How to be a mom-to-be?
September 14, 2012 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Babby formed. Help me arm myself with knowledge.

I've looked around a bit and haven't yet found anything that fits the bill. I need recommendations for books, sites or other materials on pregnancy/ childbirth with the following features:
1. Practical, non-panicky
2. Not precious, cutesy or overly sentimental
3. Will not talk down to me or assume I read at a 4th grade level
4. Not too crunchy granola

Super extra bonus points for anything aimed at helping me stop freaking out about how my freedom, personality and body are about to be completely destroyed and I'm going to be trapped in drudgery and obligation for ever and ever.

(Yes I am the mother in this equation, and though I am currently terrified, I've mostly decided to go through with it. Haven't entirely made peace with everything yet, but I've got a while.)
posted by Kitty Stardust to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ask Moxie. She's working on a book, but in the meantime, the posts and the comments are exactly what you're looking for.

In particular, you might like this recent post on "the other side of maybe." And her even more recent posts on "free but not cheap."
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:26 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy is practical and intelligent.
posted by Area Man at 8:32 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's OK.
It'll all be OK.

This is completely normal for a new parent. I've been there, and have seen every new parent I know go through the same process. It gets easier; in my experience the months before the birth of your first are very anxious; the house fills up with huge amounts of baby stuff, and you fill your head with all sorts of advice (mostly contradictory) and try to prepare for every eventuality.
Once it's born, further anxiety and worry ensues. The bairn is watched like a hawk, every noise, every motion is analysed and worried over.

The second is much easier. By then you realise that mankind has survived for quite a while, and every generation & every new baby goes through this process. Partly as a result of having to keep up with our first, our second was carted everywhere and, although never ever ignored, certainly had much less fretful worrying expended on her! She's fine (and deeply cared for and loved).

It is life changing. The first year is harder work than anyone could have prepared me for but it's just fantastic. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of hormones, emotions, finances and joy! My two are away this weekend, and I miss them already.
posted by BadMiker at 8:33 AM on September 14, 2012

I thought this was a pretty good, practical book (though it focuses on post-birth).

Beyond that, join whatever birth class/groups you can find at your hospital/doctor/midwife office of choice. I found actual classes much more useful than books.
posted by selfnoise at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might be pretty granola, but it's a good book nonetheless:

Birthing From Within
posted by roboton666 at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: Let yourself freak out. I myself freaked the everloving FUCK out for a good three months when I got pregnant. It's not bad or wrong or dysfunctional, it's just something you've gotta process. I really hate the assumption that you ought to be glowing and delighted and perfectly emotionally-ready to be a parent as soon as the embryo sets up shop.

Don't read "What to Expect". Those books are preachy bullshit.

Come to think of it, there's really not much you DO need to read. Nothing can prepare you for the actual experience. Lots of things CAN freak you out unnecessarily. I'd read a basic list of things that it's a good/bad idea to eat (good: folic acid, bad: booze, drugs, raw milk, raw fish, etc). Don't focus too heavily on diet/exercise if you don't want to: starving women in war zones can and DO have babies every day; assuming you don't subsist on Cheetos and Jim Beam, your baby will be a-okay.

The "Baby 411" and "Baby Bargains" books by Windsor Peak Press are awesome - funny and practical.

As my sister said when I was freaking out about having a kid: "Dude, you only need two things... a tit and a towel. And the towel doesn't even have to be CLEAN!" We actually want to write a bare-bones baby-rearing book of that same name... "A Tit and a Towel : For the Love of Christ, You Don't Need a Wipe-Warmer".
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2012 [42 favorites]

(lol at julthumbscrew)

I had a book that I think was called "ask a midwife" that I thought was practical for the nuts and bolts without being frightening or preachy. I liked "your pregnancy week by week" for the pictures and info about baby development - much more than "what to expect". But I wanted to add - go to the library and thumb through some books until you find one that hits you with the right voice.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:41 AM on September 14, 2012

I really liked Zero To Forty for a little levity. She also has a blog with a bunch of new-parent posts which are pretty good (I especially liked the series on cloth diapers, if you're into that sort of thing).

