In Mia’s Story and Inklings on a New Life I promised I would put together a list of birth resources before I give birth. At this point I have read over twenty books throughout my pregnancy, listened to hundreds of podcasts, and spent countless hours getting sucked down a rabbit hole of research on Google images.
EDIT: I did write this post before I gave birth!
In Episode 130 of the Doing It At Home podcast, “What is Empowered Birth?,” Sarah and Matt discuss that when it comes to empowered birth, there are three things that build upon each other as in a pyramid structure: education/resources, support, and then at the top choice/voice. Sarah says, “To have an empowered birth experience, I think education and resources is huge… If you’re starting out [here], you’re figuring out what you even want in your birth and why. You answer all of those questions. Whether it’s through books, podcasts, documentaries, courses, classes, conferences, conversations… that creates a huge foundation for what could be an empowered birth… So think about what the resources are that you’re using. Think about the education you’re tapping into. And move accordingly from that.” Matt adds, “Think about the energy around a resource you’re tapping into. If the energy around a certain book or podcast is fear-based, guess what? You’ll get that information but you’re also getting that fearful energy as well. And that fear shuts down empowerment. So you have to be very conscious of where things are coming from… You’ll just know. You can feel if there is an agenda… Educate the crap out of yourself, but be aware of where that information is coming from.”
I love this. It is so, so important that we self-educate, but Sarah and Matt make a great point. If the resources we are reading and watching and listening to are not empowering us, maybe not even true, accurate information, maybe going based off mainstream belief systems or skewed statistics, then are they really worth our time? It is vital that we carefully consider the birth resources we are looking into. After all, babies only give us a precious nine months to prepare for their entry into our world. It is only to our benefit to use that time wisely.
The following are books, podcasts, videos, and articles that I have found to be educational, true, and most useful in my learning journey. It boggles my mind that in 2019 the internet is so sorely lacking when it comes to education, and how to self-educate on the subject of birth. It is my sincere wish that this list will help some mamas and mamas-to-be out there who are looking for just such a list.
I’d like to take a moment just to say how vital I believe it is to pursue education during pregnancy. My mind has been opened again and again almost daily as I have learned more and more about this subject. After learning things, I have changed my mind about many procedures and even deep-seated ways of thinking.
For example, in my first trimester I assumed we would be buying surgical scissors and a cord clamp from Amazon. In my second trimester I learned about cord burning and bought a little wooden box and two beeswax candles instead. In my third trimester I read more about the placenta and the umbilical cord and watched more videos about them and learned much more about lotus birth. I considered for a time doing a lotus birth instead of a cord burning.
I urge you to question everything, and when your questions are answered, ask more. Want to know what things look like. Want to understand why things work the way they do. Why does a uterus contract? How does a baby take his first breath? What herbs are helpful postpartum?
Go deeper. This is how I have been able to learn so much and cultivate confidence in my breadth of knowledge. If a topic intrigues you, don’t stop at Google – hashtag search it on instagram. When you can’t find adequate answers anymore, ask on forums. Ask the same question to two different people. Three different people. Get different answers and think about them for yourself.
For example, when I couldn’t find answers to specific questions I had about the process of placenta encapsulation, I asked in an Indie Birth Facebook group, and I also asked my friend who encapsulated my baby’s placenta six years ago.
I also want to say that there is a lot of misinformation out there about pregnancy and birth and child care, and I know how hard it is to parse through it. Please do not consider this an exhaustive list by any means. It is simply the resources I have personally stumbled upon in my own pursuit.
I am actually going to list within each category in a rough order of priority. In other words, the books I learned the most from or found the most valuable will be at the top of my book list, and the podcasts that seriously blew me away will be at the top of the podcast list.
All of the podcasts and videos I have listed are free to listen to and watch. Almost all of the books were available from my library. Almost all of these resources are free. There is no excuse not to educate ourselves.
If you have any questions about any of these resources or links, or just want to chat birth, please do not hesitate to reach out to me privately via the contact form or publicly in the comments below! You can also stay up-to-date on the latest resources I am stumbling across by following our Pinterest board, “Baby Business,” where all of the following links are also handily pinned.
- Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, by Sarah J. Buckley
- This book is packed with information and is the most modern resource I’ve found so far that will help you really get your hands dirty, or rather, your mind dirty – all that nasty birth brainwashing out of your mind for good.
- Sarah Buckley is a physician from New Zealand who currently lives and practices in Australia. Australia’s birth stats are pretty on par with ours so any cultural anomalies seem to be negligible.
- This book does share Buckley’s own birth stories, but it is mostly full of science and cited studies on real, hardcore facts about how birth works and how it is so magical.
- Unassisted Childbirth, by Laura Shanley
- This book inspired me at a soul-level. If this is your first time birthing at home without a midwife, or if you feel like the universe is telling you to birth alone, this book is a must-read. Shanley shares her own birth stories, birth stories from others, and pages of her “radical” ideas that are very well backed up by evidence, empirical evidence, science, and stories.
- Orgasmic Birth, by Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro
- This was one of the first books I read and really opened my mind to the possibility of having a blissful birth experience. I heard in a DIAH podcast with Kim Anami recently that often simply learning that g-spot orgasm was possible enabled women, who had previously thought they were not capable of such a thing, to go home and have one that very day. This made me think that the same is clearly true for orgasmic birth. In fact in several of the birth stories in this book women state exactly that: they found out about orgasmic birth, and then they were able to have one.
- There is also a movie of the same name that came before this book, but it is not free to watch, so I haven’t seen it.
- The Continuum Concept, by Jean Leidoff
- The whole time I was reading this book I just kept thinking, I wish that everyone in the world would read this book. If everyone did, it would completely transform society.
- This book really has nothing to do with birth, but everything to do with how we raise our children after birth.
- Our Babies, Ourselves, by Meredith F. Small
- I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did! It really blew me away page after page. Like The Continuum Concept, this one is more about how societies around the world care for their children, and how we in this country have completely fucked it up.
- Mindful Birthing, by Nancy Bardacke
- I haven’t been called to practice the meditations that Bardacke shares in this book, but it has helped me to live more mindfully in my everyday.
- I particularly loved her diagrams of the uterus and of contractions/expansions. Her perspective, analogies, and metaphors are unique. A pregnant mama would be remiss to miss out on this book.
- Placenta, the Forgotten Chakra, by Robin Lim
- This book isn’t terrible well written and I found a ton of typos in it, but it is full of some great information and fascinating stories from parents who have chosen full lotus births.
- There are chapters in this book on cord blood banking, cord burning, placentophagy (consuming the placenta), and cultural placenta mythology and traditions from around the world.
- Did you know that the attached placenta has been seen pulsating while the baby nursed on the fifth day postpartum? Even when the cord was already dry and brittle. This is evidence that until the final separation there is still an important connection yoking baby to his “little brother,” his “guardian angel” from the womb.
8. Life’s Vital Link: the astonishing role of the placenta, by Y.W. Loke
- My mom found this book at her high school library! If you really want to dig deeper into technical science behind the placenta, this is your book.
9. After the Baby’s Birth, by Robin Lim
- This book comes highly recommended by Maryn Green of Indie Birth.
10. Natural Health After Birth: complete guide to postpartum wellness, Aviva Jill Romm
- My friend Katrina recommended this book to me. It is full of helpful tips and recipes for herbal sitz baths and yoni steams.
- I haven’t read this book because my library does not carry it and I haven’t wanted to spend money to buy it yet, but I wanted to include it as a good resource for postpartum.
11. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by Diane Weissinger
- My mom bought me this book when I was pregnant with my first baby, back in 2010! I read it cover to cover and then passed it on to a friend who was pregnant with her first baby and worried about breastfeeding. It is an excellent reference book however so I plan to purchase another copy for myself now.
12. Birth as an American Rite of Passage, by Robbie Davis-Floyd
- Even though this book focuses entirely on medical birth within the technocratic model, I found it fascinating. I really don’t think that everyone planning a free birth or anyone having a baby for that matter could/should read this book. It’s not for everyone. But if you’re like me and your panties get wet from reading theory, then you’ll want to check it out from your local library, because it’s over $40 on Amazon.
