PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Mary Haseltine, a mother of five boys, a certified birth doula and childbirth educator, wants every woman and her baby to be blessed with “a healthy, happy and, yes, holy birth.”
In her debut book titled “Made for This: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth,” Haseltine draws on St. John Paul II’s theology of the body to show that childbirth is an essential part of who God created women to be, body and soul.
With real-life stories from many moms and practical tips — including preparing for birth, making informed choices, helping fathers embrace their role in the birth room, and encountering the work of labor — the book published by Our Sunday Visitor is a guide for navigating the physical and spiritual dimensions of pregnancy and birth.
Expectant mothers will find the tools they need to approach birth as a gift, and to recognize God’s work in the experience.
Haseltine said she had never planned on writing a book, but from the start of her motherhood and after she gave birth to her first son, she knew there needed to be a book like this to share the experience.
“God made it very clear to me about two years ago that this was what he was asking of me,” she said in an interview with Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Providence Diocese. “There are a lot of secular books out there on birth, many of them great, but there hasn’t up until this point been a book about childbirth that approaches it from a truly whole-person perspective — body, mind, heart and soul.
“As Catholics, those of us who are called to marriage are called to be open to life and that by necessity means being open to birth.”
To her, it made sense “to have a book out there that approached birth from a specifically Catholic point of view — one that discussed God’s design of the body, how the theology of the body from St. John Paul II applies to birth, what the Catholic Church and saints had to say about it, and that walked women through birth in every aspect of who they are and integrated the truths of our faith throughout.”
She added that there are so many choices when it comes to birth and unfortunately in the United States, a lot of the common protocol and procedures before and during birth are not truly evidence-based and do not respect the dignity of the mother and baby.
“As Catholics, that should matter to us. As Catholics, we need to do our best to promote a culture of life not only before birth but during and after birth as well,” Haseltine said. “Honoring the design of birth and helping women have beautiful, evidence-based, respectful births for them and for their children in what is a profoundly important time in their life is all a part of building that culture of life and a culture that truly respects womanhood and motherhood.”
“Made for This” already has had an impact on women and families, according to the author. It is currently featured in the top 20 new releases for books written by Christian women.
“So many have written to me or mentioned how they wish this book had been around for their first births, whether that was just a short time or decades ago,” Haseltine said. “People have been really surprised with just how comprehensive the information is.
“Choices before and during birth, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual preparation for birth, how to bring your faith into the birth room, choosing your provider and place of birth, choices for your newborn, cesarean birth, even miscarriage and stillbirth, naming your baby, and so much more are all covered from a Catholic perspective. It was really important to me that I put in as much helpful information as I could.”
As she prepared the book, she depended on the intercession of Mary, she noted.
“I reflected a great deal on what the birth of Christ was like, both from church teaching and from my own imagination, and how as our heavenly Mother she truly desires each of her daughters to have a beautiful, healthy and holy birth, too,” she explained. “Her prayers are so powerful not only when it comes to birth — and writing about it — but for every aspect of motherhood.”
More of Haseltine’s writing and information about her book is available at www.maryhaseltine.com.
The author, Laura Kilgus, is assistant editor of Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Providence.