And I don't get all the hate for What to Expect When You're Expecting. I think people who keep dis-recommending that haven't seen the newest edition. A lot of changes have been made and it's a lot better than it (apparently) used to be; to me it seemed pretty in-line with everything else I was reading.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:42 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hey Kitty, I obviously can only speak to my own experience, but maybe it will be helpful to you at this point. There are two huge things to having a baby:

(1) There is just no way to really explain how much work it is. You can cut down on it bit by always trying to figure out ways to work *with* the baby -- like, for example, if it insists on crawling around at 2 a.m., I would eventually just lay out a sleeping pad and lay on the floor, and let it crawl around on/around me to it's hearts content. But it's still a truly eye-opening amount of work.

So what's the upside? ...

(2) I know this is going to sound totally sappy, but before I had a baby there's just no way anyone could have adequately explained to my how much I would love her. I mean, sure, I figured I would love her. Everyone does, right? But it just opened up this entire new level of love that I didn't even know existed.

The kid's mom, I know, got a lot out of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Feel free to mail me if you thing there's anything specific I might be able to help you with.
posted by Alaska Jack at 8:43 AM on September 14, 2012

One book about early motherhood that I love: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott.

There aren't any practical instructions in Lamott's book. But the book shows that even if you don't love every second of having a tiny baby, you'll be just fine and your baby will be just fine too. Lots of the other books tend to make a person feel inadequate for just wanting to get a few hours sleep and take the occasional shower. Or maybe that's just me.

On a side note, I also began to loathe the "What to Expect" book, even though it is pretty comprehensive. If you do decide to read it, word to the wise, ignore everything on nutrition if you've ever had an eating disorder. Because if you don't you'll find yourself at the bottom of a bag of Cheetos hating yourself.
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:44 AM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

Ok, well, julthumbscrew says he/she found "What to Expect" preachy bs. I haven't read them, but my kid's mom --- well, I think a lot of people would describe her as kind of jaded and cynical, and yet she liked them.
posted by Alaska Jack at 8:45 AM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: These too:

A question of balance
"Candidly sharing how they organize their lives to nurture both their children and their craft, Ursula le Guin, Rita Dove, Dorothy Allison, Faith Ringgold, Linda Vallejo, and 20 other remarkable artists and writers illuminate how their challenging and renewing experiences as mothers have shaped their creative work. 25 photos."

Operating Instructions
By Anne Lamott, not much else to say...
posted by roboton666 at 8:45 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "Baby 411" and "Baby Bargains" books by Windsor Peak Press are awesome - funny and practical.

Wow, I hate Baby 411. Super preachy. Also, not about pregnancy or childbirth IIRC.

I like The Pregnancy Bible a lot and I think it meets your four requirements above.
posted by amro at 8:46 AM on September 14, 2012

I had a baby last year. The amount of information and how-to guides is completely overwhelming. I really liked Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn. I would say it fits all your criteria. It does include some crunchy granola bits, but it leans far more to the practical/science side without triggering panic every other page.
posted by stowaway at 8:47 AM on September 14, 2012

Best answer: I asked this question a few months ago and got a lot of really awesome resources and suggestions. I found the What to Expect books a little terrifying, because there's a lot of WHAT IF YOUR BABY IS TOTALLY MESSED UP sorts of stuff, but I really liked the Mayo Clinic book.
posted by SeedStitch at 8:49 AM on September 14, 2012

So, my wife freaked out a bit, and basically she didn't read anything, I read all the books and she just asked me when she had a question. We signed up for classes when it was appropriate and well, basically tried to enjoy the time we had when it was us and not us + minion. If I were to recommend a book it would be the Mayo Clinic book, I found it informative and an easy reference.
posted by iamabot at 8:54 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe you've heard too many people say that dire statement "your life will never be the same again", as if, well, your "freedom, personality and body are about to be completely destroyed". I think people who say that are totally wrong in their thinking (and wrong to make that statement too). It's true that your life will never be the same. It will be infinitely better! You are in for the biggest treat of your life. After you have your child, you will not be able to imagine not having your child. Every day will be fun, interesting, and joyful. You will not loose freedom, you will gain freedom - to be the type of parent you want to be, to help shape a new person's life, and to easily make tons of new friends who share the experience of being a parent. Personalities don't change. And your body, well, some change will occur, but that's a small cost relative to everything you will gain. Be happy, be relaxed, and enjoy.
posted by Dansaman at 8:56 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Please remember that women have been having babies for the entirety of the human race's existence, and on average, it works out pretty much okay. We're also way better off now than we were ten years ago, and it's like, an exponential improvement over time. Rejoice! You are pregnant in 2012, not 1912, or, heaven forbid, 1812.

