April 2004

Jen Crispin

breeder

An Introduction

I've always been determined to have it all. When I was a teenager, my life plan went something like this: Get married at 25, earn my Ph.D. at 27, have my first child at 28. Of course at the time, this plan was based mostly on the desire to have formally invitations addressed to me as "Dr. and Mr. So-and-So." (Oh who am I kidding? I never had any intention of changing my name.) Despite the relative shallowness of my goals, they're still the same, only the times have changed. I got married a little earlier, the Ph.D. is going to be a little later, but as of right now I'm on schedule for a first child at 28.

Although children were always in my life plan, I wasn't quite prepared for how strongly "baby fever" would hit me. In my early twenties my hormones changed, and suddenly I saw babies everywhere, and they were all adorable. I even worked in a day care for several months, mostly in the toddler room, which my fellow workers told me was a sure-fire way to convince anyone to put off having children. Instead I found myself mimicking some of their speech patterns, and coming home to demonstrate to my husband the latest silly game the toddlers had made up. I'm already a geek, and now I know I'm going to be the world's biggest dork when I have children of my own. Oh well, so be it.

Being a first born, I'm not just a geek, I'm a perfectionist geek. I like to read up on new things before I try them, because if everything isn't perfect the first time I try, I'm likely just to give up. (Which is why I don't cook. I'm happy to leave that to my sister and now to my husband.) Given how monumental becoming pregnant and having a baby is, I have lots of reading to do. I have a small head start with the stacks of pregnancy/parenting magazines my husband brings home from work. He works on the same floor as the OB/GYN department of the university hospital, and apparently they dumps stacks of extra magazines in the recycling on a regular basis. But the endless repetition of two-page articles on the same six subjects (breast feeding, exercise during pregnancy, natural vs. medical delivery, child discipline, rare infant illnesses and maternity fashion) are starting to get annoying. It's time to start reading some books that can actually address some issues in depth.

So that's what I intend to do in this column. I'm going to dive into the huge body of work about pregnancy and write about it. But before I do, perhaps I should tell you what my biases are. First of all, I'm a feminist, so if I read any books by male doctors telling me that I shouldn't worry my pretty little head about the details, that's why my doctor is for (please, please, tell me they don't publish books like this anymore). Oh, there will be great bitching and gnashing of teeth. Secondly, I am a scientist, so any book that expects to get away with fuzzy science is in for trouble. Finally, I'm a pro-choice activist, so any description of a fertilized egg or a two-week old fetus as a "baby" is bound to result in some grumbling from me.

And that's pretty much it! I welcome recommendations of what I should read, particularly from those of you who have had children or are pregnant. I know that there are certain "bibles" that I will not be able to get away without reading What to Expect When You Are Expecting for one, though that one I think I'd rather put off until we're actually trying to get pregnant. I plan to get into the more obscure stuff as well, books that are overlooked and books that definitely should be overlooked. In the meantime, welcome to my column, You can call me Breeder.