Before I got pregnant, I assumed that my birth experiences would be like my mother's.  I'd see an OBGYN for care, I'd go to the hospital to labor and give birth, maybe I'd have an epidural or maybe I wouldn't (my mom didn't), and a doctor (maybe not mine) would be there to deliver the baby.  When we vacationed on Oahu the spring before we got married, we visited the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones, where the princes of the native Hawaiian people were birthed, I made a snide comment like, "Who would want to give birth on a rock?  I'll take the comfort of a hospital bed, thankyouverymuch."

Birthing Stones - Spring 2009

Little did I know that two years later, I'd prefer the rock.

I was beyond blessed to have two amazing births.  I gave birth to both of my children in an out-of-hospital, freestanding birth center, attended by midwives and doulas.  You can read Andrew's birth story here, Clara's birth story here, and Nate's birth story here.

I believe that natural, unmedicated, vaginal birth is the preferable method for normal, healthy women and babies with low-risk pregnancies.  I believe that in general, women's bodies can birth the babies that they grow without outside help if they are allowed to trust their bodies, be in a familiar, comfortable, supportive environment, and stay mobile and active during labor.  I also believe that hospital culture in the US is generally unsupportive of this approach.  I believe that in the current state of birth, to give yourself the best shot at an ecstatic, empowering natural birth, your best options are to choose midwifery care and give birth outside of a hospital, either at a freestanding birth center or at home.

Of course modern medicine is a wonderful, amazing thing that saves lives when things really go wrong.  High risk mamas and babies should definitely utilize the hospital and all the medical support that they offer.  Out of hospital birth locations should be chosen with proximity to a hospital in mind.  And of course I know that it is possible to have ecstatic, empowering hospital births as well. 

Above all, I believe that you should do research. Be informed.  Understand both the risks and benefits of the choices that you make in pregnancy, labor, and birth.  Don't just do what you think "everyone else does."  You have options.  Not everyone does birth the same way.  What's right for someone else might not be right for you.  Read birth stories.  Understand your options.  Make a birth plan.  Then during your birthing time, roll with it and be willing to change the plan based on what is happening at the time.  Then look into your precious baby's face and say, "I did everything within my power to ensure that both you and I would have the best birth experience possible."

Here are some resources I found helpful when I was researching pregnancy and birth.  I hope they help you too!

Getting Started

If you are just getting started and are overwhelmed, try these four of my favorite resources to get you pointed in the right direction.

(1) Birth Day by Mark Sloan:  This is not a guidebook for pregnant people.  It’s a scientific look at childbirth, including what happens in a baby’s body as he is born, and a historical look on why we give birth the way we do today.  It’s mostly not opinionated, just telling a story.  It’s fascinating, and worth reading just to understand, scientifically what is happening. It includes information on both vaginal and c-section birth.

(2) Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein: This is related to the film The Business of Being Born (see below), but unlike a lot of the other stuff I've listed, it's not automatically total natural-childbirth cheerleading.  It's about making the choices that are right for you.  Although the authors are fans of midwifery care and a natural experience, I don't feel that they push that as an agenda.  Some of the other stuff I list here, admittedly, does.

(3) Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer:  Goes through possible interventions and weighs the risks vs. benefits, based on medical research.  This means you’ll truly have *informed* consent, regardless of where you choose to give birth.

(4) The Business of Being Born:  A movie that talks about the history of childbirth in America.  Goes into midwife care vs. hospital maternity care and why things are the way they are. 

Natural Birth Resources

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin:  Ina May is one of the most renowned modern midwives.  This book gives a great look at the midwifery model of care and natural birth.  Lots of great birth stories.  The single most useful labor technique in both of my births was "horse lips," which comes from this book. 

 The Birth Book by Dr and Mrs. Sears Dr Sears is a pediatrician (and his wife and son are co-authors who are also medical professionals).  He is the guru behind “Attachment Parenting” which, in general, is the philosophy of baby-parenting I ascribe to.  But the Sears's have some great information compiled on natural birth, both in and out of the hospital in this book, and on their website.

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin: This is pretty heavy reading, with a lot of technical detail about how your partner can support during birth.  It will prepare him well, though, if he’s up for it.  It’s written by Penny Simkin, another renowned midwife.

Birthing from Within: This is a great book, but I found it to be much more interesting and useful during my second pregnancy than my first.  During my first pregnancy, I was ravenous for technical and scientific information, and too absorbed in that quest to stop and thing about the psychological and spiritual side of birth.  Once I had been through birth once, I found that BFW was extremely helpful in exploring those spiritual aspects and having a framework of how my body "does" birth helped me delve deeper and have an even more meaningful birth experience.  I believe it can also be of great value if you are facing a birth that might not go the way you had hoped and to process some apprehension in order to have an empowered birth experience anyway.

Hypnobabies:  This is a “hypnosis for childbirth” program that I used.  I had mixed results during birth, but it really kept me relaxed and focused during pregnancy, especially during the last few weeks.

Pregnancy Resources 

The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger: Good all-around reference on pregnancy and childbirth, with a natural-leaning-tendency.
Dad’s Pregnant Too by Harlan Cohen Our favorite book for the dad-to-be.  Funny and informative.

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