Reading is my thing. More than writing is my thing, really, because I can always read and it always makes me feel more whole and centered; whereas writing can often make me feel fidgety and unsettled. With reading, someone else has already done the fidgeting.
When I first became pregnant, all I could think about, all I wanted to think about, was the pregnancy. I think by dwelling on it so compulsively, I was helping myself to really feel its reality. Because for a long while during pregnancy, it felt like a hypothetical. Right up until he started dancing on my bladder, in fact.
So reading about pregnancy and motherhood was my natural way of doing my favorite thing and thinking about pregnancy, all at the same time.
At first I got all the normal books. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and its ilk. But I quickly realized that a) all that information is available online, and b) it’s not just what to expect, it’s also what-is-unlikely-but-could-possibly-happen-so-be-scared, and I was already paranoid enough without feeding it with a 1,000-page book. So I branched out and started reading books that were more memoir than manual. And I found they were what I needed to really look forward — beyond my swelling belly and the neatly folded pre-washed tiny clothes — to the reality barreling its way toward us.
Here are my favorites:
This book is a collection of letters written by a seasoned mother to her pregnant young friend. It’s advice and memory, hopes and warnings. It’s the musings of a poet and writer who has struggled but succeeded in pairing motherhood with creativity and in carving out her own identity within the chaos. It’s beautifully written and will never tell you what vegetable your baby currently resembles.
“Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family”
This is a book to make you laugh. If you already have kids, so much the better — you’ll be able to relate to so many of the anecdotes about the author’s son. If you’re expecting your first, then it’s one to get you excited for the madness. She captures beautifully the equal parts of joy and neuroses that come with motherhood. And the best bit? She has a blog, so the book never really has to end.
“Bringing up Bébé” is the story of an American woman raising her child in France and all her observations on French parenting. It’s one to read when you’re expecting — to get all excited about how your child will eat all the vegetables, be crazy polite, and sleep through the night by four months — and then to re-read two years after your kid is born so you can laugh at your naïveté. This book suggests that the French don’t do “sleep training,” they just allow a “pause” before tending to their child. I’d suggest that that “pause” is about five minutes then 10 then 15 until the child is asleep. That said, I’ve used the tip about feeding them veggies when they’re hungry/before the “main course,” and it works.
This novel by Curtis Sittenfeld has absolutely nothing to do with pregnancy, but it’s one of my favorite books ever, and everyone should read it, pregnant or not.
What are you reading/what did you read when you were pregnant?