First off let me say that this was a great book for me. I am new to this childbirth thing, and I have a lot of questions. This book helped me find answers to many of them, as well as come up with a few more I need to ask. That being said, this book is not for everybody.
The first half of the book was strictly birth stories. I didn’t find them terribly helpful myself, and did not read all the way through the first half. The stories were not all butterflies and ponies, it does have a good mix of the good and the bad. One story that I read that really stuck with me gave me an image of just how traumatic birth could be for the mother. This woman’s story included standard pitocin and episiotomy without assessing need, strapping her to the bed, taking her baby away, sedating her, and a number of other horrible assembly line type experiences. She was not even told the sex of her newborn, much less allowed to hold it, before being given ether to knock her out while they stitched up her episiotomy. I think this story itself outlines the fear many woman feel approaching childbirth and not knowing what to expect or what to ask.
The stories are not all like this, as I mentioned before there is a good collection of the good and the bad. The good stories are full of happy mothers relishing in their birth stories, experiences that changed their lives for the better. This section of the book does include positive stories of hospital births with obstetricians, and does not make any effort to cast a negative light on those types of births.
I found the second half of the book to be far more useful and informative than the first. Ina May outlines labor and delivery, and what to expect every step of the way. She starts off by describing the mind/body connection that we all have, but has been downplayed by current medical practice. Comparing it to the placebo effect the author explains how we have the power to influence our bodies in many ways. She discussing speaking your wishes aloud, listening to the words of others, visualizing the desired effects, and a number of other ways in which our bodies respond to situations that affect us mentally and emotionally. For instance did you know that being comfortable with your practitioner is good not just for your peace of mind, but for ease of labor? Having a strange person walk in, and possibly behave in a manner that is not gentle and peaceful, can negatively impact your laboring, and even cause dilation to go backwards?
Ina May delves into all the details of labor itself, explaining to the reader exactly what to expect, while making sure they understand to expect the unexpected. She goes into detail what goes on with our bodies while laboring, stressing the point that if your labor is different that what is ‘normal’ that you are not broken, merely human. The second half of the book is full of diagrams and photographs depicting women in labor and birth describing different characteristics. One set of images shows many different laboring positions that are all perfectly natural.
Later on the author details potential interventions and their risk, encouraging women to talk about these things with their practitioners and find out exactly what that person is used to doing. I think I found this to be the most helpful part of the book, and answered a lot of questions that I had. Going into this book I had a vague idea of some things I should know before my due date is upon me, but I really wasn’t sure what all I needed to know, and had not asked my doctor anything. Through this book I was able to come up with a rather broad list of questions and concerns that I will be able to present to my doctor at my next visit as well as to the nurses at the hospital when I have my tour.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is a fantastic book full of incredibly useful information. In my opinion this book should not stand alone in your library of childbirth resources, but should make an appearance. This book does have the power to scare a woman, but it also has the power to arm her with the knowledge she needs to proceed to the next source of information. Don’t let this book scare you away from doctors if that is what you want, but let it lead you to the right doctor for you. If you are looking into an all natural home birth experience, you already have a good idea what you’re getting into, read this book anyway.
To all mothers, regardless of how they choose to bring their little ones into this world, remember that you are a woman, and this is a woman’s experience. No man can ever know or fully understand childbirth. The things we know did not come out of a book, and can never be put into words without losing a good chunk of what it means. Trust yourself, and don’t let anybody force you into something you do not want.
My list of questions:
1. How far into labor do I need to arrive at the hospital, what signs should I look for before I know it’s time to see my practitioner?
2. When would induction be recommended, and by what method?
3. What style of fetal monitoring is typically used by this practice and the hospital of my choice?
4. Are intravenous fluids routine, and will I be allowed the freedom to eat and drink during labor?
5. Will I have the freedom to move around as I see fit?
6. What is the cesarean section rate of the practice and the hospital of my choice?
7. Will I be on a time limit to deliver once I arrive at the hospital or will I be allowed to continue laboring as long as nothing life threatening presents itself?
8. When will the umbilical cord be clamped, immediately or when it stops pulsing?
9. Will placenta expulsion be hurried, or allowed to progress on it’s own?
10. Are epistionomies routine or reserved for situations where they are absolutely necessary? (Under what circumstances would they be considered necessary?)