Review by Simone from ICEA
Doula’s Guide to Birthing Your Way
By Jan S. Mallak and Teresa F. Bailey
Doulaspeak. That is what I am going to call it from now on. I really enjoyed reading this book because I could tell (let’s pretend it’s not in the title) that it was written by a doula. I felt comforted and reassured by their words because I have used the exact same words and/or phrases myself.
As soon as I began reading I knew it would be a positive experience-believe me-not all books about birth are exciting to read. I knew this would be different because right on the very first page I read, “how you feel about your birth actually affects the physical outcome.” We know this as doulas but many pregnant women don’t realize that they have some emotional work to do too. It is significant that this message is sent right at the beginning. This idea is just one of the many important concepts lying at the foundation of this book.
I tried to approach the book as two separate beings. I read as an expectant mom (no I am not currently pregnant) and as a doula. After all the authors boast that the book was written for mom and her doula. As a pretend pregnant woman the information was laid out in a way that would resonate with me. Each chapter began with a story, then provided information, and then most of them ended with an exercise or activity to help wrap it all up. This is a fabulous technique because in addition to the educational benefit it really encourages mom to take an active role.
As a doula I definitely had a few favorite chapters. The first chapter was entitled “Human Environment” and I loved it. We spend so much time talking about where to give birth that we forget it doesn’t matter where you are as much as who is with you. It was a refreshing reminder. It also introduced another one of those underlying concepts found throughout the book-that of creating a positive relationship and engaging in dialogue with your care providers and birth team.
Naturally I also favored the chapter on the “Five Arms of Doula Support.” There are so many reasons why a couple will choose to work with a doula but this chapter was presented so beautifully that I am sure the image of five arms of support will come up again in my own conversations about the benefits of doulas.
When I first started working as a doula my biggest challenge was figuring out when a mom really wanted pain medication and when she was just asking for more support. I literally jumped for joy when I came across a chart in the book called “hints on knowing if and when drugs are needed.” This is a great tool for doulas and anyone else who is planning on supporting a woman in labor (hint hint-partners).
The authors covered a number of topics of interest to mothers and doulas. As a childbirth educator reading books about birth can sometimes be redundant so it’s important to present topics in a way that is refreshing as well as inspiring. The section on epidurals was memorable because it started out discussing the “epidural epidemic.” Of course they went into the risks and benefits as any quality childbirth book should do but there was something about the way it was presented that did a bit more than inform-it made you think about the larger implications of overusing any medical procedure.
I was also thoroughly impressed by the chapter on pushing. I sometimes find it difficult to teach or discuss second stage because it is one of those things that you just won’t really understand until you go through it. I do my best to convey what I can and I thought this chapter was well planned out. They covered the phases of pushing, the role gravity can play, laboring down, perineal support and the different sensations one may experience. It was a very thorough and descriptive chapter that will be much appreciated by many. Each chapter encouraged the reader to explore their beliefs and understand their options. Breastfeeding, postpartum, Cesarean, VBACS-covered.
My absolute favorite part of the book appeared at the end. Sure-the checklists, charts and activities throughout the chapters were gifts in and of themselves but my true joy was unleashed when I turned to the last chapter-“Creating your own Birth Vision.” This chapter is filled with activities and information to help mom create a vision of her ideal birth based on her personal philosophy, preferences and priorities. If I didn’t already fully endorse this book this last chapter alone would have sealed the deal.
I wasn’t sure it was possible but I am even more proud to call myself a doula. We kinda Rock!