Posted on

Birthing In The Spirit – Book Review

As I started my Doula/Birth Educator journey, “Birthing in the Spirit”, was the first book that I began to read. Maybe it was the flashy purple cover, or the catchy title, but something in me stirred when I saw this book. I was so excited to start reading it and discover the contents. This book did not disappoint… Birthing in the Spirit was a phenomenal read, and a great introduction to my education.

One of the first concepts introduced in the book was that energy grows the baby and energy is the force that pushes the baby out….therefore it is vital to have good flowing energy around you and in your body. I think that is a huge proponent to using a doula because the doula is able to provide that good, reassuring energy. I never knew before this, how much energy played a role in the birth and pregnancy. This also was pictured alongside all of the concepts that “birth does not need to be taught.” I really marveled at the idea that culturally, universally, all women have a “knowing” deep inside them about giving birth. This knowing is not something that can be learned, but rather accessed…

The idea of presenting a safe space to a woman who is giving birth is also crucial. The physiological effects of safety in birth are relaxation, lower pulse rate, lower breathing rate, steady mind, decreased fear, increased cervical dilatation and ending in a beautiful birth (98).  These are some things I really wish I knew back when I was giving birth!! The Ideas presented in this book are so traditional, so right…yet so novel! If only the whole world were to read this book during the first stage of pregnancy…what amazing change that would bring to our society and our practices of childrearing would exponentially improve.

Another area of “Birthing in the Spirit” that really spoke to me was about practical tips for managing our thoughts. I think as a doula it is very important that I be the strong one and can offer endless emotional support to the birthing mother. Since she will be in a state of intense emotion…like a flowing river, I need to be the solid rock that she can grab onto to regain strength. Words, Actions/Thoughts, Character and Heart are crucial elements to my character as a doula. I need to consistently grow and try to improve on these areas so I can become a better doula and better person inside and out.

Pelvic exercises were a completely new concept to me-aside from seeing that I have a book on it, and knowing that the seminar I need to attend had a class on it. I really enjoyed the story shown in chapter 15 of “Birthing in the Spirit”. The traditional lifestyle of women showed why they chose to give birth stretched out with the back straight, such as hanging from a bar. I did the practices myself and I do notice how the pelvic bone shifts. It makes total sense that the baby would be able to shift itself in the body during pelvic exercises! The utility is so clear!! This also brings back the idea of energy flowing through the body which needs the right pathway to flow through to bring the baby down! It all makes so much sense…

I think it is super important to educate future mothers about the pelvic bone! Avoid giving any negative commentary on the size or shape of her pelvis! Planting any seeds of doubt about her ability to give birth should be avoided at all costs! Birthing on hands and knees, and encouraging women to be on their hands and knees (scrubbing the kitchen floor etc), during the last six weeks of pregnancy makes room for the baby to move to the optimal birthing position and gets the woman used to the position she can try during labor. I feel so enlightened by this information, and so cheated by the information I learned when I was pregnant! It is like the American culture purposefully teaches the opposite of what we should be doing! It is madness. I had a C-Section birth because the doctor told me I had no other choice… I wish I could go back and try to do it in these positions, in a confident state of mind with no medical drugs used! Oh what a difference it would have made. I am so excited to teach and share this crucial information with all of my future clients and even my sisters who have yet to have any babies.

The last part I want to mention is the quote found on page 170. It reads: See only what is good. Hear only what is good. Eat only what is good. Touch only what is good. Smell only what is good. This is the way to good health. For the mind, body and spirit. I find this quote inspirational and beautiful…it is so simple, just like birth should be, just like getting pregnant should be. It should all be simple, good….and full of love. I really am going to strive for these things in my life. I think I may print out this quote and put it on my fridge. I can’t wait to have a beautiful room in my home that my clients can come to and read all these beautiful sentiments on the walls, feel nothing but support and love and look forward to motherhood there together.

Posted on

Book Review: New Mother by Allie Chee

Reviewed by Jane Beal, PhD, CD(DONA), CCE(BWI) & CLS

Allie Chee, author of New Mother: Using a Doula, Midwife, Postpartum Doula, Maid, Cook or Nanny to Support Healing, Bonding and Growth (Hestia Books & Media, 2012), is clearly an extraordinary person. She gave birth to her first baby at the age of 42 at home in the care of a midwife, but only after traveling to 50 different countries around the world, co-founding a leading financial industry publication, and owning her own cleaning business. So, as she says, “in the spirit of community” she offers what she has learned to her readers to help them “realize their dream of motherhood” (p. 20).

