Pregnancy and Childbirth Books on My Bookshelf

I’m pregnant with baby #7. And I am working on teaching free childbirth classes in my community. So I had every single childbirth book I own scattered across my dining room table. I often have people ask for recommendations, so I figured I’d share that particular “bookshelf” and tell you my thoughts on each, in case you were interested. 


*In no particular order. Post contains affiliate links.*

1. Holy Labor: How Childbirth Shapes a Woman’s Soul

By Aubrey Smith

A really encouraging and insightful look into the theology that goes along with pregnancy and childbirth. Very eye opening and brings even more meaning into this part of your life as you better understand how pregnancy and birth reflect our God.  I very, very highly recommend this book. 

2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

By Ina May Gaskin

Full of birth stories and real practical advice for natural childbirth. Helps you more fully see the role women play in bringing forth life as well as gives you the practical tips and tricks of the birthing trade. Kind of a substitute for that passed down from woman to woman information that we have lost in our modern culture. Most of the birth stories are very “hippie”. And some of it definitely has a new age vibe to it.  
3. The Birth Book

By William Sears, M.D. And Martha Sears, R.N.

Very informative book on birth. A little dated. No frills. No fear mongering. Just information.

4. The Lord of Birth

By Jennifer Vanderlaan

A devotion for pregnant women. Now, this one goes a little far out there. It definitely isn’t for everyone. I think Holy Labor is much better. But this book does have some good reminders, if you can take what helps you and leave the rest. If this statement bothers you: planning to have an epidural in a normal labor is lack of faith on your part because you aren’t trusting God to get you through. You should skip this book. The book is really short, only 70 pages, with a lot of breaks in there for questions and such.

5. Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

By Tina Cassidy

If you are really hormonal and sensitive, this may not be best to read while you are pregnant as some of the information is really disturbing. (Human history is always tainted with the disturbing.) It really isn’t just a book for moms, but anyone interested in the history of how we give birth. It definitely makes you view birth choices in a different, more cultural, less “right and wrong” sort of way. Understanding where we have been and why some things still are the way they are. Very interesting, and slightly disturbing, read.

6. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth

By Henci Goer

As an information junkie, this book is one of my favorites. I have read and reread and rereread this book. I’m surprised my copy is still holding up. It is the science behind childbirth choices. Laid out in a pros and cons sort of way with all sources cited so you make your own birth decisions. Yes, the author does give her opinions at times, but the evidence backs those up. Extremely informative. Extremely helpful.

7. The Natural Pregnancy Book

By Avila Jill Romm

This is a really helpful introductory guide to having a natural pregnancy. What things should I really be avoiding? What nutrition should I really be focusing on? Is red clover safe during pregnancy? What can I naturally do for heartburn? Those are the sorts of questions this book answers. I even have mine all tabbed for quick and easy reference.

8. Your Best Birth

By Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein

You’ve seen The Business of Being Born movies, so you decide to grab the book. Good call. This is like a dumbed down version of Henci Goer’s book. It is much more for the average person who doesn’t want all the studies cited and statistics quoted. It gives you your options, pros and cons, and you make your choices. I mean, let’s be honest, you’ve seen the movie, clearly there is going to be a slant toward the natural side of things. But I do think they tried to be as informative and non-biased as possible on the subject. Some things in American Obstetrics are just wrong and it is hard to find any words to justify them. I do recommend this book. I actually recommend it in person more often than The Thinking Woman’s Guide, simply because of accessibility. This one seems more for the masses and not just science nerds.

9. Gentle Birth Choices

By Barbara Harper, R.N.

First, the picture on the cover is just adorable. Tell me that little face doesn’t make you look forward to giving birth. Gentle Birth gives you some of the history of modern obstetrics along with more natural alternatives to common practices. Very pro-midwifery. Very challenge the system. It has good information, even if you are planning a hospital birth. Although, if you know you are delivering in a hospital, you may want to try other books, since this one might increase your anxiety about it.

10. Birthing From Within

By Pam England and Rob Horowitz

When I first got this book, I thought, “What on earth have I just purchased?” However, it has been extremely helpful over the years. I have read and worked through it multiple times and recommended it to people. This book helps you recognize your preconceived ideas about childbirth and address your fears and traumas through art therapy. It sounds very woo, but it is incredibly helpful. It does have a slight new age vibe, as I find so many natural childbirth books do. But if you find yourself anxious about childbirth or needing to process your birth experiences, this book can help you do that.

11. The Christian Childbirth Handbook

By Jennifer Vanderlaan

Basically, if it has the words “Christian” and “Childbirth” in the title, I’m going to buy it. I am always looking for really good Christian alternative for the new age stuff that seems to be so prevalent when discussing natural childbirth. I have found I can glean wisdom from those other sources, but not deep understanding and deeper meaning. This is much better than her Lord of Birth devotional. There is the informative stuff, and the author is very pro- natural birth. But there are also Bible verses throughout, which I found to be helpful. I do like this book. And this book is much bigger. It is 400+ pages of actual information, not a devotional, though it does have devotional thoughts.

12. Christ Centered Childbirth

By Kelly J Townsend

Again, in my search for good Christian childbirth books, I came across this one. Some of this one is a little hokey and just not for me. It does have good information, it just isn’t laid out in the most user friendly way. I do like that it includes Scripture to read. However, it isn’t really the best Christian childbirth book I have read. It is good, just not awesomely great.  

13. Spiritual Midwifery

By Ina May Gaskin

This book is very new age. It has a lot of very hippie birth stories, which can help dispel the fear of the birthing process. I found the birth stories prepared me better for birth than anything else. This book also has a lot of really great information. The second half of the book is basically a midwifery textbook. And while I really enjoy that sort of thing, not everyone needs that level of information. The birth stories are probably the more popular reason for buying this book. The stories were similar to Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, but I still thought they were worth the read.

14. The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth

By Sheila Kitzinger

This book has a very basic week by week pregnancy guide in the front of the book. Then gets into the standard pregnancy book stuff. Like a better version of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. It has good information, full color pictures (some are graphic, because… birth), and helpful tips from pregnancy all the way through birth. A very good book to cover all the basics. Like a childbirth class in a book.

