Painless Childbirth: An Empowering Journey through Pregnancy and Birth
by Giuditta Tornetta

[2008. Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House, 319 pages, softcover.]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 89, Spring 2009, © 2009, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Elise Hansen.]

When I first picked up Giuditta Tornetta’s book Painless Childbirth, I must admit that I was skeptical. What was she proposing? Was this just another “method” that would hold women to a standard that might leave them feeling guilty or disempowered when they could not attain it? And should women even want a painless childbirth? Haven’t we learned that pain is part of the natural process—even a manageable part that releases all those love hormones, helps us bond with our babies and moves us into motherhood? However, as one of those women who DID experience painless childbirth, I was also intrigued. How could she possibly explain or try to teach what I knew was unteachable.

To my pleasant surprise, she does it: First, by declaring that painless childbirth is a right and then by explaining just what that entails. Tornetta interweaves relationships among nine chakras, or energy fields, with nine basic human rights and the nine months of gestation. Each chapter focuses briefly on one month of fetal development, the main ruling of one particular chakra and how they each relate to a particular fundamental human right. For example, she notes that in the second gestational month, the baby’s arms and fingers are formed “to touch the ‘other,’” the quality of the second chakra is “emotions toward the ‘other,’” and the basic human right is to feel and to want. Throughout that chapter she focuses on feelings—about the pregnancy and birth, about the woman’s own birth, about the impact those feelings have on her experience—and on wants—the right to want and how to go about expressing and getting that want fulfilled, especially regarding birth hopes and plans.

Each chapter begins with a paragraph-long affirmation using such terms as “I am confident…,” “I declare my right to…,” “I am grateful for…” These would be wonderful used as cards to select each day of the pregnancy or posted on the walls of a laboring woman’s room. After discussing the development, chakra, human right relationship, she then fleshes out the chapter with basic coping mechanisms and user-friendly tools to help break the barriers of insecurities and complaints (physical and emotional) that come up during pregnancy and labor. In addition birth stories are scattered throughout the book.

My favorite part was the chapter on love—the exhortations to love yourself and your partner (with practical exercises to help), to love how you look (with a discussion of nutrition and weight gain) and to use love as a healing tool (again, with simple walk-through aids). I felt that this chapter alone would go a long way in helping pregnant women work through their fears surrounding birth and new motherhood.

So, the “painless” part. Tornetta expresses this best herself when she says, “To achieve a painless childbirth, you must experience pain—not necessarily physical pain, but the pain of change, of letting go of old habits, beliefs, resentments, behaviors and attitudes.” And, no, this is not another “method” book, but an inspirational guide through the journey that is pregnancy, labor and birth.

Reviewer Elise Hansen has been involved in women’s health care for over 25 years, has naturally birthed four children (including a footling breech), is a proofreader for Midwifery Today, academic copyeditor, a Spanish-language medical interpreter and is currently practicing as a homebirth midwife in Oregon. She still has implicit trust in gentle, non-interventive birth.

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