Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering Review July 2, 2013 By Margo Nelson
Sarah Buckley’s book, Gentle Birth Gentle Mothering, is the most comprehensive, holistically minded, and scientifically sound book on pregnancy, birth and early parenting that I have read so far. Part 1 of the book is focused on gentle birth, the hormones of pregnancy, birth and mothering, and the best ways to keep those hormones from being interrupted. In the first few chapters she offers the ideas of instinctive birth, and undisturbed birth as templates for understanding the kind of gentle births that are possible when we leave well enough alone and let the process unfold as it was meant to without interference, interruption or intervention. She goes on to talk about the BRAN model of wise decision making in pregnancy – in short, she suggests that we should always ask ourselves and/or our care givers about the benefits, the risks, and the alternatives to any option, and to also ask what would happen if we were to do nothing. I love that she stresses this point for her readers – that it is their body and their baby, and that they ultimately have to take responsibility for the decisions that impact their pregnancy by asking questions and deeply listening to themselves and their babies. This gives people a good idea of what questions to ask, including questions about doing nothing, since so much of pregnancy care is focused on always doing something.
The rest of Part 1 is spent giving the reader examples of some common pregnancy decisions, and what information we might discover if we use the BRAN method to think through them. She goes through, in great detail, the discussion of ultrasound scans, the use of epidurals, styles of third stage management and cesarean surgery. Each of these chapters is comprehensive and could be used as resources in their own right. Again, she brilliantly blends the intuitive, woman centered, spiritual aspects of decision making with her impeccable analysis of scientific studies. She doesn’t bully the reader with opinions, but instead uses facts to back up her belief in undisturbed birth, always coming back to this clear message – if there is no indication that there is a problem, doing nothing is almost always the best option, since birth is designed to work. She does not dispute the fact that ultrasounds, epidurals, cesarean surgery and some aspects of active management of the third stage have their place, but that place should only be after doing everything we can to support a healthy, well nourished pregnancy and an empowered, undisturbed, instinctive labor and birth. Only then can we be sure that we have not caused the very problems we are later trying to solve.
Part 2 discusses some gentle parenting choices for new babies, again with the same blend of common sense, intuition and science. She talks about attachment parenting, baby wearing and co-sleeping, and the many physical, social and emotional benefits those choices have for babies. Ultimately in the gentle parenting section, Buckley asks the reader to have a healthy sense of skepticism about all information they are given, and to always be questioning and searching for their own inner truth. She also says that she hopes parents will listen openly and sensitively to all of their children’s communications since they are the experts of their own needs. She hopes that parents will also take responsibility for the decisions they make on behalf of their children with the same care and deep listening as when they were pregnant.
I am a huge fan of this book. This will be my first recommendation to all pregnant moms or people interested in the holistic approach to pregnancy, birth and mothering. Buckley eloquently describes what an undisturbed birth look like, how it works, and why you should probably want one. I love that she doesn’t make the book about location of birth, but instead makes the stronger case for an undisturbed, safe, easy birth, which the reader is then left to decide if they want that sort of birth, and the best way to make that happen if they do (although she does have a chapter that brings up the possibility and safety of homebirth). I can’t say enough about how fantastic this book was to read, and how excited I am to pass it on to friends, family, clients and anyone else willing to read it!
I urge YOU to get 3-4 copies of this book, one for yourself to keep and a few to loan out to any and all pregnant friends or family members you may have. I got 10 copies last year and have either sold (at cost) or gifted all but my signed copy and one extra loaner. Time for me to restock! If you still aren’t sold on the book, check out Sarah Buckley’s amazing website with tons of free information and resources at: