If you’ve been paying close attention to my LibraryThing account over the past year – I am assuming I am the only one who has – you might have noticed a new category of books making an appearance. And that category is: pregnancy and parenting! If you’re in the same boat, here are four books on the topic that I found to be accessible, informative, useful, and occasionally even funny.
Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy (2007): Recommended to me by a co-worker who emphatically does not plan on having children herself, Birth has the dubious honor of being the only book I have ever had to set aside while eating. There are some truly gruesome bits, but mostly it’s fascinating: birth went from being entirely in the female sphere, with relatives, friends, and midwives to assist in labor, to a medical event that most commonly occurs in a hospital with a doctor (a male doctor, until relatively recently). What is “normal” has changed dramatically over time, including the past several decades in this country. Bonus: I learned the word “nidget,” which means “to assemble helpers for a birth.”
Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman (2014): I avoided this for a while because of the buzz, but I enjoyed the blend of memoir and research immensely. (I’m also more optimistic than I had been about possibly sleeping through the night inside of half a year.) The main difference between French and American parenting styles, it seems, is that the French don’t cater to their children’s every desire: French children learn how to wait and how to deal with the word no. On the other hand, French parents are less micro-manage-y: they believe in a framework of firm boundaries, but within that framework the kids have a lot of freedom. French society, it should be noted, supports working parents by having national daycare and preschool systems. For all the U.S.’s feminist rhetoric, there are few structures in place to help working parents.
Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood by Sandra Steingraber (2001): Perhaps you would like to be too terrified to breathe air or drink water? This is the book for you! Governments’ failure to operate according to the Precautionary Principle – chemicals are assumed to be unsafe unless proven otherwise, instead of vice versa – has led to serious contamination of air, water, and food. The higher one is in the food chain, the more toxins accumulate in one’s body. And what’s at the very top of the food chain? The human infant, whose nutrition comes from its mother (in the form of breast milk or formula). “Obviously,” she writes, “a public health policy that asks expectant mothers to give up certain foods while allowing industries to continue contaminating them is absurd.” I appreciated this blend of memoir and scientific research, even if it was nervous-making at times. For those not interested in the science, Steingraber’s description of labor and delivery, as well as the following weeks, is one of the most thorough, honest, and understandable I have read or heard.
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – And What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster (2013): A friend with a four-month-old lent me this book written by economist and mother Oster, and I would recommend it in turn to anyone who is pregnant. She explains how in many cases, weak studies have led to (flawed) conventional wisdom; she examines the best and most current research and presents her conclusions on everything from caffeine, alcohol, and fish consumption to sleep positions to epidurals. Oster’s research-based approach (“more information is better than less”) is both satisfying and reassuring.
Are you a parent, parent-to-be, or a librarian who advises parents? What are your recommended books?