One of the first things I did after I found out I was pregnant was dash to Barnes & Noble to browse their pregnancy section. I wanted to devour everything. I sat on the floor and thumbed through the illustrated day-by-day guides, the memoirs, the tirades. More than an hour later, completely overwhelmed, I came home with just one book, which I bought simply because it sounded familiar: What to Expect When You're Expecting
Since then, the books have piled up. In the beginning, I read voraciously. Then, in the second trimester, thankful to be feeling a bit better and eager to think about anything other than pregnancy, I stopped.
But last week, I entered a new and, frankly, ridiculous, phase of pregnancy: insomnia. I was exhausted all day, but when night rolled around, my brain kicked into hyperdrive and wouldn't let me sleep.
I passed the hours each night watching "Orange is the New Black." I read the New Yorker
cover to cover and found myself surprisingly riveted by a fascinating story about long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad
. I listened to hours of VPR classical. And when I had nothing left to occupy me, I watched my belly contort as the baby squirmed and kicked with alarming new power.
Finally, I remembered I had baby books to read. Here's the rundown of my bedside titles.
What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
Megan James is the managing editor of Kids VT. She'll be blogging about her pregnancy until the baby arrives — hopefully in early May.
All I really wanted to know in the beginning was what was happening inside me each week, and this book delivered: Small black face dots are becoming eyes! Hair follicles are forming! Her ovaries already contain 7 million eggs! I still love thumbing through to my current week to read about my baby's development.
The rest of the book, however, is a real downer. Three chapters in, the newly pregnant reader is confronted with all the horrible things that could go wrong. I stopped reading after the authors introduced the concept of Rh incompatibility — if my blood type doesn't match my baby's, my body might start attacking the fetus as an invader.
What I learned:
The full range of potential pregnancy symptoms is insane. Excess saliva?! Bleeding gums?! Cravings to eat dirt?! "The mask of pregnancy"?! Thank god all I've experienced (so far) is nausea, heartburn, backaches, hip aches, zits, fatigue, insomnia...
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May Gaskin is a rockstar midwife. Women I trust and admire recommended her books. This one, an updated version of her classic, Spiritual Midwifery
, is chock-full of dramatic birth stories written by real women. Expect blood, poop, barf, long walks in the woods, hubby make-out sessions and rooms full of women mooing like cows. I was mesmerized reading about the capabilities of the human body and mind.
Still, just as What to Expect
freaked me out about all that could go wrong with pregnancy, Ina May does some fear-mongering of her own. She makes hospitals sound like cold, threatening institutions pregnant women should avoid at all costs.
What I learned:
Moo like a cow during labor; it'll open up all your sphincters. Don't be afraid to get on all fours. And if all else fails, ask your partner to "stimulate your nipples." Fun!
Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
I heard all the interviews with Pamela Druckerman when this book came out in 2012. I figured I should try to read at least one book about parenting — not just about childbirth — since that's what this whole pregnancy thing is all about. I'm still working my way through.
What I learned (so far):
French babies start sleeping through the night at 2 or 3 months old, and French children don't throw temper tantrums.
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott
I picked this book up at the library after spotting it on a reading list in this entertaining blog post
on The Billfold. The bloggers assessment: "Some very real shit in here, worth reading."
Lamott, a single mom at 35, writes candidly about the day-to-day challenges and joys of raising a child. I haven't been able to put the book down.
What I learned:
Advice (especially of the parenting variety) is cheap. I feel better prepared for the arrival of this baby having read one woman's simple story about what it means to become a mother.
Have any other books to recommend?