Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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Must-Reads for Pregnancy & Birth August 27, 2009

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 3:57 pm
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As soon as you began thinking about getting pregnant (or realized you already were!) your mind was filled with a million questions.  There’s a lot to learn about pregnancy and birth.  Here’s a book list to get you started:

Healthy Pregnancy

  • The Mother of all Pregnancy Books: The Ultimate Guide to Conception, Birth & Everything In Between by Ann Douglas.  A great introduction and resource for first pregnancies.  Lots of information on common problems of pregnancy.
  • Mothering Magazine’s Having a Baby, Naturally by Peggy O’Mara.  “We’ll inform, you choose”  Having a Baby, Naturally reflects this spirit with straightforward, uncensored information about pregnancy and childbirth, addressing common concerns and questions in a compassionate, nonjudgmental style.
  • Eating for Pregnancy: The Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook by Catherine Jones and Rose Ann Hudson.  A practical book from a perinatal nutritionist on proper eating and weight gain goals, with a large collection of recipes.  It’s a cookbook in its own right.  Also addressing the requirements of diabetic, vegetarian and vegan diets during pregnancy.

Safe Childbirth

  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.  A classic, full of positive birth stories to prepare you mentally and physically for natural childbirth.
  • The Doula Guide to Birth: Secrets Every Pregnant Woman Should Know by Ananda Lowe & Rachel Zimmerman.  Insights from experienced doulas and real moms for birth and the welcoming a newborn.
  • The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.  A truly empowering resource covering the many procedures and tests available during pregnancy and birth.  Offering data and advice so you can make informed decisions regarding your care. 
  • The Doula Advantage by Rachel Gurevich.  Why and how to hire a doula, with interviews from more than 235 women and birth professionals.  So much good information, and real life tools to help women choose the best doula for their birth.
  • Pushed:  The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block.  “The United States has the most intense and widespread medical management of birth” in the world, and yet “ranks near the bottom among industrialized countries in maternal and infant mortality.”  This provocative, highly readable expose raises questions of great consequence for anyone planning to have a baby in U.S.

Fun, Encouraging Reads

  • Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent.  This fun, lighthearted book is chock-full with Peggy’s experiences delivering babies in Berkeley, California, including 40 birth stores from a wide-range of diverse, interesting women.  It’s the perfect prelude to your own labor, sure to leave you with realistic expectations for your own birth and some inspiration too.
  • The Girlfriend’s Guide to Prengnacy by Vicki Iovine.  Although I don’t share the perspective of the author, this book is so hilarious that I had to include it here.  The author’s sassy writing style will have you laughing at your pregnancy woes. 
  • Pregnancy Stories: Real Women Share the Joys, Fears, Thrills, and Anxieties of Pregnancy from Conception to Birth by Cecilia Cancellaro.  A collection of honest short-stories written by real mothers about the ups and downs of pregnancy and birth.  Support for the journey.
 

The Business of Being Born May 15, 2008

This weekend I watched Ricki Lake’s documentary, “The Business of Being Born”.  I was absolutely blown away by the clarity and gentleness by which the film discussed what is so often a messy topic: what should birth and maternity care look like?  

The film brought together the voices of OB/GYN’s, Labor & Delivery Nurses, Midwives, Pregnant women and Postpartum mothers to take a fair, unbiased look a the issues at hand.  What issues, you say?  Well, when you look at the stats on maternal mortality, infant mortality, and c-section rates, the United States trails most every “developed” country and even lags behind certain “undeveloped” countries.  And this despite the fact that Americans put soooooooo much more money into maternal and infant healthcare!  We pay more and get less.  What’s going on here? 

You have GOT to watch the film to find out, but here’s a taste of the action from the director, “When my friend Ricki Lake approached me about making this film, I admitted to her that I was afraid to even witness a woman giving birth, let alone film one. I had never pronounced the word “midwifery” and I thought Ricki insane, as she planned the birth of her second child, for passing up an epidural in a hospital delivery.

