Alright y'all. If you haven't figured out by now, I'm a major birth nerd. The science of making, growing and bringing life into this world gets me straight giddy. What might surprise you though, is I wasn't always this way. Not one bit. In fact, like many other women in this culture, I thought birth was scary AF.
The thought of a giant human head coming out my vagina sent me in a spiral of anxiety. I actually made fun of "natural" mamas and had a completely inaccurate image of natural birth in my head. If you didn't want an epidural then I thought you were nut bags and when I heard the words home and birth used consecutively, well I just couldn't even fathom. Babies were supposed to be delivered by doctors in hospitals and anything outside of that "norm" was just insane.
Thankfully, I came out of that ignorance and proactively grew a better understanding of the biological process of birth. Proactive is the key word here. Sadly, our culture still places a great deal of fear around birth and many of the information parents receive fails to provide evidence-based options that empower informed choice. In fact, many of the guidebooks come from male physicians deeply entrenched in the money driven medical model of care. So unless you seek out the information on your own, you can be given a very skewed and limited picture of what birth really looks like.
Cue Mama Natural. Mama Natural was founded by Genevieve Howland and y'all, I love her. Genevieve began her mission to empower and inform through her blog and YouTube channel, but as her community continued to grow and more women rallied behind the idea of taking back their pregnancy and childbirth, so did the invaluable resources she created to make natural pregnancy and childbirth more accessible and commonplace. Her vision now includes online child birth classes and the most beautiful guidebook I ever layed eyes on. Move over What to Expect When You Are Expecting, The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth is the new black.
Before I keep chatting all the juicy goodness of this book, let me throw out a disclaimer. Being informed on the normal process of pregnancy and birth does not mean you are anti-medical intervention. You can value informed choice and also value life-saving technology, those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. But alas, that's part of the reason our culture has yet to embrace natural birth and still fears so much of the process. The reality is birth is unpredictable. We can't control it. What we can do though is educate ourselves on the process, and the more we do, the less fear we will have as the journey unfolds - however that may be.
This is the number one reason I love this book. Genevieve explains that "it's neither possible nor safe for every woman to have a 100 percent intervention-free experience" and she thoughtfully guides women through each week of pregnancy, delivery, and beyond. Genevieve is not here to judge and doesn't believe there is one "right" way to birth, making this book beneficial to every single mama. Genevieve empowers readers through evidence-based information on not only why you would want a more natural pregnancy and childbirth but also how you can prepare your mind and body to achieve one.
The book is organized in a simple, week-by-week format that makes it easy to skim for the information most relevant to you. It has 6 sections:
- The first trimester (weeks 1-13)
- The second trimester (weeks 14-27)
- The third trimester (weeks 28-42+)
- Special delivery (labor stages, newborn procedures/tests, breastfeeding & postpartum recovery)
- What to ask your prospective midwife or doula (plus questions to ask when touring hospitals & birth centers)
- Pregnancy loss (miscarriage & stillbirth)
The first three sections cover everything you might want to consider as your pregnancy progresses while "special delivery" delves into what you can expect in each stage of labor and how you can manage pain or get baby moving down. It also explains many of the common newborn procedures and tests as well as breastfeeding and baby wearing tips and postpartum recovery considerations. The doula in me loves that she includes a section all about hiring us (!!!) and the social worker in me is thrilled she took space to cover loss.
Other than the insane amount of info this book provides to women on our bodies and overall wellness, I also geeked the eff out over these cool features:
- Super kickass illustrations like this one:
- A "mama to-do-list" at the end of each pregnancy week!
- A "nom of the week" aka delicious and nutritious recipes to try!
- An entire week dedicated to the gentle cesarean!
- Testimonies from other natural mamas!
- Positive affirmations sprinkled throughout like this one:
Alright, so I am clearly a major fan of this book and I want every woman to read it, but I do want to point out one thing I think needs to be expanded on and shocker, it has to do with mental health. Genevieve was thoughtful in her inclusion of postpartum depression, but maternal mental health includes so much more.
First off, it doesn't just occur in the postpartum period. Women can also experience mood disorders in pregnancy. Real life y'all. It's common and we need to move away from the term "postpartum" when referring to maternal mental health because it doesn't accurately depict the whole spectrum of mental illness.
Even more, it is not limited to depression. Depression is the trendy term. I'm not sure why, but it's what we think of when we hear "postpartum", but a woman's experience in the perinatal period can include symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD, or even psychosis.
It's also important to note that when the media is reporting on postpartum depression, they typically only highlight cases of psychosis (think Andrea Yates). This is dangerous because not only does it ignore what the majority of women are dealing with, but also stigmatizes the illness and discourages mothers from seeking help. The reality is postpartum psychosis is rare compared to the rates of postpartum depression or anxiety and no matter which form of illness a mother struggles with, with help, she can get well.
So there ya have it, everything you need to know about the book every pregnant mama should read! Now run, don't walk, and get yourself (or a friend) a copy ASAP!
Happy human growing mamas! :)
*Mama Natural sent me a copy of her book to review, but as always all opinions are my own.