Monday, July 19, 2010

Birth Trek: The Next Generation

I recently received the following comment:
Hello, my name is Brittany and I am 17 years old. I am passionate about birth, and it is something I would like to study more, I think I would like to become a childbirth educator. Is it possible to give me any info on where to start?
And I thought it was well worth sharing a response with y'all, especially since I've been wanting to do another book recommendation post. SO:

Hey Brittany! It's so heartening to know there are young women out there like you. (And saying that makes me feel positively ancient, by the way.) I would definitely check out CAPPA's trainings. In particular, I think you'd be FANTASTIC for CAPPA's Teen Educator Program! Did you know there was such an awesome thing? Well, there is. And it needs passionate young women just like you. Look here! You do need to be 18 to become certified, but no reason why you can't get started on the preparation now - especially the reading list.

I can recommend a zillion practical, informational books - but before I even get into my favorites on that topic, I'm going to recommend you start with one of my two favorite memoirs of all time: "Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife" by Peggy Vincent (the other is the poignantly hilarious "Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year" by the poignantly hilarious Anne Lamott -not much about birth, but everything, oh, everything to do with becoming a mother). "Baby Catcher" has tons of great birth stories, and is a fabulous glimpse into the life and evolution of a midwife, from hospital to home. Full of humor and so engagingly written. It's the perfect prologue.

My other top recommendations, getting into the nitty-gritty: A great one to start with is "Your Best Birth". It's a very user-friendly breakdown of all the options a laboring mother faces, peppered with great birth stories. Taking it a step further, the most recent edition of "The Birth Partner" by Penny Simkin is thorough, authoritative, well-organized and loaded with great information and suggestions. For a book that covers the whole of pregnancy into birth, my favorite is "The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth" by Sheila Kitzinger. And if I could get every woman in America to read just ONE BOOK, it would be *drum roll* "Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care" by Jennifer Block. It's less about the breakdown of the labor process (though you glean plenty of info along the way as well) and more about politics, but anyone entering the field should find this gripping and galvanizing.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have over seventy titles in my ever-expanding library, and yet I still haven't gotten my hands on "Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering" by Dr. Sarah Buckley. I have a feeling once I do, it will rise to the top of the heap. I think it's fair to give it an unofficial recommendation. It would be a good idea to get some basic info about breastfeeding as well. Any of the books in this post are fabulous. I also know there's a brand-spanking-new edition of La Leche League's classic "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding". I'll fess up: I haven't been crazy about past editions. But the buzz about this latest edition is overwhelmingly positive. I know some lucky bloggas have gotten review copies (any ideas on how to be cool enough to get one of those?), and I eagerly await their $0.02.

How about some just plain birth stories? The classic, of course, is "Spiritual Midwifery", which is chock full of amazing stories, dated as it may be (you just have to look at it as a historical piece, in a way, though one that still has relevance). The more recent "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" has plenty of them too. I really liked the collection "Adventures in Natural Childbirth", which compiles natural births in all possible settings, home, birth center and hospital. And finally, the locally produced "Birth: It's Positive" has inspiring stories from many mothers, with an emphasis on VBACs. My own story is included, too. Proceeds go to our local chapter of ICAN, but I bring up the book not just to plug it, but because the stories are well-worth it.

Non-reading preparation: I'm betting you've already seen "The Business of Being Born". If by some chance you haven't, hie thee to Netflix to put it in your queue, or hey, as of TODAY it is currently half off on Amazon - may as well add it to your arsenal, since you know you'll want to later anyway. I think "Orgasmic Birth" has its strong points as well as its weak ones, but either way, it's a worthwhile watch for you. ("Pregnant in America", I'm sorry to say, was a major disappointment. I should have known by its subtitle, possibly the worst subtitle ever to actually make it onto the cover of a DVD without someone putting a stop to it: " . . . A Nation's Miscarriage". Seriously.)

And you know, I was about to write And whatever you do, stay away from "Birth Day", "Maternity Ward" and "A Baby Story"! but actually, for your purposes, I do think they're useful to watch, after you've started to read the books on the list and watch the other movies. Watch them in balance with the above, and with the plethora of glorious natural, home, and/or otherwise empowered births available on YouTube now. Soon, like me, you'll be shouting at the screen like a World Cup fanatic.

Brittany, I'd love it if you kept me in the loop about how everything's going for you, should you pursue this teen certification, or any other trainings. Right on.

Make it so.

[I'm really not a Trekkie, actually, but in order to geek up a "next generation" reference authentically, I'd have to get into the whole Slayer lineage, and which is probably a bit too obscure. But for any Buffistas out there, I'd say Brittany is quite the promising Potential.]


  1. WOOHOO! becoming a mother, or might someday be a mother, should read the books in this post. I haven't read them all myself, but most of them, and they are all excellent! Baby Catcher, in particular, actually has a spot on my top shelf, which is where I put my FAVORITE books. And for someone who devours books like PB&J, that's quite an honor! ;)

  2. WTF, Google you messed up my comment! It was supposed to say, "Anyone who is a mother, is becoming a mother, or might someday be a mother."