There is an overwhelming amount of info out there on pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately not all of it is good. Case in point, one of the most popular books out there for pregnant moms, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has misinformation about breastfeeding in it (that could lead, however unintentionally, to the sabotage of the breastfeeding relationship) and also other things that are questionable…as one educated woman put it (referring also to “Your Pregnancy Week by Week”):
“These books are written with the goal of keeping you nice and compliant — that anything could go wrong and if it does, your Obstetrician is your savior. Its junk, don’t pollute your mind with it.”
There are many many books out there on birth that are MUCH better, so check out my book recommendations below.
Below you will find only information about sources that I personally find valuable and agree with. You are welcome to share your own sources with me, but I will be using my own judgement as to what I will pass along here. I will not promote anything that I disagree with (hence, you will never find any promotion of unnecessary medicalized birth or of parenting the Ezzo way. Sorry, webmama’s prerogative. *grin*… I have very strong opinions in this realm…I’ve educated myself on this topic for some time and have surrounded myself with friends that I learn from…including midwives, doulas and La Leche League Leaders…and I have come to some very strong conclusions on pregnancy and birth and how natural it all is. That said, I know there are those reading this that will not agree with me at times…that’s ok…take what you like and leave the rest.
First, About Me
At the writing of this, I am the mother of 4 children. 2 are living. My first was an early (9wks) miscarriage, my third was a fullterm stillbirth. My 2 living children, girl and boy, are beautiful and vibrant with life! Through all my pg/birth experiences, I’ve read A LOT, researched, asked questions, talked to many people and learned from my mistakes. And I know there’s so much more I could learn, but I offer some of the things I’ve learned to you here, on this website. I have seen that many people go blindly into the birth experience and have outcomes that could have been avoided. So I would like to try to help those who would be helped.
As far as my perspective…I am definitely not a mainstream mama. I wouldn’t say I’m radical-against-the-mainstream either, though. Somewhere in the middle. What’s “mainstream”, you may ask? Well this is just MY definition…but when I say that something is mainstream, it would be something that our culture has accepted as the norm. So most people do it and don’t question it. Mainstream in regards to pregnancy and birth, in our culture, would be not being truly educated on the natural possibilities of birth and instead opting for a highly medicalized, highly interventive birth. (VS. a natural birth, which is much more seen as “against the mainstream” these days, unfortunately). I tend to question things and want to know the “why” of things, as well as I tend to lean more towards trusting the wisdom of nature…so I would say that I go against the mainstream because of this never-ending drive of mine to seek knowledge and understanding and to look to nature as the standard to follow.
I suppose there are plenty of people out there that are perfectly happy being “mainstream.” They don’t question things, and they are ok with that. That’s fine. I’m not trying to say my way is the only way, the right way…I’m just sharing my thoughts and feelings and the things I’ve learned. You take what you like and what resonates within you and leave the rest. That’s all anyone should ever do. Follow your heart. If you prefer to not be educated on issues (and believe me, there are plenty of times I have wished I didn’t know some things…it would have made making decisions MUCH easier!) then that’s your life and you have every right to live your life and make your decisions the way you see fit. This website is about me sharing things with those that want to learn new things.
My Advice, for First-Timers
If you are a first-time mom, this info should be very helpful to you. And take this one piece of advice, if you take no other: EDUCATE YOURSELF. And not from one source. Do not take the word of your doctor, nurses, doula, midwife, friends, family, me, or any one person, book or website as gospel. There are so many sources of info on pregnancy/birth and anything related to children, and its NOT all good! So if you make sure you read a lot of different sources and ask a lot of questions, of a lot of different people, you will be sure to get a well rounded education on what can be an exciting and sometimes overwhelming time in your life. If you just blindly follow your doctor and/or what your immediate friends/family tell you, you could be missing out on a lot.
There’s a TON of misinformation out there…so just make sure you do the research so you don’t fall into the trap that so many parents in our culture have fallen into…blindly following the cultural trends…These trends are often unhealthy for families and can be especially detrimental to children…and some common beliefs are just simply false information! Only you can decide what is right for you and your family…so in order to make an informed decision, you have to do the research.
