Since I keep a list of books I've read (yes, I'm a nerd like that), I can look back and know exactly what books I've read before each child.
Before Baby #1 (who I wanted to have naturally but being in a hospital setting contributed to me needing an epidural--one that didn't work like they're supposed to):
1) Having a Baby, Naturally by Peggy O'Mara
Written by the editor of Mothering Magazine, it's a good overview of natural childbirth.
2) Birthing from Within by Pam England
I don't remember a lot of details from this book, but I remember that it covers lots of methods for coping with the pain of childbirth, not just one like most books do.
3) Birth: The Surprising History of How We are Born by Tina Cassidy
Talks about the history of childbirth through the years. Interesting to see how much things change and how certain beliefs came to be.
4) Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy
Not an education book, but she does give some funny insight into a first time mom's experience. She can be a little crude, and I didn't like the follow up Baby Laughs nearly as much.
5) The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine
Written by a normal woman. It talks about some of the weird, embarrassing things that women in experience during pregnancy and childbirth that we don't talk about with everyone.
6) Hypnobirthing by Marie F. Mongan
I've known this method to work great for many people. It simply didn't for me. I don't think I'm the right personality for it. But if you are planning a natural birth, it's a good one to look into.
7) What to Expect When You're Expecting
This is the only book I wish I hadn't read. It should only be used as a reference book (but you can easily search the same information on childbirth websites like babycenter.com). Read from cover to cover it brings up too many scary what ifs that are rarely an issue.
Before Baby #2 (who I gave birth to in a tub at home):
1) Better Birth by Denise Spatafora
My take on it after reading it was: "Pretty good, a little too touchy feely, repetitive and there are lots of others like it."
2) Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
This is a good one with lots of information and fairly unbiased. They also have two documentaries: The Business of Being Born and More Business of Being Born which are usually available n Netflix Streaming. The first one set out to explore natural birth, but in an unexpected turn of events also follows a birth that ends up taking place in a hospital. Which reinforces my feelings that it's important to know all aspects of birth.
3) Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesta by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May is the most well-known midwife in America, and is also known throughout the world. She definitely advocates natural birth. But if you want to learn about it, she is the one to read.
4) Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper, RN
This one was long, but had a good coverage of lots of issues surrounding childbirth.
5) The Official Lamaze Guide by Lothian and DeVries
Another method of childbirth pain management. I've never stuck to one method, but was glad that I read a variety so I had different methods to call on at the time.
6) Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
The book to read on natural childbirth.
7) Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
A good guide to breastfeeding no matter what your childbirth choices or realities are.
Before Baby #3 (who is due in a couple of weeks and I'm planning a home waterbirth, though I have back up plans for if something goes wrong):
1) A Good Birth by Anne Drapkin Lyerly
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has given birth, especially if things didn't go as hoped. It helped me process both of my previous births and come to terms with some regrets I had.
2) The Homebirth Guide by some doctors
This one was okay. As someone who had already given birth at home, it was mostly reminders.
3) Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
A good reread and reminder.
4) Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
Another good reread. I'm really hoping to avoid the same early breastfeeding issues I encountered with my first two (who had different issues). What I've probably learned the most is to get professional intervention right away if I'm having any difficulties.
5) Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke
The method in this one is mostly meditation, but I've found good information in it even without doing the meditation practices. Even with all the other childbirth books I've read, I'm glad that I picked up this one.
So there you have it. I believe that knowledge is power--but too much knowledge can stress you out. What I really wish I'd known the first time around (both in reading about birthing and parenting) was to gather knowledge but to trust in myself, to not become too attached to any one method or idea, and to speak up for myself.
For Baby #3, I have plans for how I want things to go, contingency plans for if something goes wrong, and trying to have more trust in my body's ability to birth, and since I'm religious, a little more faith in God and a little less need to try and control things out of my control.