15. Easing Labor Pain

By Adrienne B. Lieberman

This book is specifically natural labor techniques. If you are planning an unmedicated labor, this book would be a good one to read. I found it more helpful than the Bradley method or Lamaze breathing techniques. This one has actual helpful things to prepare for labor and then for handling labor once you’re there.

16. Waiting In Wonder

By Catherine Claire Larson

This book is a week by week guide to pregnancy and a pregnancy devotion book all in one. Each week has information about your growing baby, a prayer list for that week, a memory verse, and then several individual devotions to do throughout the week. There are 4 devotions per week, so it isn’t a daily thing. But it has room for thought and reflection. This would make a really lovely gift for the expecting couple, or buy it for yourself as you walk through each week of pregnancy with your focus on God. It can be used as a journal, as there are places to write in answers to questions, thoughts, feelings, etc. on the pages.  

17. Our Bodies, Ourselves

By The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective

There are specific versions for pregnancy, but I have the big women’s health reference book. Honestly, I just don’t like it enough to bother with the Pregnancy version. Extremely liberal. Not my cup of tea at all. With information from everything from addiction and relationships to anatomy and menopause. I just found there was way more political and opinion writing that actual scientific information. It isn’t a book about health, but rather, feminism with some anatomy and health related issues thrown in.

18. A Good Birth, A Safe Birth

By Diana Korte and Roberta M. Scaer

This book goes through birth options and birth issues. Even a chapter called, “How to Have A Normal Vaginal Birth”. (How sad is it that we have gotten to the point where to norm is now something we have to seek after and really try for?) It has really good information, I just think The Thinking Woman’s Guide to A Better Birth and Your Best Birth lay it out a little better. A good book, but not necessarily my highest recommended one on these specific topics.

19. Great With Child

By Debra Rienstra

This is more of a memoir. The ramblings of a mother through her pregnancy. It is very poetic and thoughtful. I wouldn’t necessarily say it is of any “help” in pregnancy and childbirth or even a book to only be read through pregnancy and childbirth. It is more of the internal musings of becoming a mother and carrying another person inside you.

20. Baby Name Wizard

By Laura Wattenberg

They now have a hugely popular website, which kind of makes the book obsolete, unless, like me, you prefer an actual book to information on a screen. The website is way more in depth than the book could ever be. The books also focuses more on the trends of the names than the meanings or where they came from. So, it isn’t a typical approach to naming, that is for sure. But check out the Baby Name Wizard website if you’re wanting to search naming trends. A lot more information. And its free. (The book isn’t free.)

21. The Mama Natural Week-By-Week guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth

By Genevieve Howland

This one is really, really new. I have been following her YouTube channel, so when the book was coming out, I pre-ordered it. It came out April 2017. (So, super new as I am writing this.)

This is a week by week guide, which I love. Something about weekly pregnancy guides. It must not just be me since there are dozens of week by week pregnancy guides and apps out there. This guide is for us crunchy mamas. Although, I would actually say it is Demi-crunchy. I have definitely seen more hippie types. This si much more balanced. Very similar to The Natural Pregnancy Book, only laid out in a weekly style. My favorite thing about the book is the recipes included for each week. The specific nutrition focus is based on how the baby is developing that week, so big brain weeks, the recipes are fish. Plus, the recipes are ones I will actually use. Like, stuff I can actually find and make and will willingly eat. I am absolutely loving this book!

22. Cool Names for Babies

By Pamela Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz

Again, another silly baby name book. This one is primarily lists. What did celebrities name their kids? What about rappers? Ooh, what are names of models? How about their kids? Those are the sorts of things in this book. You’ll find normal name along with Danger Mouse and Moxie Crimefighter. It is totally amusing. You may find THE NAME in here. Or maybe you’ll just find a name to tell your Mom to get her to stop asking you what the baby’s name will be.

23. From Conception to Birth

By Alexander Tsiaras

This is a coffee table picture book. It has the little close up pictures of sperm meeting egg. Then you have the pictures as the cells duplicate. Then pictures of the baby as he develops. My kids love looking through this book. I’m not standoffish at all about how babies are made or how they are born. These are the facts of life, so I don’t hide these from my kids. They mostly focus on the development pictures and like finding pictures that correlate to their new sibling’s current stage. Look! She has a tail! We have gotten a lot of use out of this book.

24. Your Pregnancy Week By Week

By Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler

This was my old favorite week by week guide. Now, I have a new one. But this one is so much better than What To Expect When You’re Expecting. (Can you tell I hate that book?) Still more on the mainstream medical side, but not too much horrible freak you out information. I think Mama Natural is prettier and has better information, but if the word “Natural” freaks you out, this might be the way to go. (Though I still recommend Mama Natural, hands down.)

25. The Pregnancy Book

By William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.

I still have the old version of this book, not the new updated version. So my take is that the old version is old. It is more of a month by month guide, but I don’t think in terms of months when I am pregnant. I think in weeks. When someone asks me how many months pregnant I am, I honestly have no idea. Purple? My brain just doesn’t process pregnancy in months. Maybe that is an age thing, I don’t know. I think the book has good information in it. It just never was my “reach for” book. I read through it once or twice, and then it has been a bookshelf sitter.

26. The Babycenter Essential Guide to Pregnancy and Birth

By Babycenter (a bunch of people who work for Babycenter)

I can feel some people rolling their eyes so hard right now. But seriously, you gotta keep it balanced, people. I need info from all sides. And then I can roll my eyes at them. This is a week by week guide with actual mom concerns. It is very mainstream. And it has some bad information in it. It isn’t bad, but you can honestly get this information on Babycenter for free, along with the asinine comments from random people along with it. Plus on Babycenter, you’ll get the added bonus of someone’s drama that is better than watching soap operas. Really, I don’t know why Babycenter is considered “expert” advice. It should just be considered “advice”. And like all free advice, take it for what you paid for it. Now, the book, sure, buy it if you want. But Mama Natural is a much better week by week guide and other books have much better “experts” giving advice.

