Why Are Pregnancy Books So Terrifying?

What to expect when you're expecting? TERROR.


I speak as someone on the sidelines, here. I'll turn 40 this year, and I have so far successfully been able to avoid getting pregnant. But that doesn't mean I lack empathy for mothers and expectant mothers. To the contrary; you ladies are holding up my end of the bargain, species-wise. Raising the next generation of little humans, and all. Thanks for that! Way to take that bullet, so to speak!
But one thing I have noted, over and over again, is that pregnancy advice is always terrifying. And it's usually written by someone who has no business writing pregnancy advice.
Such is the primary point of Allison Benedikt's hilarious Slate critique of What To Expect When You're Expecting. It turns out that What To Expect is not only filled with things to terrify expectant mothers (as if you need more stress, more things to worry about). It was originally written by a woman who wrote it while she was pregnant with her first child! In other words, by someone with no business writing a book about pregnancy.

Women in all corners of the world have been giving birth for hundreds of thousands of years. And it seems that one thing they all have in common, culturally speaking, is someone who is out to scare the living crap out of them. Whether it's a doctor soberly intoning that the family cat can spell death to your fetus (toxoplasmosis!), or your coworker who cheerfully explains that one sip of wine will immediately transform your fetus into an FAS monster, or the witch doctor who insists that you stay inside at night, lest the moon's touch turn your baby into a literal lunatic.
Pregnant women are scared. Can you blame them? Especially the first time. It must be terrifying! Any new experience is scary. And pregnancy is about as new as it gets, for a first-time mother. It's also a high-risk activity for both the baby and the mother. How many women have died in childbirth over the millennia?
So why, for pity's sake, do we insist on making it worse? And what is it about pregnancy that brings out the kooks and the insufferably inexperienced?
Having skimmed the pregnancy books on the coffee tables of many pregnant friends, I was struck by how terrifying they were. They made me scared of stuff, and I wasn't even pregnant! But did you know that even if you're not pregnant and don't plan to be, you should be getting folic acid, lest you give birth to a monster? Even the un-pregnant can't escape the grasp of pregnancy book terror!

Help with Breastfeeding Issues

Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed our babies, but despite the fact that our bodies are designed for just that purpose, it simply does not come naturally to some of us.  For others, it can seem like we are doing something wrong when we read that breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, yet it is for us.  The fact is, breastfeeding takes practice, things can go wrong, and sometimes you just need the support of an expert to get through those early weeks and unexpected hurdles.  These books are among the highest rated support books for breastfeeding and may be just what you need to turn breastfeeding into a successful, enjoyable time for both you and baby.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
From La Leche League International, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is the go-to resource for expectant and nursing mothers who want to know everything there is to know about breastfeeding comfort, latching, growth spurts, delivery complications and much more.

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers
Touted by reviewers as an “outstanding breastfeeding guide,” a “lifesaver,” and the “best researched breastfeeding book,” Breastfeeding Made Simple helps mothers learn comfortable positions and latching techniques, establishing milk production, mastitis, pumping and gentle weaning.

The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk
Milk supply is less of an issue than many people are led to believe, but for those who need to increase their milk supply or want to be sure their babies are getting enough milk, this book will walk nursing mothers through establishing the best milk supply, identifying causes of inadequate milk supply and different ways to increase supply naturally.

Keep a Pregnancy Journal

When I was pregnant with my first child, my mother-in-law gave me a pregnancy journal called The Belly Book.  The Belly Book has separate entries for every week of pregnancy, allowing you to track things like how you felt, the music you were listening to, big world events and your measurements.  Each week has a spot to put a photo, which I found to be overkill, but if you like tracking weekly it’s a great option.

In the four years since my son was born, we have had a laugh or two looking back at the pregnancy journal.  The things you don’t realize you don’t know can be pretty entertaining after a little bit of experience.  I really enjoyed writing down little things throughout my pregnancy, and it gave me something to do to celebrate the joy (and not so joyous moments) of pregnancy.

If you are pregnant yourself or looking for a gift for a pregnant friend, I highly recommend getting some type of pregnancy journal.  Not only are they great for Mom to look back on, but also for the child as they grow to get a feeling of what life was like before they were born.

The Belly Book offers a lighter take on pregnancy and the leading questions it asks are sure to get answers worth a chuckle later on.  There are many pregnancy journals to choose from, however, so for the more serious types, a formal journal is an option too.

Pregnancy journals are a great way to capture the thoughts and feelings of a special time for looking back on years down the road.

Rosalie's Birth Story

I have been waiting for a while to be able to write my own birth story for this blog, but last week our daughter Rosalie was born, and I am excited to share her story with you.

