I’ve also been thinking a lot about my desires for a more natural labor this time around. I’ve had three children, three epidurals, two inductions, and until a couple years ago, I thought my labors and deliveries were just about ideal. There were no major complications, no forceps or vacuums or c-sections (and my babies were all healthy, no small consideration).
But my epidurals were never wholly satisfactory. Though I usually started with a “walking” epidural, I have a small scoliosis in my spine that makes the numbness affect only the left side of my body until second and third doses are given and I lie on my right side and end up flat on my back, afraid to so much as shift or I’ll fall off the bed, I’m so numb. This makes for awkward laboring.
I’ve been thinking, since following Rixa’s and Heather’s blogs (and even Dooce’s), and researching more about the effects of medical intervention on labor, that I would love to have a a less-interventioned birth. More importantly — a more prepared, educated birth, a more aware-of-my-options and in-tune-with-my-body birth....
In thinking of my previous labors and births, I have felt ashamed that I took so little responsibility for or control over what happened. That I took as much initiative in childbirth as I did in going for a appendectomy at age fourteen. Why wasn’t I more curious to learn about the actual process, more empowered, more determined to experience, more eager to do it well? Why was I so passive? (I am not a passive person usually.)
So I had a stack of books to read and grand plans to see if I could find a midwife (preferably one who would know of a woman who would let me observe her birth — despite being delivered of three babies myself, I really have no idea what a natural birth would look/be like). Or maybe I would just watch Ricki Lake’s documentary and listen to Hypnobabies.
I volunteered my lending library for her. I pulled a stack of books and movies off my shelf and am trying to make it small enough to fit into a flat-rate Priority Mail box. I have a variety of books, from coffee table ones rich with photos, to anthropological examinations of American birth culture, to advice books. I could also send her my Hypnobabies CDs and packet. For someone in Jane's situation, which books or movies would you suggest?
Here's my list of finalists:
- Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent: because it's fun and makes you laugh and, most importantly, shows you what giving birth naturally is like. I felt really well prepared for the sights, sounds, and smells of birth after reading her book.
- Adventures in Natural Childbirth: this book is an edited collection of natural birth stories in a variety of settings: unassisted, midwife-attended home births, birth centers, and hospitals. I think reading birth stories is an essential learning tool for pregnant women.
- Birth as an American Rite of Passage: The classic anthropological examination of American birth practices by Robbie Davis-Floyd. Some of the early chapters can get a bit theory-heavy, so I suggest skimming those if you find your mind wandering.
- Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah J. Buckley: This is the older Australian edition. There's a new American edition out this year that is completely updated and has several new chapters. Still, I love this book because Dr. Buckley combines her passion as a mother with her physician's interest in science and hormones. Some of the topics she discusses (lotus birth, elimination communication) might deter a more mainstream reader but I figure Jane has been reading my blog for a few years now, so nothing will be too much of a surprise. My favorite parts of this book are the chapters examining the hormonal physiology of birth.
- Birthing the Easy Way by Sheila Stubbs: hilarious, down-to-earth advice from a mom who's been there & done that, from a "physician distress" c-section to VBACs to accidental unassisted home birth. It's funny and real and isn't preachy or pretentious.
- Pushed by Jennifer Block: a fast, journalistic expose of our current maternity care system.
- Birthing From Within by Pam England. I loved reading through this even before I was pregnant, looking at the various exercises and art therapy Pam England does to help women access their inner knowledge and strength.
- Birth Reborn by Michel Odent: lyrical, moving, and beautiful in its portrayal of how to transform birth in an institutional setting. I come back to this text again and again.
- Rediscovering Birth by Sheila Kitzinger: a coffee table book filled with photos and illustrations and moving text about giving birth through time and across cultures.
Movies (limited by what I personally own--most have home birth footage. I wish I owned more movies showing natural hospital births, but she'll have to use YouTube for that.)
- The Business of Being Born: in her case, I'd say watch it mainly for the birth scenes, so you can get an idea of what an unmedicated labor looks and sounds like
- Orgasmic Birth: probably my favorite because it shows so many different labors and births
- Waterborn: 3 home water births, home video quality edited together into a 30 minute film. Mothers catch their own babies for the most part. Two of these births are really quiet.
- Birth Day by Naoli Vinaver Lopez: short, beautiful film of a midwife's third birth, a water birth at home. I love hearing her narrate what she was thinking and feeling as she labored.