Jewish Pregnancy/Birth Bookshelf
When I’m pregnant, the only subjects I really want to hear, think, or talk about are pregnancy, birth, and babies. And the only books I really want to read are books about… you guessed it! Here are my favorites. I’d love to hear about other books. Please write me if you have suggestions.
I also wanted to tell you my personal prescription for a better birth. Before every birth, I reread the books Labor of Love by Rachel Broncher, The Jewish Woman’s Guide to Childbirth by Aviva Rappaport, and Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. This is a winning trio!!! I will not give birth without reviewing these books! Find out why below…
A Jewish Woman’s Guide to Childbirth by Aviva Rappaport
This is my favorite Jewish birth book. I was hooked after I read this line in the preface: “Over the years of raising a family, I found that while I remained enthusiastic about childbirth, [even] looking forward to the experience, most women definitely did not feel the same way. I wondered why. Was I just lucky?…Or was there something many women were missing.” Any woman who manages to look forward to childbirth (instead of dreading it from the moment she gets the results to her pregnancy test- as I do) is a woman whose book I want to read.
This book teaches readers with wonderful personal stories and a lot of warmth and common sense about how to make pregnancy and birth physically better by focusing on them as powerful spiritual events. My favorite story in the book is about a Chassidic grandmother who has attended enough births to sense the birth’s arrival with more accuracy than the midwives. After visiting her laboring daughter, she went into the corridor to tell the staff, “She’ll have the baby soon.” The nurse asked her, “How do you know? We didn’t check her yet.” The grandmother answered, “Her face is glowing,” and, of course, the baby was born within minutes. The author explains that every mother who is about to push out a baby has a special radiant glow- coming from the unique spiritual connection that a woman experiences at the moment of birth.
The author also provides lots of practical advice about how to prepare for the birth. I have read A LOT of pregnancy books, and I still learned lots of things I had never heard- about helpful herbs, great advice on how to create a good rapport with the delivery room staff, and recommended food lists that dare to mention Best Odds no no’s such as cheesecake and chocolate bars…way to go!
Collections of Women’s Prayers
Just tonight I was at a class at our synagogue, and a very pregnant woman was sitting next to me. She was shifting in her seat that was not-so-suited for her pregnant proportions, and rubbing her belly full of bouncing baby, and clearly needed to get up and focus on herself and her soon-to-be-baby and not on whatever the lecturer was saying. I loved seeing that, since I could so relate to it.
Since the concerns of mothers often differ from the concerns of other human beings, a few centuries ago European women started writing their own prayers about the subjects they really care about- their kids, their husbands, the Jewish people, (and of course) themselves. I love these prayers- and sometimes I say a few before I go to bed at night just to make myself feel better. To learn more about these prayers, and to see a few examples, click here.
I recommend this book, Joyful Mother of Children : A Compilation of Prayers, Suggestions and Laws for the Jewish Expectant Family by Dovid Simcha Rosenthal and also Tefilas Chana: A Collection of Prayers for the Jewish Woman
Nine Wonderful Months–B’Sha’ah Tovah: The Jewish Woman’s Clinical & Halachic Guide by Rabbi Baruch and Michal Finkelstein
This book discusses the medical aspects of pregnancy and childbirth, and also provides an introduction to Jewish issues- such as naming the baby, blessings to say after the birth, and a few inspirational chapters on pregnancy and childbirth in Jewish thought.
Labor of Love by Rachel Broncher
I HIGHLY recommend the book Labor of Love by Rachel Broncher .
Most midwives will tell you that the most important factor in determining whether a woman’s birth will be a good experience for her or not is HER ATTITUDE. Does she come to the birth with a sense of humor? A sense of perspective? A sense of the incomparable gift that awaits her at the end of all of this blood, sweat, and tears?
I was due to give birth YESTERDAY, and I must confess that I am struggling with a fairly rotten attitude towards birth at the moment. I am scared and worried and pretty nervous about just how this huge baby is going to get from my “Are-You-Having-Twins?” belly to my arms that are already itching for a baby.
BUT I’M WORKING ON IT!!!!
I have been re-reading Labor of Love, which is required reading for any women who are struggling to become a bit less worried and a lot more confident and joyful as they approach the birth.
Special Delivery: Jewish Birth Stories of Faith and Inspiration by Sarah Goldstein
Feldheim says about this book: “Thousands of women give birth every day, and yet no two births are alike. In this special book, women describe their beautiful birth experiences, imparting their personal joy and warmth for us to share in. The uplifting tone of the book, as well as the courage, strength, and faith of the women whose stories are featured make this a truly heart-warming read. From a birth on the Williamsburg Bridge to the wonderful surprise of twins, to an extraordinarily powerful tale of a birth in Auschwitz, these true-life stories testify to the beauty of birth when coupled with faith in G-d and loving support.”
If you’re still worrying about the birth after reading these books, you might want to hit yourself over the head with the ecstatic/psychedelic hippy birth experiences described in Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. This book is pretty weird and probably not so kosher, but it is very likely to make you look forward to the birth a bit more.
This book contains mostly interviews with women who gave birth at “the farm”- a hippy commune where the women had tons of babies, and taught themselves to be midwives so that they could give birth at home.
These women love giving birth- they are even laughing through the contractions. I couldn’t stop staring at the photograph of a birthing woman who looks as though she’s never had more fun in her life! As I said before (in another review) – if they are enjoying birth so much, then that is a book I want to read and learn from. I make sure to read this over before every birth, in order to psyche myself up about the Big Event!