September 15, 2005

Whaddya Expect?

Never mind a kid, how can you get a pregnant woman to sleep soundly through the night? According to Jodi Kantor's NYT article, you take away her copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting:

...The woman-to-woman tone and the folksy-looking pastel jacket may fool prospective readers into thinking they will receive warm affirmations.

But the peer-to-peer approach can feel "way more doctrinaire and oppressive than any expert ever would have presumed to be," said Ann Hulbert, the author of Raising America: Experts, Parents and a Century of Advice About Children.

Kantor looks at the WTE series' evolution to find out why it's so full of worst-case scenarios and "the catalog of horrors at the book's end." The explanation can be found in this quote from WTE brand-empress Heidi Murkoff, which I brazenly took out of context: "The last thing I want to do is scare a pregnant woman."

Scare your pregnant woman with a new copy of What To Epect When You're Expecting--NOW! 10% LESS ALARMIST THAN THE OLD EDITION HER GIRLFRIEND GAVE HER!--at Amazon [amazon.com]
Expecting Trouble: The Book They Love to Hate [nyt]

13 Comments

I think a lot of females are underinformed about pregnancy and childbirth--watching those birth stories on tv won't help with that either.

The WTE books are OK, if taken in context. I read the whole thing during my pregnancy and then purchaed WTE--the first year, which was useful when we needed info on pink eye, etc.

The really scary book is that "Girlfriends' Guide" which grossed me out. Newsflash to Ms Iovine--not every problem can be solved with an epidural.

Talk about trivializing the pregnancy and birth process. She advocates a gung ho embrace of medical/surgical intervention while disparaging the low/no intervention approaches.

Now all you ladies who had c-sections & epidurals and are damned proud of it--don't jump on me.

Multiple studies show that the medical and insurance establishments prefer the route of least litgation. This is not for our interests; this is for their bottom line. This policy also results in more surgery and, ultimately, less informed choice for women.

[Good points all, but I don't think "Girlfriend's Guide" is part of the insurance/litigation c-section conspiracy. For women who are skeptical of the whole Mother Goddess birth-in-a-forest thing, it's a refreshing tone. That said, I'd hope that parents-to-be of all genders would be conscientious enough to consult multiple perspectives and not just believe something because it's in a bible-sized book. -ed.]

My wife is reading "What to Expect in the First Year". Maybe this explains why she's having trouble sleeping now, even though she's sleep deprived. It's a curse really. As handy as the books are, she's comparing Harris to the "Textbook Baby" in the book and stressing over it.

[Yeah, I looked that up. It says on p.388 that failure to meet the "Textbook Baby" standard is due to imperfectly following the instructions from the first book. Sorry. -ed.]

All I have to say about the "Girlfriend's Guide" book is that I threw it at the wall in utter disgust and irritation after it repeatedly, repeatedly relegated fathers into the stereotypical, useless around a baby, only cares about when you're going to start wearing cute underwear again group. I just kept thinking, "Well, just because your husband is an idiot, it doesn't mean the rest of us married idiots." If you have a baby daddy who's not a jackass, pass on the "Girlfriend's Guide." And, even though I dutifully read my WTE every month while pregnant, in hindsight it is pretty alarmist.

What *wasn't* addressed in the NYT article is the ridiculous format of the books -- namely, that 95% of the content is in a horrible Q&A format, full of questions only idiots would ask. Perhaps this is to make the rest of us feel smart. But it reads like a pregnant version of the therapy group from Newhart. Except without the laughs.

For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would buy this book new -- every time I go to a thrift shop, there's at least one copy of the pregnancy book and usually a copy of the first and toddler years as well. Fifty cents is a perfectly acceptable price for WTE -- save the rest of the money for an ob/gyn copay.

[Newhart. heh. -ed.]

Matt Baldwin at Defective Yeti proposed a book entitled "Your Child Is Perfectly Normal" which would be a Q and A with the same answer each and every time. It's become a joke around my house, especially after Mrs. Buck has hit all four infant books, the Internet, followed by the infinitely patient consulting nurse on the phone.

[Good points all, but I don't think "Girlfriend's Guide" is part of the insurance/litigation c-section conspiracy.]

I didn't imply Iovine is part of the "insurance-medical complex". I'm sure even the most gung-ho anti-VBAC doctor thinks her advice is idiotic.

[For women who are skeptical of the whole Mother Goddess birth-in-a-forest thing, it's a refreshing tone.]

