Seven years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I came upon The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth with no particular expectations - I read it because I planned to read every pregnancy book I could get my hands on. Eventually I read twenty some pregnancy books, and I came to the realization that Ms Kitzinger's book is the best one.
I liked every book I read; they were all well written and informative, including What to Expect When You're Expecting, which some people don't seem to like. However, Ms Kitzinger's book stood out because her attitude came through the tone of the book. It is an attitude of respect, encouragement, and assurance. It made me feel good about being a woman, about being pregnant, and about giving birth. The entire tone of the book makes me think that childbirth is an awe-inspiring process to be enjoyed, not a painful ordeal to be dreaded.
I read the book 3 times during my first pregnancy; it felt like going to the best pregnancy counselor in the world. I was so comfortable reading it, it was like listening to a best friend, or a beloved grandmother who is full of wisdom and experience, but still thinks you are an intelligent young woman capable of making your own choice. (For this reason, I always think of Ms Kitzinger as "Sheila", but I don't call her that here out of respect.)
All the encouragement is done between the lines. Ms Kitzinger never throws trite lines around: "Birth is wonderful! You can do it!" And yet, she gets her message across beautifully. Ms Kitzinger is one of the few people I've encountered who is gifted at confidence-instilling. When I first realized the quality of this book, I read it carefully again, not only to solidify my pregnancy knowledge, but also to imitate this method of encouragement. I am a math teacher, and I wanted to use her method in my field - propaganda such as "Algebra is fun! You can do it!" hasn't been very effective. I've been somewhat successful, because one person said to me, "You are so warm and encouraging!" I never told her where I got it.
Another reviewer here said Ms Kitzinger is so much against hospital birth that it made her feel bad being a pregnant diabetic. There is a gross misunderstanding here; neither Ms Kitzinger, nor any other birth book I've ever read, make anybody feel bad about going to the hospital to have a baby, especially not when the pregnancy is high risk. Ms Kitzinger's exact statement is, "It is wise to consider hospital care if you have diabetes or a heart or kidney condition." (p.38) If you are in the high risk group, you need this book even more because you are facing far worse worries and fears than average.
In her book, Ms Kitzinger makes everybody feels good: if you are married, single, lesbian, or surrogate, she has a passage covering your needs, both physical and psychological. She goes in detail how to have a good relationship with your OB and an enjoyable hospital birth, or to use a birth center, or a midwife at home. She describes the various benefits and risks of different approaches, always making you feel that she is on your side and supportive of your choice, whatever it might be.
Besides her wonderfully warm approach, Ms Kitzinger's book has more important information and research results than any other birth book I've seen. That alone makes her book the best. She talks about things that can go wrong, such as miscarriages or baby deaths, with such compassion that I was never made to be excessively worried.
I felt so good about childbirth after reading her book that I decided to have my first baby at home, without a midwife. (Ms Kitzinger does NOT advocate or mention this option; it's all my idea.) I was in labor for 4 hours, my plumber husband caught the baby, and I needed no stitches afterwards. I had my second baby similarly after a one hour labor. Compare that to my mother, who labored 16 hours in the hospital and recited the painful details to me the whole time I was growing up.
You might think that I was just lucky. I was. I was lucky that Ms Kitzinger decided to write this book and I happened to bump into it. It enabled me to enjoy the most wonderful and glorious experience of my life. Get Ms Kitzinger's book and read it; you have the right, you have the privilege.
(Note: email me if you want to know the details of my unassisted births. But order Ms Kitzinger's book first!)