Monday, July 23, 2007

Book review: Body, Soul and Baby

What happens when Parent Bloggers Network asks a heavily pregnant woman for her take on Body, Soul and Baby: A Doctor's Guide to the Compete Pregnancy Experience, from Preconception to Postpartum? You get a personally invested book reviewer who skims over the first half of the book before delving deeply into the chapters on the third trimester, labor and the postpartum period.

Pregnancy--and childbirth in particular--is an intensely personal experience, and I'm writing this just days after delivering my daughter. So my perspective on Dr. Tracy W. Gaudet's book is definitely colored by how close I am to the subject matter.

As the Director of the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine, and Dr. Gaudet approaches the pregnancy experience holistically. Unlike so many pregnancy guides--be them books or online resources--she doesn't treat pregnancy as merely a physical condition. Instead, she offers insight into the emotional journey of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While she covers the physical aspects of pregnancy and fetal development in great detail, her focus is always on the expectant woman, and she reminds us at every stage to tune into ourselves, to check in on our feelings and expectations.

But that's not to say Body, Soul and Baby glosses over facts in favor of feelings. Dr. Gaudet thoroughly covers every part of the pregnancy experience with the authority of an experienced physician and someone both knowledgeable and accepting of alternative and complementary therapies like acupuncture and hypnotherapy. It's an exhaustive resource book with information on everything: nutrition, prenatal screening, potential complications, childbirth options, pain management, you name it. Every option is presented respectfully, a refreshing alternative to both the overly medicalized approaches to pregnancy and the scolding, holier-than-thou tones marring the alternative birthing movement. Still, as someone who birthed with a midwife, I felt the author was somewhat dismissive of midwife care, and I personally disagreed with how quickly she writes off water birth and eating food during labor (thanks, but I don't think popsicles and ice chips would have kept me going during my 25 hour drug-free labor).

I read the postpartum chapters through the fog of my own hormone-fueled tears, and I can't emphasize enough how much I appreciate her reminders to own my birth, committing the occasion to memory and reflecting on the accomplishment. Dr. Gaudet doesn't treat the period after birth as a mere footnote--she dedicates a good portion of the book to this sensitive time in a new mother's life. When everyone else has shifted their attention to the new baby, she helps moms continue to focus on caring for themselves.

See what other moms had to say about the book and leave a comment for your chance to win an autographed copy!