9.17.2009

What Not To Read

Read Time: 7 minutes

You know that show "What Not to Wear"? Well, this is my version of that show... only it's a blog post, not a TV show... and it's about reading material, not clothes... ... ...


Every "Don't Read" is explained and critiqued in detail, and then I provide three alternate options for "Instead Read". These three alternatives are broken down into three sub-categories: Citizen (for the average Joanne, safe to give at a baby shower without offending), Seeker (for the one who is definitely looking into her options but not sure what she wants), and Sold (she knows, she has researched, she is a proactive consumer, it's hard to offend this chic).


So, without further ado, I give you WHAT NOT TO READ:

DON'T READ: What to Expect When You Are Expecting - while learning to crawl, my second-born found and proceeded to rip every page out of my copy of WTEWYAE. She had the right idea. This book is chock full of enough scare-tactics and medical promotions to frighten and confuse any mama-to-be right into a panic attack (if not premature labor). I have never seen so many women turned into anxious balls of nervous wreckage after reading this book. Although it contains a lot of relevant educational material, it is delivered in such a way that women are not brought into that knowledge in an empowering and positive way; but instead leads women to believe that there are so many cautions, tests, deviations, and alternatives that something is bound to happen, just wait. Empower and educate, it does not. There are many better options.

INSTEAD READ:
  • (Citizen) Conception, Pregnancy, and Birth - Miriam Stoppard compiled this easy to read walk through of everything from ovulation to breastfeeding. Filled with beautiful photographs and illustrations, it is user-friendly and educational. She treats pregnancy as beautiful, normal, and natural - allowing women to look at themselves in awe. The sections on birth provide step by step information on the stages as well as coping techniques/positions and possible interventions.
  • (Seeker) Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn - Penny Simkin co-authors this book, which is a much more thorough and in-depth educational piece than it's counterpart above. It deals much more with variations, interventions, medications, and the like while also continuing to provide this information in a non-threatening, non-frightening light. She remains factual without becoming intimidating or sentimental. Some key components that make this a great book: the role of the birth partner, charts on interventions/risks/benefits, and emotional and physical landmarks of pregnancy/labor/birth and postpartum.
  • (Sold) Having a Baby, Naturally - This book is similar to the two above, without the illustrations and photographs of the first and without the non-biased POV (they explain, in detail, their slant and reasoning for natural) of the second. This book is a great companion for homebirth mamas or women who are already more 'crunchy-minded'. In particular, I love that they devote a full section to the expectant father. This is a GREAT resource for natural pregnancy, birth, and parenting, but only for those who are already set on that path.
DON'T READ: Planning for Pregnancy Birth and Beyond - basic. boring. Those are the two key words I can come up with for this particular book. It is written to be very hospital/intervention/test-friendly, giving you lots of good topics, but very hospital childbirth class-like advice. It is written like a text book and not very easy of a reference. PFPB&B definitely writes from the model of pregnancy as a medical condition/event.

INSTEAD READ:
  • (Citizen) The Pregnancy Book - Similar to my review below, this book is an easy read, never talking over their audience, but providing practical, fun, medical, and optional information in a month by month setting. It is a good pregnancy guide, but when it comes to birth, I defer to my recommendations below.
  • (Seeker) The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth - A very in-depth look at interventions, medications, and birth, as well as a hard look at the obstetrical system, this book dissects the medical research to give sound, well-rounded information. This book can be hard to digest, but arms women with an arsenal of information to make informed decisions on just about everything they might encounter during labor and birth.
  • (Sold) Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering - Written by Dr. Sarah J Buckley, this book is fully balanced with information on intuitive birthing and parenting, and evidence-based birthing and parenting. She takes the best of maternal/ancestral wisdom and medical/research wisdom and combine the two to give an insightful look into gentle birth and gentle mothering.
DON'T READ: Easy Labor: Every Woman's Guide to Choosing Less Pain and More Joy During Childbirth - although the authors give well-rounded information on both the medical and non-medical means of pain relief for labor and birth, I felt it was a bit of an overplay on how painful labor and birth was - revisiting pain repeatedly, over-sensationalizing it. They also downplay the risks and side effects of epidurals, while also downplaying the effectiveness of alternate comfort measures; which, as a result, champions medical pain relief options. End result, "Hi, birth is painful, REALLY painful. Non-medical pain relief is ok, but man, just you wait, yer going to want your epidural".

INSTEAD READ:
  • (Citizen) Your Best Birth - Ricki Lake's new book, YBB gives great advise on options, all your options, in a non-biased, non-confrontational way. She presents all concepts of labor and birth, including choosing your doctor or midwife, your birthplace, writing a birth plan, and how to become a proactive consumer in your healthcare. It is not as in-depth as some of the other books, but it definitely gets women thinking, just like her informational documentary, "The Business of Being Born"
  • (Seeker) The Birth Book - Dr. William Sears gives you the good, the bad, the ugly, the best - all in very readable format and without the scare tactics. He gives you the options as well as the risks and benefits of each - no sugar coating it. There is adequate information on various childbirth options, plenty of birth stories to peruse, and no lack of information - this book helps women to become educated to their options without having an obvious bias, treating them as individual's, proactive consumers in their own healthcare options.
  • (Sold) Birthing From Within - Pam England outlines a childbirth preparation by means of discovery; viewing childbirth as a journey, an opportunity to tap into a new woman, the mother. She teaches that, through self discovery, letting go of birth baggage, and learning about the emotional journey of childbirth, a woman can have a truly fulfilling birth experience. This is put on my Sold list as it can come across as rather hippy-liberal.
DON'T READ: The Best Birth: Your Guide to the Safest, Healthiest, and Most Satisfying Labor and Delivery - I can honestly not find one good thing to say about this book. She poo-poos on any birth except a hospital, Obstetrician assisted birth, she touts that the only thing that the medical community is interested in is a healthy mom and baby, the book is extrememly post-modernistic, idolizes the medical community as 'doctor know's best', and seeks to undermine the assistance of a doula or other childbirth professional stating that 'you already have the only doula you need' (she wastes a whole section on why she would NOT recommend a doula - calling them trendy). She teaches that childbirth methods (goals, plans, preparation) only lead to guilt and miss sight of the real goal: a healthy mom and baby. Though I agree with her end-goal, our path to get there is completely different. She teaches abdication and compliance to hospital policy rather than research and becoming your own informed, educated, proactive consumer.

INSTEAD READ:
  • (Citizen) The Official Lamaze Guide - written in a similar vein to Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way, this book differs in that it focuses a great deal on birth when allowed to unfold naturally, how to encourage that, what can disrupt that, Lamaze coping techniques, and how to assimilate personal strengths/traits into the birthing room.
  • (Seeker) Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way - Susan McCutcheon writes this book in a way that some consider it a childbirth preparation class without the classroom. It outlines the reasons for a natural birth, the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy, labor, and birth, the emotional as well as physical signposts of labor and birth, and teaches a number of relaxation techniques and positions for labor and birth, all while encouraging husband's to be active participants and assistants.
  • (Sold) Ina May's Guide To Childbirth - Ina May challenges the cultural assumption that childbirth is a medical, frightening, and painful experience by providing a whole section of amazing childbirth stories that turn your preconceived notions on their heads. In addition, she gives honest, effective, and logical instruction, without getting methodical, on ways to help progress and assist in the labor and birthing process.
Other Great Reads:
Birth - the Surprising History of How We Were Born
Birth as an American Rite of Passage
The Birth Partner
Immaculate Deception
A Child Is Born
Spiritual Midwifery
Heart and Hands
Supernatural Childbirth
The Joy of Natural Childbirth
Active Birth
Gentle Birth Choices
The Lord of Birth

And there you have it - my official "What Not To Read" list, with alternatives - of course. I look forward to your own critiques as well in the comments and feel free to share with others.

58 comments:

Catherine Anne said...

This is an awesome awesome post! Thank you so much! We are TTC for our 4th child now~

Nicole D said...

Thanks Catherine Anne, good luck on the TTC and know our thoughts are with you!

Michelle said...

Wow, what a great post!!! I will be leading people to this post for a long time...

Sarah H said...

Great compilation! I now have a few more books to add to my "to-read" list.

Rebekah said...

This list is fantastic. Even as a Young woman, it drives me nuts to hear what these girls have grown up thinking. Such a list should be national news!

Thank You,
Rebekah Robertson

Megan B. said...

I so agree with you on WTEWYAE! Luckily, I did avoid many of the other books you recommend avoiding, and I read and loved many of the ones you recommended.

Molly said...

Awesome! Love the way you broke it down into three "levels." What a nice way to organize your recommendations.

Sheridan said...

Very nice list! So true about WTEWYE

apmotz said...

Great Post! I completely agree with everything you said! :)

manhattandoula said...

I so agree with you on _Easy Labor_. Wanted to hurl it across the room at various times. But I did try to write an objective review of it on my blog. It's nice to see I'm not the only one who feels this way. ;)

Dou-la-la said...

Great resources there! I was especially glad to see "Your Best Birth" included; I think it's a fabulous intro-level read.

Amy Romano said...

This is a great list and I love how you've broken it all down. Since I work for Lamaze, I should also say that I appreciate that you included The Official Lamaze Guide. I'm forwarding this list to my pregnant sister (who is, thankfully, "sold"!)

yourbirthright said...

WOW!! Fantastic Book List. Thanks for your honest critiques and the categorization of each. This is a wonderful post!!

Halahblue said...

Great post. I also hated What to Expect. Though it didn't make me nervous or afraid, I was annoyed at the almost condescending level at which it was written. The language and tone made me feel like the author believed everyone reading it was 6 years old. Definitely not for me. I've been enjoying You Pregnancy Week by Week and The Joy Pregnancy. I also bought Thinking Woman's Guide, but not sure whether it will be beneficial to me. (I live on a remote military base and there is only one basic option for birthing -- no doulas, midwives, water birthing, etc. available here. Not even a lamaze class. I guess it's just "drugs or not?" and that's it)

Son said...

I love the list and how your broke it down!
I wish I had a handout like this for classes.
If you ever plan on turning this list into a PDF handout let me know :)

Nick and Melissa said...

excellent...when my time comes to get pregnant I will refer to this list. I just read "The Diary of a Midwife" and loved it!

Mary Siever said...

Great list! I would add to that The Natural Pregnancy by Aviva Jill Romm, Hypnobirthing and (though not all would agree, this is my favourite birth book) Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Shanley.

Patrica G. Blomme said...

This post was awesome, though I was hoping to see Shiela Kitzinger mentioned on your list. She has written so many books from an anropological view and kept her books updated.

Opining in Ohio said...

"What *Not* To Read?" This is what the natural birth movement has come to? It makes me wonder what information those texts contain that has you so worried about women reading them. Let's remember that when a woman chooses a doctor/hospital delivery, that's one less paying customer for you.

I would think as an advocate for women, you'd want them to be as informed as possible. I certainly have more respect for my wife than to assume she can't read something she doesn't agree with and come to her own conclusion. There was a time when women were told "what not to read." I had thought we were past all that.

Nicole D said...

OIO -

You are missing the point. It is not about keeping women from information, it is keeping them from fear tactics and misinformation. I would like women to come to their own conclusions (not my conclusions) based on non-biased, complete, honest, FULL information.

These books that I have recommended NOT to read seek to undermine a womans intelligence by giving them opinion, misinformation, and outright falsities.

"One less paying customer" for me? I am a doula and childbirth educator. As such, I attend hospital, home, OB, midwife, and birth center births. It is not one less paying customer for me - recommending the books that I do simply means one more informed and empowered woman PERIOD.

Sheila Stubbs said...

Loved this post.
I wish it were posted at the bookstore to help women sort through the nonsense.

SuSuseriffic said...

I won't even donate the 'What to expect' books to places because I don't want ANYONE to read them. (I keep a group libary and often get people's old preg/parenting books)

Great post!

DrMomma said...

Fabulous list - and I love the creative way you gave suggestions for the BETTER books to read while pregnant and looking forward to birthing. While I am not an advocate for book burning...we sure would be a LOT better off without the "What to Expect" series and similar books. Kudos to you for a great list - I've linked your blog entry at the bottom of our Peaceful Parenting blog on "Best of the Best Pregnancy/Birth/Babies Books" http://drmomma.blogspot.com/2009/06/best-pregnancybirth-baby-books.html

Melissa said...

I am a homebirther and strongly believe in an unmedicated "hands off" approach to pregnancy & birth. Have you read & if so where would you put Grantly Dick Reids Childbirth Without Fear on this list? I believe it is out of print but I was able to find a copy at a used book store several years ago. Thanks Melissa

DrMomma said...

Melissa - "Childbirth Without Fear" is still in print. The latest version has an excellent intro by Dr. Michel Odent (2005). It can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Childbirth-without-Fear-Principles-Practice/dp/0953096467/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1255640292&sr=8-1

I especially enjoyed this book for its description of the fear-tension-pain response - as well as the discussion about how easily and calmly all mammals birth when fear is not a factor. Very empowering!

Nicole D said...

I have read and do like the majority of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read's book. I love that he teaches that education and understanding removes fear of birth, which, by removing fear, breaks the fear-tension-pain cycle. I also like that he advocates for a monitrice for best birth outcomes.

His pioneering work, though, was amazingly astute in education to alleviate fear/pain and conditioned response!

Joy said...

Bookmarked this! I hate WTEWYAE so I was glad to see that was the first on your DON'T READ list!

Elaine said...

I would add to your list "Having Faith: an Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood", by Sandra Steingraber.

And "Baby Catcher" by Peggy Vincent. The latter is filled with vignettes about labor and birth and I found it really helpful as a first time pregnant woman in trying to understand what exactly could happen in labor. I was pretty sure it wasn't what happened in the mainstream media!

Mandy said...

Another book I would I add to the What Not to Read List is the Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy. A friend of mine gave it to me saying it was awesome (although I had my doubts- we have have pretty different ideas when it comes to pregnancy/birth)so I thought I'd give it a shot. I had to stop reading it halfway through- the negativity, misinformation and condescending tone of the book were just too much for me.