EDIT: 13. The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin
- I read most of this book a few days before I had Alice! I would probably put it higher on the list now… just because it does have a lot of very basic information in it about birth positions, stages of labor, etc. If you are looking for this kind of basic information about what to expect from birth, this book could be a good place to start. I did not read the chapters on medical births.
In case you are wondering why Ina May Gaskin does not appear on this list, there is a reason. I read Spiritual Midwifery and I was not impressed. I can understand how the book could be inspiring for someone who has not picked up any other books on birthing. I can see how Ina May was ahead of her time, in her time. However, I do feel that we have surpassed her time. The Farm is a birth center, which began as a religious cult, and is not necessarily conducive to undisturbed birth. Our ideal is undisturbed birth, and I did not find that any of the birth stories in the book portrayed this kind of birth. I also found her pictures and descriptions of how to do things like episiotomies in the second half of the book both disturbing and interventive. Despite its popularity, this is not a book I would recommend for those interested in free birth.
- Why The System Never Told You About Undisturbed Birth, Indie Birth
- START HERE. Actually, even if you don’t read a single other book or article on this entire list, just listen to this podcast. In my opinion, this is the most important Indie Birth podcast in their entire archive, and I honestly just wish that everyone in the world could hear it.
- A Truly Wild First Free Birth, Free Birth Society
- This might be the most inspiring birth story on the Free Birth Society website. This story is insane. The mama is fearless, and in the end she not only does a full lotus birth but following it cooks up placenta tacos in her yurt. I don’t want to give anything else away because you just have to listen to this story.
- Exploring Autonomy in Birth, Indie Birth
- After I heard this podcast I was obsessed with the idea of autonomy for quite awhile. I realized how pervasive a theme this is not just as it applies to birth, but throughout all aspects of our lives.
- Finding Yourself Through Birthing Alone, Free Birth Society
- Another of my favorite birth stories. This woman had no family support to free birth and her husband threatened to call 911 if she went into labor and refused to go to the hospital. So, she birthed completely alone in the middle of the night, had an incredible, magical, transformative experience, and even videoed her son coming out of her on her phone.
- Exposing the Postpartum Hemorrhage Deception, Indie Birth
- Unassisted Pregnancy, The Bauhauswife Podcast
- Unpacking Ultrasound, The Bauhauswife Podcast
- Is Homebirth Safe? And Other Stupid Questions We Should Stop Asking, Indie Birth
- The Natural Chemical You Need in Pregnancy, Indie Birth
- “Pregnant women are actually primed to release and enjoy oxytocin. Not just because the uterus is growing larger, but the brain is actually changing… Over the course of pregnancy, the pituitary gland increases in size 120-136% and decreases slowly after delivery. The overall weight of the pituitary gland increases 30-100% in pregnancy. There are more oxytocin receptors.”
- Demystifying the Posterior Baby, Indie Birth
- Freebirthing Twins: Stephanie’s Story, Free Birth Society
- I’m not having twins, but homebirth twin birth stories are always amazing because so few women choose to do them. I’ve actually remarked to my husband that I would love to have twins, just so I could have such an incredible experience. And to come out of it with two gorgeous babies!!
- This episode is unique in that the mama really didn’t want to have a free birth, but she couldn’t find a midwife who would work with her and she was too afraid to go to the hospital, so she had a free birth by default.
- I definitely cried listening to this one!
- I have recently discovered the Doing It At Home podcast as well, and have been listening to it on the app called POD (Parents on Demand) on my phone, which is full of interesting podcasts for parents. Some episodes have been a lot of blah blah blah and nothing at all educational in my opinion, but I did enjoy Talking Birth and Sexuality with Jutta Wohlrab.
