Birth Skills is a book about giving birth. It is not about the pregnancy or your first days with your baby or anything else. It is about delivering the baby and nothing more.
It is written by a physiotherapist named Juju Sundin but includes a lot of first hand accounts from mothers, including one Sarah Murdoch.
At its core is the idea that you can drown out pain with activity and competing stimulus. What do you do when you hit your thumb with a hammer? You suck on it then wave it around. The cold sensation of the air moving over your moistened thumb and the waving itself temporarily focus your mind on something other than the pain which makes it temporarily recede.
Juju Sundin has extended that logic from thumb squashing to child birth. She presents a range of skills and techniques that can be used throughout child birth to help you manage pain and to remain cool, calm and collected.
Birth Skills is basically the opposite of Hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing is all about turning inwards and developing a state of serene relaxation. Birth Skills is about turning outwards, being active and focusing on doing something else.
The techniques are wonderfully simple. They include everything from loud moaning to visualization, stamping your feet, banging stress balls together and more. There are a huge range of variations on the techniques so there should be something in there that works for everyone. The number of techniques also means that you can move between them as your labor progresses or if one becomes less effective due to repetition.
Not only is approach the opposite of Hypnobirthing, the language is wildly different as well. In Hypnobirth there is no pain, there is discomfort. There are no contractions, there are surges. In Birth Skills the word pain is used over and over and accepted as a fundamental part of giving birth. In many ways the two books form a natural pair of opposites.
Although the content is extremely useful, the book itself is really long, especially given how simple the techniques are. The techniques are beautifully simple and after reading the first few pages of each chapter I felt like I understand the technique in question. I understand it and I believe you that it works. Really I do. Can we move on? No. No we can't. Not until the effectiveness of the technique has been repeated again and again in every possible way.
The book contains a huge number of comments from mothers who have used the techniques. If you are apprehensive about giving birth you may find these first hand accounts comforting. They all attest to the effectiveness of the techniques just in case you weren't quite convinced.
Most of the mother's comments have been cut down to the most interesting excerpts and many of them make for entertaining yet delightfully brief reading. Sarah Murdoch's thoughts are included in their entirety. She seems like a nice lady and I have nothing against her but her accounts, which are not short, don't really add much that hasn't already been said. Often they amount to yet another restatement of the same ideas. I get the feeling that her sections were written in isolation and then plonked in without any attempt to integrate them or avoid more repetition.
Despite the laborious repetition, this is a useful book. Regardless of whether you go on to become one of the Juju's Birth Skills success stories she has provided a concrete set of skills to help you get through. She has provided a plan, she has provided something to do instead of just staring at the wall wondering just how bad its going to get. Its worth reading just to replace that feeling of fearful helplessness with informed confidence.
Alternatively, you may be able to get it for free from your local library. Why buy the book when you can get the knowledge for free.