By Jordana Bales
When 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.”
I 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