- Birth, DMT, and the Pineal Gland, by Samantha Klim on The Wild Edges of Healing
- Hormones in Labor and Birth: How Your Body Helps You, by Sarah J. Buckley
- Umbilical Cord Burning, by Jessica Austin
- What is the Difference Between Raw (Simple) and Steamed (TCM) Placenta Encapsulation, by Victoria Webb
- Motherhood Brings the Most Dramatic Brain Changes of a Woman’s Life, by Chelsea Conaboy for The Boston Globe
- Postpartum Chills, Wikipedia
- I remember this vividly after my second birth. My husband didn’t believe it was a real thing, so I had to find an article to prove it.
- Overview of a Cervical Lip in Labor, Very Well Family
- Birth Is a Rite of Passage
- A blog post I wrote earlier in my pregnancy with lots of citations and my own thoughts about how undisturbed birth is a rite of passage.
- EDIT: Alice’s birth story
- If you haven’t read our birth story yet, check it out 😉
- DIY Placenta Preparation, by Indie Birth
- I would start with this video because Margo does a good job of giving a tour of the anatomy of the placenta, umbilical cord, and sac.
- You will see the two layers of the sac: the amnion and chorion.
- In the second half of this video, Margo shows how Indie Birth recommends preparing the placenta for consumption postpartum, which entails cutting it up with kitchen shears and freezing pill-sized chunks on a cookie sheet for swallowing 5-6x/day.
- How to Encapsulate Your Placenta, by Mommy Cruz
- In this video Mommy Cruz encapsulates her own placenta. She does this several days after the birth, so she puts her placenta in the freezer and then thaws it out beforehand
- This is a good overview of how to do the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) method of placenta encapsulation in which the placenta is cooked (steamed). She does this for 10 minutes on each side. You will see how the placenta shrinks when it is cooked.
- A cool thing about this video is just getting to see what a placenta looks like and also she stretches out the amniotic sac at one point so you can see what that looks like too, more or less, when the baby is inside it.
- Placenta Encapsulation from Start to Finish, by Mama Natural
- In this video they put the dehydrator in the shower so that the unpleasant smell of the placental blood/fluid evaporating can go up into the fan/vent in the bathroom. I thought this was kind of brilliant. Our bathroom fan/vent is in a separate little room with our toilet, however, and I’m not sure how I feel about putting this sacred organ in a tiny room full of sha-chi!
- EDIT 😉 DIY Placenta Encapsulation
- My own version of how to encapsulate a placenta! I do the raw method and also dry the umbilical cord and make prints.
- This blog post is very long because it contains a ton of videos showing exactly what I did every step of the way!
- How to Listen to Your Baby’s Heartbeat, by Indie Birth
- In this video Maryn and Margo show us what a few different fetoscopes look like and how to use them to listen to your baby’s heartbeat.
- I borrowed a fetoscope from a friend and my husband and I had a fun time poking around my belly and hearing the heartbeat and the woosh of blood going through the placenta.
- Learning to Feel Your Own Baby, DIY guide to palpation, by Indie Birth
- A Breech in the System, by Karin Ecker
- This movie is free to watch if you have Amazon Prime.
- I found most of this movie useless, except for a scene towards the end when they do a ECV (External Cephalic Version) to try to turn her baby, because I had never seen that before. Of course her baby turned right back around immediately after the painful, drugged procedure.
- You can also look on Youtube for videos of ECVs if you really want to see one.
- There is a website called spinningbabies.com all about different techniques to turn breech and posterior babies. I personally have never been to this website because I do not believe that we should think we have any control over whatever a baby does in utero.
My belief is that labor and birth have two players: mama and baby, and we ought not to underestimate the role of player number two. Babies know how to birth themselves, if we can let go, learn to surrender to the birth, and give them half a chance.
If I had had another nine months to prepare, I am sure this list would have been twice as long! But we are given the time we are given, and I believe that the resources we come across in that time are the ones that are right for us in that time. If a particular resource speaks to you, that probably means you should go check it out! If not, save it for another next time 🙂
I hope this list will be helpful to some mamas out there navigating the tumultuous sea of birth. Please let us know in the comments if you have other resources you would personally add to this list.
Love and light to you all and all your beautiful babies ❤