Allie Chee clearly values the opportunity for mothers to stay at home and raise their own children. She is in favor of families having servants to help make this happen well. As the daughter of a single mom who worked as a cleaning woman in Texas and as a woman who cleaned plenty herself—and then went on to own a cleaning business—she places a high value on service. Service is undervalued in our culture, but not in Chee’s family. In Chee’s view, service is particularly valuable to pregnant, birthing, and postpartum mothers. She has a good point.

Relying primarily on her personal experience, she talks in detail about the services she received from her OB-GYNs (only one of whom she kept as a back-up), two midwives (one of whom she fired), three doulas (all affiliated with her chosen midwife who were apparently in the role of apprentices), her two postpartum doulas (one of whom she detested), and a woman she hired who is, as she says, “a lot nanny, a little bit cook, and a tiny bit maid” (p. 125). She explains the qualifications she believes people in each of these roles should have and how she went about hiring them, giving the specific questions she asked in interviews and explaining the importance of contacting references. She emphasizes the importance of feeling that special “click” with people who are going to serve you.

Interwoven throughout her chapters is Chee’s interest in traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic healing, and vegan meal preparation. She highlights the Chinese practice of the “sitting moon,” a 30-40 day period after birth in which the mother keeps to her bed with her baby as part of her healing process. Americans typically go on the “honeymoon” when they marry, and many have heard of the “baby moon” (a honeymoon-like getaway for the married couple during the second trimester of pregnancy), but incorporating the “sitting moon” into family life could bring truly great benefits. Chee particularly endorses the book, Sitting Moon: A Guide to Natural Rejuvenation after Pregnancy by Dr. Daoshing Ni and Jessica Chen.

As Chee accurately observes, far too many mothers strain themselves physically and emotionally in the postpartum period, primarily by returning to work before they are fully recovered from childbirth. This is better avoided—and can be, according to Chee, with proper support from others. In a day and age when family members can rarely take time off work to be with a new mother and baby, servants, in Chee’s view, are the key.

While New Mother is a useful book, it may not resonate with everyone. Allie Chee’s heart is clearly sympathetic to single moms, but her primary advice about how to achieve staying home with your baby after childbirth with servants to help you is not something most new parents can consider. She does not offer specific advice on how to afford this goal (though she does promise to do so in her next book, New Family). In Chee’s case, it appears that her own past financial success combined with her husband’s willingness to be the primary breadwinner during their only child’s infancy has made this affordable for her.

Chee is clearly in favor of natural birth, but her view of attachment parenting is unclear. She mentions babywearing (with a story of how her postpartum doula recommended a wrap that did not work for her) alongside car seats. She does not endorse safe co-sleeping and on-demand breastfeeding (though she does mention these as options). So families planning to practice attachment parenting may wish to read Dr. Sears’ The Attachment Parenting Book.

Finally, Chee does not cite or list other useful resources new mothers may want to consult, including books on natural childbirth like Pam England’s Birthing from Within, Barbara Harper’s Gentle Birth Choices, and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (though she does mention Ina May herself). Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner, Klaus and Kennell’s The Doula Book and Rachel Gurevich’s The Doula Advantage will give mothers a much clearer idea of what most doulas actually do. Families might want to research doula organizations like ALACE/ TOLABOR, BirthWorks International, CAPPA, DONA International, and ICEA, too (Chee only mentions DONA in a footnote) or investigate the main differences in training provided to OB-GYNs, MDs, DOs (not mentioned), CNMs, CPMs, lay midwives, and traditional birth attendants. The book has very-little-to-no discussion of the importance of childbirth education, placental encapsulation (a traditional Chinese medicine technique!) or lactation counseling and consultation. The role of the father is relegated to a few brief mentions.

That said, Chee’s book is easy to read and relate to overall. It explains why family servants are needed and what their roles can be. In the end, it achieves its goal of presenting the role of service to the family by doulas, midwives, postpartum doulas, maids, cooks and nannies as a highly desirable and potentially wide-spread norm for Americans in the future.