I’m a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, to Five Favorites, hosted by Mama Knows, Honeychild.
Let’s talk books today. I don’t know how I would go about making a list of my five favorite books ever, so instead I will call this Five Favorite Books that have changed my life. And if that sounds like an exaggeration, it’s really not.
1. Humanae Vitae
If you are Catholic, this book should need no explanation. It SHOULD. But sadly it probably does.
This is the papal encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI which confirmed the Church’s condemnation of artificial birth control. But it doesn’t just condemn; it also explains, and does so beautifully.
Of course I grew up knowing that the Church was against contraception. But in spite of 12 years of Catholic school, no one ever once explained WHY. I went into college thinking that this was just some sort of old-fashioned and unimportant idea that I should feel free to ignore.
Then I took a Christian marriage class at Georgetown and read this book, and my life was changed. And the change went deeper than just my understanding of this one issue; it also affected my relationship to the Church. Because it was in reading this that I realized that Church teachings have explanations, that they aren’t just pronouncements from on high. I decided right then that before ever disagreeing with the Church, even in matters of conscience, we must first read and reflect on its teachings.
2. Let’s Have Healthy Children
When I found out I was pregnant with Emily, the first thing I did was go to the library and look for books to check out. This was in the first batch, but I soon bought my own copy and annotated it heavily. Adelle Davis’s findings remain a topic for debate today, but I remain convinced that the regimen of vitamins that I took while pregnant and breastfeeding are responsible for my children’s vibrant good health.
When my kids were babies I introduced foods to them the way Davis suggested too. I have continued to believe that nutrition is the key to good health even when I didn’t always follow Davis’s guidelines. The effect of the dietary changes I have recently made on my health confirms this belief!
3. Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing
Besides the practical advice Kippley provides on breastfeeding, her stance on mother/baby togetherness formed the way I parented my children. I didn’t know then what attachment parenting was, but Kippley told me that babies should be fed on demand, that nursing wasn’t just about food, that extended nursing was normal, and that mothers and babies shouldn’t be separated.
Before I read this book I thought of breastfeeding as something you did to give a baby a good start before weaning to the bottle at six months or so. I would never have imagined myself nursing children until three or four years of age, and I wouldn’t have understood the parenting aspects of breastfeeding that go far beyond nutrition and shaped my mothering as well as my children.
This book also changed my life because it turned me into a breastfeeding advocate, which led me to develop online friendships with like-minded people that endure to this day, after our breastfeeding days are done.
4. Childbirth without Fear
I never did have the all-natural childbirth I dreamed of when I first read this book, although I got closer each time. Still, this book changed my life by influencing the way I viewed childbirth, by encouraging me to be skeptical of all interventions into this natural process, by leading me to read further (Painless Childbirth; Thank You, Dr. Lamaze; The Experience of Childbirth; Open Season), to take Bradley and Lamaze classes, and to become an advocate for myself in this area. This book set me along the road that led to two successful VBACs after three C-sections. It led me to connect with others who felt the same way who were a support for me and taught me so much. And it contributed to my attitude toward medical intervention in general, because it became clear to me that doctors can be life-savers but that we have a responsibility to learn about our own health and advocate for ourselves, not just blindly follow medical advice “because doctor said so.”
5. Kids Are Worth It!
If you’ve read this book, and you know me, you’re probably thinking, “What’s she talking about? She doesn’t parent her kids anything like what this book says!” And you’d be correct. But we all need something to aspire to, right? I know that this is the best parenting book I’ve ever read because I keep coming back to it and quoting from it. I don’t disagree with one word in it and I only wish I’d read it before I had so many kids and was already overwhelmed and making every possible mistake!
Still, even when I don’t follow the principles of this book, I can see where I’ve gone wrong and why, and that’s something, isn’t it? There’s always hope. And especially as my kids have gotten older I take comfort and advice from this: “Is it life-threatening? Is it morally threatening? Is it unhealthy?” That’s helped me pick my battles. Now that William is 13 I probably should re-read the teenage section of this book and see how I can improve this time around.
That’s it for this week. If there are any books that have changed YOUR life, I wish you’d tell me about them in the comments!