A friend recently asked if I had any recommendations for books that she and her husband (whose request it really was) might read in advance of the arrival of their first (a boy!). Not having much time in the moment, I told her about the one book that we took with us to Tanzania, The Baby Book by Dr. Sears. I promised that I would write more, because surely I had others I could recommend, but haven’t gotten around to it. Until now.
Tonight, after putting Eleanor to sleep, I stopped at the book shelf to see what books I had lying around. I found a bunch. So AA and SA, this one’s for you.
(NB: Most of the books links are from Amazon. This is for no other reason than they are simply the most powerful being in all the land).
-Pregnancy and birth –
Having a Baby Naturally, by Peggy O’Mara: This book was recommended to me even before I was pregnant with Eleanor. It was useful, to a point. The first portion of the book focuses on each pregnancy, and detailing what you can expect, for yourself and the baby (this was usually similar to information obtained from websites like Baby Center), the middle dealt with topics about labor and delivery, and the last section discussed things you could expect post-baby (e.g. breastfeeding how-to; postpartum depression, becoming a family, and sibling rivalry). My book is annotated and page marked up through the “finding a doula” section, then it’s pretty empty. But I don’t think that has anything to do with the quality of the book, or the advice and information provided therein. The book very much describes and supports natural birth practices. recommended.
Birthing from Within, by Pam England and Rob Horowitz: As with most of the books listed herein, this book is a tool to aid in natural childbirth. From amazon, “Here is a holistic approach to childbirth that examines this profound rite-of-passage not as a medical event but as an act of self-discovery. Exercises and activities such as journal writing, meditation, and painting will help mothers analyze their thoughts and face their fears during pregnancy.” Birthing from Within was recommended to me, but I found it a little too…well…well, a little too much. A bit over the top. It was just not quite for me. With that said, I suspect that there are some very valuable portions, and it can’t get the kind of raving reviews that it does without being good.
Active Birth by Janet Balaskas: This book receives great reviews on Amazon (an average of 4.5 stars with 57 reviews). This book is designed to give women (and the people supporting them through labor) every advantage necessary for being an engaged and active (as the name suggests) participant in the birth of their child. The author describes her first birthing experience of laying passively in bed during the process of active labor before spontaneously delivering her daughter. She realized during the birth of her second daughter that “it is necessary for women to move and to be in harmony with gravity in order help her body to open up in labor.” This book is a guide through this process; being aware of yourself and natural physical positions which aid, naturally, in the birth process. I actually have not read this book, but after reading the preface and introduction (and because I’m back to feeling a little like I’m having my first baby, since Eleanor was delivered via cesarean) I think I’ll read it in its entirety. (As a heads up, there are some pretty graphic photographs, and some very outdated outfits!). Recommended.
The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin: Excellent. And frighteningly full of detail. I remember reading sections of books and wondering how I (and/or Tim) were supposed to remember everything when the time came. This book is certainly valuable for the pregnant woman to read, but is most useful for her birth partner- whomever that may be. The author writes “Try to read the entire book before the mother goes into labor. Then, if there is time, you may want to review parts of it during labor.” Given the size of this book, and the level of detail provided, both of those recommendations seem like monumental tasks to achieve. However, this is an excellent resource and, regardless of how much of it you manage to read before labor begins, or how often you do (or do not) refer to it during labor, it’s worth having. Completely. Highly recommended.
(For him) The Expectant Father, by Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash: A great book for your guy during (what may be) one of the more timultuous and emotion-filled 10 months of your (collective) lives. It is a month-to-month guide of all things financial, emotional, physical changes a father-to-be may experience during pregnancy. There are also some great recipes (like banana chocolate chip pancakes) that got me through my marathon training. One of the things I appreciated most about this book was the fact that it led Tim to raise some very important (emotionally related) questions that we might not have otherwise discussed (mostly because we wouldn’t necessarily have known to discus them). Highly recommended.
(Here’s where things get a little, well, wonky.The books I have are all over the map; and although it seems like there’s not really anything connecting them, there is. Parenting [i.e. how the hell does one do this, and do this well??] I will probably spend less time describing these, because there are several of them. And there are some good ones that I don’t have, which I’ll try to draw attention to, if I think of it).
