A few items from my baby-belly library…

I love to read, which is definitely a beneficial trait when preparing for a first baby.

We’ve had a ton of recommendations from friends on books to read, so I thought I’d share my thoughts a few that I’ve read so far.  (Once again, these are just my opinions…take ‘em or leave ‘em!)

ON BEING PREGNANT


I’m Pregnant!: When we found out I was pregnant, Ryan and I immediately went to Barnes & Noble to get some reading material and “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was on the top of our list.  However, after seeing how much the cover price was, Ryan convinced me to pay way less and just get a copy on our iPad. Then he started traveling…and took the iPad with him.

Early on, however, a friend gave me a copy of “I’m Pregnant!,” which has become my substitute “guide.”  I really, really like this book, even though it doesn’t seem to be a popular one.  It’s written by a female doctor, and because I enjoy knowing the ins-and-outs of every detail, I was enthralled by a lot of the illustrations (bonus!) and information she presents.  
This book starts with conception and gives an in-depth look at the (miraculous) number of things that have to occur perfectly in order to get pregnant.  It was my favorite part and extremely fascinating.  I have read “What to Expect Before You’re Expecting,” which covers similar material, but I found this book’s explanation to be way more detailed and “scientific.”
The rest of the book is divided into increments of a few weeks at a time and tells you what’s happening with the baby’s growth, what to expect at your doctor’s visits and changes that are likely occurring with your body (pretty basic stuff).  It explains about disorders and potential problems, why certain tests are performed, etc., which was great for me since I like to know my worst-case scenarios up front.  The book ends (of course) with delivery and is one of the few things I’ve read that really is objective in presenting birthing options.  Whether you want an elective c-section or a home birth, this book tells you what to expect, good and bad.

The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy: This book came highly recommended to me by a lot of moms, and, although the least informative of my readings, it certainly was the most entertaining.  A copy had been passed down to me, and what I didn’t realize before starting the book was that it was an old edition from the mid-90s.  You can imagine my surprise and delight at some of the outdated tips and references, most notably in the fashion section.  At the mention of how stylish Laura Ashley and velour dresses are for pregnant women, I finally clued in and checked the reference page for the published-on date. :)

This was one of the first books I read front-to-back, and it’s a quick, easy read.  With a sense of humor and good-natured self-effacingness, this book presents a lot of the grimy details of pregnancy in a way that gives you a sense of camaraderie with other pregnant women.  Overall, it was a funny, light read, very appropriate for the beach or vacation.

I’ve also heard that Jenny McCarthy’s pregnancy books are great for female humor, and although I might still read them, I chose this particular book because it seemed the quintessential option.

ON NATURAL BIRTH

Husband-Coached Childbirth (The Bradley Method): The Bradley method basically approaches childbirth as a bodily function that any woman can and should handle naturally.  This seems to be the prevalent philosophy of all of our natural-childbirth-advocating friends, which is why I ordered this book…and then was told it was the wrong one!  Oops.  (There’s a basic Bradley Method “workbook” that I should’ve chosen apparently.)  It had already shipped by the time I realized my mistake, so I figured I might as well read it.  About three sentences in I realized that this particular book was actually meant for husbands to read. Oops #2.  Oh, well–it was here and since I don’t own the real Bradley book, I read this one anyway.

It’s definitely written to convince and build confidence in husbands/coaches, which was interesting but clearly not applicable to me as a pregnant woman.  (I did find it a bit repetitive and slow in some parts: Yes, we get it.  You should be sympathetic to your pregnant wife and offer to help her around the house as much as possible.)   However, this book did go over the Bradley exercises, psychology and diet that IS applicable to me, so that was helpful.  I enjoyed the medical tidbits sprinkled throughout the pages but could’ve lived without the “Go team!” anecdotes. :)  After the third or fourth story of how wonderful it was to see Patient X “smile after giving birth as she walked herself to the recovery room,” I had gotten the point…

If you absolutely don’t ever even want to consider an unmedicated childbirth, DON’T GET THIS BOOK or (I assume) any other Bradley books.  I warn you simply because they are extremely anti-medicine and take the stance that medicated babies and mothers are at a disadvantage from the start, i.e., you will probably find the material condescending and infuriating.

If you know Ryan at all, you know he’s never been “a reader,” so I told him that once he’s done traveling (one more week!) that I’d read the pertinent parts to him.  That’s true love, folks.

As for the REAL Bradley book, I may still get it–especially as we get closer and I’m eager to pass the time.  For right now, though, I think I’ll just translate and practice the methods from this book.

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: Okay, okay, everyone get your eye rolling done now.  Done? Good.

