This book review is a stop on the Gift of Giving Life Book Tour.
From the book synopsis: The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth offers something that no other book has before–a spiritual look at pregnancy, birth and mothering by and for LDS women and other women of faith.
The Gift of Giving Life does not advocate for any one type of birth or approach to prenatal care, rather it intends to unify families and communities in regard to the sacredness of birth. We also aim to provide you with resources, information, and inspiration that you may not have had access to all in one place before.
We have been commanded to “multiply and replenish the earth,” but with this commandment we were also given a reason: that we might have joy. We hope that this book brings peace, joy, and comfort to families everywhere.
While this book is written by LDS authors and includes doctrinal references, I think it's a wonderful resource for all religious faiths. It covers a huge range of birth related topics - emotional and physical preparation for birth, blessing ways, infertility, loss, adoption, cesarean birth, home birth, newborns, preparing our daughters for motherhood, and a huge selection of birth stories. Stories of a sensitive nature are marked with a ribbon, which is helpful for those healing from a traumatic experience who may want to skip these sections until they are ready.
Rather than attempting to summarize this book, I decided to share some of the quotes that jumped out at me and why:
"Each mother is allowed to search for herself the enlightenment that is promised to those who seek. And for each mother there is an interpretation. An answer that transcends official positions and public discourse to reside only in a quiet, maternal heart." - Courtney J. Kendrick
While Courtney's chapter was discussing specifically pregnancy loss, I believe this quote applies to all mothers and their pregnancies and births. I try to encourage moms in our childbirth class to remember that they hire a care team of professionals to advise them, but ultimately they are the expert on their body and their baby. Sometimes that means we feel strongly we should follow the counsel of our midwife or doctor, other times it means we feel prompted to switch providers! But ultimately we are the stewards of our bodies and our babies and we can receive inspiration for ourselves. Whether we share a faith in a higher power or whether you believe in intuition, I think it's important that we listen for those little promptings - and act upon them.
"Learning to wait upon the Lord's timing can be difficult, particularly when we lean on our own understanding. A woman waiting for a child, whether she is waiting to conceive, waiting to go into labor, or waiting for the imminent birth of her child, has a unique opportunity to put her faith and trust in the Lord and demonstrate her willingness to wait on Him. When she is patient and hopeful, she opens herself up to receive miracles, great truths, and spiritual gifts." - Heather Farrell, CD (DONA)
When I was expecting our sixth I was having a hard time being patient, after an extended time on bedrest and a few challenges I just wanted her safely in our arms. A wise and inspired friend sent me a beautiful article about waiting upon the Lord, and our need to release any sense of control over the timing. It didn't make the time go any faster, but it did help me to emotionally step back and focus on the moment, on breathing and releasing control, on meditation and prayer, and on having faith that the timing would be just as it was meant to be. (And it was! She came on the day her daddy wrote on the calendar for her to arrive because he thought it would be a cool birth date. 🙂 ) While many of my clients do believe in God and may find this concept of divine timing being reassuring, I think regardless of your religious beliefs this is a concept we need to remember. Our bodies know how to grow these babies and our bodies know when to birth these babies. Yes, there are exceptions when things may not go as we would like and as a mom who has experienced loss I did struggle to have faith in my body. But I think we can choose to focus on the faith - in our concept of God, in our belief in something greater than ourselves, in our bodies - rather than focusing on fear.