I love the books you've recommended and plan to add a few more to my own library!

Elizabeth said...

I just started reading "Birthing From Within" and love it!!!

Julie said...

I totally agree with making sure Girlfriend's guide is on the Don't list: when I see it for sale (used) I buy them up and recycle them so they don't get into unsuspecting hands.

I might add the Hypnobirthing book by Marie Mongan to the Do list. Though not a complete prenatal ed book, I find her approach powerful and effective, especially her suggestions around changing the language you use. The relaxation CDs have been really helpful dissipating the fear that remained from my first (traumatic) birth.

Nicole K said...

When I saw The Best Birth: Your Guide to the Safest, Healthiest, and Most Satisfying Labor and Delivery on the list, I just had to add that I would recommend that women (and men) take anything by Armin Brott with a grain of salt. His tons comes across as very insecure, i.e. his books seem more like an anti-feminist backlash than anything else.

Nicole K said...

Oh- I forgot. I definitely agree with the recommendation to avoid WTEWYE. The reason I had such a problem with it is that it feeds into parents' insecurities about fetal development, e.g. you "will" be feeling movement during such-and-such a time frame. It fails to take into account that all pregnancies develop differently, and the author is certainly not qualified to give advice like that.

Same with WTEYFY- it feeds into many parents' insecurities about how their babies are developing by telling them things like, your baby "will" be sitting on her own at 6 months, your baby "will" be pulling herself up to a standing position by such-and-such an age, etc. It doesn't take into account the basic fact that all babies, isn't a badge of honor that one baby is sitting on his or her own earlier than other ones, or that one baby is talking earlier than another one, etc.

Kris Mays said...

Thank you so much for this list, which I just found through a link on a board at Babycenter.

Iam really not sure how a Christian can be a feminist as well. I find that part of your profile interesting.

I so appreciate these recommendations as I try my own homebirth, after 5 uneventful hospital births. Thanks again!

talkbirth said...

There are plenty of Christian feminists in the world! See: http://www.eewc.com/

(and there are plenty of Christian women--usually mothers--who meet the definition of "cultural feminists" even though they may not self-identify as feminist)

Personally, I have trouble understanding how anyone could NOT be a feminist, regardless of faith tradition, but that must just be me! ;-D

Nicole D said...

Hi Kris! Thanks for stopping off at my blog! I wanted to share why I consider myself a Christian and a ‘true feminist’. True Feminism was taught by Christ Himself. Whereas the culture of the day said that women could not mingle with men, sit at their table, learn with them about Biblical/Judaistic principles, or even talk in public, Jesus invited women into His inner circle, lauded them in public, and taught them alongside men.

Likewise, if you look at first-wave Feminism of the mid 1700s and later, before the liberal Feminism of the mid-1900s, most were established and ran by men and women of the church who believed that women had the right to refuse sex to their husbands, women had the right not to be beaten by their husbands, had the right to legal assistance when physically or sexually assaulted, had the right to make money, vote, own/rent property, and to learn.

In the spirit of true feminism, I believe a woman has the right to reproductive freedom AS IN, the ability to refuse non-consensual sex, to not be coerced into an abortion, to be able to choose where and with whom she gives birth, and the right to breastfeed in public without medical or societal scorn.

I believe in a woman’s right to have a relationship with her Lord and Savior by reading the Word, attending public and private church events, leading women’s small groups, learning alongside her husband in church, and utilizing the fruits of the spirit for edification of herself and the body.

I believe a woman has the right to own property, have a job, and make money. I believe in economic equality. LIKEWISE, though, I believe she has the right to stay home, raise her family, and homeschool them without the government infringing or hindering that right.

If you want more information on it, take a look at these links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-wave_feminism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman%27s_Christian_Temperance_Union

αуℓα said...

I cannot tell you how many times I refer to this post of yours, Nicole. THANK YOU for posting this list! Over and over again, I find myself coming back to your blog for information, for sources, for inspiration and encouragement.

You're awesome, lady!

Devo said...

Early in my pregnancy, I bought a book called "Your Pregnancy: Week by Week" by Dr. Glade B. Curtis, and Judith Shuler, MS. (They have a whole series about pregnancy, pregnancy for dads-to-be and the first year with baby.) I bought it for the weekly updates about what typically happens in the baby's development every week. Once I started reading into it, though, I realized it was a TERRIBLE book. I'm glad I didn't pay full price!

The book firmly encourages everything medical (I suspect partially because of how the American medical system is financed). I officially gave up on it somewhere between the blatant lies about the safety of home birth and the way episiotomies were discussed like they're an obvious choice all women should make. Awful. As a Canadian who has provincial health care coverage for midwives and home birth, I promise it's all total BS. I feel extremely fortunate to have the options I do!

Thanks for the great recommendations!

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