...I've been reading a book about pregnancy.
I will say upfront that this has to be the most altruistic thing I've done lately. Read a book about pregnancy, that is. I read for all you hopeful and future pregnateering women out there. Because as we all know, I enjoy pregnancy as much as I enjoy...I can't even think of an equal comparison. I'd rather do my taxes, go swimsuit shopping, have my wisdom teeth pulled out and read Beloved again--all at the same time--than be pregnant. Me and pregnancy just aren't friends, except at the end when I get a beautiful baby out of the whole ordeal. Otherwise, it makes me muy loco.
And yet, here I sit, reading Body, Soul, and Baby by Dr. Tracy Gaudet (who gets help from freelance writer Paula Spencer). I was not quick to email the lovely ladies at Parent Bloggers Network regarding this review, I admit. Refer to previous paragraph for reasons why. However, in the end I decided that since it's possible I'll experience pregnancy again, reading Body, Soul, and Baby might be helpful. Afterall, the other 3 books I read during pregnancy (only with Sydney, I refused to read anything educational whilst Jules was rumbling in my tummy) didn't inspire me to read them again. Except one that told me what exercises to do after my ab muscles ripped in half.
What makes Body, Soul, and Baby different from other pregnancy books is its soulful approach to pregnancy. It initially comes across as rather touchy feeling, but after several pages I started warming up to Gaudet. She gives lots of real-life stories that she has encountered from her practice, so the stories and advice she gives ring true. I especially appreciated her run down of all the different emotions that expectant moms can feel. So often we want pregnancy to be this romantic, blissful, super-happy time, and while that is true for some moms, it was not true for me. Even though both my pregnancies were planned, I didn't ever really revel in the beauty of it. It was just something I had to go through, which made me feel guilty (because there are plenty of women who can't experience pregnancy) and then I had a hard time getting out of that funky depression/guilt thing. Gaudet hopes to change this cycle and validate all feelings with her words of encouragement. She writes,
Remember--no feelings are bad ones. By acknowledging frankly how you feel, you're actually less likely to simmer in guilt. If you are having severe nausea and vomiting, then on a purely physical level, you are miserable. Owning up to that feeling does not negate the happiness and excitement you may also be feeling about the pregnancy. (page 121)
Gaudet hopes to create a different framework for thinking about pregnancy, providing exercises that expectant moms can do in order to check in with themselves, their bodies, and their baby. Tools like dialoguing with your physical and nonphysical self and using dreamagery (a type of focused imagery exercise) might read a little too New Agey for some moms, but I think the concepts behind them are good. Namely, that we slow down, calm down, and create moments of stillness as we experience pregnancy. I can't say for certain that I would have used these tools when I was pregnant (because I was so stubborn about not wanting to let it affect me), but if I had, I know it would have forced me to give up so much of the negative energy I was harboring.
In addition to working through the stages of pregnancy, this book gives the best and most comprehensive chapter on labor and delivery I've ever read. There's even an illustration and explanation of an epidural, which I had been totally clueless about until I asked Jason how it worked when he saw me get one when Jules was born. Since he was mildly grossed out by the procedure, my information from him was a bit sketchy, and BSB filled in the blanks.
Gaudet does a stand up job addressing postpartum issues, and my favorite quote of the book pops up on page 441 when she attempts to answer the question of How Long is "Postpartum":
...I most like the model followed in some Asian cultures in which it is traditionally believed that the postpartum period is one full year long. Obviously a woman in this day and age in our culture can rarely take a full year to "recover" from childbirth, nor does she need to. But this perspective recognizes that while physical recovery from childbirth requires only a matter of weeks, the whole person requires a more generous span of time. (boldfacing mine)
I love this. It just seems to resonate with me, the whole idea that I'm still working on getting used to my body, my child, my life a year after delivery. I think in Canada they get a year off for maternity leave (yes?), which supports this idea that twelve weeks is not enough to "get over" being pregnant. Maybe it's just me, but Gaudet's words gave me permission to keep reflecting on this postpartum stage that I'm in. And that's a healthy thing.
Whether or not expectant moms would use just this book for the pregnancy journey is a matter of opinion. There were lots of great illustrations and stories, although it didn't have as many charts as I've seen in other books. That's all just a matter of visual organization and learning styles. Either way, I think Gaudet brings a much needed perspective to pregnancy, one that's mindful, thoughtful, and soulful. How's that for wonderful?