27. Pushed

By Jennifer Block

 Warning: do not read this book while pregnant. Don’t. It isn’t going to be healthy for you mental state. However, once you have birthed and processed said birth, read this book. For so many of us it is extremely validating. It is the book that tells us we aren’t crazy and the system is flawed. A lot of history. A lot of technical information. But all information is cited, which I appreciate. I know the book cover says you need to read this when pregnant, but for many women, it would just cause too much anxiety. You know if that applies to you. It is really good information about the inner workings of our system and the problems in how hospitals and insurance companies work. I wouldn’t say it is conspiracy theory. I think we are all awake to the problems in our medical system and the bed that is made between medicine and politics. This just looks at that from an obstetric side. As someone who was cut because of my provider’s malpractice insurance, I found it very validating. (And slightly maddening.)

So, Someone You Know Is Pregnant…

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So, someone you know or just met is having a baby or just had a baby. Here on some tips to keep them from possibly harming you from saying or doing the exact wrong thing.

My editor (The Pastor) has insisted I put up some disclaimers to avoid hurt feelings- yours and mine.

**Disclaimer #1- I am not pregnant. Don’t ask someone if they are pregnant. If they want to tell you, that is their news to share. Never ask a woman if she is pregnant. Seriously. I have two shirts I can no longer wear in public because some punk asked when I was due while wearing them. I don’t have enough clothing options to keep this up. That is an old ultrasound pic. If you clicked over here expecting some big news, sorry to disappoint you. ZERO ANNOUNCEMENTS are going on over here. None. Kind of like the time I posted a picture of my dishwasher with little flour handprints on it and everyone thought it was an ultrasound picture because I added the caption “proof of little life around here” and I meant, proof a toddler and preschooler were being punks in the kitchen with some flour, but so many people same multiple fetuses in that picture. This is like that photo. Not an announcement. **

**Disclaimer #2- Do not ask us if we are having more kids. We’re kind of still working on the adding of the sixth kid. I don’t want to think about it right now, and I don’t have to. And really, you don’t want details. You don’t need them. There are words like amenorrhea in there, so just don’t ask. It gets too personal really quickly.**

**Disclaimer #3- Some of these things have personally happened to me. Most are things I have picked up from being around lots and lots of growing families and hearing their issues. Take no personal offense. I would have told you if you personally offended me or annoyed me. You’d know. If you don’t know, it is because you didn’t.**

**Disclaimer #4- I probably left some things out. I have only had six kids, there may be some more tips people need to know that I haven’t come across yet. You can add your own tips in the comments. Just keep your language clean so the editor doesn’t delete them.**

20 weeks 2 days

Now, tips when someone you know is pregnant!

Tip #1- Their pregnancy and anything pregnancy or baby related is theirs to share. DO NOT share a pregnancy on Facebook unless it is your own. Seriously. Can I tell you how many people I got to tell I was expecting my first baby? Um. One. Seriously. I got to tell my husband. Things just exploded from there. While your enthusiasm is a welcome thing, let new parents share their own news.

Same for when the baby is born. If you look at their Facebook page and they haven’t posted about the new baby yet, don’t post it. Let them post it when they are ready. Same for e-mails. Definitely DO NOT send e-mails to everyone about the birth of a baby unless you have express permission from the new parents.

If you share news that isn’t yours, pretty soon people realize this and you’ll be the last to be told anything, much like the four year old they know cannot keep their mouth shut. They’ll just avoid telling you. Do you really want to be at the end of the list?

Tip #2- The only response to “We’re having a baby!” is congratulations or some form of that. Either muster up some good will, or say nothing. “Are you done now?” “Are you the Duggars?” “But it is too soon!” “But you’re not done with college.” “Will this be your last?” “But you already have a baby!” “Oh my God, I would kill myself.” (Yeah, that really happened. The Pastor almost got that cashier fired.) None of those are appropriate. Either be happy for them or remove yourself from the situation. No one needs negativity during this time. Newly expectant parents have enough on their mind- they just need support. Period.

Tip #3-  No name bashing. I don’t care if they name their kid after Hefty trash bags- either say something nice or keep it to yourself. I don’t care if you think the kid should be little Frank. They don’t care either. All you get when you are negative about their name choice is no heads up on the name next time. Seriously. They just won’t tell you in the future.

Here on some response you can use: “How do you spell that? I want to make sure we embroider it correctly.” “That is a cool name, where did you come up with it.” “That is a nice name, does it have a special meaning.” “I like that name.” “That name will certainly stand out on his college application!” “Are you 100% set? I have a set of bibs to monogram immediately!” “[Repeat name]. That has such a nice ring to it.” “Woohoo! I am [name]’s Auntie!” “Unusual. But I like it.”

If you can’t find something nice to say, tell someone else about it. Really. Do not under any circumstance tell either parent. Tell your neighbor, cashier at the store, online support group, anyone BUT the parents to be.

Tip #4- Never comment on a pregnant woman’s size. Just don’t do it. She’ll be told by one bystander she is huge, immediately causing her to freak out about gestational diabetes. The next person will tell her she is small, causing her to stress over intrauterine growth restriction.

Tell her she looks cute. Tell her she is glowing. Tell her pregnancy suites her. Tell her you miss your own baby belly. Tell her she is radiant. Tell her she is a beautiful picture of motherhood. Tell her how awesome her bump is.

Tip #5- On a related note, once the baby is born, make no comments about the baby’s size! She’ll freak out that she isn’t making enough milk or that the baby will be obese for life or he’ll be labeled as failure to thrive. New moms have enough worry. Don’t add to it.

“He’s healthy!” “I forgot how tiny newborns are!” “Look at all those sweet rolls!” “He is growing really well!” “She is beautiful!” All of these are appropriate. Just avoid implying the baby is too big or too small, even if you are just “observing”. She’ll freak out. It is what Mom’s do.

Tip #6- New Parents will not tell you this, but what they really need is money. Really. I know you want to buy something baby, and that is cool and awesome. But think of all the ridiculous expenses pregnancies and new babies bring. You want to buy 15 hair bows, but they really need breast pads and lanolin, which make an awkward gift. They really need money for the poise pads, hemorrhoid cream, and take out food post birth. But they can’t tell you that. They can’t tell you they don’t need another bath set for the baby, they really need to pay their insurance deductible. They really don’t need five sets of tiny nail clippers and 20 pacis the baby will refuse to take because they decide that one obscure paci you found in that one random shop one time is the only one for them. They need a pregnancy support pillow, V2 support belt,  and prenatal massage to make those last days more comfortable.

