Best Books to Read When You're Expecting

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I often get asked for book recommendations from newly pregnant women – I can only assume it's because they've already read every nook and cranny of Pregnant Chicken (cough). 

I actually read quite a few books the first time around and I didn't like many of them (I was lucky to read a cereal box the second time). I found they were either scary, patronizing or both, and none of them made me feel more prepared for the arrival of my son. Instead, they made me feel completely incompetent and overwhelmed at my inevitable failure as a mother.

So I decided to ask you guys what you thought and you came up with some great ones! 

I've listed most of them here but feel free to check out the original link on Facebook for even more good reads.

 


"I Am Woman!" Books

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't read more birth books. I was going to have a hospital birth and was going to get my epidural as soon as humanly possible so I figured that I didn't need to read up on this hippy stuff. Well, if you run a pregnancy website for a while, you really get to see how fear based this industry is and many of the magazine headlines and website teasers are crafted to get your attention and often scare the shit out of you.

Books like these give you the big picture. These are the books that remind you that women have been giving birth for a long, damn time and our bodies are set up to deliver a baby. Regardless of what your birth plan is, they are a good read.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth: If you've never heard of Ina May Gaskin, she's the Obi Wan of midwifery (I love that word). This lady knows her stuff and has been bringing babies into the world for over 30 years.

"Reading this book will make you feel confident about your body's ability to give birth, as well as positive and excited about the birth experience."

 

 

Birthing from Within: As a designer, the cover of this book gives me diarrhea, as a woman, this book gives me a feeling of real control and empowerment.

"I recommend this book to any expectant mother, no matter what type of birth she intends to have. "Birthing from Within" helps you get in touch with yourself and your expectations, fears, and hopes to allow you to make the birth of your child a very personal and soulful experience."
 

 

"Nitty Gritty" Books

The majority of books I read when I was pregnant was this type. I wanted to know all the little details because I thought I would feel more prepared when I knew all the facts.

They are great for getting getting a crash course in birth without having to become an OBGYN, but a word of warning, these books become dated fast (that probably says something too) so if someone gives a book that is over five years old, chances are a portion of it is no longer applicable. 

Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: The Mayo Clinic has always been a reliable source for information and this sounds like it's a pretty good read and many women preferred this book to the "What to Expect" series.

"It is written by trustworthy professionals in clear yet -professional- language, it provides information on "pregnancy, childbirth and your newborn"..."
 

The Baby Book, Revised Edition: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two: I've always been a big fan of Dr. Sears. Not just because of his hippy leanings, but because of his trust-your-gut philosophy.  

"This is such a great reference, but the best advice in the whole book is that what works for you and your family is right for your child."
 

 

Breastfeeding Books

This is another area where I wish I'd really knew my shit before giving birth. I just assumed that breastfeeding would be all easy peasy and I just needed to get the hang of it. Well, sort of. Breastfeeding can be tricky and to add to that pressure, you have a baby that has to eat NOW all the time. 

Breastfeeding issues are one of the most popular questions on the Ask the Chicks forum, so going in armed with some knowledge is never a bad thing and can really help with a 2am crisis moment.  

 

 

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: This book is written by the La Leche League so it's going to be pretty pro-boob to say the least, but this is a community that has supported breastfeeding moms and babies for years so they know where the stumbling blocks might be. 

"I'm not bf'ing yet, but as an expectant mother I wanted to get some info before trying to deal with it once the baby's here. The book has made me feel very confident. It has all the info you need."
 

Breastfeeding Made Simple: I like how supportive and encouraging this book sounds. Although, as with all breastfeeding books, it is, well, big on breastfeeding, and it's pretty hard to argue for something without getting pretty heavy about the negative and that can come off as being judgemental to some. Take it with a grain of salt and just take in the info.

"I am a birth doula and refer to this book all the time. The chapters are organized in such a way that makes it very easy to find solutions to common concerns."
 