Rosalie is our third baby and first pregnancy after a second-trimester miscarriage about a year ago.  My pregnancy was easy and healthy, up until I received a diagnosis I knew to expect: cholestasis.  Cholestasis is a rare pregnancy condition that can cause spontaneous stillbirth, meaning the baby will die with no indication or way to prevent it.  The only cure and treatment is to deliver as soon after 37 weeks as possible.

I had the condition with my first two babies but was able to carry them full-term with no complications.  After the miscarriage, things just felt different this time.  When my symptoms started, I was not concerned, but they quickly got much more severe than in my previous pregnancies, so I visited the doctor to talk about our options.

We attempted to induce at just past 37 weeks, and again last week at just past 38 weeks, with no discernible results.  I walked away from the second induction planning to let Rosalie come on her own, but that night, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to get her out.  My fear of c-section is second only to my fear of burying another baby.  I called the next morning to schedule the c-section.

I went in that day, December 15, to be admitted for a c-section that evening.  After two hours of monitoring Rosalie’s heart rate, the doctor came to my room to tell me we needed to deliver right away.  Her heart rate was high and she was in obvious distress.  We wheeled down to the operating room immediately, and within an hour, our beautiful daughter was born.

Though it was not at all the birth I envisioned, I am so happy I followed my instincts and opted for a c-section.  The doctor believes that high heart rate was signaling the beginning of the end for her, and that she would not have survived had we not acted quickly.

Our story ended on a happy note, and we brought home a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  I hope you will trust your instincts if something doesn’t feel right with your pregnancy.  Losing one is about the hardest thing to endure, and nothing is worth taking that risk.

Making Babies

Infertility seems to be an increasing problem in our country.  Unless you have suffered it yourself, it is difficult to imagine the feelings of frustration and inadequacy fertility trouble can bring.  Sometimes, there is no physical barrier to conception, but a lack of knowledge and tools.  In other cases, additional tips can really help enhance the effectiveness of medical fertility treatments.

Making Babies is a book designed to help couples learn about the different types of fertility problems and “fertility types”.  Combining Western and Chinese methods of natural conception, this book teaches couples ways to enhance their existing fertility treatments, and better still, how to get pregnant naturally.

We suffered from fertility issues for three years before conceiving our first child.  The real problem wasn’t so much physical, but the lack of solid information.  I wish I had a book like this to help me understand just what goes on during conception, and what my body needed to be ready to conceive.  In many cases, medical intervention can come too quickly, before we have a chance to understand our bodies and make appropriate diet, lifestyle and supplement changes.

Natural conception is far superior to conception through medical intervention.  Having had it both ways, I can say that with authority.  If you are struggling with infertility, start now to learn why that is, and don’t take another step until you are knowledgeable about your body, because you may be able to conceive without medical intervention.

Making Babies is an excellent resource to help you understand your body and the natural options available to you so you do not have to jump headlong into medications and interventions.

HypnoBirthing Books Roundup

Hypnobirthing is a term that refers to the use of hypnosis during childbirth.  It can be a great way to effectively manage pain, stay focused and relaxed, and make the process of childbirth a positive, natural and enjoyable one.  The following books are designed to walk you through using hypnobirthing practices in your own pregnancy and delivery.

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method
From the original founder of hypnobirthing, Marie Mongan, comes an in-depth book that shows you how to make childbirth the natural, positive experience it is supposed to be. Maintaining that our culture is responsible for painting childbirth as an agonizing experience, Mongan shows us how to release our fears and likewise, the pain of childbirth.

Hypnobirthing The Original Method
This method was developed by Michelle Leclaire O'Neill, PhD, R.N., and includes several techniques for making labor and birth a “glorious, instinctive event”.  The techniques are self-hypnosis, meditation, visualization, and a complete mind/body program that are designed to help women overcome their fears of labor and embrace the moment.

This is a technique I want to pursue for my own upcoming labor.  Finding ways to relax and stop fighting what is natural and meant to happen can make a big difference in how pleasant the experience is.  This means, in addition to visualization, hypnosis and other mind matters, we must also advocate for ourselves the situation that will be most relaxing and comfortable.  When I took more control over my delivery with my second child, the experience was so much more enjoyable.  We know what is best for ourselves and should do what it takes to achieve that during such a precious moment in our lives.

The Pregnancy Journal

One of the ways I get excited about having a new baby is to read up on the changes both the baby and my body go through on a daily basis.  It is so fascinating how a single cell division can, over just a few months, turn into the most amazing miracle anyone has ever experienced.  There are a lot of ways to keep track of how things are changing.  With this pregnancy, I have a little app on my Android phone that updates me every week on what changes are happening.  Apps are great, but a book I can touch and feel is even better.