"Birth is God's time. It can't be rushed or programmed to suit anyone's clock. It is a time to simply be there, respecting the woman's space and the natural rhythms of her body. Think of how time ceases to have relevance when you are caught up in the presence of God worshipping Him or when you are in love and spending time with your beloved. Time flies by, and you barely notice. Birth time is the timing of nature. Who knows when spring will come? Can a budding flower be found open? Yet in time, these things unfold. So does birth." - Julie Bell
As a doula (and as a laboring mom) this really struck me. Birth cannot be controlled, it cannot be rushed. When I'm in a labor room time does seem to shift, as we focus on an event that transcends time. Each contraction may feel like an eternity to a mom and my job as a doula is to help her get through each contraction as if there is none before and none after - to just BE in the moment. I know there are moments in my pregnancies and labors that I wondered if it would end, or if I would be the first woman to be pregnant FOR-EVER! 🙂 And I've had that discussion with many moms as they near (or pass!) their estimated due dates. (I have to reassure them that eventually their baby WILL come out.) During the labor itself I often find myself reminding moms that we just need to get them through this contraction, just this one, while reassuring them that they are making progress even if it feels time has stopped. As I help them focus on their breathing and relaxing I find my breathing changes, my mind focuses, and I am able to also be swept up in the moment.
"The Buddhists say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a painful feeling about pain. Pain is simply a sensation, but suffering comes from thinking that what is shouldn't be." - Rebecca Overson
In the childbirth class I help teach we touch on this topic - the difference between pain and suffering. While there is pain associated with childbirth and it's not something we can erase (even with medication options, there's no guarantee that pain will be removed completely) we can help make sure the mom is not suffering. Pain is physical - suffering is our emotional response to the pain. I cannot take away the sensations a mom physically experiences during labor, but I can support her husband in easing her suffering with words of comfort, physical touch, and coping techniques such as a warm shower, hot rice pack, massage, etc. Birth can hurt, but we can help ensure a mom does not feel she is suffering. I think this mental distinction is important!
"Who will be your angel? As you prepare for your own birth, seek out your angel, whether an earthly angel or a heavenly one. Look for someone in whose presence you you feel courageous, optimistic, and uplifted. Look for someone who knows when to step in and lend a hand and when to step back and let you walk your path with your own two feet. That angel can make all the difference." - Elizabeth Day, CD (DONA), LCCE
I loved this quote, as I pondered on the "angels" who sustained us through our pregnancies, births and postpartum stages. We've been blessed to be care for and watched over by so many amazing people, and I do believe in divine angels guiding and helping us as well. Especially through our preemie's arrival I knew we witnessed miracles and were being guarded, and our care team was being inspired as well.
Now as a doula it is DEEPLY humbling for me to consider that I can try to be in some small way one of those who can serve and encourage and lend a helping hand. I'm given the chance to enter such a sacred space and support a family through one of the biggest days of their life. It never ceases to amaze me, the privilege that it is to attend a birth!
"What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Who am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial?" - Church manual "True to the Faith"
I have this quote hanging on my fridge. There are so many experiences in life that can knock us to our knees, but we can emerge stronger when we are able to maintain perspective and learn and grow. I think of my traumatic birth experience, and how these questions helped me heal - what am I to do? What can I learn? Who can I help? I think of what I gained from our pregnancy losses - can I remember my blessings through this trial? I reflect on the postpartum depression that knocked me to my knees, and I think how can this challenge help me better serve others?
Now with my healthy children growing and thriving I'm able to see the childbirth challenges from a bit more perspective. What felt crushing and overwhelming during the experience are lessons I can ponder on, and use to help another family. I think of the emotions surrounding our losses and I am able to better empathize with a family expecting after a loss and feeling nervous. I remember the feelings being on the table in the OR and I can smile into a mom's eyes as she lays there and tell her that everything will be okay and we'll soon see her beautiful baby. I feel the physical memory of the waves of contractions and I rest my hand on a mom's back and tell her I am right here and we'll breathe through this contraction together, in and out, in and out...
I am so thankful that my own experiences have shaped me as a doula, that I KNOW I can serve in this way, I have learned from this, I can help others, and I have been blessed.
I hope that my quotes from this fantastic book are intriguing enough that you'll check it out! Reading this was a wonderful experience for me, and has shaped me as a doula. Whether you are an expectant mom or a birth professional, The Gift of Giving Life is a beautiful resource.
Free Bonus Gifts when you buy a copy of The Gift of Giving Life during the book tour. Just visit The Gift of Giving Life website for more details.