I am now 34 weeks pregnant and while talking to friends and relatives with children about pregnancy and birth has been great, along with information from the midwife and the NCT course we just did, I have also been doing a bit of reading about all this as well – of course! I’ve got a handful of books I’m going to cover, some of which I’ve read all the way through and others that I have just dipped into – it really depends on the book. I know already from reading reviews on GoodReads and Amazon that everyone has different experiences with these books as it’s such a personal and subjective topic, so I just want to say that this post is just my opinions and experiences, you might feel totally different about these books – but if I can help recommend helpful material, then great. Here we go…
How to Grow a Baby (and Push It Out) by Clemmie Hooper (2017)
This was the first baby book I bought, and I was also given a copy, so I’ve ended up with two! At first I was drawn to the title and wasn’t sure what to make of it, but my sister (who has two children) told me that it’s actually really good – and it is. It’s split up into sections to take you through the whole nine months, letting you know what to expect at each stage (more or less) and what you need to do or think about as the pregnancy progresses. It also includes little sections from other contributors on topics like hypobirthing, doulas, diet and nutrition, massage, clothes, and lots more. It’s a book you can read all the way through or just dip into and is really easy to digest with lots of photos and illustrations – which also makes it a nice gift! I’m about to start reading the birth and labour section, and I’d really recommend this to any expecting parents. It also helps that Clemmie Hooper is a midwife and has had four children of her own, so she knows both sides of the experience. There is also an accompanying journal to help you track your pregnancy – I haven’t used this personally, but have heard lots of good things about it. Clemmie also writes an amazing blog about birth, Gas and Air, that I highly recommend.
The Positive Birth Book: A New Approach to Pregnancy, Birth, and the Early Weeks by Milli Hill (2017)
I bought this book as it had a lot of good reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. Again it’s something that you can read all the way through, or dip into. I’ve currently read about half of it, and have yet to read the early weeks section, but so far I have slightly mixed feelings. The author had only home births and she clearly thinks this is the best way to give birth, and while she doesn’t obviously push it, you can still sense her opinion throughout, which I am finding a bit off-putting. Some of the language and phrasing she uses can also be a bit alarmist rather than nice and calm, and I think if this was the only book I read on labour and birth, I would still feel a bit anxious about the whole thing. I found her tone a bit high-strung if that makes sense, rather than reassuring. While The Positive Birth Book includes a lot of great stuff, I get the feeling there’s a little bit too much opinion at play. But on the other hand, I know that some women have loved this book, so it really does depend on you, the reader.
Your Baby, Your Birth: Hynobirthing Skills for Every Birth by Hollie de Cruz (2018)
Hollie de Cruz contributed a section to Clemmie Hooper’s book, so that’s how I came across Your Baby, Your Birth. I’d heard a little about hynobirthing but wanted to know more, and this was recommended in a few different places. The name ‘hypnobirthing’ is a bit weird as the concept has nothing to do with hypnosis at all – rather it’s more about visualisation, breathing, meditation, and other methods of staying calm and working through the stress and intensity of labour and birth. Some of the techniques reminded me of CBT, where you replace your automatic negative thoughts with positive alternatives. The overarching idea is to learn how to stay calm and work with your body to get the baby out, whether that’s a vaginal or abdominal (c-section) birth. This book more than anything else I have come across has helped to diffuse my fears and anxiety around labour and birth, and it’s probably my top recommendation in this area, as it also includes a lot of practical information about what your body is actually doing before, during, and after labour and birth. Hollie has created two MP3 tracks to listen to for relaxation (perfect for labour and beforehand, such as getting to sleep when you feel anxious) as well as one with affirmations to boost confidence. You can also purchase a whole audio course of hynobirthing from Hollie’s website, as well as affirmation cards, which look great. She is also amazing on Instagram (@theyesmummum) for information and advice on pregnancy, birth, and looking after a baby. If you read one pregnancy and birth book, make it this one – in my opinion at least!
The Little Book of Self-Care for New Mums by Beccy Hands and Alexis Stickland (2018)
I first saw this book on Clemmie Hooper’s Instagram (@mother_of_daughters) and as I’m getting nearer the birth I just bought myself a copy. Beccy Hands is a doula, and Alexis Stickland is a midwife, so they are the perfect team to write this sort of thing. It’s a lovely little book with lots of illustrations, nicely split up into easy sections, and I love that they don’t shy away from the realities of post-natal bodies and life with a newborn, both of which can be completely overwhelming and not always pleasant. There are so many books out there about pregnancy and birth, and this is one of very few that I have seen that’s aimed at new mothers and isn’t just about how to look after the baby, but yourself as well. It’s easy to forget that a new mum is in recovery and is vulnerable after giving birth and needs a lot of care as well. I’m very keen to crack on with this book, and I would already recommend it from what I’ve read so far.
As I said there are so many books out there on pregnancy, birth, and looking after babies, but these are the ones I’ve read (or am reading). I’d love to hear about any other books that you would recommend! I would also emphasise that BOTH parents should read all these books, as really the father/birth partner needs to know just as much as if not more than the mother, as they are supporting her through this whole process and need to know what’s happening and what to do. My husband is currently reading Your Baby, Your Birth and has found it really enlightening. I mentioned NCT (National Childbirth Trust) at the start as we have just attended a two-day antenatal course, and I would really recommend this as well, especially for your first baby as they cover just about everything about pregnancy, birth, and looking after a baby. It’s also a perfect way of meeting people local to you who will have their babies at a similar time, and you get a great support and social group out of it – both my mum and my mother-in-law are still friends with some of the women they met at NCT in the late 1980s (back then just the women attended, whereas now it’s very much about both parents).
As I also mentioned above, I am currently at 34 weeks, so I will try to post a couple more times in the next month or so, and then I will probably go quiet for a while as the baby could arrive at any time from 37 weeks! Aside from baby books I am also currently reading Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada and hopefully will get a good amount of reading done in the quiet moments after the birth (when I’m not sleeping!).