Monday, July 27, 2009

Scare tactics of all kinds

Like most moms-to-be I already have a stack of pregnancy books. Some I purchased, some were gifts. I'm also beginning to eye the ones at the library, now that I'm outed at work.

It's interesting because people react so differently to the different types of books. Of course, everyone's different, and everyone needs a different voice to tell them the facts in ways that are comforting and informative. You can't even really use the word "facts" because every pregnancy is different. Most people have certain problems, but there is so much variation that there is definitely a need for the many different books out there. Ok, enough with the word "different".

My favorite so far is the Mayo Clinic book. I love a good thick reference work. The text is straightforward and, well, clinical. It covers most everything and fills gaps I've found in other books. What I want is cold hard data and this book supplies it.

Now many people find these types of books daunting at best, unreadable next, and frightening at worst. They don't want to know about the medical things that can go wrong. They want a personal voice with personal experience. While this does sound good on paper, it doesn't work that way for me. The more impersonal it is - the more it shows that my pregnancy is just like any other in the history of humankind - the more reassured I feel. The more I read of the possible roadblocks, the more informed and empowered I feel to deal with them should they come to pass.

Even so, I felt the need to give the other books a try. Perhaps I may need some reassurance from a person who's been there. Maybe I'll have my emotional days when a clinical textbook will just frustrate me.

At best, I find these books tolerable. At worst, I find them far more horrifying than any of the textbooks. These books tout themselves as more "real" or down-to-earth than the drier books. They often claim that the classic texts are full of lies or that in reading them these writers were given unrealistic expectations. They then go on to tell their stories of pregnancy that include all kinds of awful circumstances.

They also talk about all kinds of emotional issues that seemed bizarre and unhealthy to me, including not wanting to gain weight, having a spouse who is too shell-shocked to help you through this tough time, or just the basic concept of not wanting to be pregnant at all. The point of such stories is obviously to point out that they were wrong and that these are things some pregnant women deal with, but the other side of this is to show that lots of people feel this way and it's normal. Personally, I felt that trumping up these issues gave them way too much power. I found myself feeling the same way other people feel about the clinical books - I don't want to read about these possible problems, they scare me.

Part of the "friendly" aspect of these books is advice on how to cope with the everyday silliness of being pregnant. Some of it is funny, some mildly helpful, but I was shocked at the things people think constitute "problems" of pregnancy that need coaching.

In one such book, there was an entire paragraph given over to the idea that you should NEVER CUT YOUR HAIR DURING PREGNANCY. Yes, they used All-CAPS, as if it were warning you about some poisonous food that would cause a miscarriage. The reason for this admonition? No matter how annoying you think your longer hair is, especially late in your term, if you cut your hair into a short style you will look fatter in the face. God forbid! That is my biggest concern right now! Give me a break.

Don't get me wrong. As stated in the beginning of this post, I understand, everyone is different. As a woman who doesn't count myself as a girly-girl, as a "girlfriend", I find this transformation into a mom intriguing. Will I take on more "feminine" qualities? If my foray into these more sensitive books are any indication, the current answer is no.


  1. Somehow I missed all the "don't cut your hair" advice in all those books - and I tended to prefer the less clinical "hang in there, we all went through some crazy stuff" books. I did get my haircut during pregnancy - twice. Once was near the end because my hair was out of control and I knew that I probably wouldn't be able to hit the salon for a while after Sadie was born. And yes, my face looked fat - but that probably had less to do with my shorter hair and more to do with the fact that my entire me had swollen up cuz there was a baby in me and crap.

    As everyone probably tells you, ignore any and all advice and info you want to ignore - including this advice :-)

  2. I would suggest looking at "The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy". The book is witty, funny and full of information. I wouldn't use it as a complete guide to pregnancy, but it's enjoyable. I sitll use it in my Reader's Advisory for pregnancy books! :D