Of course one of the first things pregnant moms tend to do is run out and buy the latest pregnancy manuals. There’s an endless supply. As I said, they are not always good. Here’s my list of recommended books that would be good for you to read while pregnant…most of these I have read myself, and some were recommended by a variety of trustworthy sources.
Birthing the Easy Way, Learning the Hard Way by Sheila Stubbs (this book is independently published, so the link is to her website, where you can purchase it…I also highly recommend her booklet “Hospital Birth, Is it Really Safer Than Homebirth?” which is exerpted from the book.)
Birthing From Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation, by Pam England & Rob Horowitz
The Pregnancy Book: Month-by-Month, Everything You Need to Know From America’s Baby Experts, by Dr. William & Martha Sears
The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth, by Dr. William Sears
The American Way of Birth, by Jessica Mitford
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, by Henci Goer
Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin
A Guide to Effective Care in Pregnancy & Childbirth, by James Neilson, et al
The Diary of a Midwife: The Power of Positive Childbearing by Juliana van Olphen-Fehr
Special Delivery by Rahima Baldwin Dancy
Childbirth Without Fear: The Original Approach to Natural Childbirth by Grantly Dick-Read
There is a mountain of free information available at your fingertips online! As with the books, not all are good…on the PG/Birth Links page you’ll find my favorite sites for excellent pregnancy and birth info…
There is also a ton of sources locally for classes to educate yourself on pregnancy and birth. As with everything else, not all are good. If you do decide to take a hospital birth class, my biggest advice to you is to balance it with a birthing class that is not connected with a hospital. I cannot stress this enough…I truly believe that the outcome of my first birth (cesarean) would have been different had my husband and I taken the Bradley classes with that pregnancy and not just the hospital classes. Most hospital classes teach simply the biology of pregnancy and birth and how to be a good consumer of all the medical technology at your beck-and-call in the hospital. They don’t usually dive very deep into the risks of those interventions (if at all), nor do they talk much about the normalcy of birth (if at all) and that your body is designed to do this and that you don’t usually NEED any of the interventions…they just teach you to be a good patient and “don’t be a martyr”…This is really not all that helpful for most people. But you won’t know this until after the fact if you go only the hospital route. So my advice to you is to balance your hospital education with a non-hospital class as well. I think most of you will be very glad you did.
Sadly, there isn’t a whole lot of variety in our area for non-hospital sponsored birthing classes…but I will share with you those that I’m aware of on the Local Classes page.
Local Support (Doulas)
All the reading and education I’m recommending is a great start, but I can’t say enough about getting an experienced woman to help you through your actual labor and birth. The Bradley Method would have this person be the father…and that’s all good but personally I feel that puts a lot of pressure on Dad that doesn’t need to be. Honestly, there’s only so much Dad can learn in a 10week class…he’s still going to feel that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, even if he did actually pay attention and get a lot out of the classes. I agree with the view I read somewhere that Dads need to be left to do what they do best…support & love Mom. They shouldn’t have to also worry about the logistics of how the labor is progressing and if anything is going wrong and oh can they remember how to do those pressure points or remember to notice if Mom is tensing a muscle she shouldn’t be…that can be a lot for your guy to remember! I know it was for mine, and he really did get a lot out of the classes we took! (I know of others who’s husbands slept through the classes, lol!)
Personally I feel like I don’t want my husband to have to stress over what he “should” be doing…so we’ve always made sure to have an experienced, trained labor assistant…also known as a “doula.” My husband always felt conforted knowing that he DIDN’T have to know it all…that our doula would be there to guide him. It really helped ease the stress he was feeling in our birthing classes, of having to be the one in charge and having to remember all this stuff (which, by the way, I’ve learned that a lot of that stuff really leaves you when you are in the heat of the moment…you tend to go by instinct at that point…but its good to have a foundation of knowledge anyway…just don’t expect that you’ll do things just as the classes suggest.) Its important to learn the things you learn in birthing classes, but to then also have someone trained who’s done this hundreds of times before and who DOES have the techniques ingrained in her will really help tremendously when you’ve forgotten it all. At the same time, having the book learning really helps you to know WHY she’s telling you to “breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth”…she’s really not just trying to be annoying…there’s really good reasons for all that she asks of you, lol!
