I did far too much research when it came to childbirth, but it sort of baffles me when I meet women who didn't read a single book in preparation. We met a couple that was 38.5 weeks pregnant at a childbirth class, and they said they had "done nothing to prepare." That blows my mind. I mean, truthfully, your body does know what to do. But in modern childbirth, especially in America, it behooves a woman to have as much knowledge as possible. It's nice to know when you're being treated like a human and when you're being lied to.
Granted, reading some books might be more dangerous than just going with it...
Least Helpful/Most Likely to Terrify you:
Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy. She's not an awful writer, and the book is mildly entertaining. Read it if you never plan on having kids, but are curious about typical American pregnancies that you see on TV or movies. Or just read it for entertainment value, and know that you don't have to have a birth like that.
2nd Least Helpful, but The Book That All Your Friends Will Suggest Anyway.: The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy. My American doctor actually recommended this to me. With every chapter, I kept saying things to David about how forever ruined my body would be, until he literally grabbed the book and asked me to stop reading it. I disobeyed and finished it anyway, but it did nothing to help my birth confidence. I'm super-thankful I read it early on in my pregnancy, otherwise I would have wanted a scheduled C-section, which I now think is completely ridiculous (unless it's for genuine medical reasons -- not just "oh, the baby is big" reasons or "oh, that's what celebrities are doing" reasons).
Most Helpful: The Good Birth Companion. Even David read this (to be honest, he read just everything I put in his hands) and found it super helpful. Easy to understand, but not terrifying. It's crunchy, but not preachy. Facts without evangelism. If I were to recommend only one book to help you understand childbirth, I'd say this one, no matter what type of birth you want.
Also helpful, but probably deters people with its innate hippiness: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Even if you don't plan on a natural birth, I'd recommend this one. I found the first section particularly helpful. It consists entirely of birth stories -- very detailed and with some nice 1970s graphic photos (beware). Reading these stories normalized birth for me. Like so many people, I'd mostly been told horrible birth stories, or seen Hollywood versions of childbirth. Reading first-hand accounts of births that were midwife-attended and delivered on The Farm in Tennessee made me realize that I could totally do this. Again, even if you don't want a natural birth, reading these stories will make realize that your body was made for childbirth -- and there's no reason to be afraid. That confidence alone is worth seeing that close-up photo of the face-presentation baby popping out of his momma's vagina. See? I told you it was graphic.
I read at least twenty-five books on childbirth, so I could go on and on. It's not really worth reviewing all of them. They get repetitive after a while. Some of them are preachy, and some of them are scary. Whatever you read, try to get a good balanace. If you read only What to Expect While You're Expecting, you're going to get a nice one-sided view of everything that could possibly go wrong. While it's nice to have that information, it's also good to realize that most of the time: things go right. So read something besides that, even if you have four copies of it on your bookshelf already.
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