Check out the childbirth section in any bookstore and you’re sure to find dozens of books written by “experts.” No doubt several copies of the self-proclaimed “pregnancy bible” – What to Expect When You’re Expecting – will be prominently displayed, along with numerous books by midwives and childbirth educators. Although much of what you’ll see will not be written by doctors, nearly all of them, in my opinion, will be somewhat condescending. The author will presume to tell you how to give birth.
Of course, most of the books written by midwives won’t advise you to put your trust in doctors. Instead, they’ll advise you to put your trust in midwives. Even Pam England’s book Birthing From Within has a chapter called “Don’t Give Birth Without a Doula!” What if a woman doesn’t want or need a doula? Isn’t that a decision that each woman needs to make for herself?
What you won’t find on the shelves are childbirth books that encourage women to put their trust in themselves. Sure, some of them will give lip service to the idea that “women know how to give birth!” But if these authors truly believe this, why do they consistently fail to mention the fact that books about unassisted childbirth DO exist? Are they simply unaware of their existence? Are they aware of their existence but feel these books are poorly written? Or are they aware of their existence but fear that if every woman knew she could give birth without assistance, the “childbirth industry” would crumble to pieces? You make the call.
The fact is, unassisted childbirth books do exist – and have existed since the 1950’s. Here are the ones that I recommend:
Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Shanley
You really didn’t expect me to leave this one out, did you?! Named “Most alarming book title of 1994” by The Houston Chronicle, this book is for anyone who enjoys defying the establishment, and following their own dreams. Third edition (2016) now available.
Laurie is not only a warm and caring person, she’s also a great writer! In addition to sharing her own unassisted birth stories, she also delves into such issues as “Fear and its relation to pain,” “The dangers of assisted birth,” “What do you have against midwives anyway?” and “Sex and birth, pain and complications.”
Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love by Lynn Griesemer
This book is full of interesting insights, tips, observations, suggestions, and stories about this most intimate “act of love.” The forgotten man – Dad – is finally brought into the picture, as Lynn’s husband Bob and other fathers share their wonderful birth stories (including one of an unassisted birth of breech twins!).
The Birthkeepers by Veronika Sophia Robinson
Veronika is the first UK woman to write about unassisted childbirth. The birth stories in this book are beautifully written and wonderfully inspiring, as are Veronika’s own thoughts about the history of birth and where it’s going.
Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth by Jeannine Parvati Baker
Even if you’re not into yoga, you will enjoy this book. Jeannine’s beautiful spirit shines through every page. This 25th Silver Anniversary Edition is filled with lovely photographs of Jeannine, Rico, and their children. The book ends with Jeannine’s wonderful stories of her unassisted homebirths, as well as the freebirth story of her first grandchild.
Come Gently Sweet Lucina by Pat Carter
Written in 1957 by a woman who preferred to give birth alone, this book is both interesting and amusing. Unfortunately, the book has been out of print for many years, but if you click the link above you can read it free on Rixa Freeze’s site. Pat was a true pioneer, and although I don’t agree with everything she wrote (she smoked during her pregnancies to avoid gaining weight), the book is definitely worth reading. Chapters include such gems as “The Untoward Effects of the Current Practice of Making Fathers Appear as Stupid Dolts to Their Wives in Childbirth While the Doctor Appears as the Rescuing Hero,” and “The Medical Heel (What he is. Why he does not always know he is a heel. The damage he does to women in childbirth. How to avoid such damage.)”
Childbirth without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read
This was the book that opened my eyes to the truth about birth. Yes, it was written by a man more than fifty years ago – and a doctor no less – but his words still ring true. (Note: This book doesn’t specifically mention unassisted childbirth, but its message is clear – women are powerful and capable of creating beautiful births.)