By Giuditta Tornetta
Cumberland House, 2008
320 pages, softcover, $16.95
Written by a mother of two who is also a doula, childbirth educator, hypnotherapist, Painless Childbirth takes the pregnant mother on a physical, mental, and spiritual journey from conception through postpartum. The text is interspersed with personal stories from the author’s own pregnancies and births as well as those of her doula clients.
A lot of people are initially skeptical of the phrase “painless childbirth” and I really loved the author’s description of what painless childbirth means: “When I say painless, please understand, I don’t mean you will not feel anything. What you will feel is a lot of pressure; you will feel the might of creation move through you. Pain, however, is associated with something gone wrong. Childbirth is a lot of hard work, and the sensations that accompany it are very strong, but there is nothing wrong with labor.” The book has no rigid concept of what “painless” means and no suggestion that mothers who do not experience birth as painless have “failed.” Painless Childbirth is written in a gently nurturing tone throughout (you can “hear” the author’s doula skills coming through), but is also very assertive that painless childbirth is very reasonable, doable, and is, indeed, the birthing mother’s right.
The book contains a lot of ideas and concepts that are of use to doulas and childbirth educators. I particularly liked Tornetta’s characterization of the three phases of first stage labor according to the primary means of coping with each phase—distraction, concentration, and surrender.
After my own experiences with pregnancy loss, I have become more aware of the treatment of the subject in birth books. Painless Childbirth directly addresses childbearing losses in a short, but compassionately written segment about healing past grief. The book also has content about exploring and overcoming fears.
The book is holistic in its approach, addressing body, mind, and spirit. It contains a lot of spiritual content of a “new age” flavor (for example, lots of references to the law of attraction and the book is organized by month according to fetal development as well as associated body chakra). While I definitely agree that birth is a spiritual event, my practical, down-to-earth side stumbled a bit over some of the concepts and phrasing, and the esoteric content may not appeal to all audiences. That said, Painless Childbirth presents a positive, loving, welcoming approach to giving birth that is both refreshing and interesting.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.