Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What to read when you’re expecting

So I know I haven't mentioned this... but I'm not the only pregnant woman in my family.

There's another pregnant lady around these parts... and she looks suspiciously like me.

Yes, that's right! My twin sister Lillian is also expecting. And she's due in just three weeks! (Although apparently due dates don't mean much in our family.)

Finding out Lil was pregnant too was one of the best things that's ever happened to me. We are loving going through our pregnancies together. We're both so excited to become aunts as well as mothers, and we can't wait for our babies (who we call "the little twin cousins") to be the best of friends.

You can't imagine how long I've been dying to tell you guys. I've been begging her to let me share the news on here, and she finally gave the OK... just in time for her first guest post!

Lillian's read more books about pregnancy than anyone I know. She's read even more than I have, and that's saying something! So I was thrilled when she agreed to share a list of recommendations for her favorite pregnancy reads. Here are her thoughts on "what to read when you're expecting," and I've added my own thoughts/comments in italics.

What to read when you’re expecting

A Pea in the Pod
This was one of those enormous, helpful one-size-fits-all compendia on pregnancy, labor, birth, and infancy. I’m sure your library carries similar tomes. It’s the kind of book that a super-curious mom-to-be like myself would have loved in the pre-Internet age, but now that I can Google questions like “what is round ligament pain?,” a book like this is a lot less necessary. It provides a nice general overview, but nothing you can’t get elsewhere.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting
This is the big mama of all maternity books, and like A Pea in the Pod provides helpful general advice. I personally love weekly pregnancy updates and enjoyed getting them from several Internet sources throughout my pregnancy. WTEWYE provides those in book form but, again, it’s nothing you can’t get online. I suppose for a total beginner to the topic of labor and birth, this book provides a helpful general guideline, but it’s really not as essential as its “classic” status would suggest. I did find the 2012 movie version to be quite entertaining, however, although I wouldn’t recommend it until you hit month 7 or 8—the pregnancy jokes will be a lot funnier and more relatable when you’re further along.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
Embrace your inner earth mama. This hippie classic is great if you want to get psyched for a natural, drug-free birth. The book is filled with personal stories (some of which are graphic) and a few pictures (not for the squeamish) and is also full of zen mamas with uplifting if somewhat sappy birth tales (along the lines of “My baby was born with the sun, as a light mist rose over the mountains and enveloped us with its aura.  We named the baby Whisper”). Ok, that may be an exaggeration, but not by much.  It’s an informative read but the average reader may want to take some of it with a grain of salt.

Note from Tess: I adored Ina May's book and found it fascinating and comprehensively informative. I would rank it as one of my favorite pregnancy books—but I think I'm a lot more of a hippie than Lillian is. 

Your Best Birth
I found this book to be somewhat over-hyped. The author Ricki Lake’s movie, The Business of Being Born, is a cult classic for natural birth proponents, so I expected a more educational read. Instead I found a surprising amount of sappiness—I was literally instructed to “embrace my inner Birth Goddess.” The book argued against having medical interventions in birth, which I found a little disingenuous in a book that styled itself as objective. It also came with the distrust of the medical community that marked—some would say marred—The Business of Being Born. Maybe it’s just because my dad’s a doctor, but I don’t think the medical community is out to get pregnant ladies as much as the authors seemed to think. This book is a nice introduction to natural birth, but it’s not the first book I would recommend.

Note from Tess: Your Best Birth was my single favorite pregnancy book. I thought it gave an awesome introduction to birth in general and natural birth in particular, while still being open-minded and fair to other alternatives. But again, I'm the hippie of the two of us. :)

The Birth Partner
If you read one labor book, READ THIS.  It was my hands-down favorite.  It is aimed at the father-to-be, doula, or labor coach but is so informative and helpful that I recommend it for the expecting mama as well.  Because it is geared towards supporting the laboring mom, this book offers lots of very specific coping mechanisms for every stage of labor, complete with diagrams and illustrations of procedures and positions.  It contains everything you need to know for labor in one book, and then some, including possible emergency scenarios.  Unlike, say, “Your Best Birth,” this book admits that medical emergencies can happen or even that you may voluntarily choose an epidural, and then gives you information and tools to handle anything that childbirth might throw at you.  It is truly objective, highly educational, easy to read, and presents all the possible scenarios in a calm and helpful way.  It is also, in my opinion, the best and only book that your husband or labor coach needs to read. 

