Like most any other major (or minor) event in life, I prepared for motherhood by reading everything I could on the subject. From the mainstream to the “woo-woo,” I am now the proud owner of a stack of books that will most likely collect dust until my next pregnancy. Ironically, my attention has been so tied up since the baby was born that I rarely crack any of the volumes I thought for sure would be essential. So it is definitely not essential that you buy all of these books. Maybe one (or two) from each category would do 😉
I was fortunate to have found something useful in each book I read, though some resonated with me more than others. Even so, I’ve included my entire reading list in the likely event that someone with a slightly different opinion might find something worthwhile.
It being the digital age, I’ve also mentioned some of my favorite digital pregnancy and parenting resources here as well. A full list of the blogs and other helpful sites is too big to include – I will leave that for another day.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler, MPH
It is so empowering to understand the hormonal cycle of the female body. Though the Fertility Awareness Method is dependent on several factors to be effective, it worked very well for us when it came to pregnancy achievement with PCOS. I’m glad to have this book on hand postpartum too, since it includes tips on what to expect while breastfeeding and beyond.
What to Expect Before You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
Yes, I bought this book. It was actually my first purchase right after my husband and I decided to start “trying.” The purchase felt like a rite of passage, though I didn’t have high hopes for it. After reading it from cover to cover, I found myself pretty put off by the silly tone of the language – it felt like it was written for a teenager, which hopefully it wasn’t. That being said, it does contain some basic information that you should know before you conceive. A lot of it, in my opinion, could be much better learned from TCOYF (pictured above).
FemCal iPhone App
The thought of tracking my cycle without an iPhone app is a bit scary to me. After trying many others, this app won out because of the flexibility of features and the details you can record. It is worth the $3.99 for the full version, something I rarely say about an app. Now that I’ve switched to an Android phone, I’m having a hard time finding an app I like as much. Suggestions are appreciated!
Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives by Deepak Chopra, M.D., David Simon, M.D., and Vicki Abrams, C.C.E., I.B.C.L.C
I was so excited by the idea of this book, but in the end it didn’t work for me. The information in the beginning about what your baby could sense in the womb was terrific and helped me bond better with the idea of the baby before I could feel him wiggling around in there. After that, I started to feel lured in by the all-too-common trap of perfection or failure hawked by so many holistic preachers. I think it was the ever growing list of “must dos” at the end of every chapter that finally made me put down the book. This was also the first of many books that alienated my husband with insultingly simple (“Don’t tell your wife she’s fat,”) information.
The Secret Life of the Unborn Child: How You Can Prepare Your Baby for a Happy, Healthy Life by Thomas Verny, M.D.
Disclaimer: This book was released in 1982, so the research it’s based on is out of date. This was another in a stack of gifted secondhand books, so I gave it a glance while I was on the couch one day. I didn’t make it very far in, but it seems like a pretty interesting starting point if you want to know some of the science behind perception in the womb.
Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England CNM, MA & Rob Horowitz, Ph.D.
This was my favorite childbirth preparation book because the message was mostly – “You can do it.” Unlike Hypnobirthing, the philosophy here is that birth was going to hurt – and that I would be woman enough to handle it. The availability of positive birth stories here is really nice as an alternative perspective to the medicalized and fear based experiences that so many family members (and complete strangers) seem to share in abundance with mamas to be. I wasn’t into the art therapy aspect, but that’s just me. My husband also found that this book actually had helpful information for dads without assuming they were clueless or uninterested.
Hypnobirthing: The breakthrough natural approach to safer, easier, more comfortable birthing – The Mongan Method, 3rd Edition by Marie Mongan
This was one of the first actual childbirth books I picked up, and I only did so because it was given to me by a friend. I wasn’t looking for a birthing technique (and in the end didn’t have time for one), but this book contained such wonderfully empowering language that my whole perspective on childbirth shifted. Instead of preparing pain management techniques, my focus became opening to the experience and letting go.
