When it comes to books about the childbearing year - particularly, birth - there is certainly no shortage of resources available, and it can become overwhelming to decide which ones to take in.
Through my two pregnancies, postpartum experiences, doula trainings and reading out of sheer nerd-dom and interest in birth, I've observed there are (generally) two schools of birth books - informational, and explorational. Both have their benefits; as birthing people, we are navigating an ancient, instinctual process in a modern world. Unfortunately, it's difficult to find a birth book that is not reeking in either bias or judgment, having a clear preference toward a certain way of birthing. Knowing that birth is as variable as the children it brings into the world, my favorite books have been those that present important information from a neutral standpoint, or those that point to something different altogether.
Here's my list of favorites:
Don't let the 'woo woo' title deter you - this is, hands down, my favorite birth book - it strikes a fabulous balance between ancient and modern, containing nuggets of wisdom that have stayed with me beyond the birthing process. I read this book during both of my pregnancies, and with each read gained a deeper understanding of myself and what it means to be human. It points to fundamental truths about the human experience, and how the system is designed for the birthing process - for me, this understanding was incredibly freeing. While most birth books tend to pile on information, things to think about, and things to do, this one lightens the reader's plate with each chapter, leaving them a fresh and clean slate by the end, ready to be open to how the individual birth journey may unfold.
While many birth books seek to answer questions for the birthing person, this one flips the script - turning the reader inward to explore the changes happening within as they move through the rite of passage that is pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. A compassionate read that, often times, feels like a conversation and warm hug from a beloved friend.
I would be remiss if I didn't include this ever-popular (for a reason!) birth book in the mix. Ina May Gaskin, a midwife and legend in the birthing world, delves into the physiology of labor and birth, really helping the reader to understand exactly what is happening with each sensation. But, the real jewel here is the first half of the book - birth stories shared by her previous clients, giving first hand accounts of the power of labor and birth.
If you haven't yet found your way to the Evidence Based Birth website or podcast - you're in for a treat. An a la carte resource exploring the evidence - both peer reviewed and anecdotal - on many of the 'hot topics' of birth, it enables the birthing person to read up on their own individual decision points. In short, it compiles all the research so you don't have to. If you're looking for something more information based that won't tell you to birth a certain way, this book is a fantastic starting point.
As many writings as there are on nutrition for pregnancy, when it comes to books about keeping postpartum body nourished, the pickings are pretty slim (unless you're exclusively concerned with losing weight). This is the book I wish I had read before I had my first - I remember feeling so depleted, in a way that was more than simply sleep deprivation and postpartum blues. Not surprisingly, growing and feeding a baby deplete the birthing person's system of key nutrients essential for energy, hormone regulation, and recovery from pregnancy and birth. Dr. Oscar Serrellach breaks down the symptoms of different kinds of postnatal depletion, and helps to formulate a plan for restoring the body to total health.
This is probably one of the most beloved texts on Postpartum at the moment, and it's no wonder why - Heng Ou and Amely Green take recipes and practices from the Eastern practices of 'lying in' and adapt them to the modern world. One can pick and choose which recipes, rituals, and practices they'd like to (or can) incorporate into their first forty days, prompting the reader to consider many factors - physical recovery, hormone balance, relationship changes, community, and more. As a postpartum doula, this is one of my most treasured books - and as a personal anecdote, when I was in my third trimester, I prepped a lot of the recipes in this book ahead of time. They were absolute life savers in those initial months (my favorites: the Oxtail and Sausage stews, and the Bone Broth recipe)!
Take what sounds good to you, and let me know your thoughts!