And also, women generally freak out for at least their first pregnancy. I know some women who were all 100% WOOHOO LOVE JOY WARMTH AWESOME but I'm sort of suspicious of them. In any case, there's no point in feeling bad about not feeling that way, because you can't force these things.

Please try to balance out your medical/practical/spiritual/etc. reading. I think a lot of people get frustrated with whichever book they get because they just read that one book. I've heard good things about The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth, my dad and stepmom swore by "What To Expect" and the "Week By Week"/"Month By Month" books, and my mom liked The Birth Book (I'm almost completely certain that's the one - it's the highest ranked in that category, and I'm pretty sure the cover matches.) The Mayo stuff is always pretty good.

For parenting/oh-crap-I'm-doomed-forever, I recommend reading How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, Playful Parenting, What's Going On In There?, and Our Babies, Ourselves.

Also, please try not to worry too much about messing stuff up via one bone-headed choice or another. I was born in a "gentle birth clinic" next door to a bowling alley, my next two sisters were born in hospitals (one with drugs, one not,) my little brother was early in the hospital, my youngest sister was induced in the hospital. Three of us were homeschooled (me for a little while, two for basically the whole time) and two went to public schools. I did the How To Teach Your Baby To Read, etc., program; none of the others did. I did Montessori, three of them did daycare, one never ever went to anything outside of the home. Three of us did Girl Scouts, two did Camp Fire. We went to various churches; some of us did whole word and some of us did phonics; some of us watched Batman every day for like three years straight starting at age 3, and others were kept from all movies for a six year period (nightmares.) I went to college at 16, another hasn't started yet at 19. My dad locked out Nickeldoeon, forbade morning cartoons before school, limited everyone to one dessert a week, and flipped out when my stepdad took me to see Terminator 2 when I was 12; my mom gave us Coke and donuts for breakfast, let us watch MTV (and everything else we could make ourselves watch,) and decided there was no particular reason anyone needed to get up at any time at all in the mornings. I had intensive music training from birth; one of the others got to play with my spare piano (but my dad never could get himself to make either of us practice.)

You can't tell the difference unless we tell you which one was which. My mom sometimes has to think hard before she can remember exactly which thing she did which time, except for me; I was planned for obsessively and boy howdy did she not do that again. My mom and dad basically agree on nothing whatsoever and all five of us kids (two hers, two his, I'm from both) are remarkably similar (even though the other four have never met the other parent's kids.)

Once again, on average, it works out pretty much okay. Even if you do sometimes freak out about a loss of freedom.
posted by SMPA at 9:09 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Note: I know there are various re-writes of the "What to Expect" books; I read whatever ones were on the shelves circa 2004. Who knows, maybe they've gotten better. Back then, they literally made me cry over how I was doing my baby a disservice every time I ate a Hershey's Kiss instead of a spinach leaf topped with wheat germ. If they no longer drill the "EAT 1,750 CALORIES OF PERFECTLY-BALANCED NUTRITION PER DAY OR BE A NEGLECTFUL BITCH!" stuff home quite as hard, then yeah, perhaps they're worth a read.

And seconding Dansaman, hardcore: YOU decide what kind of life you're gonna have, post-baby. When Wee Lil' Thumbscrew was tiny, I took him EVERYwhere with me... strapped him to a front-carrier and hit the road! Today, he's a massive seven year-old and attends rock concerts and the occasional college chemistry lecture with me. He's made my life MORE open (because now I have a little buddy to accompany me on my adventures).
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:11 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The What to Expect books are loathsome, preachy, alarmist bullshit. Seriously, instructions about how to order pregnancy-appropriate food in restaurants? (Avoid cream sauces, you fat, selfish cow! Your fetus wants you svelte!)

I liked the Baby Whisperer books, but chuck all advice that doesn't work for you. The business about setting up a nice quiet area for breast feeding -- uh that's nice, except for that breast feeding can easily take 45 minutes at a time, and I want to watch TV if I'm sitting down for that long.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:29 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, julthumbscrew, you read the version before the big overhaul. OP, the 2008 4th edition of What To Expect When You're Expecting is the "good" one.

And, on preview, there's nothing in there about how to order pregnancy-appropriate foods in restaurants, either, anymore.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:31 AM on September 14, 2012

I find I'm reading or scaning all sorts of books (mostly passed along from friends) and just ignoring the parts that scare me or make me roll my eyes. The Mayo Clinic book is by far my favorite. I am also reading an Ina May Gaskin childbirth book, and while the personal stories in it are very very crunchy, the general information doesn't feel too preachy. It is interesting for me to read about births outside of the hospital even though I plan on delivering at the hospital.