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
If you want to read 800 pages on breastfeeding then you—like me—may be a birth nerd.  I actually read through this whole book, cover to cover.  Luckily, that is NOT necessary to gain some wisdom from its exhaustively informative pages.  This book is divided helpfully into sections on various topics of relevance to women in different situations (ex: breastfeeding an infant when you are still breastfeeding a toddler; breastfeeding twins; common breastfeeding problems; etc.) so you can pick and choose which sections you feel you need to read.  It’s really not necessary to read the whole thing, but I think that at least a few of the sections would be helpful to any expecting mom.  If nothing else, this book left me with a warm feeling towards the super-supportive La Leche League community and made me feel comfortable reaching out to LLLI members in my area if I need extra help when I start to breastfeed.

And just for fun, these are my (Tess's) favorites...

Favorite comprehensive "pregnancy bible": The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

Favorite pregnancy memoir: Great with Child 
This series of letters addresses the worries and fears that attend pregnancy while also celebrating the joy of motherhood. And it was written by a Notre Dame grad, woohoo! More about it here.

Favorite book for pregnancy's spiritual side: A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy
This book offers such a great sense of sisterhood as it walks you through pregnancy with beautiful prayers and reflections. Thank you to Serena for sending me this awesome one!

Favorite lighthearted pregnancy book: The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy
This tongue-in-cheek memoir is a little silly but a lot of fun, and it definitely helped me feel like I wasn't alone in navigating this crazy pregnancy journey.

Favorite book to encourage prenatal bonding: Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method
I didn't expect this book to contain so much information about "what's going on in there," but I truly loved the ideas for bonding with your preborn baby. Awesome stuff.

Favorite book for your inner control freak: One Year to an Organized Life with Baby
This book sometimes made me freak out about being unprepared, but ultimately I found the ideas and suggestions so helpful. It really was chock-full of useful information.

Wow, I read a LOT this pregnancy! Geez. This is actually just the tip of the iceberg—I also read some other books about topics like breastfeeding and prenatal development—but I'll stop there before this list gets ridiculous.

So, if anyone made it all the way to the end of this post, I would love to know... what was YOUR favorite pregnancy book?


  1. Ahh, that's so exciting! This is whole time I was thinking that it must be so hard for Lillian to have gotten married at the same time but not be expecting yet. Hooray!

  2. Oh boy... I read SO MUCH during pregnancy. It was awesome, but whew, I'm glad I didn't have to do it again this time. I am currently re-reading the stages of labor chapters in "The Husband-Coached Childbirth" and in our Bradley student workbook from last time. I've also heard Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding is good. I might check it out from my birth center.

  3. Oh my goodness, how fun to be pregnant at the same time! I'd love for this to happen with one of my sisters sometime if possible. Congrats to Lillian! And this isn't a PREGNANCY book, but my ob/gyn in Michigan recommended it to me and I think it's been useful: American Academy of Pediatrics' Caring for Your Baby and Young Child (Birth to Age 5). Admittedly, I haven't had much time or motivation to read a lot of parenting books when Google is ever at my fingertips, but it includes all kinds of basic care instructions (great for you AND the daddys), all the developmental milestones, and even toy suggestions based on development and age. Whenever Michael asks me, "so how long until Gabriel can ___?" this is the book I pull out to double check. :)

    Thanks for sharing these lists!

  4. How wonderful to have your sister expecting when you are. Twin cousins! How lucky for those sweet babies. Tess I think about you each day and hope to open your blog and see that your sweet baby has arrived! Hang in there!

  5. How exciting, congrats to Lily!! Now that you're running late, are you secretly hoping she goes early and you have your kids on the same day?

  6. I've actually read pretty much nothing this pregnancy. Our local library is surprisingly low on good pregnancy books, despite the massive population of large families in the area. My birth center has their own little library, though, and so after your email a few weeks ago about the Hypnobirthing book I picked it up yesterday to read through the bonding with baby chapter during the waiting period of my glucose screening test. I thought it was great, though I'm really bad at doing most of their suggestions besides singing. Peter is a natural, though! lol. He's always talking and singing to and playing with the baby.

  7. So cute!
    My sisters actually had their daughters two days apart, one on September 6th, and one on September 8th.
    Having "twin cousins" in the family is the best!

  8. Oh how fun for all of you!! I wondered a time or two if Lillian was expecting as well.

  9. It is Friday night and you have not posted, so I just know you must be having that dear baby! Can't wait to hear! Take care!