As soon as we announced our pregnancy our friends sent us so many books to read – some in duplicates, many for mommy, some for daddy, others from pediatricians, storybooks, and memory books for the baby. What I found from all this reading is that books will never be able to educate us on everything we need to know but they can inspire us with knowledge and instill confidence in our innate ability to becoming a mother. Here are my favorite reads during my pregnancy.
So much criticism and advice are heaped onto expectant mothers which, especially for first-time moms, can be extremely difficult to circumnavigate. “Don’t eat chili if you are pregnant”, my own Taiwanese mother tells me. A TCM restriction believes that a mum-to-be is more prone to internal heat or “embryo heat” because she is not menstruating, so reducing your intake of heaty foods is advised. Emily Oster explains that making good decisions requires two things, the right data, and how it impacts you personally. While still taking her advice with a grain of salt, both Henry and I appreciated having the data to make our own decisions for my pregnancy and being united in our approach.
-Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful
Gurmukh is a world-renown Kundalini yoga instructor with prenatal yoga classes on Youtube, Alo Moves, and Khalsa Way Yoga Teacher Trainings online. Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful, written by Gurmukh herself, gives tools and practices for expectant and new mothers. Mediation and exercises with illustrated stories to help process the changes happening both physically and within. I found the book extremely comforting and used her practice tips to direct my mediation throughout pregnancy.
-The Red Tent
Sometimes we have had enough opinions and just want to read something that will uplift our mama-being. The Red Tent is the Bible story of Jacob and his 12 sons told from his daughter Dinah’s perspective. The book’s title refers to the tent in which women of Jacob’s tribe must, according to the ancient law, take refuge while menstruating or giving birth. Even as historical fiction, the book celebrates the unity of women, midwives, and childbirth and is an inspirational book to read during pregnancy.
-Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Gifted by a mama friend, the first half of this book contains the mother’s personal natural vaginal birth stories as they were delivered by midwives on The Farm. Delivering children without technological intervention since the 1970s, Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth helped me to take much of the fear out of childbirth by showing women how to trust the ancient wisdom of their bodies and not to look at childbirth as a medical procedure.
-HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method
Truly a book to redefine what women are capable of I found HypnoBirthing to be incredibly eye-opening and empowering in learning about the female body and how to birth through relaxation, breathing down, and without “pushing”. It is possible because the female body is capable of birthing naturally and intervention-free with low-risk pregnancies. While we have chosen to birth in a hospital, HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method prompted me to hire a doula to help to guide both Henry and me to trust our instincts and ensure that our hospital birth will be as natural as possible.
Anecdotes on pregnancy, birth, and parenting from Zen Buddhist, Karen Maezen Millar. As she uses stories from her own experience as a first-time mother I found her stories enlightening and calming as she compels us to go on this profoundly spiritual journey to motherhood by encouraging us to accept ourselves the way we are.
-7 Secrets of a Newborn
A pediatrician is the only person I will listen to for advice on how to care for my baby. It’s natural for us to have questions on sleeping schedules, colic, poops, feeding, you name it. Dr. Robert Hamilton is famously known for “The Hold”, a technique to calm a crying baby during the first few months of life. I found the book, written from his 36 years plus experience, full of helpful, straightforward advice (and not fear-mongering opinion) which made a lot of sense for babies and children from all walks of life. Enjoy!
-The First Forty Days – the essential art of nourishing the new mother
In Asian culture, nutrition is essential to a smooth recovery postpartum. In Taiwan, a confinement nurse will live with the family for the first month of a baby’s life to prepare a specific traditional diet for the mother and care for the baby in between. Being in LA, my mother sent me herbal tea and remedies and opted to have Henry cook for me. The First Forty Days combines Asian confinement traditions with ingredients accessible here in the US. I am looking forward to lots of healing, delicious, home-cooked food postpartum.
-The Fourth Trimester
Kimberly Ann Johnson wrote this book after finding a gap in postnatal care. As most of the focus is on the prenatal process we forget to prepare adequately for the postpartum period which can last anywhere from 3 months to 10 years. The cultural practices introduced in The Fourth Trimester teach us how to prepare for birth and to learn to heal our bodies with nutrition, movement, and post-natal care. Kimberly brings it all together in a vulnerable and honest to way shed light on the postpartum experience, so we don’t blindly get traumatized without holistic tools at our disposal.
Ultimately, what will happen will happen. With all this knowledge an amount of letting go is necessary to give in to the process. Hopefully, with a little less fear and more empowerment to you, the woman, and the mother’s capability you will trust in nature to let it take its course. Remember you have the power of all your ancestors, midwives, and mothers who have come before you to guide and support you.
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