But as I did the research, I discovered that the business of being born is another infuriating way medical traditions and institutions – hospitals and insurance companies – actually discourage choice and even infringe on parents’ intimate rites, ultimately obstructing the powerful natural connection between mother and newborn child.”

I LOVED THIS VIDEO!  If you’re pregnant, you should watch it.  It’ll give you such a realistic preview of what healthy birth looks like, including all types of normal births from vaginal to breach to medically necessary c-section.  It was inspiring to the point of tears, and entirely real through and through.  Before you make your birth plan, watch “The Business of Being Born”!  

 

The Best Prep for a Non-Medicated Birth April 15, 2008

Many women desire to give birth without pain medication, or at least with as few heavy medications as possible.  How do you prepare yourself for that challenge?  What makes the difference between a woman who throws out her birth plan and gets that epidural and the one who manages her pain in the way she had hoped? 

For one, you have to realize that women feel contractions differently.  Some experience contractions as extremely painful, but others just feel tightness or almost nothing at all.  My friend Chihiro said she couldn’t even tell when she was contracting with her first baby, but with the second she experienced intense pain.  Prepare yourself by keeping an open mind to how easy or difficult the actual experience may be for you.  It’s completely unpredictable.

That said, countless women who experience intense pain during labor do manage to forgo medicating.  Now, I realize that a non-medicated birth isn’t for everyone, but if this is one of your goals here are some tips:

  1. Limit your exposure to medication opportunities.  Really.  If you don’t want to take drugs, try to avoid having them offered to you.  When you enter the labor room, personally tell the nurse that you prefer she NOT offer you medication.  Ask your birth partner to keep new nurses updated.  I heard of one woman who hung a “Don’t Offer Me Medication” sign on her labor room door.  Hey, it’s easier if you don’t have to say “no”.  If you really, consciously change your mind, I bet you’ll find the words to ask for that medication!
  2. Train your mind to think of birth positively.  Birth is an opportunity to bond with your mate, work hard for something worthwhile, experience the thrilling joy of success hard-won, and embrace that new baby for the first time.  Read LOTS of natural birth stories!  This is the most enjoyable and probably the most effective way to prepare for a natural, non-medicated birth.  Each time you expose yourself to stories of women who experienced birth like you desire, you set yourself up to approach birth with a positive, confident attitude. 
  3. Prepare to be flexible.   Your birth will probably NOT go exactly as planned.  Maybe your contractions will stop temporarily. Maybe your doula will not make it.  Maybe your labor will drag on for over 24 hours.  Maybe you’ll go from 2 to 10 centimeters in an hour – who knows!!!  It’s great to have a plan, but be prepared to throw it out the window.  Spend some time imagining very different possibilities and how you would like to react.  No matter what happens, you can have a fulfilling birth experience if you keep your perspective positive and take control of your choices.  In birth you are not the victim or the patient, you are the mom.
  4. Gain access to alternative pain management options.  If you’re saying “no” to drugs, say “yes” to something else! Read, talk to other moms about what worked for them, and arrange for the services of a midwife or doula.  There is a rich culture of birthing aids from warm water to massage to visualizations that can make a huge difference in your perception of pain during labor.  Your labor nurse is very unlikely to be of help in this area.  You’ve got to proactively plan ahead to arm yourself with safe, effective labor tools.  Again, reading positive natural birth stories is an excellent way to fill your mind with pain management ideas. 

Bottom line: managing pain is 90% mental.  The difference between achieving your goal to birth without drugs and making a decision to medicate that you may regret is usually how prepared you are mentally.  Know that you can do this.  Focus on the positives and let every contraction bring you closer to holding that baby in your arms.

One great classic full of positive birth stories is Ina May Gaskin’s “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”.  You can also find a rich resource of birth stories at Mothering.com

Many blessings!