 

 

Reality Books

Some pregnancy books really lean on the wonder of birth, but in reality some parts of pregnancy are just plain shit. If you read too many "beauty of birth" books you may start feeling guilting that you're not embracing your constipation and hemorrhoids because every aspect of birth is amazing and you don't love your unborn child if you're not cherishing every moment. These books are the kick in the ass you need to snap you out of that funk.

 

 

Pregnancy Sucks: A good book if you want to feel like you're not alone in hating the morning sickness and fatigue. There are a few times where she claims you can't eat things when you can (soft cheese, etc.) which is obviously a bit of a pet peeve for me, but take it in stride and see it for the humorous take and enjoy the vent.

"Whenever I have the slightest whine about my discomfort, changing body and mood swings, the reaction I usually get is - that pain is a blessing! Shame on you for complaining! Well, yes, I am thrilled to be having a baby, but I am so relieved to know that I am not the only one can be honest about the discomfort that must come before the ultimate joy of delivery."

 

The Panic-Free Pregnancy: I love that this doctor has actually stepped up rather than hiding behind all the "just to be on the safe side" crap. Some people criticize him for being too lax about certain topics, but you're a big girl and know what you're comfortable with doing and what you're not. It's refreshing to see the pendulum swing to the other side of the hysteria is all I can say.

"I'm about to be a second time mommy and I learned an awful lot from this book and found that I avoided sushi for no reason during my last pregnancy! that will not be happening this time around!"

 

Girlfriend Books

Sometimes it just nice to read a book by someone who gets it and, while everyone's birth is completely different, there is something comforting about reading about birth from someone who's actually given birth. Obviously I'll sing a different tune when I launch my "Beauty of Being Kicked in the Balls" series.

From the Hips: This book features experiences from a whole collection of people (parents, doctors, midwives) so you're not just getting one point of view. It's praise for its non-judgement view on and friendly approach without sugar coating anything.

"The authors are clearly really funny, warm women who have BEEN THERE. They take their subject very seriously but are also capable of laughing at themselves and at this insane ride we call parenting."
 

The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy: This is a fun tell-it-like-it-is book that gives you the down low on pregnancy in a friendly, non-scary way. Some people really pick on it for being too "west-coast-white-upper-middle-class" but I found many of those people missed the point of the book's humour – plus, I'm always a little leery of people that say they have an excellent sense of humour yet didn't find something funny – as if humour isn't subjective – but maybe that's just because I'm hysterical (snort). 

"Definitely your girlfriends take on a pregnancy. Very informative without being too scary."
 

It's Really 10 Months: I love how this book is broken down into short stories. It's a great, funny, informative read that makes you feel like you're at a table chatting with your friends.

"This book skillfully takes on all the disgusting and disturbing things that no one tells you about pregnancy. Reading it is like having a conversation with your best friend...say anything and feel anything and it's all good :)"

 

Funny Books

Speaking of humour, I know I just said humour is very subjective, but if you read this site, clearly you are a funny aficionado a have a finely tuned sense of wit and charm – I mean c'mon. So, I'm sure you'll appreciate a little taste of humour in these pregnancy books because, as my accountant says, "If you can't take a joke, don't have kids."

 

 

 

Let's Panic About Babies: I don't know what's funnier, this book or the handful of people who gave it one star on Amazon because there wasn't enough serious medical information – there are lasers coming out of the baby's eyes for fuck sake. 

"After ordering so many serious books about pregnancy, a friend recommended this one to me. It is a great way to laugh a little or a lot after reading so many other medical books."
 

Belly Laughs: If you like Pregnant Chicken, chances are you're not going to be offended by Belly Laughs like some people on Amazon are. Jenny McCarthy's honest, straightforward approach isn't everyone's cup of tea but this was one of the few books that I read when I was pregnant that made me feel normal and exhale. Good clean fun with the word "fuck" thrown in once in a while – my kind of book.

