Cynthia Gabriel’s Natural Hospital Birth has made it to the top of my if-you-only-read-one-book-on-childbirth…list. It caught my eye in the bookstore because my current clients want the most natural birth experience possible yet will be giving birth in hospital, where achieving their goal is often difficult.
As a doula, I have been encouraged to include one book in my bag that will prove helpful when I attend births. For me, this is it. Whether I’m attending a home birth or a hospital birth, this resource will prove indispensable.
As a PhD in medical anthropology, professor, researcher, doula, and mother, Gabriel is uniquely qualified to write on the subject. Though highly educated, the author writes in a way that is accessible to all readers.
NHB is divided into three parts: Preparing for Your Baby’s Birth; Giving Birth; and the last section, Pulling it All Together, which includes only one chapter, Birth Your Way.
Gabriel says, “Your feelings about safety are the single most important factor in how your baby’s birth will unfold.” She devotes an entire chapter to the topic. And in reality, the whole book serves the purpose of dispelling fear. Readers are taught what occurs in each stage of labor and childbirth. They also learn how the support team can best help the laboring mom.
Too often hospital staff are not taught the natural options for pain relief and common concerns such as encouraging the baby to change positions should he or she be facing “the wrong direction.” It is important for moms, dads, and others to learn these options–and when appropriate, discuss them with their midwife or doctor–before labor begins.
Gabriel does not recommend being confrontational. After all, the medical team is there to ensure the safety of mother and baby. However, there are options to those measures commonly used in hospital births, and it is up to expectant mothers to educate themselves and choose what is best for them. As Gabriel says, it’s possible to have “the best of both worlds.”
In my opinion, who should read this book? Expectant parents. Members of their support team. Those who plan to have children in the future. Midwives. Nurses. Doctors. Even those who are simply interested in the topic.