Saturday, April 21, 2012

{Ask a Mommy:} Best Pregnancy Books

Q: What books do you recommend for pregnancy and childbirth? Anyone who knows me knows that I not only love to read, but that I also love to learn, prepare, and research the crap out of what I'm interested in. So, when I found out I was pregnant, I wanted a few books to read whenever millions of questions would start filling my mind. I ended up reading some really great books that I would heartily recommend!

My experience: Some of the books (the natural birth ones specifically) I never would have read if a friend didn't loan them to me, and they were the most eye-opening and indispensable. I don't know what my birth experience would have been like if it weren't for those books. I also enjoyed some more traditional pregnancy/childbirth books too.

One of the first books I read was The Complete Organic Pregnancy by Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu. It's a book about exactly what it says in the title; how to have an entirely organic pregnancy. This was great to read, even though not all of the suggestions were realistic for me, or in my budget. But I learned about a lot of little things that I COULD do, like avoiding the 'dirty dozen' (12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides that are best eaten organic), avoiding BPA, and how to choose the best plastic and even paint for the nursery. I did NOT have a complete organic pregnancy but I really learned A LOT from this book, and still use the information that I found helpful to this day! I also really enjoyed the stories from other mothers throughout this book.

Another first book that I read was Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy. In the beginning, I felt like I could really use some laughs and a light read. This book was it! It was written in Jenny's classic straightforward, somewhat raunchy style. She's not afraid to talk about times when she was ridiculous, over-emotional, worried, scared, as well as her bodily functions. It was hilarious, and even a little informative about what was ahead for me.

In speaking of light reads, the other book I read of that nature was Knocked Up by Rebecca Eckler. It was another memoir, although the author wasn't quite as likable as Jenny McCarthy. She had a hilarious writing style, as well as a relate-able story at first, but once her story progressed, she became more of a love-to-hate heroine. She whined about gaining 15 lbs on her tiny 100 lb, size 6 frame (WHAT? REALLY?), having to quit smoking and drinking (while not actually avoiding either completely), worrying about finances (while she and her fiance make a hell of a lot more money than most first time parents!), hiring a night nurse so she can sleep through the night (again...WHAT?), scheduling a C-section so her baby is born 'pretty' (WHAT, WHAT WHAT??), and there's so much more, but why give it all away here? Toward the end, it made me feel much better about myself and the choices I was making as a new mom (although, I doubt that was the exact intent of the book), and made me realize that wealthier couples even have worries about becoming parents too...even though they get all their stuff at Pottery Barn!

From a program with my insurance, I received a free copy of Your Pregnancy Week by Week. This was a good read if you want a medical-textbook style, straightforward guide you can read each week. I liked being able to read a short chapter each week. It was a little repetitive, and I skipped over sections that I didn't feel like applied or appealed to me at the moment, but it was an informative read.

But for a fun version, I really enjoyed The Baby Bump! The colors were bright, the layout great, with lots of pictures and fun, easy-to-read sections. Read about what to wear when, what you'll need on your registry, what foods to eat, what to pack in your hospital bag. I loved this one and read through the sections often and repeatedly. A must have!

To prepare for November's arrival as a real live baby (OMG!!!) I read What to Expect The First Year. Well, I can't exactly say that I READ it, because I'm still working on it, and not really keeping up with the current months. But this was especially useful in my third trimester when I wanted to mentally prepare for what was ahead, and during November's first few months. I can't tell you how many times I read and re-read the sections about breastfeeding when I was struggling in the early weeks. There is some really great info here. Now that I feel like I'm getting the hang of this mommy thing and starting to trust my mommy-intuition, I use it mostly as a reference when I want to learn something specific. I also like to read the 'what your maybe may be doing by the end of the month' sections, to see if November is learning everything typical of her age (and she always exceeds, every month!)

After she was born, we got the Dr. Sears Baby Book. I wish I had gotten it while I was still pregnant! There is a ton of info and tips about Attachment Parenting; baby wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding. I haven't read this book in entirety, but I love what I have read. It's huge! Perfect for any parent interested in Attachment Parenting and co-sleeping. This would have saved me so much stress and tears when Nova was born and wouldn't sleep anywhere but my bed! I hadn't realized co-sleeping was so common, and even recommended in attachment parenting!

Another book I wish I would have had earlier is Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. This book is great for yoga and meditation during pregnancy and really saved my sanity toward the end when I started worrying about everything; meditation helped me calm down and feel peaceful. The yoga poses helped my body feel better, stronger, and more alive. I hadn't done yoga or meditation in about a year; this book helped me start a (small) practice when I needed it the most.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth just may be responsible for my switch to midwifery care and my choice for a water birth. I had always wanted to have a natural birth, but I honestly don't know if I would have done it that way when it really came down to it, if it weren't for my midwives and the birth center I gave birth at. Reading about all the personal stories of women birthing naturally with midwives instead of a frenzied hospital staff really inspired me to make a switch. I realized I was missing something that I desired; a personal care and connection to my feelings about what I needed for my body; respect in mother's intuition. I found that with my midwives, and couldn't be happier with my birth experience. This book is AMAZING for anyone considering a natural birth.

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