With my first baby I read an astounding amount of fertility, pregnancy, birth and parenting books. Starting from the (in my opinion) very shallow, very predictable "What to expect..."-series, to some very spiritual "hippie" literature. I had both the time and the interest to submerge myself fully into the subject and it made feel secure and ready for childbirth and beyond.
This time around, I was either too busy running after my daughter, or too tired from running after my daughter to really get into reading. However, there are a few books, that mean so much to me and bring me so much inspiration, assurance and guidance for child birth and the weeks after, that I just had to re-read them. Recently, a dear friend introduced another gem to me, that I am currently finishing up. So if you are short on time like me, or simply a minimalist when it comes to pregnancy reads, I would whole-heartedly recommend these three books, to gently prepare you for what is to come:
"Ina May's guide to childbirth" - by Ina May Gaskin. To me, this has been by far the most helpful read to prepare for my home birth. However, no matter where you plan on giving birth, this book will help you understand the natural process of childbirth. It will help you appreciate the power of the female body and its capabilities and leave you confident and fearless as you enter your birthing story. The first part, is a beautiful collection of powerful birth stories. The second part, is about the "essentials of birth", including comfort measures, incredible facts about the female body and its birthing powers and a bit on the history of certain "standardized" procedures performed in hospitals in the U.S. today. It is a spiritual, but also factual read. Ina May Gaskin is probably the most inspiring lady in midwifery today and this book is her gift to all of us.
"The birth partner" by Penny Simkin. This book is meant for fathers to be, doulas and all other labor companions - "birth partners". It is a very comprehensive guide to childbirth with information about anything from the last weeks of pregnancy, to the stages of labour, to the first days postpartum, and even a little bit about breastfeeding. I have never actually "fully" read this book. My "birth partner" and incredible husband did the reading for me. In the evenings, he would rub my belly with oil, or give me a foot massage, while telling me the most important facts he learned in the book. The book left him knowledgeable and comfortable about childbirth. As usual in our marriage, he took over the role of the level-headed, fact-based brain of our "birth operation", while I focused in on my feelings and handling the physical and emotional part - the "soul" of birth. Due to his preparedness, I could ease into birth without fear. He is the one that knows all the details from the signs of any stage of labor, stimulating measures, comforting techniques, to counting contractions and baby's first poops. "The birth partner" empowers your partner and gives him an active role in a time when the female partner is left with most of the "heavy lifting", both figuratively and literally. It is also a great way to bond and find some special downtime as a couple during pregnancy.
"The first forty days - the essential art of nourishing the new mother" - by Heng Ou. I'm a firm believer in the rest and relaxation period, or "laying in" after childbirth. It is a wonderful, quiet time of getting to know your baby, healing your body and adjusting to motherhood (wether it is the first or second or seventh time around). There will never be another time in your life, where you can get away with being present only with your loved-ones and yourself, instead of pleasing, working, rushing, stressing and hurrying... This beautifully put together book is a gentle reminder of the benefits of taking it slow after child birth. It provides interesting facts, guidance and even nourishing recipes for this special time. It makes a beautiful staple in your bookshelf, or a wonderful gift as you pass it on to other mothers.
For the little one, I loved this one , to prepare her for her new role as a big sister.
And if you can barely keep your eyes open and reading is not on your agenda tonight, but you want to get into the spirit anyways, then I can recommend these wonderful youtube videos: