August 2005

Jen Crispin


Essential Reference Guides

So here's the funny thing about being pregnant. As soon as people know that you are, everyone has something to say to you about it. From horror stories about what happened to someone's best friend's cousin to admonishments about eating certain foods to complete strangers reminiscing about their pregnancies in the supermarket, the last thing I wasnted to do after a full day of all that was to read yet another person's opinion of what I should be doing now that I'm pregnant. So my pregnancy-related reading has dropped off sharply, with only a few exceptions.

First, when you're being deluged with horror stories, it's nice to have a good reference book or two that will tell you how likely such an eventuality is and what warning signs to look for if you're temporarily convincecd that said horror is going to eventually happen to you. I know I've raved here in the past about The Mayo Clinic's Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, but I've since upgraded to the Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy and Baby's First Year. The Complete Book is monstrously huge and has yet to fail me on any topic, even a few which were not touched upon in any of the other numerous pregnancy books that I own. In addition, although only a very small portion of the book has anything to do with pregnancy, I've been spending a lot of time lately looking at The Ultimate Visual Dictionary 2000, one of my favorite reference books of all time. What this book has that my Mayo Clinic books don't is full-color illustrations of every major system in the human body, including a great section of the placenta and a cross-section that shows just exactly how a pregnant woman's internal organs are all getting squished by the presence of a fetus.

Second, after disparaging all the hapless-dad books at the bookstore, I had to give in and read the fatherhood book that my mother-in-law bought for my husband, The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash. Much to my surprise, it wasn't that bad. It actually contains a lot of practical information, most notably about budgeting for new baby expenses and how to go about starting a long-term financial plan if you don't already have one in place. I say notably because such information is conspicuously absent in most of the pregnancy books geared to women that I've read, and even when it was present, tended to be rather vague. In fact, there was only a single sentence in the book that troubled me, advising expectant fathers not to eat banana splits in front of their pregnant partners. For the love of god, if the woman wants a banana split, let her have a banana split! My husband, however, read it differently, and took it to mean that he shouldn't eat foods in front of me that I want but can't have because of nausea, heartburn, or other health reasons. I suppose that it's possible that I've just been exposed to too many food restrictions since becoming pregnant to read such a sentence objectively.

Finally, while I've lost patience with most pregnancy magazines, I'm still reading Hip Mama, Ariel Gore's motherhood zine that has been mentioned here on Bookslut more than a few times, and my newest discovery, the delightfully non-mainstream Mothering. This magazine may be too hippie-dippy for some, but should appeal strongly to the Our Bodies, Ourselves crowd. Subtitled The Magazine of Natural Family Living, the first issue I read contained odes to kale, home schooling, and the placenta, and was chockfull of ads for cotton diapers, slings, and co-sleepers. But what I like most about this magazine is the underlying theme that the answer to your parenting crises is not some new great product but in having more faith in yourself as a parent. And then the articles are actually conducive to believing in one's parenting skills, rather than shaming or panic-inducing like many other parenting magazines I could mention.

By the time you read this, I'll officially be in my seventh month. Accordingly, my to-read list is shifting away from pregnancy books and more towards parenting books. Once again, I'd like to start out with your advice. What's the worst parenting advice you've ever read? Are there any books that you swear by? E-mail any and all suggestions to me at