It doesn’t really help to ask what they need. No one wants to name a high dollar item when you’re looking to spend ten bucks. No one wants to tell you something ridiculously specific. So, they usually just say “nothing”. Or they point you to the registry they know you’ll ignore. Because telling people what you need it hard.

Tip #7- Don’t offer your advice. I know you think you’re just the most awesome at everything, but they’ll be making their own way. It isn’t personal. You know you didn’t do everything exactly like your mom, aunt, second cousin, neighbor, or stranger at the store either. If they don’t ask you about teething remedies, don’t give them. I don’t go around sharing advice on how to deal with head wounds unsolicited. Don’t go and give your baby advice unsolicited.

Tip #8- Avoid asking about their reproductive future. This couple is just wrapping their heads around THIS kid and you’re already asking about the future ones that they haven’t even thought of yet. It really isn’t your business, so just don’t ask them. I know you’re dying to know when little Hefty will be getting a sister, but don’t ask. DO NOT ASK. It’s awkward and weird and they’re already overwhelmed and now Uncle Bobby is asking about their sex life. Don’t ask. Not your business. Again. Not your business. People usually only want to talk about such things with their spouses or BFFs. That’s about the end of the list. So, I know you’re curious, but don’t ask.

Tip #9- Don’t assume anything. If the mom to be has not said she is breastfeeding, don’t assume she is. If she hasn’t mentioned an epidural, don’t assume she’s getting one. You can safely assume that if she hasn’t brought it up with you she doesn’t want to talk to you about it.

Tip #10- Don’t ask personal medical questions. If the expectant couple has something to share, they will share it. Don’t ask about dilation (some of us don’t have that checked ever *gasp*). Don’t ask about the results from the trisomy screening. Don’t ask how much weight they’ve gained, what their blood pressure is, if they’ve had bloody show, if they’re leaking colostrum- if they don’t tell you, they likely don’t want you to know. It is sometimes hard to remember that in pregnancy, all these things are still personal medical questions. We don’t go asking people about their thyroid levels or menopausal status, so let’s keep it down with the pregnant medical stuff, too.

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Tip #11- I know I said “Don’t assume anything” but, assume you are NOT invited to the delivery room unless you are asked to be there. Don’t ask to be included. It just makes it awkward for everyone. Some people may not mind, but there are very few who feel comfortable telling family or friends to get out. (I happen to be one who will absolutely tell my family and friends when I need them out of my space, but I appear to be abnormal in that way.) It is weird and presumptive to ask to be there. They get that you are excited. I’m excited that you’re excited. But let them decide when and how they want you present.

The same is true for ultrasounds and doctor/midwife visits. They may want to share that with you. If they do, they’ll invite you. Don’t ask to tag along. It puts them in a really awkward spot. And really, do you want to be there if you aren’t really welcome? Let them ask you. Or not.

Tip #12- Don’t take it personally. When the new parents want some time alone with their infant, it isn’t about you, it is about them. When they don’t want you visiting immediately after birth, it isn’t about you, it is about them. When they don’t want to let you hold the baby immediately, it isn’t about you, it is about them. Their name choice isn’t about you. Their diaper choice isn’t about you. Let it go and just go with their flow. Everyone will be happier.

Tip #13- Don’t forget Dad. This is a big time in his life, too. He’s part of this. A big part. Don’t assume he is ignorant. Don’t assume this is all about mom and baby. Don’t assume he is stress free. Many Dads find that they are extremely stressed during pregnancy. They have their own brand of worries. Will their partner be okay? Will they be able to provide for their family? Will the baby have their unfortunate ears? Will the family finances be okay? How on earth are they going to pay for that crib? And the mattress isn’t included?! Dads worry, too. And they dream in their own way. And they are just as stressed and sleep deprived as Moms. So keep them in mind, too. And definitely don’t try to elbow them out or imply you can be better support. Dads are invaluable.

Tip #14- Holding the baby isn’t helping. There are a million things that need to be done. Super shame on you if your solution is to hold the baby while the woman who just pushed that cute little bundle of joy out takes care of the household chores. Laundry still needs to be done. Groceries still need to be purchased. Bathrooms need scrubbing (and remember she’s been super pregnant so that has probably gone undone for a long time). Dinner needs to be on the table at some point. The grubby 4 year old could use some outside time. Don’t ask “What can I do?” You know what you can do. Just roll in and do it.

At the same time, don’t be offended if they just don’t need the help you want to give. You may want to take the kids to the park, but that just stresses the new parents out thinking about swapping car seats around, so they say no. Or you want to bring them dinner, but they have such strict dietary guidelines, they really can’t explain to you what would be okay to bring. Accept it. You offered. They are grateful you offered. If you can help in some other way, cool. If not, that is okay too. Some people may not want you touching their bloody laundry or grocery shopping for them. It is okay. Again, not personal.

Tip #15- Don’t ask if this baby was planned. Really, what you’re asking is really awkward. Did they have sex knowing she was fertile? You really want a discussion about fertile cervical mucous or basal body temp testing? Do you really want to hear about her cycles and how regular or irregular they are? Along the same lines, avoid asking if the baby was conceived “naturally”. Babies are conceived, just go with it. Don’t ask about fertility treatments or drugs or herbs or anything of that sort. The fact is, if you were close enough to ask about such things, then you are close enough that you wouldn’t need to ask because they would tell you.

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Tip #16- Don’t ask about birth plans. This is such a charged topic and such an emotional one for so many women. If they had a c-section before, you can’t assume they’ll have another or assume they’ll have a VBAC. They may be wrapping their head around their options and they really don’t need more pressure from you. If they want to talk to you about the pros and cons of home birth, they will. But unless they bring it up, assume they’ve got things covered.

Tip #17- Don’t ask how they are paying for things unless you are willing to pick up the tab. Not everyone has insurance. It happens. Not everyone has the same priorities as you. Don’t imply they are irresponsible because they don’t have a college saving account already set up. Don’t imply they aren’t responsible because they don’t have the means to pay their insurance deductible the minute the stick showed two lines. Home births are often completely out of pocket with or without insurance, don’t judge them because they can’t just easily throw down whatever that might cost (usually around $3000-$5000, if you’re curious). Unless you are wanting to help financially, don’t ask. Even if you are wanting to help, just ask how much or give without asking. Imagine if someone came into your house and judged every single thing you spent money on this month. Not helpful. Big life changes don’t need financial judgement or commentary. Be helpful or be quiet.