Postpartum and Baby Care:
After the Baby’s Birth: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women by Robin Lim (Available via abebooks.com – the book is out of print, but some editions can be purchased for as low as $20. )
My naturopath/midwife recommended this book to me as I was lamenting the lack of books specifically geared towards the postpartum experience. By this point (as you see), I had digested plenty on the subject of pregnancy and birth, but I was still a bit clueless when it came to the whole having a baby thing. Little did I know, instinct is a powerful thing – but before birth it helped immensely to have this resource to pour through. The powerful message to allow sufficient time after birth to bond and recover with your baby hit home for me. I think I might have pushed myself were it not for the beautiful picture Lim paints of the postpartum bed. After living that marvelous dream, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, and Teresa Pittman
During the home visit right before Miles made his grand entrance, my chiropractor asked me if I had read any books about breastfeeding. I felt that I had, since my childbirth books all gave a mention to the rooting instinct that I assumed would instantly and perfectly happen. She gently recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad she did. Because Miles did not latch on perfectly right away. Or even within the first 24 hours of life. Thanks to the guidance of this book (and the knowledge that a La Leche League leader was just a phone call away), we made it through to a wonderful feeding relationship. If you have a question and aren’t physically present in an LLL meeting, this is the next best thing.
Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller
This book totally changed my life, and I can’t wait to read it over and over. Truthfully, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find the selflessness needed to be a good mother. This book put the path of motherhood into perspective – it is a practice in being the most selfless and wonderful human being you can possibly be. When I started to view the path ahead of me in this way, the future started to look a lot brighter. I highly recommend this book.
Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen
This is one of the only Montessori resources in print that covers the Montessori philosophy from birth, and is certainly the most in depth on the subject. The authors share the tools to prepare an ideal Montessori environment from the start in a clear and manageable way. Although most of my research was on the internet (see: my list of resources), this book really helped piece it all together (and helped populate the baby registry!). So far, I think we are doing really well with our “curriculum,” thanks in large part to this resource.
Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood by Paula Polk Lillard
OK, this goes a bit beyond “Postpartum and Baby Care,” but I said I was a planner, didn’t I? The first Montessori book I purchased, this resource lays out the blueprint of Montessori learning from birth to high school and beyond. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down – Lillard is an engaging writer who grounds her information in concrete examples throughout her writing. If you are considering Montessori, start here!
The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowen
I can’t wait for this book to come out! Though the nutritional philosophy of the Weston A. Price Foundation is controversial in some circles, I know I would not have found wellness (and thus gotten pregnant) without following this way of eating. Almost two years after first reading Nourishing Traditions, I have a beautiful, healthy, family that visits our local dairy farm more than the grocery store and always has something fermenting in the fridge. I can’t wait to read this that is volume specifically geared towards babies and kids!
Before, During, and After (Complete Guides):
Mothering Magazine’s Having a Baby, Naturally: The Mothering Magazine Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Peggy O’Mara
This was the favorite overall for both my husband and I. We loved the depth of information that was presented clearly – both “natural” and “conventional” treatments were covered with the level of detail and expertise that I have come to expect from Mothering magazine through their website, another wonderful resource. He especially liked the section for dads, one of the only of its kind that presents useful information for the father who wants to be informed and involved from the start. If I had to pick only one book to keep, it would be this one.
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (4th Edition): The Complete Guide by Penny Simkin, P.T., Janet Whalley, R.N., B.S.N., and Ann Keppler, R.N., M.N.
Of course Penny Simkin’s book is amazing! I liked this book for its tables detailing the stages of pregnancy and labor, and the scientific yet heart centered view of the entire path towards motherhood. Although this book echoed a lot of what Having a Baby, Naturally had to say, there was some extra helpful information from a midwife’s perspective that prepared me on a mental level, especially for the birth process.
The Whole Pregnancy Handbook: An Obstetrician’s Guide to Integrating Conventional and Alternative Medicine Before, During, and After Pregnancy by Joel M. Evans, M.D. OBGYN
This was one of the two books I read that had more of a conventional medical slant to it. Like the other (mentioned below), this one contained helpful information about some of the tests and procedures that were available, and how to have the best experience possible in the hospital with a birth plan. Unlike the other book, it did give some advice about home birth (other than “don’t have one”). So it is a bit higher on my list in that regard. There are quotes interspersed throughout the book that provide perspectives from different mothers, which I found helpful.
Body, Soul, and Baby: A Doctor’s Guide to the Complete Pregnancy Experience, From Preconception to Postpartum by Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D.
Written by the Director of the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, this book espouses a more mainstream view of childbirth than I do – but I found some aspects very useful all the same. I do not agree with her view that home birth is irresponsible, but I found her ideas for meditation and regular self check ins to be quite helpful. I think this would be a great book for someone who wants to integrate a more wellness-based approach into the standard OBGYN care. There is no daddy section of this book, which is probably for the best.