This brings us here. Below I give you a list of recommended websites, books and DVDs that have guided me through almost two pregnancies (I'm currently 34 weeks in my second one) and one birth (soon to be a second one). The resources below led me to the decision of having an assisted home birth attended by two midwives with my son, Avie, now three and a half, and of planning an assisted home birth for baby number two as well, with a midwife, doula and selected hospital as backup in case of emergency.
Not interested in home birth? Great! The resources are equally as useful, if not more so, for women planning to deliver in a hospital or birth center. They aided me in my appointments with four midwives from three different OBGYN clinics over my two pregnancies, with two doulas and in my overall search and research for my baby's birth. Further, they have guided me as a prenatal yoga instructor, if you, too, happen to teach yoga or work with pregnant women in another capacity.
When it comes to our own health, self-knowing and staying informed reigns supreme. Learning as much as possible from many sources in order to critically think, assess and make personal choices is paramount.
This becomes absolutely essential during pregnancy for birth so that decisions rest in your own hands and not solely in the hands of others such as doctors, nurses, midwives, family or friends. It's you and your baby's birth! Own it! Be knowledgeable, proactive and assertive in your wishes, and make your relationship with your delivery persons or location two-sided... you have lots to bring to the table! This begins with educating yourself to feel confident enough to question everything anyone tells you.
My son's birth was supremely exciting. My water broke while I was sleeping in bed next to Eric. The burst of the water woke me up, and I hit Eric in the arm in utter excitement and announced, "My water broke!" It was 3:45 a.m. on Thursday, June 27. A day later, after 19 and a half hours of contractions and 26 minutes of pushing, Avie Jennings Harder arrived, at 12:02 a.m., on June 28, 2013.
He was four weeks early, five pounds and 12 ounces, and he was placed into my arms within seconds of his daddy catching him upon the last push. This was my dream - to be the first one who held my baby, the first one who met eyes with him.
And when our eyes met, oh boy!!! That was the beginning of a lifetime of endless love... I was overwhelmed with complete bliss. Pure bliss. The sense of clarity I had from a drug-free birth allowed my bliss to radiate. Being completely unmedicated allowed the pure awareness of this moment to reach a height of supreme joy. It was an outer-body experience, and the happiest moment of my life. I was spiritually and emotionally taken to new heights as my tiny Avie and I held each others' gazes. It was magical.
Because I believe that every woman has the right to own her own birth, to find her deepest strength, a power she never knew existed, and to hold her baby for as long as she pleases after pushing it out, I share with you the resources that led me to my first magical birth with hopes that you experience that same unforgettable bliss, no matter where or with whom you decide to deliver!
Baby Center is full of information - I see it as my pregnancy encyclopedia and use it in the same way that I use the book What to Expect When You're Expecting. It offers straight-forward information. Avie and I read our weekly update when a new week begins. He loves to see what new size the baby is - it's always a fruit or vegetable! For instance, currently at 34 weeks the baby is the size of a cantaloupe!
Yogaglo offers yoga classes to subscribers for only $18 per month with unlimited access to thousands of videos by some of the top instructors in the industry. Classes can be filtered by length of time (from five to 120 minutes), type of class (vinyasa, hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Yin, restorative, meditation, Kundalini and Pre/Postnatal), instructor, focus, body part and level of difficulty. The pre/postnatal classes are taught by currently pregnant instructors or moms and vary from active vinyasa style to the more restful yin and restorative type to ones involving a mixture of movement and stillness. There are classes for labor preparation, low back pain, morning sickness and meditations to create a peaceful pregnancy. They are informative, interesting and full of variety which makes practicing fun and productive! My advice is to forego buying any prenatal yoga DVDs (except the one that I list below!) and subscribe to Yogaglo.
Birthing From Within stands to be my favorite pregnancy resource. I recommend it to all expecting mothers. It is wonderful to read with a partner as well! It is interactive, offering simple art projects that explore deep feelings, lots of questions to prompt exploration of feelings and short, intriguing, thoughtfully written chapters that making reading it a breeze.
Spiritual Midwifery was one of the first books that I read in my first pregnancy. It's a compilation of true birth stories attended by home birth midwife Ina May Gaskin, founder of The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee and is simple, moving, raw, positive, uplifting, refreshing... it brings the light back to birthing. The stories remove the fear, darkness, complication and exaggeration associated with birth, without diminishing the intensity and challenge of it. It shows the strength of women who make their births their own. This is a wondrous companion for those who feel that all they hear about labor and delivery are negative, scary stories. Let it be your light!
Active Birth is a fantastic, hands-on resource for expecting mothers, prenatal yoga instructors and those who work in the baby delivery field. It provides lots of effective, easy exercises that can act as an on-going resource. I have many bookmarks tagged and refer to it often! Author Janet Balaskas founded the Active Birth Centre, located in the United Kingdom, and worked closely with the famed French obstetrician Michel Odent. Both the author and Odent work to fight for the most natural means of labor possible for the benefit of women worldwide.
The Pregnancy Journal is a great daily reader to read with your partner and even your children. Another cool thing - mothers can log information such as weight, inches around the belly, cravings and mood. This makes it fun to look back at previous pregnancies to compare!
Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful... YES! I LOVE this book and author/Kundalini yogi Gurumukh! When I became pregnant, I abandoned my Kundalini yoga practice, because I did not know how to do it in a pregnancy-friendly way. Then I found this. It changed everything! The book offers potent, intention-based, active, moving meditations synched with mantra and breath. It's fantastic not just for yoga instructors or Kundalini lovers but for all pregnant women! Along with Birthing from Within, this is one of my top picks!
The Birth Partner is what Eric is currently reading and a book we read together while pregnant with Avie. Having a partner who understands everything there is to know about birth and labor, from the good, the bad and all things in between, forms a team-like bond among couples. Even more, while a woman is in labor, it is so important for her partner to understand what is happening, as she may be quite preoccupied and focused on other things!
Prenatal Kundalini Yoga & Meditation is the accompanying DVD to the above book, Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful, by the same yoga instructor. What I love: it's 108 minutes long (108 is a sacred number in yoga), it is spiritual, active, full of variety, meditative without being boring, purposeful, full of poses and sequences that are interesting and useful, and, ahhh, the music!
The Business of Being Born is sad, infuriating and eye-opening. It talks about the "business" of birth and how labor evolved from a purely instinctual, quiet, woman-led, woman-centered, sacred event from a routine, male-dominated industry. It offers a new perspective to the all-too-routine modern-day birthing interventions and procedures, which are indeed necessary at times but should be saved for emergency.
Orgasmic Birth... yes, you read that correctly. It's amazing and awe-inspiring and leaves one thinking, "Can this really happen?!" I'm hopeful that it can happen to me, or at least to someone that I know! Just watch :)