Tip #18- Don’t harass them for information they don’t want to give. If they don’t want to tell the name until birth, they can do that. If they don’t want to find out the gender before birth, they can do that. If they want to find out and just not tell you, they can do that. Harassing them to tell you only makes them want to tell you less. Let them do this their way.

Tip #19- Don’t share horror stories. Seriously. A pregnant woman or her spouse do not need to hear about your Uncle’s third cousin’s fourth degree tear that required extensive corrective surgery. They don’t need to know about your friend’s mother-in-law’s baby who was born with eight toes. They don’t need to hear about your neighbor who had a surprise twin at birth in the 60s. They don’t need to hear about that woman who had a 15 lb. baby. Really, they have enough stress and worry without the horror stories. Even if it seems mild, like you had ridiculously bad hemorrhoids with your third kid that still haven’t gone away 30 years later- they don’t need to know. Keep things positive. Keep encouraging. Don’t be the black cloud and the rain.

Tip #20- Don’t hijack their happiness. This isn’t a competition. You don’t have to share how exciting your pregnancy was to share the joy of their pregnancy. You don’t have to brag extensively about your all natural dolphin assisted lotus birth. Their birth is theirs. Their pregnancy is about them. You don’t have to one-up everything or use every moment as an opportunity to tell them how awesome your experience was. I don’t respond to people’s pregnancy announcements with, “Congrats! I’ve had six pregnancies myself and they were awesome and I am an awesome pregnant woman.” I don’t tell people how old I am on their birthday. I don’t show people my shoes when they have on new ones. Let their pregnancy and birth and new baby experience be theirs. The sun can shine in two places at once.

(I’m not talking about having actual conversations with people. I am talking about those people who seriously turn everything into something about them. You know a one-upper when you have to deal with them, am I right?)

Tip #21- Do not ask “How are you feeling?” every single time you talk to them. Really, it gets old. And most people don’t even want a real answer. They don’t want to know about the varicose veins, unending nausea, pressure on your bladder, horrible hip pain, constipation you cannot even fathom is possible. They want to appear caring, and I think it is awesome that they care. But “How are you feeling?” is such a loaded question when you are pregnant. And it is downright annoying when you ask in *that* tone. (You know the one. That patronizing sing-songy one.) Unless you really want to know how a pregnant woman feels, don’t ask.

Instead of asking how they are feeling, greet them as you would if they were not expecting. Tell her you’ve been praying for her (if you have). If you must ask something pregnancy related, ask about whatever milestone just passed or ask about whatever they have mentioned to you in the past. Or say, “You look radiant.” Always tell a pregnant woman she looks radiant. Or give her a cookie. You can never go wrong with either of those. “How are you feeling?” is acceptable once in a while, if it is a legitimate question. Just don’t let that be all you ever say. And don’t use *that* tone. But be prepared! Pregnancy isn’t always pretty.

Tip #22- Newborns look like newborns. Do not tell a woman who just had a baby that her precious little bundle looks exactly like your Uncle Irving. You know that baby looks like every other baby born. They look like newborns. Squishy-faced, discolored, newborns. She doesn’t want to hear the baby looks like her father-in-law. She doesn’t want to hear the baby looks like cousin Larry’s new baby. The baby looks like a baby. You don’t have to immediately start playing the “who’s genes are stronger” game. Really. No need. Especially DO NOT tell them the baby looks nothing like them, mother or father. Never tell a parent that, newborn or not.

Tip #23- Do not tell a pregnant woman that her baby will be too big to come out. In addition to not telling her that her belly is huge, never tell her the baby IN her belly is huge. That baby has to come out. And she’s already wrapping her head around that seemingly impossible process. Don’t imply the child is massive. Who would that help? (When I was in labor with Pippin, my L&D nurse told me numerous times that my baby was huge. It was very, very unhelpful. I told her many times he was not huge. She just kept on. It didn’t help. And she was wrong. So, a jerk and a wrong jerk. Even if she had been right, she’d still be a jerk.) Don’t be a jerk.

Also don’t imply the baby is too small. Unless you are her chosen medical professional qualified to make such an assessment, you’ll just cause stress. Babies come in a variety of sizes.

Tip #24-  Don’t be pushy with your own agenda. Don’t buy them bottles when you know she is going to breastfeed because you are just sure she’ll need them. Don’t buy paper diapers when they told you they are going to use cloth. Don’t buy all pink when they express that they’d prefer things to be gender neutral. These first things may not seem like a big deal, but these are the first of their parenting decisions. Earn some brownies points by showing them that you respect them as parents and you will abide by their decisions. People tend to want to be around people that encourage them and don’t make them feel small and stupid. Don’t discourage them from these decisions either. If she says she wants a natural birth, don’t tell her she can’t because you couldn’t. If she wants to breastfeed, don’t insist she’ll need to pump so you can feed the baby. These things aren’t about you. Offer your support and encouragement.

Tip #25- Don’t buy yourself baby gifts. This isn’t for strangers, usually just close family. But don’t buy yourself a car seat for the baby for your car unless you have talked to the mother or father to be and they have expressed that you NEED to do so. Do you know how ridiculous it is when Grandma has an entire nursery and Mom and Dad and trying to scrape together enough cash to pop up a pack and play in their room? I cannot tell you how many grandparents have fully outfitted nurseries only to find they didn’t need half the stuff because the parents thought they were a little off their rocker setting up an entire nursery. Unless you have talked to the parents about it, and not in an informing way, but the parents have indicated this would be welcome, don’t set up a full nursery. Sure, a pack and play and high chair at Grandma’s are usually welcome. But don’t take it too far. Don’t buy toys just for your house or other gifts with strings. If it stays at your house, it isn’t a gift for them, it is a gift for you. It is just weird. And it is a big red flag to most new parents. Really, they get that you are excited, and they are super excited to have your support. But know your role. Grandparent is a wonderful title and a wonderful role in a little one’s life. It doesn’t look like the parent’s role. It is different and wonderful in its own way. Foster that wonderful role you have to play and don’t try to steal the parent’s role.

