Birth Books with Soul

Here are five of my favorite birth books with soul. Some of these cover the material-physical facts of birth (which is such important context for birthing families), but most tend toward the deeper emotional-cognitive-spiritual layers of the birthing journey. Because the latter is kind of my jam. 

Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz

When I was pregnant with my daughter Maia, I yearned for a guide that would address all levels of my being when it came to this massive transformation of pregnancy and birth. I found that most books just skimmed the surface, sticking to the physical facts of birth with little consideration for the deeper levels. I love Birthing From Within because England gets it. Her fundamental philosophy of birth rests on the idea that birth is a profound rite of passage that co-occurs on all levels of a human’s being and that women already know a lot about birth, they just need support and help validating their knowledge. It’s woman-focused, not fact-focused; it’s holistic, creative, and reverent. I love that this book addresses women’s fears and other emotions about birth, invites women to discover and making meaning through art, and addresses the soul work of birthing and becoming a mother.    

Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers ed. by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon

This is one of my favorite collections of birth stories (besides the ones in my book Birth Your Story, of course!)  Is it swell that this birth story collection was penned by some of the most fantastic female authors of today? Yes. But what I love most about the stories are their richness and depth. I love that these writers reach beyond the surface of their social-material birth story and delve into what matters. Touching on the full range of birth experience, and human experience really, this collection reveals so many truths about birth that a more manual-based book never could. I gained so much insight about birth, about transformation, about womanhood, and about humanity in reading this book.  

Transformation through Birth: A Woman’s Guide by Claudia Panuthos

This is one of those buried book gems that deserves much more attention than it gets.  I think part of the deal is that it was written in the 1980s, but this one deserves a revival and its contents feel just as relevant today as they surely did 30-plus years ago. If you are interested in delving beyond the material aspects of birth, this book offers childbearing men and women a sound psychological approach to resolving the past and preparing for positive future experiences. This gem covers maternal wellbeing, positive birthing, the effects of one’s personal history on their birth experience, father’s experience of birth, birth preparation, our relationships with our partners, the postpartum journey, birth loss, cesarean births and VBACs, and more.  I wish I had this book when I was pregnant.  Such a treasure. 

Birth Matters by Ina May Gaskin

Yes, she is best known for Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. And don’t get me wrong these books are great. Legends. But my favorite Ina May book is Birth Matters. This book reminds me of a Jane Goodall book I read in college (random fact: I was super into primatology in college) called Reason for Hope. Yes, she’d written many great books about the chimpanzees she studied and the incredible conservation work that she did, but this book was the meta-book. And by that I mean the book where she reflects, gets personal, digs deep— where she sets forth her philosophy not only on her field, but on life itself and the world around her.  This is what Ina May does in Birth Matters. She goes meta, she gets political, she sets forth her manifesta for the way birth can and should be in our world. In her foreword, writer Ani DiFranco’s remarks that Gaskin is like “a sage trying to show us a way to creating new frameworks[, p]ointing us not to new answers but back down an ancient path to new questions.” Woven throughout Gaskin’s sage account of birth culture and her vision for change are birth stories and commentary on the importance of birth stories.  

Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula by Amy Wright Glenn

I found this little gem when I was training to become a doula sometime in my daughter’s infancy. Part memoir, part philosophy, and part pure delectable poetry, this book offers a window into the world of a woman on the edge—a woman who serves those at the thresholds of life: at the beginning as a doula, and at the end as a chaplain, as well as through it all as a mother.  This is such a beautiful, heart-stirring look at birth, life and death by a brave and beautiful soul.  

Your Faves?  

What birth books do you LOVE?  What books are/were sources of comfort and support during your childbearing journey?  

Jodi Neufeld