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5 Best First Time Parenting Books

Kate here! Before I came to birth work, I was in publishing and I spent a lot of time reading books. It's still my preferred format for learning something new, which is why I've read many childbirth and parenting books in the last few years. Partly to learn more about birth itself, and partly to know what background knowledge my clients are bringing into their births. Something I've noticed among childbirth books is that most books fall into two categories: competence-building and confidence-building. Most pregnant people will be familiar with the competence-building books (e.g. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, The Birth Partner) that come recommended by friends or providers and are chock full of information, data, statistics, and medical jargon; however, we need balance in our libraries. Today, I am going to highlight childbirth and postpartum books that focus on building your confidence, but stay tuned for a post on all of my favorite competence building books.

Confidence is gained when you have not only competence surrounding the experience of pregnancy/childbirth/parenting, but also competence of yourself. We talk a lot about building intuition throughout pregnancy, and learning to advocate for yourself. As a parent, you will be your child's biggest advocate. You can start practicing now when it comes to your own healthcare, boundaries, and self-care. And when you have a strong intuition, learning about different parenting techniques will be less overwhelming because you already have an intrinsic knowledge of what you prefer to do. In labor specifically, many well-educated people understand the mechanics of birth in theory, but struggle to see them play out in practice. And if you haven't had real discussions about what postpartum will look and feel like, as parents and partners, you will be caught off guard.

Below are a few of my favorite childbirth and parenting books that are focused almost exclusively on how to prepare emotionally and mentally for the times ahead. They have very little content in terms of actual childbirth education, but they make great companions to the straightforward "What to Expect" type books because they help build your intuition and decision-making skills.

Build Your Nest Workbook by Kestrel Gates

The Build Your Nest Workbook is a great way to start (and follow through) on the conversations you need to be having before your baby arrives. You will be challenged to think critically about what is most important to you, how you can best prepare for this time, and what resources are available to people in your situation and area. Even though it's a short read, this workbook is meant to be processed over time and referred to frequently in postpartum. My recommendation for the maximum benefit is to purchase a hard copy, only work through it when you and you partner are in a positive and collaborative mindset, start in early third trimester, and be very specific in your answers. Some prompts can seem redundant, but they're really building off of previous ones so dig deep and be honest. There's plenty of room for edits or to revisit for future pregnancies.

Seven Sisters for Seven Days by Michelle Peterson A must-read for my fellow transplants who live thousands of miles from family and have been wondering how to build a support network that will carry them through this most vulnerable postpartum period. The idea behind Seven Sisters for Seven Days is that the birthing person identifies (at least) seven people they are close to who can each claim a day of the week to be their main support through the first six weeks postpartum. The book is part guide, part testimonial on the program's success in building the village that we all know it takes to raise a baby. There is flexibility in the program to meet your individual needs and work within the constraints of your current network. But do not be afraid to reach out to your circle; you may be surprised who steps up and in what ways. Pregnancy is a powerful heart-opener, and if you are open to receiving help and love it will come to you.

Transformed by Birth by Britta Bushnell

If you weren't aware already, now you know: birth will transform you. Preparing for this transition goes a long way in accepting it when it comes. Blending her experience as a childbirth educator and her academic background in mythology, Bushnell has figured out how to best convey the complex and intangible concepts surrounding this experience. Take the time to complete the exercises laid out in the book, and answer the questions she poses to you and your partner. There's a great mix of practical birth prep (e.g. ice contractions) and philosophical reflections (e.g. the descent of Inanna) that will give you the external and internal tools to approach birth and new parenthood with confidence and curiosity.

Tarot for Pregnancy by Brittany Carmona-Halt

As I mentioned above, pregnancy is a heart-opening experience, so even if tarot has never been your thing previously, you may be more receptive to it now. And if you're used to tapping into your intuition through cards, you'll appreciate interpretations that pertain to the unique emotions and sensations of this time. With a glossary, history of tarot and childbirth, and a thorough breakdown of each card, this book is suited for every level of tarot reader. Exercises and journal prompts invite you to build a ritual throughout pregnancy of tapping into your body and intuition, building connections with yourself and those who have birth before you, preparing mentally and spiritually for the challenge ahead. For those who feel like their pregnancy is flying by, setting aside the time for a small daily ritual can help you slow down and feel things as they come (an important practice for a restful postpartum).

Nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen My last recommendation is for those who are reluctant to give up the educational aspect of their childbirth books. If you're not a big reader, or you don't have much free time to prep, then make Nurture the only book you read in pregnancy. A comprehensive walk-through of everything pregnancy and initial postpartum, Cohen pulls on her decades of birth experience to provide a doula's patented emotional and informational support throughout. Not only discussing what to expect physically and medically at each stage of pregnancy, she also inserts prompts for journaling and mindfulness, recipes, movements, and natural remedies for pregnancy side effects. You are simultaneously learning about various tests, interventions, products, and techniques while being invited to think for yourself about what is most important, what you value, and what you are working towards. Best read from the beginning of pregnancy so you can get the full benefit of the recommendations for each phase.

All of these books are phenomenal, but you don't have to add all 5 to your cart. Start with one and see where it leads you.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you get first read on our competence building book list!

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