Because I Cannot Leave Well Enough Alone

I was curious about the assertions about What to Expect When You’re Expecting being a dangerous book full of misinformation. So I did some Google searches.

I know, it’s not the best way to research something, but I’m kinda short on time these days.

Here are some of the Google search results:

search term: what to expect when you’re expecting harmful

search term: medical community recommends against what to expect when you’re expecting

search term: what to expect when you’re expecting has misinformation

Most of what I found lead to reviews at Amazon, sites about the book itself (not exactly an unbiased source), and a link that was provided in the comments here.

I did not come across an AMA site, or a peer-reviewed article in a medical journal, or even a blog or site by a health care professional. No, I did not “drill down” through all the pages. I want to spend a little time with my husband this weekend.

Readers either reviled this book or loved it and found it a great source of information. Wikipedia does mention that the books has sparked controversy.

I will admit, because I am a big girl, that I did not realize that the primary author is not a medical professional. She’s just a mom, and a writer. There are plenty of sites related to the book where she goes on and on about why she wrote What to Expect (she had a lot of questions, and didn’t feel she was getting the answers she wanted). That is definitely a interesting factoid, and I think if that were more widely known, this book would have fewer readers. I mean, give me a book by health care professionals, please. (For the record, the author of another pretty popular book, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, is an M.D. and M.P.H.)

The following is my opinion: I do not think the authors of these pregnancy books mean to be fear-mongering, paranoid-inducing, misleading jerks. I think the kind of mother — like myself for the record — who wants to be informed about her pregnancy, especially the first one, may also be the kind of mother who is going to worry and fret about some of that information that she has discovered. I remember telling women I knew who got pregnant after me: “There is such a thing as too much information.” I think in terms of pregnancy this is true.

What to Expect… can be a very scary book because it does talk about what can go wrong (as does Pregnancy Week by Week). DearDR can tell you about how I called him up after reading the chapter that should have been called “All the Awful Things that May Possibly Happen to You or the Baby, and Then You May Actually Die”. I was freaking out.

But I’ll reiterate: I don’t think the authors meant to freak out the mothers who tend to be worriers anyway. And based on the few comments I read, the two camps were moms who loved this book and thought it was full of great information, and the moms who thought it was scary as hell.

And I find it hard to believe that one of top-selling, most trusted name brands in pregnancy and childhood information is full of factually harmful guidelines.

I liked What to Expect (except for that aforementioned chapter). I read a number of other mothering and birth books, including Week by Week, and a number of natural birth and breastfeeding books. I am a gatherer of information. Ask my midwives.

Did I “follow” any book slavishly? No. I’m more about informed decision making (thank you, Michelle) than hewing to any one or only one way of doing anything, let alone mothering. It’s probably why I’m a better cook than a baker.

What did you read when you were pregnant, if anything? What did you recommend to other to-be moms?

Anyway, I am absolutely exhausted; the girls have gotten up much too early this Saturday morning, and they are crying and screaming at me. We are all very, very cranky. Better get some coffee on.

As usual, I welcome concise comments that are not flaming. Thank you.

6 thoughts on “Because I Cannot Leave Well Enough Alone

  1. During pregnancy, I read Dr Sears Pregnancy Book and Sheila Kitzinger’s Complete book of Pregnancy and Childbirth. I found both informative, Dr Sears very reassuring and Kitzinger empowering…although I was disappointed that I had to deliver by c section both times due to hypertension. I also read Dr Sears Baby Book, as well as What To Expect the First Year, and the Boston Children’s Hospital Guide to Childhood Development. I liked Dr Sears re: breastfeeding and problem solving suggestions re: going back to work, sleep, etc. I think he encourages parents to use their intuition and do what works for the whole family. I liked the developmental milestone info in What to Expect and Boston Children’s, as well as Boston’s references on illness and when to call the doctor. I refer to all the books at different times for different reasons, as well as using the internet. Information gathering, right?

  2. I read What To Expect, Girlfriend’s Guide and a few other I cannot remember . When I was 4 month pregnant with my first kid, I threw all the books away and went to France for a couple of weeks where I ate unpasteurized cheese, raw oysters, and drank the wine (all in moderation, of course, no?). Did you know that French waiters freak out when you tell them :”Non, merci. Je suis enceinte de quatre mois.” Evidently it’s too much info.

  3. I referred to What to Expect frequently through all 4 of my pregnancies. I loved the information that it gave me. Unfortunately I glossed over the “what could go wrong” chapters because apparently I thought it would never apply to me. It would have helped to be a little more prepared on some points. But that’s clearly my fault and not that of the book. Hi, I’m an Idiot.

  4. I read a lot, including What to Expect, because that’s how I choose to research. I think relying on any one book is dangerous, so I read everything and took a critical eye to it all.

    For example, EVERYTHING I read said to avoid heat, and What to Expect said explicitly to avoid Bikram Yoga. However, I could not find any scientific merit for this, and I was aware of many women who did Bikram during their pregnancies. As a result, I chose to continue my practice. I did yoga in a 105 degree room about 2 times a week up until 5 days before I gave birth. (I was actually planning to go the night I gave birth, but the whole water-breaking thing changed my plans.) In the end the midwife said it was probably the yoga that made for my relatively easy and fast birth. (4 cm to baby in less than 4 hours. No drugs, just jacuzzi…see, I’m addicted to heat.)

    And, yes, I now have a son. He was 7 lbs, 11 ounces and 21.25 inches long. I am very tired and very happy. I hope to someday do some mommy blogging, but I don’t spend much time online right now. (I’m only free now because my parents are here.)

  5. @Hope: I think I read that Kitzinger book, too. I also read Dr. Sears. As well as the ones in this post. And, my all-time fav, Dr. Spock. He’s probably the author I recommend the most. Well, him and The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy!

    @N: Viva la francais! (I think. High school French is far behind me.) And thank you for passing the Girlfriend’s Guide onto me. That book is a riot!

    @Karen, sweetie, you are so not an idiot! *shaking stern finger* The books worked for you just fine, and just the way they were supposed to. How do we prepare for “surprises” anyway?

    Just because I read that horrible, horrible chapter, I certainly wasn’t prepared either. ((hug))

    @Gina: I loved the Girlfriend’s Guide. It was handed down to me, and I know I passed it on, too.

    @Kim: Good for you to do the research and trust your instincts in what was right for you. And CONGRATULATIONS, sweetie. Jealous of the quick birth! None of my deliveries would be considered easy, and I had to be induced each time. It’s all on the blog somewhere, if you care to check around. Although, you are going to be a little busy now! As a matter of fact, you should be in bed, young lady! If the baby’s sleeping, sleep. That’s the best advice I got, and that’s what I usually tell the new moms I know. Especially while your mom’s there!

    Hope you’ll get pics up. I’ll visit your blog when I can — right now, I have about six loads of laundry to fold in the other room!

    Thanks for the comments!


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