the whole. It’s really an amazing experience to give birth and a truly special thing when you can hear someone’s birth story.
The purpose of these positive birth stories is to help pregnant women think positive about childbirth. The stories don’t make labor seem like a picnic; they do show some of the many ways that labor can happen but it does focus on the fact that many women have done it and many more can. Yes. You can, too. Ina May promotes unmedicated childbirth and the other midwives she works with perform very few interventions. Their outcomes are amazing.
On the 25th of January, the Chicago Tribune came out with an article regarding the legalization of midwives in Illinois. The article was fine but it points out the fear that our society has garnered through our recent history. In the article, the American Medical Association chairman is being quoted as saying, “We are adamant that anyone providing medical care be appropriately and adequately educated and trained to provide the services they perform,” Dr. Edward Langston, AMA board chairman, said Thursday. “Any medical care provided by a practitioner beyond their experience and training is unwarranted and puts patients at risk.” Then there’s Dr. Rodney C. Osborn, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, who said: “Without any training or education, these folks are suggesting that birthing is not a medical procedure, which it is. They are not trained to provide any emergency care to mothers or babies, and there is a lot of potential for injury and death for both.”
In a timeline from Midwifery Today, the leading publication on midwifery, states that when male doctors first started coming onto the scene, they “were usually not educated. Books that were popular at the time were on self-help measures, common-sense medicine.” Then it tells us that in
1765: Dr. William Shippen opened the first formal training for midwives. Midwives’ beliefs that childbirth is normal and inherently within the domain of female competence may have prevented women from seeking formal training, especially from men. Few women were literate, many could not afford schools, and the Puritan philosophy did not encourage education for women.
This was an age when the only people who got a formal education were men, so you can see why many women got their training through other midwives. These midwives are known as lay midwives. The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) describes what a lay midwife is.
The term “Lay Midwife” has been used to designate an uncertified or unlicensed midwife who was educated through informal routes such as self-study or apprenticeship rather than through a formal program. This term does not necessarily mean a low level of education, just that the midwife either chose not to become certified or licensed, or there was no certification available for her type of education (as was the fact before the Certified Professional Midwife credential was available). Other similar terms to describe uncertified or unlicensed midwives are traditional midwife, traditional birth attendant, granny midwife and independent midwife.
There are many more types of midwives. There’s the Direct-Entry Midwife (“an independent practitioner educated in the discipline of midwifery through self-study, apprenticeship, a midwifery school, or a college- or university-based program distinct from the discipline of nursing. A direct-entry midwife is trained to provide the Midwives Model of Care to healthy women and newborns throughout the childbearing cycle primarily in out-of-hospital settings.”), a Certified Midwife (“an individual educated in the discipline of midwifery, who possesses evidence of certification according to the requirements of the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Certified Midwife (CM) is also used in certain states as a designation of certification by the state or midwifery organization.”), a Certified Professional Midwife (“is a knowledgeable, skilled and professional independent midwifery practitioner who has met the standards for certification set by the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) and is qualified to provide the midwifery model of care. The CPM is the only international credential that requires knowledge about and experience in out-of-hospital settings.”), a Licensed Midwife (“a midwife who is licensed to practice in a particular jurisdiction (usually a state or province.”), and the Certified- Nurse Midwife, who practice mostly in hospital settings, “is an individual educated in the two disciplines of nursing and midwifery, who possesses evidence of certification according to the requirements of the American College of Nurse-Midwives.”)
I can see why most of Americans don’t trust midwives or that we’d rather have the backup needed in case of an emergency. Our fears of childbirth are propagated by comments like Dr. Rodney C. Osborn who, as I quoted above said, “Without any training or education, these folks are suggesting that birthing is not a medical procedure, which it is. They are not trained to provide any emergency care to mothers or babies, and there is a lot of potential for injury and death for both.” Midwives will care for women who are low-risk. They will send a woman who is a high-risk birth to a hospital but they may offer to be there with the laboring woman to provide support during childbirth. I remember when I was preparing for my first home birth with bilingual baby, I had to take really good care of myself so that I could “pass” certain expectations the practice had in order to have a home birth. If there had been any signs of being a high-risk patient, they would have redirected our efforts to a hospital. In a low-risk situation, the outcomes tend to be great. But medical heads are suggesting that midwives don’t have training and that choosing a midwife equals putting your baby at risk.
In recorded history the majority of drugs have come from doctors who didn’t want their wives to be in pain during labor. Of course, having a miracle drug did seem great at first but the outcomes for the baby have become apparent and more and more people are turning to those professionals who will not succumb to offering you drugs during labor. I have to add that midwives will offer pain relief but it will be in other ways (helping the woman change positions, warm compresses, massage, and herbs).
Getting back to what to read during pregnancy, I think we could have more positive pregnancies, better outcomes and a more positive view our our bodies and selves as mothers if we read and heard positive birth stories (and avoided negative birth stories), surrounded ourselves with women who trusted our capacity to have an unmedicated birth and were encouraged to share our birth stories with others (no matter how it turned out). Telling our birth story can be strength building, whether we had a home birth or a hospital birth, vaginal or c-section. Every birth has parts that we would want to repeat and parts we wouldn’t.
So, regardless of where you intend to give birth, I highly recommend (if this is the ONLY book you read during pregnancy) you read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. She gives you the positive birth stories in the first section and unravels tests you may be offered during pre-natal care, all of which you may be able to refuse – but don’t take a rude practitioners response to mean you should have every test done. (Sometimes they are just rude.) Ina May is a nationally recognized midwife. She works from a village called The Farm in Tennessee where women and girls have a positive view of pregnancy and birth, outcomes are incredible and few women are transported to the nearby hospital. Even when transported, Ina May has a wonderful relationship with the doctors and, unlike most of America, they respect each other and want to learn from each other’s craft.
She will not give you fear-based information, like What to Expect When Your Expecting, but you may feel the urge to have an unmedicated birth and you may even feel the urge to “elope” to the Farm and give birth in one of their birthing cottages.
**A quick note (and maybe more on this later):
A great book for those that will support the laboring woman at the birth is The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. This is a new edition of what is known in our home as the birth bible with expanded sections, including more on doulas.