When I was pregnant for Jack and again this time around I pretty much avoided all of the traditional baby books. What to Expect When You’re Expecting was too scary (“here are all the things that can go wrong with your baby *this* week!!”) and none of the other Official Pregnancy Books really appealed to me.
The genre that totally sucked me in was midwife memoirs. I see a midwife through our local hospital’s women’s health center, and we had a midwife-directed hospital birth with Jack that was about as close to a home birth as you could get without being home. It was amazing. In case you’re in the mood for some baby-style reading (or if you’re in withdrawal from Call the Midwife) here are some books I’ve enjoyed.
Peggy Vincent, Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife. Peggy Vincent was a professional home-birth midwife in the U.S. and delivered over 3,000 babies during her career, which spanned from her nurse-training in the 1960s through the early 2000s, so Baby Catcher has plenty of great birth stories, but it also offers interesting commentary on the obstacles faced by midwives in America and includes a lot of good information about the differences between medicalized and non-intervention birth experiences. This was one of the first midwife memoirs I read and it got me hooked.
Penny Armstrong and Sheryl Feldman, A Midwife’s Story. I just finished this one a couple days ago and I have to confess that I read it all in one fell swoop. (Any time I say that you can assume that I bought it on my Kindle and stayed up all night to read it – uninterrupted reading doesn’t happen around here during daylight hours.) Penny Armstrong is a trained nurse-midwife who set up practice serving the Amish community of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and most of her stories are about the Amish. She’s light on the details of the actual births, which is good or bad depending on your interest in birth itself and your general level of squeamishness, but she includes a lot about Amish culture and about the way that she and her husband were accepted into the Amish community despite being English because of her care for their women and babies.
Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times. News flash: in case you didn’t realize, Call the Midwife is based on the memoir of a midwife practicing in London in the 1950s. I haven’t actually watched the show yet (it’s on my list for when I’m sitting nursing the new baby 18 hours/ day later this summer), but I loved the book. Fun fact: I learned about eclampsia by reading Call the Midwife and totally diagnosed Lady Sybil and called that she was doomed after she had the baby in Downton Abbey. My mother-in-law and Paul both diagnosed me as a prego-obsessed nerd, but whatever, I was totally right.
Linda Fairley, The Midwife’s Here! The Enchanting True Story Story of Britain’s Longest Serving Midwife. I just started this one, but already I love Fairley’s humor and her way of telling the stories. Like A Midwife’s Story, so far The Midwife’s Here is lighter on actual birth stories and heavy on the culture surrounding midwifery in Britain in the 1960s and 70s when Fairley was doing her training, but so far it’s a great read.
And if those aren’t enough reading recommendations to get you started, here are a few non-midwifey-y pregnancy recommendations for good measure:
Lucy Puryear, M.D., Understanding Your Moods When You’re Expecting. This was the closest I got to the What to Expect genre. There are tons of books on what happens to your body when you’re pregnant, but this one explains all of the craziness that is going on in your head when your brain is flushed with hormones on a regular basis and I found it to be really reassuring that I wasn’t alone in bursting into tears when I couldn’t get the peanut butter jar open or in becoming enraged over something as stupid as Paul draping his jeans over the hamper instead of putting them inside. There’s a lot of good information about more serious mental health issues as well (how to recognize post-partum depression, whether to stay on your meds while you’re pregnant and nursing), but I found the science behind the mood-swings to be pretty fascinating.
Jena Pincott, Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? I’ve given this book to several friends when they were expecting. Pincott is a popular science writer who became interested in uncovering the “truth” (or lack thereof) in old wives tales about pregnancy when she was expecting her first baby. Fun, light and educational.
Bonus: Martha Beck, Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic. Martha Beck and her husband were go-getting Harvard students with multiple degrees each when they learned they were expecting a baby with Down syndrome. The pressure from their colleagues to terminate the pregnancy was enormous, since the baby would not be “normal”, much less another Baby Einstein-attending Harvard student in the making like their classmates’ kids, but a series of events that Beck can’t explain led her to believe that there are more important things to learn in the world than what an Ivy League school can teach. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but I found this book to be extremely moving and thought-provoking – I highly, highly recommend it.
Have you read any good baby-themed books lately? What else do I need to put on my reading list?