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Tip #26- Celebrate! If this is kid number one or kid number 9, CELEBRATE! A new life has entered the world. Celebrate. All babies deserve to have someone celebrating their arrival. ALL OF THEM. (I won’t rant here about pro-life people who are anti-large family or mean to unwed mothers or any of those things. I could, but I’ll refrain. Just be nice. BE NICE.)

Birthday Cake

Today marks 8 days since my first, and only, C-section. Lots of emotions in that sentence. 8 years later, I’m still mad about the whole thing. I have come to have a gratefulness about the whole situation, it lead me to where I am today and brought new friends into my life I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It opened my eyes. But it was still painful. And it still sucked. And it is that bring glaring example of how messed up our system really is. Doctors making decisions based on malpractice insurance coverage rather than individual patient care. Not that my doctor wouldn’t have done the same even if her insurance had let her. She wasn’t skilled in breech birth. We both knew that. So, maybe she put the blame on her malpractice insurance company when the reality was that it was a skill she didn’t possess. And few do- because no one is teaching them- because no one is doing them- because of those insurance companies. I really wish I had never been cut. But I was and that is my reality. I have a scar. I was left without choices. Funny how that “woman’s right to choose” bit only applies to whether you will or will not continue a pregnancy.

aidan 6

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I let my kids pick their own cake each year. We don’t have birthday parties every year. But cake is a birthday necessity. I don’t care how much sugar, butter, lard, whatever is in there. On your birthday you get cake! Or pie. Whichever you’re into. So, I have one kid who wants grocery store cakes. Those super sugary, questionably decorated, cakes. Cookie cakes on occasion. The rest of my kids usually want mama made cake. Well, there was that one year one of them made me get a cake made with his picture on it of him as a zombie complete with frosting pumpkins- and his birthday is in July. You get looks at the store for that one. But usually, they want something homemade from mom. I am a decent baker. Terrible decorator, but decent baker.

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Aidan and the cupcake

My new 8 year old poured over my cook books trying to find the perfect cake. He had plenty to choose from. I have quite the collection of cookbooks (I’ll post links below). Unlike his younger brother who simply requests banana cake every year, he is a little more adventurous. He wants a unique and fun cake each year. What does he choose? Grasshopper Cake.

mr. bean

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So, here I sit, thinking about this day 8 years ago when I briefly considered just getting lunch instead of heading to the L&D unit for my C-section. Sitting here thinking about how unprepared we were for that outcome. Thinking about my little baby born and having to wait 5 days to hold him. Remembering the panic and fear and pain that came along with his birth. Sitting here now while he runs around the neighborhood with friends while I bake some weird mint cake thing because he thinks it is cool. Laughing at the memory of him being born male parts first, after I was 100% convinced I was having a girl. My second baby. My first son. Eight. Time has healed most wounds with the help of God and friends. I don’t feel forsaken like I did on this day eight years ago. Today, I feel blessed.

Aidan Butt Face

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My Baking Cookbooks:

Baked (this is where the Grasshopper cake is from)

Sweet Chic

Bell’s Best

The Treat’s Truck Baking Book (this is where the favorite Banana Cake is from)

Milk & Cookies

Desserts in Jars

Splendid Spoonful

Ransom Jonathan is Born

First, let me tell you that this is a birth story. So, by nature, it will be TMI. If you don’t like birth stories or just don’t care to hear mine, skip this post. I know I have some male readers who probably don’t care a lot about birth and that is fine. (Although, deep down, they may really care and be really interested and it is fine if they want to read this. I’m just saying you don’t have to, not that you are not allowed to.) Also, since it is my birth story and something very personal I’m not going to allow mean or negative comments. I’m fine with comments. I’m fine with questions. But I’ll be deleting any mean comments. My birth, my birth choices. I know they aren’t for everyone, but they are for me and I am happy with my choices.

Aidan’s Birth Story is Here.

Emery’s Birth Story is Here.

Not sure where Imogene’s is, but she was born, I assure you. (If I cannot find it, I may post it here some day, but not today. Today is about Ransom’s birth.)

A little background would probably be helpful. If you want more details, you can read the two stories above. In 2007, I had a c-section for a breech baby- that would be Aidan. That changed the course of my reproductive history. Little did I know when I signed that consent form, I’d be signing up for a battle to have my subsequent children. I didn’t know VBAC was such a huge deal. I did not know that pesky 4.5″ incision would so drastically limit my future birth choices. Not that I was happy about having a c-section, I was pissed about it. But I didn’t realize it would continue to suck years down the road. I thought it only mattered for that birth, but it matters for the rest of my reproductive years.

I jumped off the c-section train immediately. With Emery, I found ICAN and looked into my options, few as they were. I decided to try for a VBAC with Dr. Joseph Tate. Even with my uterine anomaly, I had a very uncomplicated and straight forward VBAC without complications. The only thing I would have changed about my first VBAC would have been my labor support.

With this pregnancy, I decided I wanted a doula. I wanted that extra labor support. The Pastor and I were blessed to find Jessique Brown.  We both “clicked” with her and hired her to be there for the birth of our fourth child. Of course, I stuck with Dr. Tate for my second VBAC. I know I had a few more options, already having one VBAC under my belt, so to speak, but really, when they wouldn’t allow me the chance to birth normally last time, why would I trust them now? Plus, we love Dr. Tate. (The Pastor might have boycotted the birth had I gone with a different provider!)

I had the dreaded prodromal labor for a couple weeks before the actual birth. I was a little more nervous about this since I knew there would be no Trebutaline to “rescue” me from early labor this time around. I was on my own with no drugs to keep baby in. I told everyone I knew to pray very specifically that the baby would stay put until AT LEAST 36 weeks. I wasn’t really shooting for more because 36 weeks seemed so impossible to me. I also asked the very wise ICAN ladies about natural ways to keep babies in. Their suggestion was to drink half a glass of wine and take a warm bath when the contractions kicked in. I didn’t think it would work. I was convinced it wouldn’t. But it worked! It worked as well as taking prn Trebutaline!

