When I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was order a secondhand copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It felt like a right of passage. But what I found was that most of that clinical information has been replaced by apps (I used Ovia) and obsessive Google searching (it wasn’t just me, was it?) I also found that the energy of pregnancy meant that I was only ready to read certain things – about pregnancy, child birth, and parenting – at different times throughout this sacred initiation. There were a few books in particular that had a profound impact on me and I’d like to recommend them to you because they helped me so much.
The First Trimester
Expecting Better by Emily Oster
It’s incredible how much information is out there about pregnancy and much of it is even bandied about by health professionals. From the moment you see that little line on the pregnancy test it can feel like a minefield to know what’s safe to do, eat, breathe. Everything feels like a potential danger to the baby. But Emily Oster is an economist and didn’t want to accept old wive’s tales at their word when it came to how she treated her body during pregnancy. So she went around all through all of the issues on everything from eating sushi and drinking alcohol during pregnancy to what types of tests to get and whether to give your baby Vitamin K drops. She lays it all out in really accessible terms and then leaves you to make a decision that feels right to you. I found this book so, so helpful as I wanted to be making empowered decisions rather than fear-based ones.
The Second Trimester
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
I didn’t think I had any particular fear of childbirth – surely it was something women were just built to do, right? But for the first few months of pregnancy I couldn’t even think about going into labour without nearly having a panic attack. I was not ready to read or talk about the prospect at all. It turned out I had internalized a lot of misinformation and inherited a lot of fear about birth. Discovering Ina May’s work was such a blessing. She’s an incredible midwife and proponent of natural childbirth from the United States. This book is so accessible yet in-depth and it was the most empowering thing I ready about childbirth. Even though Peter’s birth did not go the way I’d hoped or planned, the information I learned in this book empowered me to know what I wanted and to make decisions from an informed, evidence-based place. Plus, the birth stories she shares and the way she walks you through everything helped me to process and integrate a lot of my fears.
The Third Trimester
The First Forty Days by Heng Ou
The postpartum time is so precious in terms of healing and bonding with our babies, yet our society is one of the few in the world that doesn’t honour it. Instead women are rushed back into the world, expecting to “bounce back.” Luckily there’s a movement towards more traditional practices of “sitting the bed” where women stay home for the first weeks after childbirth. They are taken care of and given the opportunity to do very little but rest, heal, and cuddle their babies. This beautiful book shares this tradition in more detail and is full of recipes, herbal remedies, and self-care practices that will help you to fully recover physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from the incredibly profound changes the body goes through in becoming a mother.
The book I searched for throughout my entire pregnancy – the one that talks about how the cyclic energy of womanhood shifts during pregnancy and postpartum to make set for a new energy, a new set of initiations – well, I never found it so I think I may have to write it myself.
What books would you recommend to an expecting mama?