So having that foundation of knowledge helps you to understand what’s going on during labor and birth, and then having that experienced person with you to walk you through it and support both you and Dad will help ease the stress off of you to remember everything.
So find a good, experienced doula…there’s quite a few locally…here’s a list.
Start Your Baby off Right with Breastfeeding—
Get Thee to a La Leche League Meeting During Pregnancy!!
I hesitate to say much about breastfeeding only because it’s such a touchy subject for many people…but I will say it anyway. Babies are biologically designed to breastfeed, and you are biologically designed to do it. Because of the fact that we live in a bottle feeding culture (thanks to the formula companies and their over-the-top success in advertising) you will really have to educate yourself if you are going to be successful at breastfeeding. If you go into it thinking “I’ll try”, you’ve already got your mind prepared for failure, and are just one step away from making failure a reality…so just keep that in mind and know that breastfeeding is not something that comes naturally to everyone. It does for some, but not all. And unfortunately there’s a LOT of misinformation out there about breastfeeding. I’m shocked to hear stories over and over and over again of medical professionals (doctors, nurses, and yes even lactation consultants!) that give misinformation out about breastfeeding and, surprise surprise, the mother ends up switching to bottle and never going back. So educate yourself. GO TO LA LECHE LEAGUE. They are moms that know their stuff and have been trained well! And I can personally vouch for our local leaders…I am good friends with most of them — We have an AWESOME bunch of leaders here locally! They are very very supportive and not pushy or judgmental. They WILL help you, if you just contact them! Go to a meeting, call them! But you have to reach out to them…you have to take that step. Start by going to meetings when you are pregnant. You will learn a lot and get so much support and love, trust me!
Now the flipside–IF you have done your research…you know that breastfeeding is beyond best, it’s what is normal and what babies are designed to receive…you know that formula is sub-standard (NOT poison or evil, I’m not saying that…but it truly IS substandard…will never come close to breastmilk in its benefits)…you know all the higher risks that formula fed babies have vs breastfeeding ones…but yet you still decide that formula feeding is the way for you and your baby…You’ve at least made an educated decision. You did the research, you know the risks, you know the benefits, you truly know your stuff…you just decided to do otherwise. If that’s the worst thing that ever happens to your baby, you still have a lucky baby. Because there are tons of babies and children being abused daily, so I wouldn’t ever want to claim that not breastfeeding is anywhere on par with abuse. And breastfeeding or not breastfeeding is not going to make you a good or bad mother. There’s far more to parenting than that.
BUT…I truly believe that the vast majority of moms (not all, but most) that either decide not to breastfeed or fail early on (mostly due to bad advice/misinformation) do so because they just are not educated well on breastfeeding. If we lived in a breastfeeding culture, things would be very different. Factual information on breastfeeding would be the norm, mainstream society would be supportive of nursing children and mothers, and it would be rare for moms to have to formula feed. But that’s not the culture we live in. So if you want to get your baby off the best start, the naturally best start…you have to educate yourself on breastfeeding.
And I have a LOT more info on breastfeeding here.
Don’t Knock it Til You’ve Tried It!
Lastly, I’d like to introduce those of you that are not familiar with this, to an “alternative” form of parenting that you can start learning about during pregnancy, if you so choose. It’s called “attachment parenting” and there’s a lot of really wonderful stuff on the web about it. I have an entire section of my site that I explain all about it, so check it out! As always, take what you like and leave the rest. But I’m all about exposing people to things they might not otherwise be exposed to…so start learning about parenting styles now, during pregnancy! You may find pearls of wisdom in this parenting philosophy that resonate with you…and you also may find that you naturally fall into this style without even realizing that there’s actually a large following for it and a lot of research to back it up. You may find yourself feeling guilty for some of the things you do with your child until you read about this style of parenting and realize what you are doing is actually quite normal and healthy! So read and enjoy learning!