At 36 weeks, the contractions decided to kick it up a notch. I had days of contractions getting to 10 minutes apart for a few hours, then stopping. They’d pick back up to every 6 minutes then fizzle out again. Every day I would think, “This has got to be it!” only to have the contractions just stop.

At 36 weeks 5 days, the contractions were coming every 5 minutes. They still were not very strong, but they were picking up in length. The Pastor called his mom to come. (She was the designated care giver of the older 3 while we were in the hospital.) I decided to see if I could get some rest, since the contractions weren’t strong. (And I admit, I did a big no-no thing. I checked my own cervix. *Gasp!* It was still high, but was seeming to be effacing. However, I knew I was only dilated a couple centimeters. This gave me the confidence to know I didn’t need to rush into the hospital just yet. I still felt like I had some time before things really picked up.) When I laid down, the contractions spaced out to every 10 to 12 minutes apart. So, I rested. Well, I rested as much as a person can when they are in early labor.

The next morning, at 36 weeks 6 days, the contractions picked back up early in the morning to every 5 to 6 minutes apart. I decided to go ahead and go to the hospital. I was feeling like it could be it, but wasn’t sure. (I typically don’t have very painful labors until I get to transition. If I waited, as the books say you should, to feel that seriousness and that level of pain to go to the hospital, I would likely never make it in.) I figured I’d go in, they’d put me on the monitors and check me and let me know if it was looking like it’d be today or just more prodromal labor. I know Dr. Tate well enough to know he’d send me home if I wasn’t in active labor. (Not all doctors are like this, so many people have to be very careful about going in early in labor.) I let Que, my doula, know that we were going in and told her we’d call her if we needed her to come up there.

I got to the hospital and decided to take the stairs up to the maternity floor. Two elevators were down at the hospital and I wasn’t happy with the thought of everyone cramming into the one working elevator. Plus, I thought the extra exercise would be good, especially in early labor, to move things along. Well, turns out, they lock the stair access on the maternity floor. Something about abducting babies or something. So, I walked up to the next floor (4th floor), also restricted access. So, I walked all the way back down the stairs to the lobby to take the one working elevator up to the maternity floor. I got much more exercise than I bargained for on that one. Once I got there, I got checked in and finished my coffee. (The Pastor stopped at The Daily Grind and had them make me a Capitol Street Caramel. Yes, that is a Cups drink, but he has TDG make them for me every now and then.) They got me into a triage room and got me on the monitors and the nurse checked me. I was 3 cm but still pretty high and effaced somewhere around 30 – 40%. I decided to walk for an hour, check again and see if I was dilating more. Since 3cm wasn’t exactly definitive.

I walked the halls for an hour. (Luckily I wore my Toms this time instead of cheap flip flops.) I went back to be monitored for 15 more minutes and get checked again. This time, I was close to a 4, slightly lower, 50% effaced, and with a bulging bag. We decided to stay, since it seemed the contractions were heading in the right direction. I walked for another hour, then moved to my labor and delivery room. Tamarah was my L&D nurse and she was awesome. Without me even asking, she put me on intermittent monitoring and never once asked me to get in the bed to be monitored.

Que arrived at 1:30. I was still only feeling very moderate discomfort at this point. I walked around my room, squatted, sat on the birthing ball, and just hang out with The Pastor and my doula. I sipped on Vitamin water and regular water while hanging out.

At 3:00 pm Dr. Tate came in to check me. I was 5 cm and 50% effaced and -3. He stripped my membranes at this point. (Stripping your membranes hurts, just so you know.)

At 4:45 pm Dr. Tate came to check me again. (You can always refuse these checks, but I get them. Why do I get them? Well, my labors don’t hurt much for most of the labor, so the only way for me to know if I am making progress is to be checked. Most women will know their progressing by how they feel. I just don’t really get those “feelings.”) This time, I was 7cm dilated and 80% effaced. He said he would lean toward breaking my water at that point and asked what I thought about it. I told him I was actually okay with that. I knew I needed more pressure on my cervix to get the baby out. Breaking my water would put that extra pressure on my cervix. So, he got the hook and broke my water with the next contraction. Not very much water came out, though we knew there was plenty of fluid in there. I joked with him that he would get sprayed when the baby came out. He told me to call him if I heard the baby cry. A tech came in to set up the table for delivery, although I wasn’t feeling close to that yet.

At 5:50 pm, my contractions started getting painful. I started having to turn inward during contractions and relax and moan to get through the pain. I was able to relax my upper body entirely, but just couldn’t get my butt and hips to relax. (I was sitting fully upright on the bed at this time.) I told Que what I was feeling and she suggested I get on my knees on the bed and relax my upper body over the top of the bed. (The bed was shaped like a chair at the moment.) I turned around. Immediately, a lot of fluid came out and there was suddenly a lot more pressure. Que squeezed my hips through the next contraction, which helped so much. With that next contraction also came that urge to push. (And when that urge hits, there is nothing you can do but push.) I wasn’t exactly aware of it, but The Pastor ran out in the hall to find the nurse or Dr. Tate to let them know I was pushing.

Dr. Tate and a resident named Mark ran in. Dr. Tate asked if it was okay for Mark to be there. I told him I really didn’t care. Dr. Tate asked me if I was going to be delivering the baby in my current position and I informed him that I wasn’t moving. They did lower the head of the bed so I was on my hands and knees instead of upright on my knees. While I pushed, Que put cold rags on my neck because I was burning up. Dr. Tate, Mark, and Tamarah tried to figure out what position the baby was coming out it. I told them he was LOA, but I guess they needed to confirm for themselves. No one counted as I pushed, I just pushed. Dr. Tate did let me know when to push lightly or hard. The Pastor informed me of my progress as Ransom was coming out. (“I can see hair.” “I can see his ears.” “His head is out now.”)  I pushed for about 5 to 10 minutes, and then Ransom was born at 6:15 pm! He had the cord loosely wrapped around his neck, which isn’t unusual. I only add it to the story so you know it is a normal, not a big deal, kind of thing.

