cafe mama

entering the mind of the married mom

My comprehensive pregnancy book review - May 15, 2004

So, several of my mama friends are pregnant, and I've been going through my stack of pregnancy books, selecting some to loan out, some to keep, some to sell on eBay. The process reminds me that I meant to write a telling review of all these books. No time like the present!

What to Expect When You're Expecting: This is the first book anyone thinks of when pregnancy books come to mind, and is probably the all-time pregnancy best-seller. I can't argue with its many printings and revisions. This book covers all the basics, and looks comprehensively at what will happen during your pregnancy, and what might go wrong. Everything is covered, a little quickly, and with a big emphasis on what you should do while pregnant.

Make that heavy on the "should." This book, while helpful, is the pregnancy dictator. One minute they're telling me that I should weigh myself everyday. The next minute they are telling me to only eat an extra cup of yogurt and apple per day. Not to "cheat" and have cream cheese on my bagel. And to AVOID SUGAR ALTOGETHER. ummm...hello? Have you guys been pregnant? I was lucky to eat anything in my last month of pregnancy thanks to contractions and generally crankiness. I lived on coffee milkshakes. Without sugar I would have had nothing but milk for a month. I would have lost weight. When I told my very good friend Jaime about this advice, she immediately sent me 2 pounds of delicious toffee. Did I say what a wonderful friend Jaime is?

This certainly isn't the only book that says this, but they tell you how many pounds per week you should be gaining. Oh, please, I'm not going to get all upset because I gained four pounds in one week. I'm just not. I mean, 2/3 of a pound per week? I fluctuate up and down 2/3 of a pound every few hours. I'm technically "normal" weight and I gained 40 pounds in my pregnancy with Everett, including one banner month where I gained more than 8 pounds. After Everett was born I lost 50 pounds. Heavy on the sugar and cream cheese.

Rant concluded, the best thing about "What to Expect" is the helpful recipes. I actually did make some of their suggested smoothies (ok, I added a bit of honey). If you do get this book as a gift, keep it, it might come in handy if you have an unexpected problem or if you just need a quick question answered (the table of contents is very thorough so you can find things quickly). But don't buy it, unless it's the only thing you can get.

Your Pregnancy Week by Week seems to be the most in-depth approach to pregnancy, covering in great and frightening detail everything that is taking place with your baby and your body, and everything that might be. If you want exact measurements of the growing baby, drawings of what it looks like at every possible stage, and detailed graphics on what all the things that could go wrong look like, this is your book.

Let's just get it out there: I hate this book. Oh, it's a fabulous resource, and in my pregnancy with Everett it was great to read each week, trying not to read ahead. The graphics are really excellent and helpful. What's not helpful is knowing in such excruciating detail about what could go wrong. There is a picture in the fifth week which shows FOUR different possible locations of an ectopic pregnancy. It is the cross section of the entire collection of reproductive organs with four little misplaced embryos. Let's just say that it doesn't make for pleasant dreams.

The other thing that I absolutely detest about the book is the simplistic and condescending "dad tips." This is an actual tip from the book: "Bring home her favorite dinner or cook it yourself." This is another one: "If you go out of town, call her at least once every day." If my husband needed a book to tell him either of these things, I wouldn't have said husband any more. And if these things hadn't already occurred to him before I was pregnant, well, there wouldn't have been a baby to begin with. If any dad is so insensitive as to need most of this advice, I'd bet he isn't reading this book.

I suppose there are a few helpful dad tips, like, pregnant women shouldn't change the litter box, and sex during pregnancy is safe. I do know that some men need this advice. I just don't think they're likely to go through this book looking for tips on how to behave. The only thing my husband used the tips for was a good laugh before bed.

So, if I were to write the one-minute version of this book, it would be something like, "Your baby is a miracle! You are so lucky! Unless, of course, something ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE should happen. Let me describe all the possible terrible things that could happen in minute detail. Your baby could die, or be horribly transfigured, or you could be terribly swollen and risk death yourself. Here's what all that looks like. Scary huh? Oh yeah, dad tip: give your partner lots of cuddles! Tell her she's pretty even though she is a RAGING LUNATIC SWOLLEN TO THREE TIMES THE SIZE OF A NORMAL HUMAN! Isn't pregnancy wonderful?"

