Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Doula Adventures: Review of "Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering"

One of my 2015 goals is to share a doula book review each month, and here is January's - huzzah!

A few days into January, I finished reading Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices by Dr. Sarah Buckley. 

When this book arrived at the library for me, I was excited. Surely this book will offer great perspectives on both the medical and natural views of childbirth, I thought to myself, and how exciting to read a bit about parenting as well. I expected to find balance and straightforward information from both sides of the discussion. 

This book was not what I expected. I thought that a medical doctor who chose home births would offer a balanced, well-rounded perspective of the various choices women face in childbirth; I was disappointed. For making a living in the medical field, Dr. Buckley was shockingly anti-medicine. This was not the evenhanded discussion I was expecting and hoping for.

I believe Dr. Buckley to be at the far end of the “natural birth” spectrum. The emphasis she placed on several procedures seemed a bit “holier than thou” and not at all accepting of any other choices. In fact, several times I thought her general tone was preachy and condemning, which is not what mothers and mothers-to-be need.

The part of the book that I did enjoy was the chapter on the body’s chemicals during birth and how they cycle into birthing the baby. I can appreciate how medicine interferes with the hormonal cycle, but I also believe that there are going to be instances when medical intervention is necessary. Again, this “all-natural or nothing” stance was quite shocking coming from a doctor of medicine. I was disappointed in this book.

I wrote the above three paragraphs to submit to BAI. I didn't want to offend the people who selected this book, but I want to be honest about my reaction, and my reaction was quite strong.

There were several times I put the book down and asked myself, "what the hell did I just read?" and "did she really just say that?" Again, I was very disappointed with something that had the potential to be great. I'm not even going to use affiliate links in this post, because I do not recommend this book.

Never fear - I've got three other book reviews up my sleeve, plus a guest reviewer coming soon. Stay tuned!


  1. This book sounds lame, but the GIF's rock. Hahaha! I would expect a book like this written by a doctor to be more balanced as well. Love hearing about it, though!

  2. It was surprisingly way lame. I totally expected balance, but nope. None to be found.
    Haha, thanks! GIFs make things better, I think :)

  3. Just remember that all these people- on both sides of the discussion are giving their opinion, which they hold dearly. They are all doing the best they know how to make educated decisions for themselves, their children, and their patients (in a docs case). I haven't read this particular book, but I find judgmentalism can come from both sides. It is important to remember everyone's goal is a healthy delivery and baby and encouragement for all is better than anything else as each persons choices and each pregnancy is different. :)

  4. True, Andrea! Judgment is not what people need, especially when parenting and making decisions with information that only some people are privy to.
    I was shocked by how judgmental this book was, though, especially for required reading in my program Doulas are supposed to support parents in their birth choices, but this book was not very supportive of anyone's view but the author's. I'm not saying that she didn't have great birth experiences for her kids; I'm saying she wrote as if her experience should be everyone's, and I did not expect or like that :-p

  5. When I saw on the cover that Ina May Gaskin wrote the forward (and therefore presumably agrees with whatever is said in the book) I wondered if it was going to be one sided. Don't get me wrong Ina May is great at what she does and has done for the field of midwifery, I love several of her books & her work, but she certainly has a particular set of views on how birth should be. I think it is so important for Doulas to be open to the choices a laboring Mom (particularly in a hospital environment) would make. That was one of my huge sticking points when hiring a Doula for my birth. I wanted to feel very certain that if I decided natural birth wasn't for me once we were in the middle of it, that I wouldn't be judged by my Doula for opting for an intervention.
    Thanks for the review!


  7. I completely agree with you and I disagree with Dr. Buckley. Placentas are neither our first purse nor our womb twins. You are right, Julie.

  8. Decorate your home with your children's placentas in mason jars! A great way to spruce up any mantelpiece (Pinterest!!).