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25. Birthing From Within, Pam England & Rob Horowitz (1998)

I read large sections of this in 2009, when we took a BFW-style birthing class, but this was my first time reading it cover to cover. The BFW approach focuses on birth art, creation of rituals, and exploration of fears and expectations in order to prepare for a birth that can go in any direction. So it's not so much about creating a pretty vision of your perfect birth, but about preparing in a way so that you'll feel whole and respected no matter what goes right or wrong. However, as a time capsule from the late 90s, there is a lot that could use updating, and it is embarrassingly heteronormative and occasionally overly prescriptive on gender roles; there was one passage about how "women like to be comforted by strong male arms" or something and oh, I cringed. There are also some chapters that end confusingly, such as when England & Horowitz tell a bunch of stories about birth or postpartum rituals and then just say at the end, make a ritual for yourself! With zero information or structure on how to do that, if you wanted to, which is a notable departure from the rest of the book, which contains copious exercises, writing prompts, art project suggestions, and other things like that. At heart, BFW was more about art therapy, to me, but with the frustration of not getting an actual art therapist to analyze your stuff, so you kind of have to do it on your own. I took this with me camping and did some drawings in my journal on The Door To Birth, the Landscape of Birth, Worst Fears of Birthing, and others. I found it really helpful, but if you've never been to a BFW class this book and its exercises might be less helpful. As a refresher, it was perfect for me.

26. Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding, Ina May Gaskin (2009)

This is the third breastfeeding book I've read in as many weeks, but I was glad I read this one last. A lot of Gaskin's info was similar to the other books (though Gaskin believes in hindmilk/foremilk and the other books I read have been more skeptical on this), but her approach integrates more first-person stories, which I loved. Partly this was fun to read because it was an extra peek into the hippie commune life on the Farm. Her experience as a midwife living in a community that valued breastfeeding so highly and used cross-nursing extensively is certainly unique, and the chapter where she describes their experiences with that (and writes more about the history of wet nursing and induced lactation) was pretty amazing. The final chapters contained some touching recommendations for normalizing breastfeeding (a reality show! aww, seriously?). If I had to pick two resource books to have on hand, I would probably choose this one and Making More Milk. Together they offer the most comprehensive (and least annoyingly drawn-out) advice on solving common issues.

So there you go. I'm still reading birth stories from these books but I think I'm kinda done with this genre for now. Pretty soon I'll be flailing about with my very own newborn! Hoo boy. One month(ish) to go!
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