December 2004

Jen Crispin


Let's Point and Laugh, Shall We?

Oh no. Here I am, not even pregnant yet, and already burned out on pregnancy books and magazines. I'm hoping this is just a temporary setback, but the last several pregnancy books I've picked up I've thrown down in disgust before making it through a single page. Some of these books were just average and boring, but others deserve to be held up to public ridicule. Which is where I come in.

About a week ago I started a city wide quest looking for a copy of Before Your Pregnancy: A 90 Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception. Which led me to a few amazing discoveries. The first of which is that my favorite feminist bookstore apparently does not have a section on pregnancy. There were literally a couple of books thrown in with women's health, but that was it. Strike one. I knew the used bookstore was a long shot, so that was unsurprisingly strike two. My last checkpoint before giving up and ordering it online was Borders, with it's huge pregnancy section and Double! Points! on my Borders credit card. Sadly, Borders also did not carry the book, but that is where I found my first object of ridicule for this month's column.

I should have known better just by looking at the cover, but I came much too close to actually spending money on Before You Conceive: The Complete Pregnancy Guide. The blurb on the back of the book sounded promising, so I decided to ignore the cheesy 1970s gold-tone back-lit photo on the cover. Scanning the table of contents, I was happy to see that there was a heading for a vegetarian diet. The first warning flag came when I read the warning that unless you'd had years of experience balancing your vegetarian diet, you should not attempt a vegetarian pregnancy without consulting your doctor. Now I don't give a thought to balancing my diet, ever. I eat what I want to eat, mostly when I want to eat it. But I'd be willing to wager that my diet is better than the average meat-eater's. And without getting into any "meat is bad" arguments. I just don't have the "convenience" of being able to substitute an actual meal for McDonald's. So this made me laugh. Next I had to snort at the claim that most vegetarian women are slightly underweight. According to BMI, I'm actually a hair's breadth from obese. Also a laughable claim, in my opinion, but let's move on.

Okay, I thought. So the book has no grasp on the reality of a vegetarian diet. I'm used to that. I can get over that. It could still be a good book. So I picked it up and made it most of the way to the cash register before I realized my husband was still in the computer section. Well this is one case that I'm grateful for my husband's tendency to be oblivious to when I'm ready to leave. Because when I gave up on getting out any time soon and flipped to a page in my soon-to-be purchased book at random, I found the deal breaker. Radiation from a microwave oven will cause damage to your partner's gonads. Folks, this isn't a scientific fact, it's a punch-line on Dharma and Greg. (Really, it is. See, Larry hides behind the counter wearing protective goggles while the microwave is on which everyone thinks its ridiculous but then it turns out he also has a frying pan down the front of his pants... Oh, never mind.) I read the rest of the paragraph to make sure they were really serious (they were), read the best bits out loud to my incredulous husband, then put the book back on the shelf and left the store. So thank you, honey, for dragging your feet. This time, anyway.

Earlier in the month, after a visit to the health food store and its Great Wall of Vitamins, I came home obsessed with "What vitamins do I need to be taking? And how much? And how much is too much? And can I just keep taking my multivitamin or do I need something special? And what do I need to take now and what can wait until I know I'm pregnant?" After fifteen minutes of quizzing my husband (who does not have medical training but does work in a hospital) and obsessing over the fact that it was too late to call my father (who is a registered pharmacist), it was pointed to me that I have at least a half dozen pregnancy books sitting on my shelves. Good point. But which will give me the answers fastest without having to wade through pages of text? Well, obviously Your Pregnancy Quick Guide to Nutrition and Weight Management: What you Need to Know about Eating Right and Staying Fit during Your Pregnancy. Or so one would think. But rather, this Quick Guide quickly became another object of ridicule.

Really, what do you think of when you hear the phrase "quick guide”? I think compact (and yes, the book is small). I think lots of charts, tables and graphs (no, really, not so much). And I think clear guidelines (not really at all). Of course, this book isn't all bad. The eighteen page section on the most essential vitamins and minerals, what they're for and when they're most important is actually pretty good. My main gripe about this book is actually the format. It was frustrating because often a given piece of information about one vitamin wouldn't be present about another. Is that because it was irrelevant for the other vitamin? The same? Was it unknown, or did they just not bother to look it up? More charts, graphs, and tables would make it easier to compare and gather information at a glance, and hopefully would be a compelling reason to work out these seeming discrepancies. Instead, too much space was taken up in the book by a font that seemed much too large for the page size, and some really ridiculous question and answers. Like "Can I eat all I want during pregnancy?" Ummm, no. "My doctor told me to do X. Do I have to?" Ummmm, yes. "Is it okay if I eat nothing but Y for my entire pregnancy?" Ummmm, again, no. But as long as we're on the topic of a doctor's advice, it's also a little disappointing how many tips end with "ask your doctor." Actually, the last time I was able to call my doctor on the phone and have him be available to talk and answer my questions was.... never. Maybe this will change when I'm pregnant and have an OB/GYN or registered nurse midwife or whatever I end up having, but I doubt it. I'd much rather you just list a few liquids that would help me replace electrolytes, please. Thank you. Either that, or I could just do what I always do and call Planned Parenthood. Those girls know everything.

Speaking of Planned Parenthood, since I last wrote here, I've made a few trips there. And now this Breeder has finally had her fertility restored. It was just a minor surgical procedure (ouch!) and yes, my hormones have gone a bit haywire, but for being off of hormonal birth control for the first time in eight years, it could certainly be much worse. Now that I've been off of it for a while, there are a few symptoms I've been relieved of that I can now confidently blame on the Norplant, but overall I'm still glad I had it. But I'm even happier to be off of it. Now the long wait begins. Perhaps I should just bite the bullet and get a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health. If nothing else I'm sure you'd all be amused by regular updates on the condition of my cervical mucus. Oh, you wouldn't? Then perhaps I'd better not. I don't know if you all have noticed this yet, but in my hands, a little bit of self-knowledge can be a dangerous, or at least not-appropriate-for-dinnertime-discussion thing.