I am currently in the postpartum period following my third pregnancy at the time of this writing. The chapters of my life that include my pregnancies have been some of the most profound and educational for me. I have worked full time through my pregnancies as a clinical veterinarian in general practice and in emergency medicine. The hours are long and the physical and mental demands are high. But I have deeply enjoyed my pregnancies and I have done my best to slow down and take the time to truly experience them.
I am a big nerd and I love learning new things during my pregnancies. I soak up information like a sponge from books, blogs, podcasts, and online parenting groups. Unfortunately I have never been able to take full advantage of in-person community groups, as they are just not designed around the needs of most full-time working parents.
As a holistically-minded person, I have found finding pregnancy resources to be a daunting and sometimes unrewarding experience. Someone I know refers to the popular book and website “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” as “What to Expect Leading Up to your C-section”. And while I don’t want to alienate anyone who has had a c-section or medically complex pregnancy, I fully agree that mainstream resources are not aimed at preventing complications. Mainstream pregnancy resources are aimed at normalizing and explaining the medical model of care that we use in this country at this time. They explain diagnostics and guidelines and basic anatomy and medical procedures. They do not teach you how to care for yourself during pregnancy to avoid complications. They rarely give a full explanation of risks vs. benefits. And they almost never fully explain alternatives.
So I thought I would compile a list of the resources I like. These resources are variable in viewpoint, but all support healthy pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I am not affiliated with any of these at the time of writing. If that changes, I will try to update this promptly. I have personally utilized all of these. There are other great resources out there, I haven’t used them all!
Before diving in, I think it is important to slow down for just a moment. While information is important, and education is vital to making informed choices, we have to make sure we don’t get too caught up in our heads to check in with our intuition. Pregnancy is a time deep internal knowing. It is important to listen to your body, notice changes in non-judging way, and spend a lot of time and effort just “being”. Knowing more about the physiology will not actually make you feel better most of time. Feeling comfortable in your own skin will. Check in with yourself before Googling or running to your doctor/midwife/doula/online group.
I found that to give myself (my brain) space to embrace the natural physiologic birth process, I had to work REALLY hard to UNDO the unconscious narrative of what birth is, placed there by the greater world. I have NEVER seen a Hollywood movie or television show that accurately reflected my birth experiences, or the experiences of anyone I know who has had a peaceful relatively-physiologic (ei “normal”) birth. I had to actively replace these scary inaccurate “emergency” “danger” images in my head with what real birth is actually like. Otherwise we unconsciously recreate those images with our expectations and actions. So pretty much all of these resources are about forming a new and accurate view of physiologic birth.
I have had two uneventful, safe homebirths. My third most recent birth was also beautiful and safe, but with some definitely “eventful” happenings. You can read more about that in my birth story blog. Each was life-altering for me personally, but pretty routine and “boring” from the point of view of a midwife or theoretical spectator. I fully acknowledge with gratitude my good fortune. However, these outcomes are not merely “good luck”. I made careful informed choices at every step along the way from conception to well-baby checks.
When I talk about birth I always advise families to “stack the deck in your favor, and then play the hand you are dealt”. You don’t have control over what happens during birth. You need to let it go and embrace what is. But you can do a lot to influence the situation BEFORE you get to that point. The two most important factors are 1. How well you care for yourself during pregnancy, 2. Who your care provider is (and is therefore linked with where you will deliver).
Acknowledging what I can control and what I cannot has been incredibly important as I work my way through the events and emotions of this most recent birth.
Resources I like
The Birthful Podcast with Adriana Lozada- “Information to support your intuition” is her byline and the podcast lives up to that. Informative and educated without negating the power of intuition in physiologic birth, postpartum, and early parenting. So many great and challenging topics, and birth stories.
Taking Back Birth from Maryn Green with IndieBirth- My newest obsession. This woman really questions EVERYTHING in an effort to educate and empower, without being judgmental or heartless. I have learned so much in the past few weeks of listening to her. A true midwife, serving women above all else.
