Just before Christmas, I found myself in my local Kmart. Throngs of people were filling the store, and shopping trolleys were filling just as determinedly. The noise levels were increasing and with it my tolerance rapidly decreasing. I found momentary solace in a reasonably quiet book aisle and began looking through some self-help style coffee table books. As I was putting a book back on the shelf the word ‘BIRTH’ on a different book caught my attention. “The Birth Space” by Gabrielle Nancarrow sat quietly on the shelf. I wasn’t drawn to the front cover, I actually thought it looked like it came from the 70s, and I wondered why such an old book with its retro font and cliche pregnant belly in an arched frame would be on the shelves of the ‘fashionably up to date’ Kmart chain.
I couldn’t resist the desire to pick it up though, especially when the subtext read “A Doula’s Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond.”
I’m a doula.
I’m writing a book.
I simply had to know more.
I opened the cover, and immediately got lost in it. The beautiful grey and sepia coloured pages inside were laid out with a modern serif typeface and clean sans serif text. Gorgeous ethereal black and white images are dotted throughout, both mesmerising and engaging. The spacious layout of text invited me to continue reading and after only a few brief paragraphs I knew I wanted to savour it over the slower-paced January by the pool. I was resentful about lining up with all the Christmas panic shoppers with my single purchase, but it felt worth it at only $22 so I stood in line.
In January, while my kids swam in the pool, I underlined and sticky-noted quotes that stuck out from my reclining waterside chair.
I loved that Gabrielle Nancarrow began the book by discussing pre-conception. She begins with “For most of our reproductive lives, we’ve been trying our best not to get pregnant; now that we’re open to the idea, we would like it to happen immediately.” Her realistic, holistic approach is refreshing.
Nancarrow touches several times on the vulnerability of pregnancy, birth and new motherhood which I see as very important. She cautions that pregnancy and the motherhood experience often trigger past hurt, pain and trauma. I identified very strongly with this statement because I too hear these sentiments in my support of women as they prepare for birth. “It can be surprising how many unresolved issues come up for us when we are pregnant. Some of it can be quite confronting too. A big part of my work as a doula is giving women space to share and process thoughts, emotions, traumas and experiences that are affecting their emotional and energetic health in the lead up to birth.”
Yes! Yes! This is my experience of being a doula too! I don’t just support through labour, (though that is important), my most active role is in the lead up to birth when I’m helping women navigate and realise (perhaps for the first time) their fears, concerns and desires for their birth. And, I love the way Nancarrow teases this out in her book…
“Check in with your feelings regularly and talk about them with someone you trust they could be anything from how you see yourself fitting into the identity of a mother to how you were mothered to how you anticipate your identity, relationships, work and life changing when you become a mother. What’s on your mind? Go deep and explore write it down and talk about it. These thoughts will not go away until they have had a chance to surface and be cleared. Let them out.”
“The Birth Space” guides the reader through the whole motherhood experience using simple, easy to read storytelling filled with gentle wisdom and research-based facts. As a fellow doula, I felt peace reading her sensitively written words, words that evoked the mystery and marvel of pregnancy, labour, birth and those first few precious weeks with a newborn (both a marvel and a mind game).
In the “Preparing for your birth” chapter, Nancarrow gently but firmly empowers the reader to make informed, educated and conscious decisions regarding their rights.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard women say when describing their birth, ‘They wouldn’t let me’ or ‘I wasn’t given a choice’ or ‘It happened without my knowledge’. If there is one thing I want all pregnant people to know, it is this: you have rights and you have options, and you’re not always going to be informed of them”.
A lovely addition to the book is the real-life experience stories dotted throughout. Mothers from all demographics are represented and their stories add a richness that dry, boring facts can’t compete with. Their stories are authentic and honest, and very welcomed.
‘The Birth Space’ would be a fantastic read for first time birthing people. It is a resource that will bring comfort for the journey with its practical, common-sense approach normalising the emotional and physical changes and potential experiences. It is an easy read, covering most things without the overwhelm of too much information.
I personally really enjoyed reading ‘The Birth Space’ by Gabrielle Nancarrow and I would happily recommend it as an addition to your pregnancy, labour, and birth library.
My name is Bonnie Walker, and I am a doula who has completed extensive training at the Doula Training Academy with Vicki Hobbs.
If you would like to talk more about your birthing options, please contact me:
Bonnie the Doula – Together We Birth
0409 485 098