I started reading books pretty early into my pregnancy and just putting the book down when it became to scary. Now I am 28 weeks in and fewer things freak me out.
posted by Swisstine at 9:38 AM on September 14, 2012

I made this list for a friend and it includes several suggestions already made above, but I'm going to paste it for you here too because I want to add to the chorus that I enjoyed those....

- My favorite for clinical stuff so far is "You And Your Baby: Pregnancy" by Dr. Laura Riley. I have looked at like 5 or 6 other books and none have been as good. This includes "What To Expect..." (which is new version and seems to be lots better than the old version a lot of people complain about, definitely doesn't seem 'alarmist' to me, but it still doesn't give as nice of a week to week breakdown and the writing is so cheesy)
- I also spent a lot of time reading stuff while I was going through infertility. I loved the books "Operating Instructions" by Anne Lamott and "The Kid" by Dan Savage - but for the latter you really must like Dan Savage because he can be pretty crass or vulgar for some people's tastes... I also enjoyed "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" by Peggy Orenstein which is about marketing toys to kids (specifically girls).

About What You Can Eat
Pregnancy Chicken's The List - Is It Safe?
Nice New York Times article about the fish warnings during pregnancy.
This is a pretty good summary of what not to eat if you're going by the book. Personally after looking at some of the research and facts, I think some of this stuff is total BS. Like the listeria stuff. I looked at the CDC's site that reports surveillance for all known listeria cases for the past several years in the USA and guess what, the only cheese that has caused listeria is the Mexican queso fresco and queso blanco, and it was made from pasteurized milk! How many cases caused by deli meat: zero. And they never tell you to avoid celery or sprouts (both associated with listeria outbreaks in recent years)....

Random Websites
This eye color calculator is for nerd fun!
A website with a cool slidey-tool for uterus/baby growth! There is an iPhone app that does this too apparently. List of apps...
Totally random, but I found this list of pregnancy cliches funny

For pregnancy week by week calendar, I like this one better than the BabyCenter one - tone more tongue in cheek...
Aside from Pregnancy Chicken and the Amalah blog, I have found this STFU Parents blog hilarious. Since you have not said anything on Facebook yet you might like this list of The Various Ways To Announce a Pregnancy on Facebook. I laughed.... a lot. They have a bunch of other really funny things about social media and pregnancy and parenting.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:39 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I only read Penelope Leach, who has great common sense advice, no cuteness and she's not trying to terrify her readers.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

It may seem a bit off target, but The Birth Partner was by far the best book my wife and I had at our disposal w/r/t getting ready for the labor/delivery/coming home thing. It's intended for the one(s) not carrying anything in their womb, but my wife read it and found it better than the books aimed at her. Not that we exhausted all options or anything.
posted by that's candlepin at 10:33 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have gained tremendous confidence in my abilities to prepare for a baby by reading a website called Lucie's List. It's a no-bullshit, straight-forward, these are the things you need to raise a child, this is what's going to happen during labor and delivery, and this is what's going to happen post-partum posts. She also has several links to Amazon for purchases and care-kits. My due date is less than two weeks away (yikes!), but I feel ready to go.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 11:34 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend The Panic Free Pregnancy. Tells you why you shouldn't worry about many things, and cites studies to back everything up.

N'thing Ask Moxie. Remember her at four months when your baby stops sleeping, and look up "wakeful" periods.

To inspire awe, the classic A Child Is Born.

Quickly browse The Wonder Weeks website before the baby arrives, and then bookmark it. Try to remember to return when your baby is all of a sudden losing it at 4 weeks. And again at 8 weeks, and then 12, and then I forget which...
posted by wyzewoman at 12:13 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

You already got a lot of good practical answers about good practical books here, so I'm going to offer you some funny books about pregnancy and parenting (some of them written by friends of mine). Because, trust me -- laughter is the best way to keep yourself from crying.

Let's Panic About Babies (read the website, too!)
Sleep is for the Weak
The Baby Owner's Manual (okay, so this one is funny and practical -- I actually used it way more than I thought I would)

You'll be fine.
posted by BlueJae at 12:21 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

This podcast is great.
posted by bq at 3:54 PM on September 14, 2012

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