March 07, 2011
Book Review ~ Birth: Countdown to Optimal
By: Joanne I Leigh-Murfin, RN, LCCE | 0 Comments
[Editor's Note: This book review is provided to Science & Sensibility by guest contributor, Christina Hurst-Prager, childbirth educator, doula, breastfeeding counselor and therapist.
This book is a true gift for all pregnant women and their partners' and all who are in one way or another involved in pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. I actually consider it a must! If, as a pregnant woman,you only want to read one book, read this one first.It is an inspiring self-help book promoting normal birth practices... and much more! Sylvie Donna has written a work that opens our eyes, hearts, ears and minds to the huge impact birth can have on a person; it illustrates the familial, societal, personal and global elements of a baby's birth. She seems to invite us into her living room, engaging the reader in conversations that start with: did you know that.... ?
Birth: Countdown to Optimal is also a research book, providing information and inspiration for women who already are, or are intending to become pregnant, and for those who would prefer to have a normal, natural, un-medicated birth. The author starts by depicting her own experience of trying to find the optimal care, place and approach to birth which she intuitively knew was right for herself and her baby. Thanks to her professional background, Donna was able to conduct extensive research into birth and the impact of the how, where and with whom a woman delivers her baby.
The content of the book is organised as the title promises, like a countdown, starting with chapter 10. The reader is invited to ask her or himself questions about personally-held images and knowledge of birth, while gently being made aware of all the possible inquiries to make. While it is very clear where Donna stands on matters of birth, namely the undisturbed, physiological, optimal birth, she is never dogmatic; her writing is blame-free. The contents of this book are straight forward and factual while coming from deep understanding, compassion and love. It becomes clear, that undisturbed (not neglected or abandoned!!) birth is a powerful initiation into motherhood when the physiological, emotional and spiritual elements of the experience are all well supported.The chapters follow an organic order and provide references to: the wealth of research that defines what optimal birth should look like; a recommendation for readers to challenge their own notions of childbirth; promotion of the importance of minimal interruptions into the birthing process.
This book also offers a week-by-week pregnancy guide and commends readers to think ahead when deciding on a maternity care provider, a location for birth and what preparations need to be made in advance for the first days and weeks following a baby's birth. The chapter titles are as follows: The last two chapters, Help Your Body and Help Your Mind offer solutions to physical and psychological postpartum complications. Ultimately, Donna's book encourages a woman to find confidence and trust within herself, her body and her baby, making birth and the postpartum period safe and joyous.Not only is Birth: Countdown to Optimal organized in descending chapters, but it consists of four distinct sections which include the back ground science and research to optimal birth, as well as commentary from industry experts (like Dr. Michel Odent who is also featured in many of the birth stories included in this book) and personal accounts from both mothers and fathers. I smiled, laughed and also had tears in my eyes-the personal stories are the meat on the bones of the book.
The fourth section of the book includes many beautiful black and white photos of pregnant women, new babies and older children...but none of the birth process, itself. (Donna walks her talk of "no disturbance," and discourages the use of cameras in the birth environment.) This book could be very helpful to childbirth educators with classes planned around the topics contained in each chapter. The book contains an excellent glossary which includes all the research cited, a fabulous index and an overview of evidence-based practices. Women in classes could be directed to birth stories, which are particularly relevant to their situation because these are clearly indexed (e.g. breech births, twin or triplet births, VBACs). For their own use and for additional material, childbirth educators would probably also find it useful, thought-provoking and inspiring to read the companion book Optimal Birth: What, Why & How.The week-by-week guide to pregnancy is particularly helpful if used to help pregnant women understand what's going on with their unborn babies. (It's far more detailed than most week-by-week guides and goes up to Week 43. Most importantly, the content is geared towards normal pregnancy and birth, rather than encouraging a fearful, pessimistic attitude (which is common in other week-by-week accounts).As a child birth activist for nearly 40 years I consider Birth: Countdown to Optimal a mile stone toward the evolution of a new understanding of optimal birth. It combines artwork, womanly wisdom and scientific facts. Childbirth is portrayed as it should/could be experienced, and we are shown how to achieve an optimal birth. Women and babies around the world will benefit from the insights and achievable practicalities presented in this book.
Guest posted by: Christina Hurst-Prager, Kuesnacht, Switzerland.Christina is a childbirth educator, doula, breastfeeding counsellor, CranioSacral Therapist and EFT-Practitioner in private practice. She has organised the 5 International Conferences ,Gebaeren in Sicherheit und Geborgenheit- (Birthing in Intimacy and Safety) in Zurich. She is the mother of 3 adult children and 9 grandchildren Sylvie Donna is a writer, teacher, researcher, editor and mother of three living with her family in Chester-le- Street in Durham County, UK.
TagsBook Review Labor/Birth Christina Hurst-Prager