Sunday, September 18, 2005

What were you expecting?

What to Expect When You're Expecting was my pregnancy bible. When I learned I was pregnant, I hied me to a bookstore and hung out there for a few hours, checking out all that was on offer. Then I bought me one. Just one. One single solitary pregnancy book. (And a Lemony Snicket volume.)

It seems many people don't like the book nearly as much as I did.
[I]n its third decade the book has turned into a publishing conundrum: It is the most popular and widely trusted book in its category and yet is coming under such regular criticism that its authors are revising some of its key tenets. The reaction comes in part from expecting parents who call it a worst-case-scenario handbook. (Nicknames include "What to Freak Out About When You Are Expecting" and "What to Expect if You Want to Develop an Eating Disorder.") Though many parents swear by it, a startling number protest that, instead of emphasizing the wondrous process of fetal development, the book dwells mostly on complications, including the pedestrian (anemia), the more exotic ("incompetent cervix") and a catalog of horrors at the book's end ("uterine rupture").

Maybe cuz I'm not a very touchy-feely wonder-of-childbirth kind of person. Maybe cuz I rather enjoy considering worst case scenarios. Yet I still basked in the glow of pregnancy. I like information.

No doubt, the book requires regular updating to adjust for scientific advances as well as for society's sensibilites.

However, what truly shocks me is that someone might purchase a title (nonfiction — a manual! for pregnancy! not exactly a one-size-fits-all experience) based on some expert's recommendation without having a clue what might be inside, without cracking the cover, without having achieved a personal confidence that "this book is right for me."

(Based on my "success" with this book, I got myself the follow-up What to Expect the First Year, but I never did read the whole thing. Mostly I'm just winging this child-rearing thing. With a little help from my blogging buddies.)


Anonymous said...

My parenting Bibles were Dr Spock's "Baby and Child Care Book" and "Parenting in the First Two Years." These were great at the time; he was the Final Authority. And he appealed to my own intuition about when and when not to freak out.

I can't remember who I read vis a vis pregnancy itself, but I assure you, I devoured volumes on the subject. I, like you, craved information. I, too, have always enjoyed worst case scenarios.

Isn't funny that I am obviously still a parent but these days I pretty much eschew common thinking, common authors I should say, on the subject. Not sure when I stopped trusting the "experts," not sure I ever did, actually.

Except for Dr. Spock!


Aussie Mama said...

I shall be looking that one up, even with so many pregnancies I still need all the help I can get.

Suzanne said...

Hmmm...What to Expect The Toddler Years was really helpful in the beginning, since I received my baby when she was 18 months.

While perusing the books at the store, I was just excited to see something that focused on the toddler.

I'm like you and simply wing it these days.

Suzanne said...

With my first pregnancy I consumed pregnancy books at an alarming rate. Like you, I treated pregnancy and childbirth from a kind of clinical perspective, so I didn't mind the tone of What to Expect. (Except for the diet recommendations. Those I just dismissed as pretty unrealistic.)

After Sean was born I also read a wide variety of parenting books, so much so that Jeff would ask me "Well, what do all your books say?" every time we weren't sure about something.

Now, for better or worse, we just wing it.

Anonymous said...

I was a "What to Expect" gal too, for both pregnancy and the first year. I think those books -- like every other parenting book out there -- need to be taken with a big grain of salt on certain topics. As others have already indicated, it's the food sections for "What to Expect" that are really off the wall (and, if you're not careful, can make you feel like a terrible person for not feeding that fetus the right number of servings of calcium, etc.)

But I definitely like reading all the worst-case scenarios. I need to KNOW all the possibilities in advance. And "What to Expect" is a hundred times nicer than, say, Dr. Sears on most major guilt-inducing issues (not to mention the patronizing, paternalistic tone!). I had Sears' Baby Book as well, and liked it for its pediatrics. They all have SOME useful info...