All My New Favorite Pregnancy Books

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[Yup, that's Moe-moe's nose.  Despite his occasional flatulence, he makes a very snugly late-night companion.]

One of the wonderful things about having a second baby is that people generally assume you know what you're doing.  I've found that the "helpful" advice and stories have been blessedly lessened this time around, and I surmise that's because people figure, "Well, she's kept the first one alive...."

Funnily, that thought has applied to how I've felt about seeking advice on my own, too.  When I was pregnant with the Kid, I can't tell you how many parenting and baby care books I read.  I wanted to be Prepared for Anything.  This time I haven't felt the need because, well, we've kept the first one alive....

Instead of how-to books, I've been enjoying birth and parenting related stories.  In no particular order, here are a few that have been on my nightstand recently. 

Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers

This was, pure and simple, a book of 20 or 30 birth stories.  From home births to the hospital, from good to bad--each one was very real.  

Fair warning, there are a few involving late miscarriages and not-so-pleasant experiences.  While that would have completely freaked me out as a first-time mom, this time it made me grateful and put a few of those extra hard, late pregnancy kicks from baby (the ones where it feels like the head is actually ramming against your vagina on purpose) into better perspective.

Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family

As I've said already, this book made me feel like it's author, Catherine Newman, and I were sharing a pregnancy.  There was so much, "Ohmygawd you too!!?!"  I have so many pages marked that I'd be sued for copyright infringement if I shared them all, but just a few favorites:

On first trimester sickness and saintly husbands:

And then I have to lie around in our bedroom in the dark, with an ice pack and the back of my hand pressed to my forehead.  It's totally Wuthering Heights . . . . Luckily the actual dark-haired love of my life is turning out to be some hairy kind of Mother Teresa.  It's not just that Michael takes care of Ben [their first child] all day then massages my temples and brings me bottles of grapefruit-scented water.  It's that he does it with so much grace, so much kindness.  I fear that, if the roles were reversed, I would thrust these things at him more like "Here, drink up, you bedridden louse" . . . . It's enough to make me want to kill him.  But I'm so, so grateful, I swear.

On third trimester sleeplessness:

I'm not sleeping well and I seem to be getting progressively more exhausted.  "I'm so tired," I say, about a thousand times a day, and really--why?  Is there anything more boring a person could say?  Everybody's tired.  It's about as scintillating a topic of conversation as breathing:  "Whoowhee!  Here it comes--in!  And now this other part--out!  In again.  And then the out part."

On being very, very pregnant:

"Step right up, folks!  She's forty-one weeks pregnant, with a cervix harder than diamonds!"

For serious, I'm going to start giving this one as a baby shower gift.

Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother

As you might guess from the title, this book is a series of letters.  They were written by the author to a younger friend who was facing her first pregnancy quickly on the heels of her mother's death.  They were poignant, funny, and beautifully written.

Yet again, I have to share a marked passage:

Do you remember in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! when the Grinch is along on the mountain after plundering the Christmas of the Whos down below, and his heart swells to three times its normal size?  That's the other thing that happens when you become a mom.  You feel more deeply.  You become capable of a raw, scary fullness of emotion that tenderizes the hardened muscle of the heart.  And it endangers you.  Because you feel for other people's suffering more than you used to, especially for the suffering of children, as if the love you bear for your child is so out-sized that it can't be contained but splashes out into the world, your salty tears brimming the salty oceans.  The babies abandoned in dumpsters, or starving in war-blasted countries--your swollen heart is their fertile target.

It may have been the "letter" format combined with the pretty language, but as I was reading this book I got in the habit of seeing the author and her friend as Anne and Diana from L.M. Montgomery.  Which made the passages where the author dipped into sex or the nitty gritty of childbirth feel just the tiniest bit scandalous--like hearing your grandma say "vagina" at the dinner table--even though they were fairly tame.

This is another one that I'm keeping in my tickler to mail off to pregnant friends.

How Big is a Placenta Bowl?: And Other Weird Questions You'll Ask When Planning a Home Birth

This has been the one exception as far as "how-to" books go.  We had the Kid at a freestanding birth center, but are planning a midwife assisted homebirth for Little Miss.  (Your mileage may vary, but our birth center was so home-like that there isn't medically much difference.  And the not having to worry about going anywhere?  Awesome-sauce.)  

When we first sat down to talk with our Lovely Midwife, some of my biggest concerns were logistical:  Is our bedroom big enough?  How many sets of sheets will we need?  What will we do with the Kid?  Will I be scrubbing bodily fluids off the walls after the fact?

This book did a lot to make me feel better about all of that.  It starts from the perspective that you are having a homebirth (rather than trying to convince you that you should or shouldn't) and works from there to help you think about what you'll need and want to make that successful.  While I haven't battle-tested the advice yet, of course, it has made me a lot more confident when answering other peoples' "Isn't that going to be messy?" type of questions.

Any other good pregnancy/birth books I should pick up at the library?