I rolled over onto my back, and they put Ransom on my chest. He looked so tiny! He turned out to be 2 oz. larger than Emery and my biggest baby yet at 6 lbs. 15 oz. The placenta was delivered (and shown to me) while they were getting Ransom all suctioned out. At 7:15 pm, I had another first. I got to breastfeed my newborn! I’ve never gotten to do that before because they were all early and whisked away before I could feed them. Ransom breastfed for about 20 minutes only an hour after he was born! (That is a really, really big deal to me. I’ve only gotten to hold 2 out of 4 of my babies within the first hour of their life. So breastfeeding was a huge deal!)

I fared pretty well with the birth. No tearing. No bruising. Not much bleeding.

I am also very happy about how the birth turned out. I had great support and had a great birth! My second VBAC was great!

In case you are wondering, here are the interventions I accepted: heplock, intermittent fetal monitoring before 7cm, continuous fetal monitoring after 7 cm, cervical checks, membrane sweep, and AROM. I also had counter pressure during the pushing stage.

Birthing From Within

I’ve been reading the book Birthing From Within by Pam England. I’m not usually the touchy, feel-y type, but I have been opening myself to new experiences this pregnancy. I’m not usually one for sentimentality. But for some reason, with this pregnancy, I am much more sensitive. I find myself touched by things that usually pass by me unnoticed. I thought Birthing From Within would be a good book for me with this pregnancy.

I will say that some of the art things suggested in the book seemed odd to me. However, since I was opening myself to the new experience and submitting myself to Pam’s expertise in the area, I went with them and did it anyway. (You shouldn’t hope to see any of my birth art. I may be crafty, but I’m no artist. Those will be staying in my little birth notebook.) The art did help me really see how I view birth. It also helped me see what my ideal birth would be. (And no, the birth I am planning is not ideal, but my situation is not ideal. So, I am at peace with my current plans and am working to make them as close to the ideal as possible.) Drawing pictures of how I view birth and how I view myself as a pregnant woman was pretty eye opening. I just went with what came to mind and found that I am not as “all together” as I thought. It made me realize that I do need more. More confidence in my body as the Creation of God. More connection in childbirth to all the women who have given birth before me and will give birth after me. I need to see the wisdom in women.

That is where I’ll be asking you (and I’ll be sending a message out on the old evil Facebook tonight… just kidding Facebook, don’t block me or anything for saying you’re evil!) to help. Every woman, regardless of her birth experience, has wisdom to share about their birth. You may not feel like you’ve got anything to offer, that your births are so different from mine or so far from ideal that you’ve got nothing to share. But you do. If you’ll take the time to look back at your birth and answer a few questions, you’ll see how much you have to share with women like me. And hopefully you’ll share it with me if you are comfortable with that. Here is what you can do:

– Write your birth story from your perspective. Don’t worry about it being the right or wrong perception or that your feelings about the birth were right or wrong. Look at the birth for what it was, not what you had hoped it would be.

– Answer the following questions as you can: (#1-#4 are from the book.)

1. What helped you most when you gave birth?

2. What was your spiritual experience as you gave birth?

3. If you could do it over again, what would you do the same? What would you have done differently?

4. What do you wish you had known beforehand?

5. Did giving birth change you? In what ways?

– If you are comfortable with it, would you e-mail me your birth story and answers when you’re done? (Or if we are friends on Facebook, you can message me.) I’m hoping that through this I can glean your wisdom as mothers. (My e-mail address is marbleducks@yahoo.com.)

I thank you in advance. Hopefully, this will be eye opening for you, too. My hope is that you see the wisdom in yourself and can grow because of that. If you are a pregnant mom needing to get out of your head with birth and get into your body, I recommend reading Birthing From Within.

Worst Pregnancy Book Ever

Of course, since I am pregnant again, I am allowed to read the long list of pregnancy books I didn’t get around to the first three times. Yes, I could read them while not actually gestating, but I feel that is odd. If birth were my business, say if I were a doula or childbirth educator, it wouldn’t be weird at all. But I’m not. I’m just a frequently pregnant woman.

So, I have seen the book The Girlfriend’s Guide To Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine several times in all three of my previous pregnancies. I’ve just never actually gotten around to reading it. It seems like a good idea. Tell women all those crazy things about pregnancy that no one but a friend would tell you. (Your feet get bigger after each birth. Don’t get a perm because there is no telling what your pregnant hair will do! You look like the pregnancy models around 5 or 6 months, by the end you look much, much bigger in all the wrong places. – Speaking of which, you ever notice how everyone expects a pregnant woman to look 5 months pregnant her entire pregnancy? Anything beyond that and you start getting the “You look like you are going to bust” comments. You’d think these people had never seen a pregnant woman.) So, great premise. But it went wrong somewhere.

First, the author is very, very biased against any form of “natural” birth. She takes a completely mocking tone toward those who might even consider it. And of course, all of her “real life” examples are women who failed miserably at any birth they wanted, unless of course it was of the “go get your pitocin and epidural and let the professionals take care of the rest” variety. I mean, really, if you don’t want to try naturally, fine. But don’t act like it is the unachievable goal that only idiots attempt.

Second, the author is very into idolizing doctors. I really hate to tell her, but all doctors are not good doctors. Yes, there are some awesome doctors. But you can’t just blindly trust someone because they have MD behind their name.

Third, this book sets women up to fear childbirth. Even though the author covers the “fears” of pregnancy, she really offers no real help. Instead, she breeds more fear. She just keeps pounding it into your head that childbirth is unbearable. You can’t make it through without the epidural. Just give up. What kind of place is that to place an expecting moms?

Fourth, this book is full of flat out misinformation. She claims a first time mother can never make a fully informed decision about how she wants he labor and delivery to go because she has no idea what to expect. Apparently, she doesn’t gain my more information as the mother of four. Despite what she says in the book, squats will help you during labor and delivery. Despite what she says, many women choose natural childbirth and succeed. Despite what she says, natural childbirth will not leave you “passed out” with every capillary in your face broken. Despite what she says in her book, many studies show that it is safer for the majority of women to stay away from hospitals and doctors during childbirth. Despite what she says, childbirth educators are not all unmarried women with no children. Despite what she says, you can go to the hospital too early in labor.

Overall, stay far away from this book. If you really need to see the lunacy for yourself, check it out from the library or borrow one from a friend. You can only borrow mine if you promise NOT to listen to her at all!