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What to Read When You’re Expecting

What is the first thing many women do after confirming a positive pregnancy test? Go buy four more to confirm the results beyond the shadow of a doubt (or a potentially defective test strip).

The next action typically involves a drive—somewhat frantically perhaps—to the nearest bookstore. Truth be told, I hit the ice cream store first; I was thrilled with what I deemed a marvelous excuse to eat the good stuff with reckless abandon. Nevertheless, I made a beeline to the bookstore with a double chocolate, sprinkle-covered cone in one hand and my ready-to-do-its-job credit card in the other.

Women are born researchers. We quickly get our hands on anything and everything necessary to educate ourselves on an upcoming adventure. Whether in an effort to understand precisely the best way to navigate The Magic Kingdom with a three-year-old, or confirm that it is indeed normal to get up fifteen times each night to pee from the instant two lines appeared on all five of the pregnancy tests, we like to be prepared.

Unfortunately, no one has yet written a book addressing every last one of the vast array of a pregnant woman’s needs and myriad questions. Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible without it being a 300-volume set. Even with just one book addressing each topic of interest, a woman is likely to select numerous books to pour through over those nine anticipatory months.

To make life a bit easier, here are a few recommendations that fall within what should be “required reading” categories for pregnant women.

Humor

There is no substitute for a good dose of humor in times of anxiety, bewilderment, and/or speechlessness. Thankfully, there are quite a few books available that address the nine months of pregnancy with an amusing tone. Most notable is The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy, by Vicki Iovine. A staple among pregnant women in-the-know, this book sheds humorous light on everything from swollen breasts to what Iovine refers to as Pregnancy Insanity. No expectant woman should be without it.

For an equally hilarious look at the trials of impending parenthood as well as the reality of life post-birth, check out The Diaper Diaries: The Real Poop on a New Mom’s First Year, by Cynthia Copeland. This book is filled with the author’s laugh-out-loud cartoons detailing every conceivable (no pun intended) aspect of the first year of parenthood and then some.

For the extreme in comic frankness, check out Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth, by Jenny McCarthy. Truly, if Jenny McCarthy thinks it, she’s going to say it, and I can’t think of a time in a woman’s life when that quality is more refreshing. After all, if you can’t confide in anyone—including your best friend—that you’re having an issue with hemorrhoids, at the very least you can smile knowing that a former Playboy Playmate was in the same boat!

Practical

Another staple any expectant woman’s bookshelf should not be without is a sensible, no-nonsense guide to the journey on which she is about to embark. After all, as helpful as it might be for friends to encourage you to find humor in the amount of “stuff” continually being expelled down south, you will likely want to know what the heck that stuff is (and if it’s truly supposed to be coming out of you).

Susan Warhus, M.D., an obstetrician based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has written a fabulous book which will answer just these sorts of questions. Countdown to Baby: Answers to the 100 Most Asked Questions about Pregnancy and Childbirth provides straightforward answers to the questions Dr. Warhus most commonly received while caring for her patients. From coping with morning sickness to managing varicose veins, Dr. Warhus reassures soon-to-be moms that their bodies are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing (even though you may not be so sure).

While you can’t store it on your bookshelf, the Internet is a fantastic, easily accessible resource for expecting couples. At BabyZone, parents-to-be will find answers to a variety of questions and concerns about pregnancy, penned by an expert team of doctors, specialists, and authors.

Name Book

One topic parents are sure to discuss for the entirety of the approximately 270 days a woman is pregnant is possible names for the baby. To this end, it’s necessary to purchase a book devoted entirely to selecting the child’s name. Note: You really want to get this right on the first try. Not only will the Social Security people think you’re crazy for changing the name of a three-month-old, your child will probably not be thrilled about it either.

The Perfect Name, by Jeanine Cox, not only provides 20,000 name possibilities, it also provides naming exercises to inspire expectant parents as well as worksheets to ensure organization (there’s nothing like coming up with the perfect name, only to forget it the moment you are ready to reveal it to your spouse).

Just for Dad

It can be hard at times to think lovingly about a man who doesn’t fully understand why you can’t just “swing big” to continue golfing with him up until the contractions start, or doesn’t think before he presents his newly pregnant wife with a brand new size two string bikini (or worse, a size XXXL pair of pajamas that she can “wear in the hospital after delivery”). But the fact is, he had a large part to play in the conception of this new little being, and you want him to be involved.

At a minimum, he should have a book that will prepare him for all that’s to come, whether it’s how to deal with your mood swings or what not to say when you ask how you look in your first official maternity outfit.

Armin Brott’s book, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-To-Be, incorporates not only Brott’s advice, but professional insight from obstetricians, psychologists, and sociologists regarding the changes women undergo while waiting for the stork to land. (Frankly, I believe that you can never have too many folks who have earned the title “Ph.D.” or “M.D.” doling out advice when the goal is ensuring that the man in your life “gets it” in short order.)

What to Expect When Your Wife is Expanding, by Thomas Hill is so funny that most women will end up getting a good laugh from it as well (possibly in hindsight, but a laugh nonetheless). It won’t necessarily provide the reader with the tools he might need to deliver an overeager baby in his living room, but it does lighten the mood, which provides a fantastic opening to the “OK, Honey, now it’s time to read the stuff that will actually teach you how to change a diaper” conversation.

Journals

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to remember every miraculous moment of a pregnancy. A pregnancy journal is a wonderful way to track the amazing day-to-day development of the baby and record your feelings, fears, wishes, and cravings.

The Pregnancy Journal, by A. Christine Harris, is a wonderful daily guide to both your baby’s development and your own. I used this journal for all three of my pregnancies, and now have three dates stacked on top of one another to remind me when each child developed the ability to hear or the miraculously perfect creases on his or her knuckles (or when I finally stopped feeling like I was going to vomit at the mere thought of raw chicken). The journal also provides a space every few weeks for you to document your cravings, contraction frequency, and weight (though I’m not at all pleased with the permanent record that I weighed more at the beginning of my third pregnancy than I did at the end of my first).

Be sure to purchase a blank journal as well in which you can write letters to your unborn child. Tell the baby how you’re feeling, how excited you are to meet him or her, and what’s going on in your life during your pregnancy. Your child will treasure the letters in years to come, and they will remind you of the intimate details of your life during such an incredible time.

I’d be willing to bet that your reading has only just begun. Thankfully, from doctors to psychologists to moms who’ve been there and done things you couldn’t even imagine, the number of people eager to lend a knowing hand to those about to begin the adventure of parenthood is comforting. You’re not going it alone. Whatever your dilemma in the years to come, know that help is simply a bookstore away (though a double-dip, sprinkle-covered ice cream cone can’t hurt either).

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