"I had tears running down my face. This book is a quick read and you can finish it easy in 1 - 2 days. This book takes a light hearted look at pregnancy. Pregnancy is a beautiful experience, but it was fun to read her frank and funny views on gas, the belly expanding, and the all so quiet topic of pooping on the delivery table."
 

 

Baby Books

I had all this time read pregnancy books when I was pregnant, but no time to read baby books when I had a baby (go figure). Now the trouble with reading baby books is that, while you may have the time, you don't have a baby. That makes things tricky because the laws of nature ensure that whatever theories you have on babies often goes out the window once you have one. I actually read a sleep book when I was pregnant and was all armed with my "shush pat" techniques, but it all went down the tubes when he was born because he wasn't a "shush pat" kid. I would treat these books as little "seed planters" – when the issue arise you'll remember you read something about that and go back and look it up. Like breastfeeding, sleep questions dominate the Ask the Chicks board so you may as well wade in now if you have the time.

 

The Happiest Baby on the Block: If you've read my What You Need to Know About Newborns post, then you've got a good idea of what this book is about. It kind of decodes the reasons babies cry, which is worth it's weight in gold in those first few months. Some say it's a little too wordy – a beefed up 10 page pamphlet to justify the cost of a book – but what are ya gonna do.

"I was skeptical, but these methods really do work! Would make a fantastic baby shower gift and every new parent should read this."

Baby 411:  This is a well organized reference guide for new parents. It's touted as being straight to the point with no filler. It's only criticism seems to be the sleep chapter because it supports the cry-it-out method which isn't for everyone. I don't think that's worth ditching a book over especially considering all the amazing, clear advice it offers.

"I am a new mom and an Emergency physician, and I bought this book after reading some other reviews on amazon. Well, I can't agree more with the positive reviews. This book is worded in simple and clear language and gives frank and detailed advice. After reading it cover to cover, ( I couldn't get enough), I thought, why didn't I think to get this before? So many of my patients ask these questions and I give the advice that is easily accessible for less than 20 dollars- in a book- while they are spending time and money to go to the ED to relieve their worries. I will definitely recommend this book to friends, family and patients."
 

 

Awesome Books That I Can't Think of a Category For

Most books fall into a neat category, but some books kind of step away from the crowd which makes them particularly awesome. These are just a few of them.

The Baby Owner's Manual: At first glance this seems like a bit of a gag gift, but it really is an amazing book. I had it with my first son and loved it.

It's easy and quick to fill out and it will save your bacon if you have more than one child because you can look back to see when baby number one rolled over when you're hanging out with baby number two – you think you'll remember but you don't. 

"Although this book gives you the same info a lot of others do, this one is shorter and easy to read. Plus the charts and the other fill-in pages I the back are nice if you want to keep track of things."
 

The Circumcision Decision: When I found out I was having a son I wanted to read about circumcision. Should I circumcise him? What's everyone doing now? What are the medical advantages either way? Well, good luck because it doesn't take you long to figure out that people have a pretty strong opinions about it so an unbiased book is pretty rare. 

What most impressed me about this book is that one author is in favour of circumcision and one isn't, yet you'd never know it from reading the book. Even if you know what you're going to do (or not going to do for that matter)  it's still a great read to arm yourself with more information and confidence in your decision.

"An honest, balanced and human approach to the subject of circumcision to truly help a parent make a personal decision. It covers all the issues, weighs all the facts and even discusses all a parent's doubts."
 

 Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: This book skips all the your-baby-is-the-size-of-a-avocado stuff and answers some of the curious questions around pregnancy, such as: Why are your dreams more vivid? Why do skinny chicks have more daughters? Do fidgety fetuses become feisty babies? Where does maternal instinct come from?

It's a fascinating yet easy read.

