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By Jordana Bales

simg_t_o0761148574.gifWhen I was pregnant for the first time, some kind-meaning soul gave me a copy of their “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” For those of you who are not familiar with this tome (and I can only assume you have never had a baby or you’re a man) this is considered to be THE bible of maternity information books. According to the back cover it’s “America’s Best-selling Pregnancy Book” and the first page raves, this is a book that both “parents and doctors trust.” I’ll tell you one gal who will not be raving – me!

A couple years ago, when I first picked it up and thumbed through it, it seemed promising. The book was nicely organized – each month had its own chapter and had three headings “What You Can Expect At This Month’s Checkup,” “What You May Be Feeling,” and “What You May Be Concerned About.” This last heading was written in the form of questions and answers, a format I’ve always been partial too – you don’t really have to make a commitment to the book, you can just sort of meander your way through it.

However, I quickly determined that these “questions” must have been written by pessimists, neurotics and overall worriers. As someone prone to worrying, I certainly have been all of these things – but never all at once! I stumbled on this question early on in the book, “There are several stories in our family about babies who seemed fine at birth but then started to get sicker and sicker. Eventually they died in early infancy. Should I be concerned?” Well, I don’t know if you should be sister, but now I’m certainly concerned with the ultimate fate of my unborn child! Comforting thoughts for a woman in the early stages of her pregnancy.

I scanned the index and noticed topics like AIDS, Bed Rest, Living with Cervical Lacerations, Eating Disorders, and so on until I came to something that caught my eye “Oral Sex” – now that looks interesting! So I turned to p. 143 and in the “What You May Be Concerned About” section, I read “I’ve heard that oral sex is dangerous during pregnancy. Is this true?” Huh? Come again (no pun….)?? Has anyone EVER heard this? I think they actually create worries to allay our false fears. Let’s see the answer: “… safe as long as your mate is careful not to blow any air into your vagina. Doing this could force air into your bloodstream and cause an air embolism (obstructing a blood vessel), which might PROVE DEADLY <my emphasis> to both mother and baby.” Whoa Nelly. So on top of “Trouble Sleeping” and “Stretch Marks” (two topics prior to this one) I now have to worry about DEATH. Thanks, “What to Expect.”

jordana-pregger.jpgI quickly put this book down never to be looked at again…until month 9 of my second pregnancy. Since my first baby, Ava, was five weeks early, I never experienced the last month of pregnancy or labor. So I figured I should do a little research. I forgot how much I disliked this book and picked it up again. Here’s what I learned about pregnancy number 2.

On page 265 in the Ninth Month “What You May Be Concerned About” section, a fear of membranes rupturing in public is discussed. Again, something A) I’ve never worried about and B) Didn’t really need put into my head. Curious (masochistic?) for the answer, I read on. According to the authors, “One woman reportedly became so obsessed with her worry that she began carrying a jar of pickles in her hand bag, ready to be dropped at the first telltale trickle of amniotic fluid.” REALLY?? First of all, how big was her purse and secondly, why PICKLES? Wouldn’t a glass bottle of water accomplish the same goal?

Because I apparently believe in self-torture, I read on. In the “Labor and Delivery” chapter, there’s a little side bar on “Emergency Delivery if You’re Alone.” Number One? Try to remain calm. Oh, okay, thanks and HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO REMAIN CALM?? I also liked tip number six “Spread some clean towels, NEWSPAPERS <again, my emphasis>, or sheets on a bed, sofa, or the floor and lie down to await help.” The next page gives the extended dance mix version of an “Emergency Home (or Office) Delivery.” Whose office? My husband’s? The dentist’s? The book goes on to reassure me that “A dishpan or basin can be used to catch the amniotic fluid or blood.” Lovely. Do you think I could use a shattered pickle jar?

Living in New York City, six blocks from my hospital, I’m not too concerned about having an emergency birth at home. In fact, I’m going to be super-prepared and pack my hospital bag early. Hey, I bet this book can help me decide what to take! Sure enough p. 265 tells me “What to Take to the Hospital.” First item? “This book.” Last item? “A copy of “What to Expect the First Year.” No thanks. I’d rather save my money and stock up on pickles, newspapers, a dishpan and a basin

16 Responses to expecting the worst

  • Mom says:

    Jo — once again, you have expressed yourself so well! I'm glad they didn't have that book when I was preparing to get pregnant; had I read it, I would've had second thoughts … and then where would you be??

  • Robyn says:

    Hah!! I felt the same way (as I was reading it during my pregnancy) — it was very doomsday and bleak. The next time around, that book is staying on my bookshelf!

  • brenda Rosenthal says:


    To say that I enjoyed reading what you wrote would be an understatement! You really gave me a good laugh and I loved your picture. Pleas keep in touch and let me know when the event occurs.

    Love, Brenda

  • Aunt Marcia says:

    I'm waiting for the belly to empty out and Baby #2 makes an arrival. The 'April' frame is all ready for the photo, and I'll be there in May for some first class tushy tweaking in person. A girl's name – APRIL??? – love you…

  • Stacy says:

    This was a funny piece! I have heard so many complaints about those books. I am glad I never read any of them!

    Two books at the other end of the spectrum are "The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth" and "The Birth Partner" by Penny Simkin (for dads/partners, but I actually read it, too!)

    They're super-informative, supportive and definitely not neurotic! 🙂

    Best wishes with your delivery!!

  • Kelcey says:

    I like a woman who is not afraid to show a little… ok A LOT of belly! I am DYING to find out the sex. I'm putting boy out there. (PS I have a terrible track record on guessing the sex)

  • First, I have to say I cannot believe how hip the pregnant woman on the cover looks. When I bought that book (back in the dark ages), the pregnant woman was wearing a horrible smock dress and sitting in a rocking chair.

    I developed my personal antipathy for that book when it suggested that expectant mothers need to boost their nutritional profile with a healthy cup of tomato soup. Let me add that I read this info while struggling with morning sickness. To this day, the thought of tomato soup makes me gag.

    And my book did not even talk about AIDS, oral sex, or babies dying. Thank goodness.

  • Daphne says:

    The best advice I ever got was NEVER to touch those books. There's enough to worry about without their cheerful thoughts on embolisms, right?

    Jordana–you look fantastic! Good luck.

  • ErinB says:

    That book totally sucks whether you read it 20 years ago or last week.

    You look amazing- I am soooo jealous of your non-existant stretch mark belly! Mine looked like a fricken roap map. Who needed Mapquest to get to the hospital when I could just pull up my shirt- sad but true.

    Best of luck to you- we can't wait to hear the baby news!

  • Lanie says:

    I couldn 't read any of those books either – I decided that ignorance is bliss. You look great! Good luck and take care.

  • MiniMoi says:

    I was rolling on the floor laughing at this fantastic post! Thank you so much! When I fell pregnant I refused to buy any books that had photos in them and landed up with What to Expect and one other, that I highly recommend. It's called the Rough Guide to Pregnancy and it was funny and fabulous. Just what I needed. Every mom-to-be should have one – http://www.amazon.com/Rough-Guide-Pregnancy-Birth

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