The choice is hardly c-secion v. earth goddess. It's "do whatever you have to in order to get the job done". For some, baby comes too fast to even think about drugs (my case); for others, a c-section after 36 hours of labor is a blessed relief (my sister in law--with twins).

[That said, I'd hope that parents-to-be of all genders would be conscientious enough to consult multiple perspectives and not just believe something because it's in a bible-sized book. -ed.]

I think the problem is that the whole spectrum of choices is not available to most moms-to-be. Some doctors are pro VBAC; some anti. Some midwives are pro epidural; some anti. Some moms are scared of the pain of natural birth; some afraid of abdominal surgery. Lots of issues. But, in my experience, few answers at the offices of conventional doctors.

The internet (watch an md roll his/her eyes when you say "I saw on the internet...") is a pretty handy little tool. Sample birth plans, access to peer-reviewed medical journal articles that cover drugs v. no drugs, etc.

But how many moms-to-be have access to the internet, the time to surf and the confidence to make their wishes known?

Thanks Stephanie for raising the other annoying thing about the Iovine book. My husband wouldn't read it after I told he saw how grossed out I was (I'm NOT squeamish, but all the emphasis on hemorrhoids and constipation and--aw gee, I felt bad enough in those later months..)

[sorry, didn't mean to imply either/or, but more a spectrum, with druid doulas on one end and c-sections scheduled around a perfume launch on the other. You're right about the info access thing, too. We had the kid at Georgetown, a teaching hospital, where the first lesson is apparently InternetCondescension 101.

And since I attributed the 'you're lucky if you man washes a dish' meme to practically everyone, I seem to have been too light on TGG. So, um, never mind. -ed.]

What Nicole said.

Newhart. Snort.

[InternetCondescension 101.]

Ha! So true. I once met a junior surgeon who clearly excelled in that class, but just as clearly failed in RemedialBedsideManner 100. Must be an optional course.

Wow, I never realized that so many people hated TGG. It didn't bother me; I was able to differentiate my experience from the author's. But I really hated WTE, and it comes down to one issue: guilt. TGG reads like "it is OK if you want to do this (have drugs in labor, eat, whatever) because my girlfriends and I did it too." It seems intended to alleviate guilt. In contrast WTE seems designed to induce guilt, with a subtext of "you better adhere to our plan exactly or your child could have any of this litany of problems." I'm referring particularly to the diet. I'm glad to read that they are revising that, but the book is still out there for 50 cents (that's where I bought it), making a sea of hormonal women feel that they are torturing their child if a speck of refined sugar touches their lips. Did we really need that stress?

We were talking about this last night, and my wife pointed out a couple of relevant things that made her not hate TGG, at least as a counterpoint to WTE:
-she said it always made her laugh...right before it made her cry, and
-the author makes pretty clear that the lazy-ass husband who's worse-than-useless during pregnancy is her own, not just some "all men are pigs" archetype.

I didn't read TGG or WTE... steered clear away from them after reading the reviews on Amazon, actually. Instead, I read Ann Douglas' The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, and loved it. It was informative, funny, thoughtful and very well written. She constantly reminds the reader that every woman's experience is different, I never felt any guilt from reading this book. DH also enjoyed the parts he read. I'm always surprised when I don't see this book mentioned in forums like this. Did any other DT regulars read this?

There are plenty of books out there that tell me to vote Republican, or to hate black people, or to stop eating meat, or to whiten my teeth, or that I might get brain cancer from eating a red M&M, or that (enter awful scenario here). But I don't agree with these things. I don't feel guilty or paranoid if I don't follow these suggestions. Because I make up my own mind about how to live.

Why should I feel any bad feelings if I don't follow the suggestions and opinions in a Pregnancy/Parenting book? These books should be considered as tools. It is up to me, as the reader/user/parent to use (or not use) them as I see fit.

If you don't agree with the ways that the author of "TGG" lived with her pregnancy, so what? Don't do it. The "WTE" books are slightly different, because parts are poorly written and misleading. But I don't feel guilty, I feel irritated and annoyed at the publisher, editor and author for not being more thoughtful.

When I see Bobby Brown's show on Bravo, I don't feel guilty that I didn't marry a crackhead. I'm not fearful that my marriage is suffering because of it. That's his choice. Not mine.

Well it just goes to show--we all have different views on how much advice is tolerable during pregnancy.

Did any daddytypes read The Expectant Father--What did you think? My hubby liked it. I had issues with the author's enthusiasm for c-sections (I am sooo not into hospitals), but I though the financial planning info was great. Not that we've saved a red cent for her yet. Still paying for daycare after all.

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