So you’re pregnant. And you’re trying to figure out all the things. How big is baby this week? What are the stages of labor? What kind of exercise should I do, and what food should I eat (or not eat)? And on and on. You may google lots of these questions, and ask friends, but you also might want to read a few books. At least I did. I read a few, not a ton. As with many things in America, there is no shortage of information and writing on the topic, it’s just sorting through what you do and don’t want to read, and from there, what advice you do or don’t want to take.
Here are summaries of the books I read during pregnancy, and how I found them useful.
Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. I think of this as a no-nonsense, straightforward manual about pregnancy, labor and delivery, and newborn care. It’s not something you necessarily read straight through, but it has a great breadth of useful information. Week by week summaries of baby’s growth, how your body may be changing, what emotions you may be experiencing, and what you may want to think about at that time (e.g., childbirth classes are covered in month 6). Numerous facets about labor and delivery — how your body prepares, the stages of labor, and detailed information about cesarean birth. And newborn facts, care, and issues you may need to walk through with your baby (e.g., jaundice), plus postpartum care for mom. Plus full chapters on topics like genetic screening and prenatal testing, breastfeeding, pain relief options during childbirth, and contraception after delivery, among others. Like I said, a bit of a manual. I found it very helpful, and would highly recommend having a copy on hand.
Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. To many, this may seem like a very hippie-crunchy-granola book. After all, it’s written by a midwife who started a commune in rural Tennessee in the 70s and taught herself to deliver babies, and where several thousand babies have been delivered over the last 40 years in as natural/home-birth a way as possible. So the underlying philosophy may or may not be for you (and I can’t say it was all for me, though I lean towards natural childbirth). But what I liked most about this book were the dozens of birth stories- over 100 pages of them. It was inspiring and empowering to read story after story of women bringing their babies into the world. I think it helped me have more peace, as well as confidence that I could do it. Further, there is plenty of useful information about prenatal care, labor, and delivery as well, particularly if you’re interested in a natural birth and reducing the medicalization of pregnancy and birth. Also noteworthy, it helped me think through and reframe the pain involved in childbirth in ways that other books did not.
Bringing up Bebe. This is a memoir written by an American woman married to a British man, and they live in Paris. As they had their first child, they navigated raising said child in France and observed how parenting and child care works. And she wrote a book about it. It’s actually more about parenting than pregnancy. But oddly enough, this was the first book I read while pregnant, mostly because I wanted to get outside of the hyperactive American culture of stressing about every.little.thing. I liked it simply because it provided a different perspective, and helped us step outside our culture a bit to think about parenting. The basic idea it all comes back to is that the French welcome a baby into the family as part of the family, rather than the (typical) American way of the baby coming and the whole family life then revolves around the child. Some of the topics covered are day care, breastfeeding, sleep, and eating. So at the very least, it got us thinking about a variety of topics, and served as a good conversation starter.
The Birth Partner. This book is written for ‘dads, doulas, and other labor companions.’ My husband read a good portion of it, and I skimmed a few sections. It’s essentially a manual about labor and delivery, but geared towards the individual(s) supporting the woman. In contrast to a typical childbirth class or book, which is geared (understandably) toward what the pregnant woman will go through. So it covers a lot of information you might get elsewhere, but has sections like “how you can help in this situation,” or “what your partner may be feeling at this juncture.” My husband found it helpful, and even though the book itself is not particularly well written or edited, it helped add a few tools to his toolbox in supporting me through labor and delivery.
That’s it. Those are all the books I read while pregnant. And I didn’t even really read the last one in full. It’s somewhat ironic, because I thought I would be the person who read a dozen books while pregnant. But in the end, I felt that a focused effort (plus my own fair share of googling and asking friends questions, let’s be honest!) was the route I wanted to take. Hope this gives you a snapshot of a few options you have.
What did you read while pregnant, and what did you find helpful and unhelpful about it?