I almost didn’t include this book in my “review” because the concept is a little unusual (read: wacky) by today’s standards, but as I have cautiously been mentioning this philosophy to people, I’ve found a lot of women who have either (somewhat secretly or somewhat unknowingly) used this method.  In a nutshell, the concept is that (similar to the Bradley method) childbirth is a normal human function that the body is meant to perform, and that the notion of a hysterical, overly-painful birth is a modern and self-induced concept.

In the same way that adrenaline is known to make people commit seemingly impossible feats of strength and courage, “HypnoBirthing” claims that the mind can make childbirth (almost) painless.  It focuses on self-hypnosis and relaxation, with the logic that the body cannot experience pain while simultaneously releasing endorphins–which you can train your brain to do on command.  Do I believe it? Well, that’s a sticky question…

The short answer is yes.  The rub is that with this method, it’s only as effective as you believe it will be, so that if you are unsuccessful in using it, the response by its followers would be, “Well, it didn’t work because you doubted it.”  After exploring this method and the Bradley method, I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, and from gathering our friends’ experiences, it would seem that women instinctively used some form of hypnobirthing to get through the pain; the main difference is that Bradley also focuses on the physical aspect of birthing, not just the mental aspect.

I think this book is worth reading–unless you think hypnosis is a bunch of whooey to begin with.

ON TAKING CARE OF A BABY

Baby Wise: Clearly this is the #1 philosophy our generation has found to create “well-behaved” babies.  Simply put, the idea is that adults naturally thrive on a flexible schedule, and thus babies (who are people) do too.  Feed, play, then sleep every three-ish hours, and you will have a happy baby.  It might sound crazy to those free-wheeling personalities out there, but my personal observation of Baby Wise babies is that it works.

I enjoyed the research and statistics presented in this book because they appeal to my personality type, but could get boring to people who are blind believers.  Not actually having a baby to practice on currently, I did find myself a little overwhelmed at the different ifs/ands/buts presented: Tell me that I need to start the cycle everyday at 6 a.m./9 a.m./noon/etc., and I’m good.  Throw in the “unless the baby seems to be hungry at 8:30 a.m.,” and I’m a little freaked out.  Baby Wise actually discounts both free-feeding and over-scheduling, of which I find myself definitely leaning toward the latter.  As someone who knows NOTHING about babies and is anxious at the thought of being one’s primary caretaker, the notion of predictability calms me down, so hopefully our baby will follow in my footsteps a bit and actually thrive on a somewhat rigid schedule…fingers crossed!

Clearly I’ve never used this method myself, but I think you’d be crazy not to at least read this book and consider this philosophy.   I will readily admit that I haven’t and won’t read up on the opposite philosophy of this book (free-feeding, co-sleeping, child-directed parenting) simply because it’s just not who I am.  (Not saying that it’s bad, I just don’t live my current life that way and know it won’t be a parenting style that works for me.)

As we get closer to our due date, I think I’ll be skimming the pages of this book one more time just to remind myself of all of the ifs/ands/buts so that I don’t panic the first time that the baby is hungry at 8:30 a.m. :)

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: This is what I’d consider the European version of “Baby Wise:” a little “lighter” and less high-strung in its views.  Essentially, the concept is the same, with a few additions.  The author is British, so warning, if you gag at British euphemisms (she does refer to you as “ducky” and “love” quite a bit), you won’t enjoy this book.

The major differences, it seems to me, are these:

1. The author goes beyond the simple scheduling philosophy with the notion that there are inherent personality types that make babies more responsive to different types of interactions.  This was interesting to me, and may prove beneficial if we struggle to soothe our baby.

2. She advocates a schedule from Day One, while the Baby Wise philosophy gives you a bit of time to adjust.  Which is right?  No clue here!  I figure we’re going to have to wing it since it’s our first baby.

3.  “The Baby Whisperer” focuses a lot on treating your baby like a human, i.e. with respect.  The book talks a lot about viewing your baby as a person and not a “baby,” especially in what you explain to them.  (Basically, she wants you to tell the baby everything that you’re doing, like wiping their bottom, before you do it so that the baby has fair warning like an adult would want.)

4. The information is presented in VERY anecdotal terms, which isn’t really convincing to me (for the most part).  However, the information was a little easier to digest for me than “Baby Wise” because there weren’t a lot of numbers and stats to process in addition to the scheduling.  It’s a little more feel-good than “Baby Wise,” if that’s what you need.

You could definitely get away without reading this book and just stick to “Baby Wise;” however, the slight differences might give you an idea that’s helpful down the road, so I’d say read it if you have time.

I have read (or at least skimmed) a few other books during my pregnancy, but none of them were really that fabulous (or horrible) to be worth mentioning.  I hope this helps any other pregnant girls out there who are overwhelmed by a sea of information.  Overall, I would say if you hate to read, choose “I’m Pregnant!” and “Baby Wise,” and you’ll be fine. (Right, Ryan? :) )