"I enjoyed reading this book. lots of interesting scientific stuff and answers to questions even my doctor didn't know. easy to read too"
 

 

Honey, I Wrecked the Kids: I used to watch Alyson Schafer on TV before I had children and I'd use her tips when I'd babysit because they always worked. So, when I saw this book I decided to pick it up and it's amazing. I wish that I'd read it when my kids were babies (or when I was pregnant) so I would have known how to deal with certain challenges right from the get go. Some may find it a little too child-lead, but I found the book really positive and simple to follow.

"Taking a positive approach to parenting and encouraging my children (as opposed to a focus on punishing misbehavior) is really helping our family."
 


There are tons of great pregnancy books out there but just as many crap ones, so if you find something isn't sitting well with you, ditch it and move on. Reading up on this stuff can make you feel a little more prepared, but this baby is coming whether you read up on it or not, so don't feel like you have to hit the books like you're studying for a physics exam either. Just read Pregnant Chicken and the Sookie Stackhouse series – that should about cover it too.

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"How Do I Know if I'm in Labor?"

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This seems like a no brainer, right? You start feeling contractions at 40 weeks and you give birth. Easy peasy.

Well, the signs aren’t always that simple. As you know, there are many burps and toots and that go along with pregnancy so it’s often hard to tell what’s just a random pain, puddle or purdle, and when it’s really show time.

Plus, very few women go into labor on their due date (fewer than 5%) so try not to do what I did and count down the days to your due date figuring that’s when the baby would get here because it rarely happens and you’ll be one grouchy land manatee.

How do you know if you’re in labor though?

 

Passing your mucus plug. 

Ah yes, the mucus plug. Once again medical professions have outdone themselves with the most disgusting terminology they could come up with.

Essentially you’ve lost the seal that kept your cervix closed for the pass nine months. It may come out as a lump or as increased discharge over a few days. The mucus may be tinted with red or brown, which is referred to as “bloody show”. Yep, bloody show.

I think we should refer to it as a baby cork and womb sealant.

No need to worry because it just means that the lid is off – labor could start in a couple of hours or even a couple of weeks. Just mention it to your medical practitioner when you see them next. Unless there’s blood, like real bright red bleeding, which could indicate issues with your placenta so shuffle off to hospital stat if you spot that.

 

Contractions

Contraction are a good hint but Braxton Hicks contractions are always lurking to make you feel like a dummy for hitting the “show time” button. Try walking around if you have them though. Braxton Hicks contractions usually fade if you’re up and moving around versus sitting. Contractions also tend to get more intense with walking so that’s a good clue. If they start coming at regular intervals and increase in frequency, you’re probably ready to rock and roll. What you’re waiting for is 1-5-1, which is having contractions that are 1 minute long, every 5 minutes, for 1 hour. If you’re high risk your practitioner will probably want you in sooner.

 

Water breaking.

You know how in movies a woman is always standing at a party while she delivers her “Oh my God, my water just broke” line accompanied by a gush of water? Well, this doesn’t happen to many women. In fact, most women are well into labor before their water breaks.

It is more likely to be a leak rather than a gush although those are sometimes hard to distinguish from sneaky urine and vaginal discharge, which are two other delightful side effects when you’re this pregnant. Easiest way to tell if you’re leaking amniotic fluid is to lie down. The fluid will pool in your vagina and come out when you stand up – pee and discharge won’t do that.

If you find you are leaking, pack yourself up and assume that you’ll be giving birth shortly. Once your water breaks you’ll either go into labor in the next 24 hours or your practitioner will start it for you.

Oh, if the fluid is green or brown call your doctor or midwife right away because that’s a sign that your baby may have pooped in utero and you don’t want the little monkey ingesting that.


If you want to try kick starting your labor you can try some of these tips, but unless you’re coming up on the 42 week mark or have a medical condition that would deem you high risk, most medical professionals suggest you leave it alone and let the little weeble bake as long as they feel necessary.

So stay tuned, my darlin’ and use this time to answer the phone saying “No, the baby isn’t coming yet and I’m charging everyone $5 that asks me that from now on.” By my calculations you should have roughly $45,675 by the time you give birth.

