Looking for smart pregnancy/parenting memoirs
August 30, 2010 4:48 AM   Subscribe

Looking for intelligent writing (especially memoirs) on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting that aren't fluffy/mainstream "how-to" guides, as a gift to an expectant couple in their early/mid 20s.

My cousin and her husband are expecting their first child in November. We're in our early/mid 20s and this is very uncharted territory. They are the first people that I/they know who are having children, and the first in our family for this generation. I wish I could tell them what to expect, but I don't know what to expect either! I'm looking for some good books that are also a bit unconventional in some way to give them.

So far, I've got Anne Lammott's "Operating Instructions," and I'd like to know your recommendations for other works.
posted by autoclavicle to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Up The Duff which may have another name if published in America... is that where you're from? But it's clever, hilarious and informative. It's part how-to and part novel. Most funky young Australian women get it and love it.
posted by taff at 5:05 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: And here are some sample pages.... it's a great read and I highly recommend it.
posted by taff at 5:08 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: Rebecca Woolf's book From Wild to Child was very good and though sometimes sentimental and sweet, not at all saccharine.
posted by Saminal at 5:35 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: My favorite pregnancy memoir so far is dooce's book, It Sucked and Then I Cried. I found it to be funny and relatable (and not scary, despite her struggles with Postpartum Depression), even though the Amazon reviews are meh.

Someone somewhere will undoubtedly recommend (to you or to her) The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy. DON'T DO IT. It's only funny or clever if you, like the author, are a rich & skinny former Playmate, and it includes lots of worst-case scary crap which, instead of discussing in any meaningful context (or even using real terms to describe things), she pretty much just says, "Blah blah scary stuff, I don't know what it's really called, I'm just a woman, what do I know, maybe ask your doctor!" Not useful. Plus, she has a whole chapter on how exercise is bad for pregnant women (not true) and if you dare go to that prenatal Pilates class, it's your own damn fault if you miscarry. So many people recommend it, but I feel dumber for having read it.
posted by somanyamys at 5:37 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: Ina Mae Gaskin wrote Spiritual Midwifery about birthing experiences on The Farm, a commune in Tennessee, where pregnant women were welcome to come and stay to have their babies. It's very, very, hippie and new age, but the stories are real, and I loved reading it. Anything by Shelia Kitzinger is worth reading.
posted by theora55 at 6:12 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I agree with somanyamys about Girlfriend's Guide. The whole tone of it was so ... so ... "My priority is being rich and beautiful and you should hire a nanny and get skinny faster! Kids are such great matching accessories!" Bleh.

The Baby Owner's Manual is super-cute; it's set up as if the baby were a new piece of electronics you're installing. It has chapters like "programming sleep mode" and "home installation." The information is good and it's presented in an amusing manner. It's supposed to make men feel like they're not reading a "stupid baby book" but mostly I just think it's cute and funny.

The other book I found extremely useful was Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. This is more traditional (though I didn't find it froofy; it's written by two mom-pediatricians), but it focuses exclusively on the first four months when a) babies are super-needy and b) babies have special needs they don't have later on and c) parents are freaking-out clueless. I found my "first year" books tended to drown the information about newborns in the information about the WHOLE first year; this JUST focused on things like caring for the umbilical stump and establishing breastfeeding or bottlefeeding and baths for slippery people who can't hold up their own heads and things like that.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:37 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As a father-to-be, I found Alec Wilkinson's essay "Fatherhood" to be helpfully sobering.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:53 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: It's more literary than informative, but Carole Maso's Room Lit By Roses, which is a journal she kept during her pregnancy, is a gorgeous book.
posted by dizziest at 7:08 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: These books really, really helped me through early motherhood:

The Dropped Threads series, while not always specifically about parenting, has so many wonderful essays and so many different perspectives that I keep going back to them.

The Maternal is Political is inspiring, but not overwhelming.

The It's a Boy and It's a Girl are thoroughly enjoyable, no matter which you have. Again, it's a treat to read differing perspectives.

Actually, Andie Buchanon's other books, MotherShock and Literary Mama are fantastic too. I've met her, and she's quite nice.
posted by peagood at 7:33 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: Oh! And just went to check my bookshelf, and found, as well:

The Birth of a Mother was interesting, informative and had anecdotes I could relate to.

And I can't believe I forgot this one:

Mothers Talk Back which, as my bookmark placement tells me, is one of the first places I found other people asking "Why isn't this in any of the books?"

I've also recently finished
Gravity Pulls You In (boy, it seems like I have a thing for collections of essays, according to this list - but so be it) which was great because we have half-a-dozen friends who are kids on the Autism spectrum, and it helps us to be thoughtful and sensitive.

And this is a book I've kept handy for six years now: Mommy Mantras
When it was given to me, I thought it was one of those fluffy gift books, you know - from next to the register to buy on impulse - and didn't give it more than a glance. But I keep going back to it as our daughter grows, because the mantras really really help. In fact, this very afternoon, I will Surrender to the Goat with our daughter, for whom the very expensive visit to the CNE is divided equally between cotton candy and the petting zoo, despite the other fantastic goings on. And she's six.
posted by peagood at 7:53 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth is excellent as well. I particularly found the chapter on sphincters to be quite a revelation. It's got plenty of birth stories, like Spiritual Midwifery, but is a little more updated to remove the "groovy" hippy language of SM.
posted by fancyoats at 7:53 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I'm currently reading "How did I get like this? The Screamer, the Worrier, the Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget buyer, and other moms I swore I'd never be." I'm finding it fun. (I'm also really appreciating this list.)
posted by endless_forms at 9:21 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I was fascinated by What's Going on in There? , which isn't a memoir, but it is a book about how the brain develops in the first years of life. I think this is great for new parents, and it's a very intelligent book. It gives explanations for why babies act the way they do, and how our actions toward them help shape their brains. It's definitely not how-to or cutesy.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:41 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: I recently read The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life. Fascinating and intelligent writing, but not a memoir.
posted by nuffsaid at 10:23 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: This is a how-to, not a memoir, but may also be appealing to you. Baby Love has lovely B&W photos and a calm, practical approach to newborn baby care. When I was pregnant, it made me feel like caring for a newborn would be doable, and I referred to it often during my baby's first weeks at home.
posted by mingshan at 11:29 AM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: Jeff Vogel's The Poo Bomb is more funny than smart, I guess. But it does have some smart along with the laughs.
posted by Cuke at 4:51 PM on August 30, 2010

Best answer: This isn't literary nor clever, but Penelope Leach's Your Baby and Child is simply the best, plain-spoken book for parents. She explains why the baby does whatever--she's not a trendy writer, and there's no cute anecdotes, but she's so solid and her advice is so reliable.

Girlfriend's Guide and What to Expect are dreck, I think.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:43 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, yes, Penelope Leach - she's head and shoulders above all other authors in the parenting category (that I've read, which is a lot of them) and she is not condescending, which is rare in this category.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:44 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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