Expecting? Congrats! Once the excitement (woo!) is contained, it's time to contend with the reality and logistics of pregnancy. This is the part where your head starts to spin because there's so much to do and think about. There's also the fear and mystique that surrounds pregnancy and especially childbirth. Don't worry, we've got you covered.
The best way to deal with the uncertainty is to dive in and learn as much as you can. When you understand what's happening physically and mentally, you're better able to process and anticipate the changes coming.
First, pregnancy and childbirth are an essential and amazing part of the human experience and there's no need to fear. The women who came before us did it and likely with fewer resources and assistance than available to us today. My grandmother shared how she birthed her children at home with no medical intervention. She told me about the experience in a matter-of-fact way, without a hint of uneasiness. I'm inspired by her strength and her story is a reminder that our bodies are absolutely built for this. We can do this!
The first resource I turned to was books. With all the titles you'll likely read, let's start by saying there's no way anyone can retain everything you read. A great approach is to not be overwhelmed, allow information to enter the brain and let what resonates to stick. There is a common thread running through the book list—a focus on natural birth. Whether you plan to birth via c-section or go natural without any drugs, there is helpful information in the books regardless of the route you take. The two main criteria in evaluating whether a book is worth sharing:
- how informative the book is. (The goal is to discover nuggets that aren't common knowledge.)
- no zero fear-mongering allowed. (Minimizing stress and easing the mind is important during pregnancy.)
So without further ado, here are the favorites:
- Expecting Better by Emily Oster: Oster clears up pregnancy misconceptions and brings certain pregnancy restrictions into perspective. This includes mother's age at conception/birth, consumption of caffeine and alcohol and more with an evidence-based approach. *Highly recommended for: those who are nervous and getting serious about trying for a baby.
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin: I read this book before I conceived (well over a year before) and changed my perception of birth as a scary, painful experience. A wonderful guide to getting your mind into gear if you're thinking of starting a family or counting down the days till the little one arrives. *Highly recommended for: everyone, especially those who are nervous about the actual birth.
- Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon: Found this at the library and my childbirth class strongly recommended this ready. There are helpful exercises that'll get your body in great birthing condition. Highlights also include details about the stages of labor and how your partner can make the birthing process better. *Highly recommended for: all mamas.
- Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr. Sarah Buckley: This book was a bit mind-blowing for me. I casually picked it up and was almost certain I wouldn't like it based on the title and cover. The book details the chain reaction of physical and hormonal effects that come with having a natural birth without drugs. No other reading comes close to explaining the process and relationship of how birth plays out in nature and how the volley of hormones affects not only the baby from arrival to adult years but also the well-being of mom and dad. *Highly recommended for: those considering opting out of an epidural.
- The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy by Genevieve Howland: A wonderful week-by-week guide on the development of the fetus and changes in the body with a focus on important milestones, healthful recipes, and lots of other helpful recommendations. *Highly recommended for: everyone!
Yes, there are some very popular titles missing from the list and this is by choice. We have only so many weeks before baby arrives and so, I wanted to only include the books that were most beneficial to me. You don't need to buy them, you can check them out from your local library. If you have the space and want a copy of your own, do visit a secondhand store or independent book store. I've had mama friends who passed along copies which I hope to pass along after my little one arrives.
These books are practical reading for all moms, not just new moms. The books are a wonderful resource to start with but I've also found consulting with your doctor or midwife, peppering the seasoned moms in your life with questions, hitting up YouTube and joining forums where you can interact with other moms on the same pregnancy timeline you are (Reddit) to be super handy.
One final comment, every woman will experience pregnancy in her own way. There is no right or wrong way to go about this. There will be inevitably be passages and suggestions that you find disagreeable. That's fine and I encourage you to skip over what doesn't work for you. Do what feels right for you and babe.
How did/do you quell your pregnancy anxieties? What resources did you turn to for more pregnancy information? Did I miss a helpful book? I would love to hear your suggestions, fellow mamas and mamas-to-be!