Enter The Pregnancy Journal.  This book is crammed with information on everything from medical changes, emotional concerns and even spiritual talk to fun little tidbits of pregnancy trivia.  Each day gets about half a page worth of information, so it is easy enough to check in on over your morning coffee, or when you are taking a midday break.

The Pregnancy Journal even has spaces to record your own thoughts and feelings, which is a really great feature when the baby is born and you want to reflect.  It can be really funny to look back and see what was bothering you or interesting to you at a certain point in your pregnancy.

With 296 reviews on Amazon, The Pregnancy Journal has an average rating of 4.5 stars.  In a happy turn of events, the Kindle edition for this book is actually lower than the print version, at $8.63.  You can use the Kindle’s Notes feature to take notes just as you would in the print version, which costs $13.57, by the way.

This is a great gift for a first-time mom or for a mom of many.  The little gems of knowledge make each day something to look forward to.

A Look at Natural Birth Books

To me, natural birth is like saying “breast is best”.  The alternatives are the bad things, so why do we have to spin it the other way?  Before doctors and the food industry took over our childbirth and rearing practices, natural birth and breastfeeding were concepts we took for granted.  Now, we have to work hard to convince people that these “alternative” practices are the way to go.  If you are interested in natural birth, these books will offer some valuable insights and help guide you through your choices.

Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds
Too often interventions are imposed on mothers in the hospital, but not all mothers seeking natural birth are interested in home births.  This book guides mothers through the options and methods to achieve a peaceful, natural birth while still taking advantage of the medical options available in hospitals.

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way
The Bradley method has been popular since its introduction in 1970.  This book offers detailed information on the stages of labor, as well as how to achieve a Bradley birth while preparing physically for the birth.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Ina May Gaskin, renowned midwife, offers her insights into a natural birth, including how to reduce pain without using drugs, information on episiotomy, natural methods of induction and how to work with doctors and midwives, to name a few.  This book is a solid resource for anyone wanting to pursue a female-centered model of birthing.

I have had one hospital birth and one natural birth at home, and for me, the home birth was by far the best choice.  Our whole family stayed together and the birth itself was so much calmer and more peaceful.  My next child will be born naturally as well.

Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

The Mayo clinic is one of my favorite trusted sources for medical information.  When I am looking for medical information online, the Mayo clinic is one of my first stops, so I am glad to see they have produced a guidebook for pregnant women.  Their information is always thoughtful, in-depth and reliable, and this book appears to be no exception.

This book is cram-packed with helpful features, including weekly baby development updates, how health conditions can affect pregnancy, self-care tips for common pregnancy issues such as back pain, and a chart that guides you through how to respond to signs and symptoms, including when to contact your doctor.  If all that is not enough, the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy also helps parents figure out where to stand on decisions such as breastfeeding, circumcision and working.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy has achieved a perfect 5-star rating with more than 300 reviews on Amazon, which is a testament to its clear, informative message.  One review compares it to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and says it comes up far superior.  Another reviewer claims it saved her baby by telling her to seek medical attention for her symptoms.

At just $7.06 for the paperback version, it is well worth dishing out for.  Unfortunately, the Kindle version is almost $3 higher, at $9.99.  I wish I had known about this book during my first pregnancy, and will definitely be getting it to give as a gift to my next pregnant friend.

Funny Pregnancy Books to Brighten Your Day

As I near the end of this pregnancy, I reflect on how I’m not as young as I used to be.  Granted, it has only been four years since I had my first child, but it sure feels like things have gone downhill fast in the baby making department!  I have aches where I didn’t know I had parts, and I’m getting a little down about the remaining seven LONG weeks.  If you are finding pregnancy is getting a little tiresome, try cheering up with some lighthearted looks at the art of baby building.

Let's Panic About Babies!
This hysterical look at pregnancy and the many questions that accompany it will have you cracking up while it answers such questions as, “Did I just pee myself? (Yes.)” and “How do I make sure my baby loves me back? (Voodoo.).”100 Things I Hate about Pregnancy
Really, that’s all they can come up with?  Eight months in, I can think of many more things about pregnancy I would rather do without.  In any case, this is a good, light read that will give you something to relate to as you think of how much better life will be once baby is on the other side of your belly.

Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth
Another look at the less glamorous side of pregnancy, this book is written by actress Jenny McCarthy and recounts her experiences with the side of pregnancy we don’t show the rest of the world.

So if you’re feeling down about being pregnant, pick up one of these books to give yourself a good cheering up and remember: we’ve all been there and though it may not feel like it, it does end soon!