Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Review: "The Natural Pregnancy Book" by Aviva Jill Romm

"The Natural Pregnancy Book"
Aviva Jill Romm
2003, 318 pages

This is going to be another short book review, because I loved this book and have nothing to criticize! This book easily goes down as one of my all-time favorites and merits a place on my "buy soon" list.

I have read several other Romm books and loved them all, so I was expecting great things from this book - and I was right! This is truly an excellent book.

Part II of the book, "Common Concerns during Pregnancy," is an alphabetical compendium of the various complications and concerns that occur during pregnancy (morning sickness, heartburn, etc.), with Romm's recommendations and comments on each. This section is excellent. She gives general/dietary recommendations and also herbal recommendations (complete with dosage instructions and lots of herbal formulas), and they look absolutely fabulous in terms of usefulness and thoroughness. I wouldn't want to go through another pregnancy without this book.

Part I of the book covers many of the usual pregnancy topics (prenatal care, nutrition, baby's development, exercise, physical changes, preparing for birth, etc.), but with a twist - not only is Romm in favor of natural birth and midwifery care, but she also has incredible respect for women's bodies, women's birthing rights, women's spirituality, the sacredness of birth, and women's wisdom. Rather than saying, "Do whatever the doctor says," (as oh-so-many pregnancy books do), Romm says, "Educate yourself. Listen to your body. Listen to your baby. Your body knows how to do this, so trust yourself." In today's fear-mongering birth world, where pregnant mothers are treated like time bombs waiting to go off, this book is extremely refreshing. Romm works consistently to bolster and build a mother's confidence in herself and her abilities, and that is a great asset of this book.

Romm also has a great understanding of the understanding of the birth experience as a pivotal event in a woman's life - the fact that birth is truly a rite of passage for a woman. Most pregnancy books, and Western culture in general, dismiss the importance of the birth experience to women. Most view birth as "something really unpleasant that you endure in order to get a baby." After the birth, culture will dote on the baby but give little to no attention to the woman who has experienced a unique and earth-shattering transformation in her rite of passage to motherhood, and who also deserves honor and attention. (Although I believe that motherhood begins with conception, there is something especially transformative about birth in terms of the "becoming" process.)

I experienced this above-mentioned phenomenon very much with my birth experience. After my birth I wanted to shout from the rooftops how proud I was of myself and my abilities, and how I had experienced this amazing transformation, and I could have told my birth story to every passerby who came within ear's reach. However, I found that in general, all eyes were on the baby. (In fact, one of the times I was asked about my birth, I had to go into the back room to nurse the baby and came out just in time to hear my husband finishing up telling my birth story! What a bummer!!!)

Romm really focuses on the importance of the birth experience and gives great examples of how to honor your experience - and for others, how to honor the mother and make her birth the acknowledged rite of passage that it should be.

I love how Romm describes communicating with unborn children as something that can and should be done, and as something that is possible. As a Westerner, I tended to think of my baby as someone who was unreachable, on another planet, etc. - i.e. "I know you're there, and we'll talk when you get here." She emphasizes the importance of prenatal communication and giving love to pre-birth babies, and I really love that.

I also love how life-affirming Romm is. Something that can absolutely drive me up a wall is a pregnancy book that refers to the baby as a "fetus." While "fetus" does literally mean "unborn child," it is used (consciously or unconsciously) to dehumanize the infant, to make it seem less than human (this is especially true when talking of abortion, when the baby is dehumanized further into "fetal tissue" or "products of conception"). Romm consistently refers to the unborn child as a "baby," something that I try to do as well, and I love that. Here's a quote from her:

"From the onset, this was my child, not an embryo or a fetus with potential defects or a pregnancy with potential complications, but my child. I truly believe that it is partially this attitude that has nurtured health in each child. But had one of my babies not been perfectly healthy, that baby would still have felt loved and accepted from the beginning.

"Later in this book you will find a discussion of the various prenatal diagnostic tests that are commonly offered to pregnant women. There are times when these tests are medically warranted; however, routine use of such testing can prevent a woman from developing and trusting her connection with her baby. The real connection between a mother and her baby exists before the connection that is fostered by seeing the baby on a screen, knowing whether the baby is a boy or a girl, or hearing the baby's hearbeat by electronic amplification."

(Romm, 2003:20)

I love that.

This book has a great emphasis on natural health, herbal treatments and non-invasive methods for handling pregnancy concerns. It is a great compendium of wisdom and knowledge.

I highly recommend this book to all new mothers. If I get pregnant before I manage to get my hands on a copy, my fingers will be marching straight to Amazon to order it! Highly, highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. I've read one or two things by Romm, and hadn't noticed how consistently she uses "baby" instead of "fetus." (I think one of the things I read was a prenatal exercise book, so that wasn't really an issue; and the other was why she loves and chose water-birth -- again, more of an emphasis on her thoughts and wishes than on the baby.) It's refreshing to see how strongly and consistently she uses "baby." I tend to use "baby" and "fetus" interchangeably -- I prefer "baby" except when there may be some confusion as to whether I'm speaking of before or after birth -- I'll use "fetus" to clarify that I'm speaking of the baby before it is born; also sometimes I use "fetus" because it's the preferred clinical term -- such as fetal positioning, fetal heartrate, etc.

    Few things irritate me more than to see people use the term "baby" for an unborn child but in the next breath talk about aborting a "fetus." Be honest! If an unborn child is a baby, call it a baby throughout, and say you're aborting a baby, killing a baby. Don't say you're "terminating a pregnancy" when you're actually killing a baby. I've had two pregnancies that were terminated... when my babies were born naturally at home. I have yet to hear of a pregnancy that did not end at some point in time -- usually with the live birth of the baby.

    Stepping off soap-box now. :-) I know I'm preaching to the choir, too.


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