This informal handbook tells women and their partners what to expect during pregnancy, labor, and the early days at home with an infant.
Debut author Cook, a midwife in Britain since 1999, envisions her book as a practical guide rather than a medical primer, so her overall tone is suitably chatty. The book has a logical, chronological structure, beginning with a timeline for antenatal care; from there, it proceeds to address common physical worries (constipation and back pain), childbirth preparatory classes, shopping for the baby’s needs, and packing a hospital bag. The chapters on labor itself contain much that readers will find familiar, but Cook emphasizes novel ways of thinking about delivery: “Think of labour as a positive experience.…Your body is designed to do this.” It’s an empowering mind-over-matter approach that resists the stereotype of lying passively in bed to deliver. Cook also considers epidurals to be a last resort and encourages women to move around and try different positions during labor. She describes alternative methods of pain relief and relaxation, and she’s also realistic about birth complications: “Don’t feel a failure if you need help with the birth of your baby,” she says. “The aim is a safe delivery.” One standout chapter documents the personal changes that a new mother may face, drawing on the author’s own experience of postnatal depression. Checklists, as well as “Did You Know?” and “Top Tip!” segments, break things up. However, these sections—printed in bold or italicized text—are so frequent that it’s sometimes hard to know where to focus one’s attention. Also, the prose is sometimes so simplistic as to seem condescending: “a general Anaesthetic (when you are put to sleep)”; “Your Midwife will ALWAYS want a wee sample.” Finally, American readers should be aware that a good portion of the advice, particularly that relating to maternity leave allowances, is U.K.–specific, as is some of the vocabulary (such as “nappy,” “dummy,” and “Moses basket”).
An unevenly executed but helpfully comprehensive childbirth manual.