Once again, rant over, I would suggest this book, if only for the great details. I love details. I love knowing what the baby looks like and whether the heart is "done" yet. I just can't stand the scare tactics and the talking down to the poor dads.

The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy is the book that will be endlessly recommended to you by every woman you know. You should read it just so you can be hip to all the pregnant lady jive. If you don't, you'll end up wondering what everyone is raving about.

I did thoroughly enjoy the Girlfriend's Guide. It is lighthearted, with lots of examples of real-life pregnancies from former playboy centerfold, lawyer, and wife of major important music executive Vicki Iovine and her starlet friends. They are great, funny and real, and they even make your husband, who is reading over your shoulder at this point, laugh out loud.

Vicki has a personable writing style and gets down to the nitty-gritty of what it's really like to be pregnant, heartburn, slower-than-you-hoped weight loss, and all. However, her life isn't real. She's a fantastically beautiful, thin, rich woman with lots of fantastically beautiful, thin, rich woman friends. No one struggles to get health insurance after the positive pregnancy test. No one has to go to Goodwill to buy maternity clothes from the men's rack (instead, they're raiding their husbands' fabulous french-cuffed wardrobes). They worry about husbands on extended business trips to Europe and negotiating high-powered deals in maternity business suits.

Let me remind you: this woman was in Playboy. She is not like you and me. Oh, I'm just as beautiful and thin as she ;), I'm just not rich and none of my friends are starlets.

So, read the book, but wait until my book comes out to see how real people deal with pregnancy. What do you think of "Urban Mamas on Pregnancy without Trust Funds?" Well, maybe the title needs some work...

The Pregnancy Journal; A Day-To-Day Guide to a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy is a must-buy. I'm terribly impatient and have a desperate need for minute details. The Pregnancy Journal feeds my hunger with daily details on everything from biological development (fingernails are growing now! your baby is 0.4 mm today!) to possible pregnancy symptoms to interesting cultural factoids from around the world. Want to know how the mamas in Papua New Guinea give birth? Here's the place to learn.

With a handy place to write in the actual date based on your baby's due date, the Pregnancy Journal is a great way to personalize your pregnancy. There are periodic places to write notes about your cravings, thoughts about the baby, general well being, etc. If you can stick with it, the book would be a great keepsake, too. Since I plan to blog the next pregnancy, I won't be needing a new copy ;).

My major criticism of this book is that, near the end, it starts to get very repetitive. I would swear that several of the cultural tidbits are repeated, and many times, especially in the middle of the pregnancy, there is really nothing new to report. The end is tough to deal with, too...the book really doesn't know when your baby will be born, after all. If you're three weeks early, you won't be ready. If you're late, you'll be even more stressed out than you were already. (10 days past due... I DON'T WANT TO READ THIS DARN JOURNAL ANYMORE!)

This is a great gift book for your newly pregnant and information-obsessed mama friend, or a must-buy for your first visit to the bookstore after taking that test.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, while technically not a pregnancy book, is nevertheless on the list of must-have books for future mamas. This is the definitive guide to getting pregnant, as it details the all-important "Fertility Awareness Method." The FAM is a much-easier-than-it-seems process of determining the exact time of ovulation so you can either achieve or avoid pregnancy, or if you have infertility issues, you can get them diagnosed much more quickly. Basically, by checking your temperature and your cervical fluid daily, you can pinpoint your ovulation date, and know when ovulation is about to begin.

My only argument with this book is that it is nearly impossible to follow their temperature guidelines when you have a child already. The book says very seriously that you should have at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep before taking your temperature. Ummm...co-sleepers with toddlers...that's just not possible. I had fine results just taking my temperature at some point before I actually got out of bed for good (often, after I had made a trip to the kitchen for a bottle).

The book is extraordinarily detailed, given that it's a pretty simple topic (I skimmed a couple of chapters), and gives you all the information you could possibly need, with lots of sample charts and photos of different kinds of cervical fluid (I know, sounds yucky, but you'll be ok). In some places the author's enthusiasm overtakes her and she becomes a little overly emphatic. The part about the couple who take photos of their fertile-quality cervical fluid is a little further into the bedroom than I wanted to go. But I can't argue with her method, it really works. Since I am done with the Pill, I plan to use the method for birth control when I'm done having kids. It's very simple and effective.