What I’m reading

Ever since we’ve decided to have a baby, I’ve been obsessed with pregnancy, birthing, and babies. When something fascinates me, I read and watch everything I can find on the subject. I stalk blogs, get books out from the library, and google articles. I have a running mental countdown to our official trying-to-conceive start time that rivals childrens’ Christmas countdowns, and I have used online conception calculators waaay more times than would be necessary to actually know what our dates look like.

Oh, and I’m also passing off some of my insanity onto you, since this blog is another one of my outlets. ha!

We’ve also put off trying to become pregnant because of my particular career trajectory, so while I’ve felt ready to become a momma since the end of last year, we’ve had to delay it until this November. This means that when my hormones scream BABY at me, I get my fix by doing the closest thing to actually having one: immersing myself in babyland through words.

Aside: while my brain is like, HEY LADY! YOU HAVE A GREAT LIFE AND A BABY WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING! my body insistently responds with, but… baby! Babybabybaby!! I believe this is what is meant by the biological clock. The biological clock is an irrational, stubborn little beast. Thanks, evolution!

I love learning about topics that interest me, and I love getting caught up in good fiction. Hence, my reading lately has been a combination of reading about the birthing process and finding books that in some way involve pregnancy and birthing. Two books, one of each, top my list of recommendations.

When I started reading about mothering, the idea of a birth with minimal interventions appealed to me. As a vegan and animal-lover who often thinks of myself in relation to other species, it resonated with me to think about how other mammals give birth without the social context of medicine to change their perceptions of “normal.” Birthing mammals universally seek quiet and darkened locations, and most births–including those of humans–occur without incident or the need for intervention.

Ina May Gaskin is a midwife renowned for her clinic’s outcomes, which shame those of obstetrics. Although obstetricians are literally lifesavers when something goes wrong during birth–as it sometimes does–obstetrical interventions are unnecessary and even harmful in the course of a normal birth. Whereas obstetricians are the experts in pathology, midwifes are the experts in normal birth. I have read all three of Gaskin’s books, but I most highly recommend her most recent one, Birth Matters.  She has a master’s degree in English and is a wonderful writer, so she is able to comprehensively and persuasively lay out all sorts of information on various aspects of birthing.

The Birth House by Ami McKay is a fiction novel set in the rural maritimes during World War I. It follows the life of a young midwife and her teacher. A major theme and struggle in the book is the interaction between the midwives and the new obstetrician in the area with his fancy equipment and birthing centre. The rise of “medicine men” is interesting from a historical perspective, because there was a business motivation beneath the healthcare arguments that was carefully orchestrated, creating a competition between midwifery and obstetrics. The result, of course, is that obstetrics “won” and became the new standard of normal, although this is not the case in parts of Europe (and of course, less developed societies). Science and technology are society’s modern religion, and the reader gets a great perspective into how enamoured the town becomes with the doctor’s new methods, despite that his techniques include bloodletting and twilight sleep. From our vantage point, the conflict between minimalism and technology is utterly fascinating.

What are your favourite books about pregnancy and birthing?

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