Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book Review: What To Expect When You're Expecting

If you go to a consignment sale of children's items, you will find one billion copies of What To Expect. My private theory suggests that the reason for the abundance is because everyone secretly hates this title. My own antipathy for it began with the insipid cover and only got stronger.

Informational: 5/5
Dad-friendly: 1/5
Hippie stuff: 0/5
Fun: 1/5

Unlike some pregnancy books, where the author's agenda is hanging its ass right out where you can see it, this one seems so innocent. It just wants to help you! It just wants to give you The Facts! It only wants what's BEST for you!

The first clue that something is askew is the section on fathers. It is ten pages long, out of 475. It is condescending. (There's a bit about how sometimes men find that after seeing their child emerge from their wife's vagina, they may be freaked out about putting Mr. Happy in there. This is a real problem for a number of couples. This book's response? "The father begins to realize that the vagina has two functions, equally important and miraculous." Really? How helpful! Not!) It is entitled "Fathers Are Expectant, Too." I love that little "too." It's so petulant sounding. It whines about not getting enough attention. It pats the daddy on the head and gives him a treat.

And when you dig through the rest of this omnibus of all things dreadful (the blogger Matthew Baldwin calls it "the Book of Fears"), you realize it's just as creepy and paternalistic towards the mommy. For instance, according to this book, it's not a good idea to go to a birth center as opposed to a hospital because complications requiring medical intervention occur 20 to 30% of the time.

Between one fifth and one third of all births *require* medical intervention? How did the human race get this far? Please understand, I reviewed the facts and chose a hospital birth myself. But this kind of fear mongering is irresponsible and not backed up by science or data. More on that in a future review.

The diet section alone causes more neuroses than a roomful of spiders. "You've got only nine months of meals and snacks with which to give your baby the best possible start in life... Before you close your mouth on a forkful of food, consider, "Is this the best bite I can give my baby?" If it will benefit your baby, chew away. If [it's for you], put your fork down."

AAAAAACK. Holy guilt train, Batman! What this book doesn't tell you is the margin. If you're 90% likely to have a healthy baby even if you eat nothing but Ring Dings, does this diet take you to 99%? Or is it as I suspect... eating all that chard takes you from 98 to 99? Whoopty doody. Let me tell you, last fall, two thirds of the Perfectly Normal team ate salad and lean protein and didn't even keep chips in the house lest we eat an entire bag in one sitting. We also met once a week and sucked down Arby's as if Arby's would vanish from the earth without our support. Our babies are beautiful, and six months later we're almost back to our prepregnancy sizes and shapes. The other third of Perfectly Normal had TWINS four years ago and if she ate any kale I'd die laughing.

Sixty three pages of this volume are devoted to things that could go wrong. Remember, ten pages for your partner. Y'all, you are a hell of a lot more likely to have a partner in baby making than chorioamnionitis. You are also a hell of a lot more likely to get some kind of infection in the hospital than you are to wind up with any other kind of infection (according to the hard data available), but the book doesn't go into THAT.

And that's my point about the "All Things Horrible" section. A book that is purportedly an overview of pregnancy and delivery, soup to nuts, cannot include everything. The dividing line between the stuff that gets cut and the stuff that gets posted is necessarily the likelihood of the stuff in question. This book has an agenda, and that is to suggest that pregnancy is dangerous and requires the oversight of trained professionals every step of the way. This book does not want you to walk away thinking that it's natural or normal. Only by constant vigilance can you emerge on the other side with a healthy baby and intact dainty bits.

That is just such obvious crap that only someone who has been reading What To Expect could possibly believe it. In fact, that's my problem with the whole book. Simple observation will tell you that this book cannot possibly be telling you the whole truth. But when you're pregnant, and you want to do the right thing because you're already a good mom, it's easy to lose perspective.

Skip this piece of fear mongering guilt laden crap. Better omnibus volumes will be reviewed in this space over the weeks to come.

1 comment:

RainyPM said...

I agree with you almost completely, but must rectify one glaring error. I wasn't eating salads a year ago during the pregnancy. Or lean meats. Unless by salads you mean vanilla milkshakes from Chick-Fila, and by lean meat you mean the Chick-Fila original sandwich.

You are correct in that I am within a couple lbs of my pre-pregnancy weight now and I'm back in my old clothes.

I have a theory that it doesn't really matter what you eat. How much weight you'll gain is a genetic imperative, so we as women really need to stop beating ourselves up over it.