I’ve read more books on birth than any other topic other than Catholicism, probably having gone through at least twenty volumes on it so far, not including countless of birth stories I’ve read online. Truly, there is something about the miracle of pregnancy and birth that never gets old for me.
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When I saw that Mary Haseltine from Better Than Eden, a wife, mother, doula, and writer had penned “Made for This: The Catholic Mother’s Guide to Birth” I was excited. However, I was also only picturing a little guide on birth from a religious point of view.
I was expecting some spiritual insights, help in offering the pains for birth up in union with the sufferings of Christ on the Cross, and maybe uplifting encouragement that we can do this.
I. Was. Blown. Away.
“Made for This” was those things… but it is so much more. I couldn’t put the book down and read the whole thing in five days. It moved me, it spoke to me, and it made me fall even more in love with the mystery of pregnancy and birth.
No matter how many children you have, whether you are as crunchy as they come, or completely medically minded in your births, there is more here for you than you could imagine. Mary has crafted what I find to be the most invaluable book for Catholic mothers in their childbearing years ever.
First, The Soul
From a spiritual perspective, she has it covered. Drawing from the wisdom of the Church, popes, and the saints, Mary lays out so many insights into the truly awe-inspiring act it is to give life to another soul. God designed this beautifully and intentionally, and as you read through the book you feel honored to be a mother.
She draws you into how this very raw, intense, emotional, spiritual experience can change us so much for the better, and how we can learn and grow from it, becoming better, holier mothers. (I’m not kidding, it gave me such baby-fever as I read through these chapters!)
I also found beautiful her rationale about how a mother should be treated with the utmost respect in regards to decisions relating to pregnancy and birth. If we are a truly pro-life people we should value mother and baby’s dignity and make sure they are informed, honored, and loved every step of the way, and taken wonderful care of during the intense postpartum period.
This Is Your Body and Your Baby
So here is what shocked me about the book. Outside of the spiritual information, Mary has written an incredibly comprehensive guide to evidence-based practices for pregnancy, birth, and beyond.
You may be a first time mom, or pregnant with your sixth. Maybe you’re ready for an epidural the moment you arrive at the hospital, or you’re a home birther who doesn’t want so much as a tylenol.
Mary explains how there aren’t moral implications in being more natural or more medically minded, but in either case she wants to encourage you to be informed and to own your pregnancy and the care of your baby, and to give you the confidence that you were made for this. With an objective look at the actual evidence on interventions, nutrition, ultrasounds, breastfeeding, induction, and more, you will comes away from this book with a very firm grasp about most choices to be made during this special time without being rushed, bullied, or confused.
Just recently I posted about the responsibility of parents to research and own these decisions and this book is the perfect reference to become familiar with many of the different options available to you, and the risks and benefits associated with them.
Oh, and guess what? Mary manages to make this information about everything interesting and easy to understand. Ah! What a breath of fresh air to read something that doesn’t come off like a textbook, but a close friend imparting her well-researched knowledge.
A beautifully written chapter on miscarriage handled such a heartbreaking event with the utmost love and compassion. As a mother who has suffered from a miscarriage, I really appreciated this section. There is so much information from a spiritual point of view on this especially painful cross, as well as very practical information on options for delivery after a loss and more.
The information Mary provides is not only incredibly comforting during the saddest of losses, but is also an invaluable reference in the midst of a miscarriage to make informed decisions and know what to expect.
Tell Me A Story
Finally, the last section of the book has birth stories: home births, hospital births, singletons and twins, vaginal births, a c-section birth. Each story is as unique and beautiful as the mother and baby involved, and each brings wonderful perspective about the miracle that is birth and all that it brings.
I found the last story particularly touching. It is told by Melody Lyons of The Essential Mother blog. I’ve had the great privilege of meeting this lovely and inspiring woman in person, and the midwives she used for this birth are my own.
I read the story of her retreating to her dark bedroom, working her baby down as she danced and sang low and relaxed through the pain. When she described a midwife quietly slipping in to check on her and the baby, my heart and mind could just picture it, and tears came to my eyes. I recalled my own births with these same amazing women who guided me, empowered me, cared for me, and truly loved me during the most intense moments of my life in childbirth.
Melody puts it beautifully:
Birth is important. Birth is natural and God-designed. Birth is beautiful. Birth is God’s gift to the family. Birth is a time to celebrate even while we carry the cross. Birth looks a lot like real Christian love.”
I hope you will purchase a copy of “Made for This” here on Amazon for yourself or for a friend. I know it will become my standard baby shower gift from here on out for any Catholic woman I know expecting.
God willing I will see two lines on a little test before I know it, and I will be so enriched by re-reading this book during another pregnancy. Each time I think the spiritual insights will inspire me and draw me closer to baby and to God, and her evidence based research will help me as I make decisions.
I will get something more out of it every time I read it. I know you will too.
Birth is an incredibly sensitive, personal, and emotionally charged topic, which only serves to highlight the point that it is important, it matters, and it affects us deeply. Because of this, there is no room for judging other women when it comes to birth choices. There is room only for listening, encouraging, offering valuable information when appropriate, and providing support, respect for others’ situations, and genuine love…I pray that you will be open to the idea that perhaps birth is such a sensitive topic precisely because birth is so central to who we are as women. Perhaps at the core of our being we know how much it truly does matter. And perhaps that is exactly how God designed it.” ~ Mary Haseltine