Free Birth Society with Emilee Saldaya- This “radical birth keeper” is a controversial and opinionated in her complete rejection of medical birth. But it results in the most incredible birth stories celebrating the wonder and power of pregnancy and birth. Every time I listen I’m riveted and amazed.
Doing It At Home, Our Homebirth Podcast- This adorable couple started off chronicling their own homebirth journey, but in the past few years it has become so much more. Part personal narrative and part educational interview and part birth stories collection, it no longer even really centers on homebirth, but more on making birth and postpartum educated and empowered and healthy.
Evidence Based Birth with Rebecca Dekker, PhD- This podcast form of the blog is a great topical reference.
The Birth Hour with Bryn Huntpalmer- I started from the beginning and listened in order. I think the older ones are the best. This is pretty much purely birth stories, each one with a unique perspective and something to offer.
Mama Natural videos by Genevieve Howland
I just liked to look for natural birth videos of any kind. From the ultra-edited musical accompaniment love letters, to the raw footage of women roaring their babies out with blood and nudity, to the famous unassisted birth in the rainforest. I learned so much just spending hours surfing the YouTube universe. (Clearly this was before the first child was born, I haven’t had time for YouTube surfing since his arrival in 2014!)
I also like how-to videos of nursing and newborn care. For me seeing it was key. The breast crawl, the latch, etc.
I learned about cloth diapering exclusively from YouTube. So many “how to” videos and “stash shots” and “how to organize” and “what brands” and “how to fold a flat”… the list goes on
Mama Natural- my favorite alternative to WTEWYE and BabyCenter, it has the weekly blurb, explanations and tips, articles, etc but all with an eye toward to healthy natural living.
Indie Birth blog- Such an empowering source of information supporting autonomy in pregnancy and birth
Evidence-based Birth- great way to look up specific health topics and questions that may come up, especially with your healthcare provider
Baby Center Natural Pregnancy and Birth Group- available in their community if you sign up for the Baby Center app
Triangle Natural Birth and Parenting (if you are in the Raleigh, NC area) on Facebook
Homebirth in the Triangle (if you are in Raleigh, NC) on Facebook
Assisted and Unassisted Homebirth group on Facebook
La Leche League of the Triangle on Facebook
Triangle Babywearing (previously Babywearing International which is now defunct sadly)
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices by Sarah Buckley
Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block
Expecting Better by Emily Oster
Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read
Homebirth in the Hospital by Stacy Kerr
Mindful Birthing: Training for the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond by Nancy Bardacke
- This one is like a class in a book form
Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
- This one is like a class in a book form
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
- This one is like a class in a book form
The Business of Being Born- The new classic that has practically started a revolution. It’s not really my favorite actually, but I would be remiss not to mention it.
Orgasmic Birth: The Best Kept Secret- Trust me, this will blow your mind.
OK I admit it, I haven’t take any in-person classes. My mom did a mini course in my living room after my husband and I read “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way”. She was a Bradley instructor in the 8os and 90s. And I used the course materials that my best friend gave me from her Bradley class 2 years prior. BUT if you want the real deal find an instructor near you!
The coolest thing I did this time around was the Indie Birth “13 Moons Course”. It is possibly the most extensive course on physiologic birth currently around. It has hours and hours and hours of content designed to be worked through over the course of a year, covering everything from conscious conception to return to normal life after postpartum.
Some of the other sites and blogs mentioned above also offer classes. They are probably great, but I have no personal experience. Just take something comprehensive, natural-minded… and not the one offered by your hospital during which all they do is tell you about hospital procedures and how to stay calm and quiet and get your epidural. By all means, take a hospital tour if you choose to birth in a hospital, but get your birth education from sources that actually support a physiologic birth experience rather than a pathologic experience.
Special note: Adriana Lozada of the Birthful Podcast offers a postpartum course that is apparently very good. I intended to take it, but went for the big 13 Moons course from Indie Birth instead.
Remember, birth is a normal physiologic process that only rarely needs medical intervention. It is not a medical procedure that occasionally happens without medication.