The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears: There is little I can say about this that has not been said already. For us, this was hands down the best reference book we owned. That doesn’t mean there are not others, or that this is the best, just that it’s very popular and one of the only true references we had (here’s his website too). Friends have also highly recommended The Vaccine Book, by Dr. Sears (not THE Dr., one of his sons). My understanding is that this is a measured and balanced look at vaccinations. I plan to read this before #2 arrives.
What’s Going On In There, by Lise Eliot: This book is about how the brain and mind develop in the first 5 years of life. Maybe only a neuroscience geek like myself would like it, but I think it’s fascinating. My parents are always (okay, not always always, but when I ask about it) talking about how important it is to understand what your child is capable of doing/hearing/understanding to keep your expectations in line (and to keep from flying off the handle, if you’re the kind of person to do that, when it’s unreasonable to do so). Highly recommended. Related to this is more of a reference book called Touchpoints: From Birth to 3 Years, by T. Berry Brazelton, which contains similar information (about what to expect when developmentally) and which I have also found helpful. Recommended.
Parenting from the Inside Out, bu Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell: Recommended to me by the same friends that recommended the Active Birth, Birthing from Within and The Vaccine Book (who also, coincidentally, probably also have each of the other books I’ve written about here). The subheading is “how a deeper self-understanding can help you raise children who thrive.” Sounds good to me, but admittedly I have read to it. (Can’t recommend one way or another).
Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman (who also writes The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which I also have): I loved this book, and felt at home reading it. By this I mean it felt like many of my natural inclinations were being supported, and provided with more solid footing. Tim and I both think that Eleanor’s disposition and sense of her own emotions (she actively identifies when she’s happy and when she’s sad) have been powerfully influenced by the fact that we have actively supported her emotional well being using many of the strategies outlined in this book. HIGHLY recommended.
Bright From the Start, by Jill Stamm: Another book about brain development, but this one provides concrete, hands-on examples of things you can do to nurture and encourage this development at each step along the way. I used, and still use, this book often. Highly recommended.
Caring for Infants with Respect, by Magda Gerber: I can’t actually say that much about this book. I happened upon this style of parenting when a friend turned me on to this website. I suspect there are some very valuable things to learn from this book, and I think it’s not touting strictly attachment parenting, which is the parenting style that most of my other literature is in line with, so it’s nice to have another perspective.
Smart by Nature, by Micheal K. Stone/Center for Ecoliteracy: I can’t remember how I came to own this book, and I haven’t done anything with it, but let me share with you the quotation at the beginning of chapter one. “What can education do to foster real intelligence? We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation, and wilderness.” A little hokey? Maybe. But who among us couldn’t use a little more of at least one of the things on that list?
– Websites and Parenting Blogs –
- The Baby Center
- Dr. Sears
- Parent Further and Search Institute
- Janet Lansbury
- Children’s Song Lyrics (bookmark this one, seriously)
- An Article about being too Child-Centered (bookmark and read this one, seriously)
- FudgeBananaSwirl (because you’ve got to stay hip)
- Dr. Walsh
- Ask Moxie
- PhD in Parenting
- Late Enough (for the lighter side of parenting)
- I could go on…but I won’t.
(NB: Looking through these blogs will result in a complete loss of all sense of time and space, it will suck you from blog to blog as you realize that there are thousands and thousands of people just like you out there in the world [although many of them have much better senses of humor than you, or take better picture], but you will feel right at home and your life will be richer. I promise.)
One final note: These books, especially, are pretty similar to one another. That is to say, we believed in, and generally followed (if one can “follow” something like this) what is described as attachment parenting. This is described in great detail in the Dr. Sears books. This way of parenting believes in things like baby wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and feeding on demand, among other things. This way of parenting might not feel right to you, so if not explore what else is out there. Finally, and this is really important, you might want to read up about sleeping, now, while you still care to actually have rational discussions with one another. At least be armed with the plethora of advice for getting your child to sleep through the night, take notes of the patterns and habits you think you can establish early, and know where you might turn for suggestions for changing things when the status quo is not longer working for the family. There are SO MANY different methods people claim you “need to follow” in order to get your child sleeping, and it can be overwhelming and scary and exhausting. Do what comes naturally and easiest until it no longer works and then, as I said, know who you might turn to for help).