Hang in there.

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Best Baby Shower Crasher: Hint: It's the Baby.

A woman name, Danijela had this amazing birth story and I just had to share it with you guys because I thought you'd get a kick out of it.

Enjoy.

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My mom was throwing a baby shower brunch on Sunday September 16, 2007, three weeks before my due date.  Her house was packed with people, because she does not know the meaning of a "small" gathering.  

But at my house, I had my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and best friend staying with us.  What a blast that was! 

But I'll back track a little, in order to be able to tell the whole story:  At about 28 weeks, I swtiched caregivers from my OB/GYN to my midwife.  After doing the hospital tour, my husband and I both realized we would prefer a more intimate and personal setting for the birth of our first child.  We met with the midwife and felt at complete ease with her.  We went to our regular visits with Mary Henderson (our midiwfe) and everything looked great; no complications and nothing to worry about.  On Thursday, September 13 I went in for my now weekly check up (36 weeks) and as I was getting ready to leave, Mary said "Lay down.  I want to do an exam".  Ok, I did.  She told me that I was about 10% effaced (don't remember exactly) and that the baby could come at any time.  Didn't think anything of it, other than, of course the baby can come at anytime!  

Friday at work, I'm feeling a little different.  My stomach is feeling strange and doing funny things.  Realized it was braxton hicks contractions. my body was preparing.  On Satruday, with company in the house, preparing food for the shower and enjoying the swelling in my legs, I was too distracted to notice anything.  Until I took a shower!  I called my husband into the bathroom to please tell me what this was.  He didn't know.  Well, just lost my mucus plug.  Ok, on we go with our day.  Ran some errands with my sister in law and asked my husband to come with, I just didn't feel comfortable going any where by myself.  

That evening we were sitting around laughing at the music I was adding to my babyshower playlist:  "I'm Coming Out", "My Sweet Baby", "Dirty Dancing", etc.  We all said good night and went to bed...See you in the morning!

At 11:15 I awoke having to go to the bathroom.  Realized my bed was wet!  Oh my, did I already go?  Woke up my husband, told him I think my water broke and he asked how did I know.  I didn't know!  Made to the bathroom and then there was a gush of water - yes, I was sure, my water had broken and my contractions started.  He called Mary and she said that I should rest between contractions.  SInce it's my first pregnancy, it will probably we a while.  Contractions were 5 minutes apart and very intense and getting closer and closer and more intense.  I was in the shower, in our bath tub and trying to get through the contractions that were not letting up.  My midwife was trying to sleep on the couch (because all the rooms were taken by our guests).  My husband went to her and said that the contractions were less than 1 minute apart.  Sure enough, she checked and I was dialated 10cm and it was time to push.  During this time, my mother in law did wake up.  She woke up my sister-in-law, but my best friend was able to sleep through everything.  

So at 3:16am, I delivered my beautiful healthy baby girl 6lbs 12oz and 21".  She came into the world screaming, but once she was placed on my stomach any discomfort that I had expereinced was gone!  I looked at my husband and said, "I can do this again!".  It was simply amazing.  We all woke up, had coffee and could not believe that we went to bed and woke up with a baby.  

But our day had just begun.  My best friend stayed with me, while everyone else went to my mom's to help her with setting up.  No one mentioned that I had the baby.  So when I walked in, holding a baby, they all thought it was a doll - not a real live baby that was only 8 hours old.  The first of the series of questions was:  When did you have the baby?  Followed by, how did they let you out of the hospital?  Finally, what do you mean you had her at home?!?!  Priceless!!!  

I loved my experience and I did do it again in November of 2010:  Water broke and 4 hours later, our second daughter was born at home.  

I love my husband and I love my midwife.  WIthout them, I would not have been able to do it.  


I guess the baby heard there'd be pie and she just didn't want to miss out.

 Awesome story, eh?
 

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