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What to Read (and Not Read) When You’re Expecting

PregBookInitially, I thought a first-time pregnancy in 2016 would be a breeze. There’s an abundance of information out there for moms-to-be and a wealth of resources—from obstetrician offices with 24-hour call lines to books, blogs and videos on all subjects concerning pregnancy. But after I started digging into this veritable treasure trove of materials, I was quickly overwhelmed. There really is such a thing as too much information. I wasn’t sure where to start, or which sources were trustworthy. Do I trust online pregnancy forums? (The short answer: NO.) Do I trust Amazon reviews to find the best books? Before actually becoming pregnant, my knowledge on the subject was zero—none of my close friends or family members have been pregnant during my adult years, so I had no real, live person to turn to for advice.

After my preliminary freak out, I decided to wait until my first OB appointment at eight weeks and go from there. I arrived with a long list of questions for the doctor, but the only two pieces of advice I still remember now, 25 weeks later, were “Do not Google anything” and “Do not, under any circumstances, read the book ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting.’” I believe the doctor’s exact words were: “If you receive that book, just go ahead and throw it in the trash.” (Of course, shortly after this, a kind family member excitedly sent me the book with a rave review of how it helped her immensely during her first pregnancy.)

I also went home with a hospital booklet explaining the very general do’s and don’ts of pregnancy—mostly regarding food and medicine. Although I read it cover to cover as soon as I got home, I am not sure how much of the information I retained. Fast forward several weeks and I found myself feeling incredibly guilty when I realized I had been eating some of the foods on the not recommended list despite all my attempts at dutifully following the guidelines.

So, the booklet was hit-or-miss. I turned to the not-trash pregnancy books. My mother, whose last child was born in 1980, decided to shower me with advice, and insisted on giving me a book published in my home country of then-Yugoslavia in 1970. (I know. I was skeptical too.) The book, called “Your Child and You From Day to Day” (“Vase dete i Vi iz dana u dan”), is not only a pregnancy book, but also a general reference on raising a child through age 7. It included a sweet part in the back where my mom had lovingly filled in my personal baby milestones. Although it offered great general guidelines on rearing a child, much of the medical information in the pregnancy part of the book was simply too outdated. While it held a sentimental value (and a few good tips), it wasn’t much help in assuaging my growing pregnancy anxieties.

A book that did help me, though, is cartoonist Emily Flake’s hilarious memoir “Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting.” I used to religiously read her weekly Lulu Eightball comics in the Baltimore City Paper. Almost half of “Mama Tried” is devoted to pregnancy, and, so far, it has been the only relief I’ve found from stern OB advice columns, “earth mama”-type pregnancy blogs, and terrifying online forums (I repeat—please don’t EVER read anything posted in these, trust me!). The book is equal parts funny and realistic, and Flake doesn’t shy away from discussing any of the, um, less-mentioned side effects of pregnancy. I loved it and plan on keeping it close at hand once the baby arrives to retain my sanity during the sleepless nights that await.

Of course, like any normal human in the 21st century, there were some things that I just had to Google, despite my doctor’s warnings. As a pregnancy newbie, I didn’t know what basics I needed to have on hand before delivering the baby (besides a crib, duh!). When I found myself asking my husband, “What’s that bucket thing you carry the baby in called?” I knew I needed serious help. Lucie’s List, a baby product review blog, has been indispensable in this respect. It’s a great resource for those of us who think babies are carried around in “buckets.” (Turns out, I was actually thinking of a car seat that detaches from the base so you can take the baby in it with you anywhere. Useful!) It has a detailed list of everything you might need for your starter baby, including a ton of recommendations on different types and brands to choose from. I consulted it constantly when compiling my baby shower registry.

Overachiever that I am, I also signed up for birthing classes at the hospital. These were optional, but I felt that a class setting where I could ask questions directly and get answers right away was an ideal format for me. I was a little concerned these hospital classes might push for a certain type of birth plan, and I was interested in finding out more about natural birth options. So, after doing some research, I settled on buying “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.” The book is divided into two parts, Birth Stories and The Essentials of Birth. The first part is just what it sounds like—natural childbirth stories—while the second part deals with the actual process of childbirth. I found it to be a good primer regardless of which way you decide to go—although, be warned, it is in no way objective and very clearly pushes for natural birth.

I’m honestly amazed I have managed to stick to so few resources thus far. In the end, the closer I get to my due date, the more confident I am that the maternal instinct will take over once the baby finally decides to make her grand entrance.

About Ana Hart

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