After making the decision to birth naturally this time around I have spent a great deal of time reading various natural labor and delivery books. One of the best that I have come across is Birthing from Within by Pam England. While other books seem to lean towards total control of the birthing process to the point of expecting you to feel no pain, or they make you so terrified of it that you will order an epidural from the hospital parking lot, Birthing from Within takes a different approach. This book encourages women to look inside themselves and find the courage to birth naturally and have the best experience for them no matter how that comes to be.
An interesting twist to this birth manual are the exercises designed to help you find your best birthing self. These include self portraits and birth drawings, pain practice techniques, and journal writing. All of these help to align your mind not to the birth you daydream about but the one you are prepared to achieve. These activities can be enlightening and surprising. For instance when I drew my imagined birth I was sitting in a chair holding my newborn. It occurred to me that I felt powerful that way where as if I had been lying in a bed as I was with my son I would have felt helpless. Doing these drawings helped me to see that I require a different position than being strapped to a bed to feel in control of my delivery. When I had my son there were tons of people in the waiting room, it made me nervous and feel rushed. In my imaginary birth it was only me and my husband. Seeing your ideas in picture form before you do help to shed away the confusion of the birthing process and concrete your personal desires not the desires of others. On a side note to this my husband drew me as stick figure standing up pushing out the little baby stick figure (who was giving a thumbs up). I had vampire teeth and was standing in a water pool. It seemed like a silly picture but then I realized that picture did show all the things I had expressed concern to him about. I was standing up not lying down and I was doing a sort of water birth which I had mentioned wishing I could do. I thought he wasn’t listening, but the picture proved he was, and gave me encouragement for the big day.
I really recommend this book. It has a great balance between medical intervention and sticking it out. It has tons of real life encouraging stories and England does an excellent job of making birth a natural thing that women do every day. She doesn’t make it sound like the over dramatized image we have in the media. I especially like that there are several chapters dedicated to the birth partner. When it comes time to deliver the partner is as vital as the mother. The guidelines set out in Birthing from Within for the birth partner will allow them to be involved in the birth and know how to respond to situations that may arise appropriately. There is even a cut out cheat sheet that your partner can bring with them to the birth center, hospital, or hang up at home.
If you are expecting a child or are going to be present at the birth of a family member or friend I whole heartedly endorse Birthing from Within. It also makes a great shower gift. Look for it at Amazon or your favorite book retailer.
This site has excellent resources as well: http://www.birthingfromwithin.com/Parents