You know, it really is surprising to me how few books exist that are geared to women before they get pregnant. I understand that a disturbing percentage of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, but still, there must exist a large number of people who over-plan things, and it is just those sorts of people who are likely to wander into a book store and then out with a large stack of books. Sure those people can buy the usual pregnancy books, but wouldn't it be nice to also have a few exclusively dealing with things you should consider or do before you get pregnant?
Thinking Pregnant by Megan Steelman is one of the few books I found that tries to fill this niche. I should have known by the slimness of the volume that I would find it ultimately disappointing. I'm one of those people who gets the big picture very quickly, what I really want to know are all of the practical little details. So it was frustrating to me that the big picture was really all this book was about. A chapter on "practical" details recommends asking some basic questions about your health insurance coverage, but a) I can't find a mention of the fact that most insurers consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition, so if you want to switch plans, you've got to do it ahead of time, b) doesn't give enough sample questions, in my opinion, and c) offers no advice on comparing different health insurance plans. Now as for me, I have the choice of continuing coverage through my job, or switching to my husband's health insurance, and he himself has a choice of two or three different plans. Which means I have to evaluate which of four health insurance plans is best for me, and am feeling quite intimidated as to how to go about it. Not much help here.
The chapter on financial considerations is hit and miss. What's fabulous is a list of what you absolutely need for a newborn, with price ranges, recommendations on where you can cut corners (most conspicuously: the crib) and where you can't (the car seat!). But then in discussing "the big financial picture," repeatedly we are advised to talk to a financial consultant and/or accountant. I know that this would probably be worthwhile, but would it have taken that much effort to include a few suggestions or hard numbers? For instance, Steelman points out that $20 a month in a savings account for your baby doesn't seem like much, but it can quickly add up. How hard would it have been to include that over eighteen years, $20 a month would add up to $4,320, even before you start figuring in compound interest?
I shouldn't be so negative. If you really haven't thought much about becoming pregnant, Thinking Pregnant really would be a good place to start. It provides a good overview of the basics, includes worksheets at the end of each chapter to help identify what you might need to think more about, and for potential parents who might be conflicted about their ability to raise a child, does a good job of being reassuring and nonjudgmental, without being unrealistic. But quite simply, this was not the book for me.
Though I do have something I want to rave about this month. It's my new favorite magazine, Scholastic's Parent and Child. As you would expect from Scholastic, the focus is on learning. And happily not on anal-retentive flash-card quizzing, "can my child get into the right prep school?" learning, but more Dr. Wizard for four-year-olds type learning. It's all about how to help your child learn from their interactions with the world, how to facilitate their explorations of nature, how to instill a love of learning from a young age. Even better, most of the activities recommended require nothing more expensive than water-colors and tin foil, and are thus not out of reach to parents living on limited incomes. It was so refreshing to open a parenting magazine that did not seem like its only purpose was to inundate me with pictures of perfect nurseries and children's bedrooms that I would never have the time, money, or energy to create. Instead its purpose seems to be to help you in raising a bright, intelligent child who is engaged with the world around them. Which is all I've ever wanted in the first place.
Scholastic Parent and Child
New Harbinger Publications