Friday, January 4, 2013

Books for Parents

I told you yesterday that I have stuck to one resolution in my whole life. Here it is.

If you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a nerd. It's true, and I don't mind one bit.

One of my nerdiest endeavours is my book log. In 1999 I decided that I was going to resolve to read two books a month (or 24 books a year--sometimes months get hectic) starting on January 1, 2000. Because I have a terrible memory, I started writing down which books I read. Eventually the notebook entries got transferred to a spreadsheet (soooooo nerdy!) and now I have a digital log of all of the books I've read over the past 12 years.

Stop judging me. This is a safe space.

There have been a few years where I didn't reach my goal of 24 books. Other years I've greatly surpassed it. The cool thing about the log is that I can look at it and tell what was going on in my life each year. Tons of Brit. Lit? Finishing up my master's degree with back-to back Victorian literature classes. Fluffy beach reads? The year I got separated from my ex husband and spent the summer engrossed in more desirable, fictional worlds while laying on the beach. Books pertaining to pregnancy? 2012, the best year yet.

In looking back over my log, I realized that I read a lot of really interesting/ informational/funny/silly books on pregnancy and parenting and I thought I'd share some of them with you just in case your reading material is going to quickly shift from, say, Victorian literature to pregnancy and parenting books. Taking a trip to the bookstore and browsing the pregnancy/parenting aisle can be overwhelming. There are thousands of other titles that I'm sure are fantastic. These, though, are the ones that I picked up and enjoyed or found useful.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy was my pregnancy Bible for all nine months. What to Expect, another popular title. was just a little too much for me. What I liked about this book over WTE was that instead of being scary with all of the possible things that can go wrong each month, there is a very handy chart at the start of each chapter that tells readers when/if a doctor should be consulted. It's very matter of fact and calm, like talking to your supportive doctor versus consulting Web MD. (Never do that while pregnant, BTW.)

This book is huge, but laid out in a way that is manageable. Each month is laid out as a chapter or section (then broken down to weeks), so I could focus on what was happening to my body, my mind and my baby. I'd read what kinds of changes to expect, what was normal, possible and concerning. I could go on about this book for pages, but I'll spare you. I'll end with this: if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or thinking about someday having a baby, this is the one book you need. If you touch nothing else from this list, do use this book as your basic all-in-one guide.

I got Beau My Boys Can Swim for Christmas last year. He kind of glanced at it, chuckled, and tossed it aside. A few days later, though he read it. It is only 112 pages and has pictures-- little cartoon-like drawings-- so it is totally easy and quick to read. It covers all of the stuff that guys should know about pregnancy (gas, hormonal surges, delivery, etc.) in a really funny, light way.

Some of the online reviews of this book suggest that author Ian Davis is insensitive and uninformed. When I purchased the book, I realized from the (perhaps a little offensive) title that it wasn't going to be like the Mayo Clinic book. Davis uses anecdotal events from his wife's one pregnancy to help other expectant dads out. It's like a new dad taking an expecting dad out for beers and a quick preggo-primer and this is something I think lots of first time dads would like. I know Beau has had quite a few conversations about pregnancy, parenthood, and childbirth with the guys at work to get the inside scoop.

I actually read the book before giving it to Beau. Some Amazon reviews suggest that anyone who enjoys the book is a moron who shouldn't reproduce. I happen to have enjoyed it and think I am the opposite of a moron. Instead of that harsh evaluation, I can say that anyone who enjoys this book is the kind of person who makes light of serious/sometimes scary/overwhelming situations and can have fun learning. I was stoked Beau read it. (But I was also stoked when he joined me at the maternity classes for some "real" information.)

From the Hips has a lot of overlap with Mayo Clinic. With that said, I'm glad I read both. This book uses lots of anecdotal information from "Anonymoms", which I generally found to be useful. The layout is a lot more fun, modern and playful. This book is kind of like sitting around with a variety of girlfriends who have all had babies, have had a glass of wine and are telling you the truth about their experiences. The tag line says this is an "open-minded" book and I really do think it is. For example, when it discusses breastfeeding it acknowledges that breastfeeding isn't for everyone, some people just can't get started for whatever reason, pumping and some work schedules just don't work, etc.

To be honest, I stopped reading the book when I got to the delivery portion. I wasn't really ready to read the anonymom accounts of that. It scared me a little and made me want to avoid the actual birth process. I think that reaction was because of where I was in my pregnancy when I started reading that section. When I looked over that section again after having Little Man, I'm not really sure what freaked me out so much.

But then, maybe that's because my birth experience was worse than the ones that had scared me in the book...

I think I was working at Barnes and Noble when this book was first published. I didn't read it then, but I hated it. I was so annoyed that a quasi-celebrity was trying to get back into the mainstream of pop culture by writing a book. I assumed she was vapid and unfunny.

I'm kind of a B-word, that way.

After the ladies on the pregnancy forum I was a part of raved about it, I thought maybe I could let that opinion slide and check it out. I'm glad I did. Jenny McCarthy is funny. I could relate to her. (She weighed her boobs--I totally wanted to do that!)

This book is irreverent and a little pointless, but it did offer chuckles and some relief because of her brutally honest reflections on what was happening to her body. I had quite a few "Thank God I'm not the only one" moments. I think that's important during pregnancy because at times you really do feel like you are the only one. (Despite thousands of years of pregnancy and childbirth..)

This book, like the two pregnancy "guides" above, should absolutely not be read from cover to cover in one sitting. When my sister-in-law lent it to me early in my pregnancy (at about 18 weeks) and I flipped through it, she advised me to tuck it aside and refer to it as I got to each stage addressed. So, when we got on the airplane a few hours later, I tried to read it from cover to cover. I think I made it three pages. She was right. Not only is it a lot, a first time mom has no way to really relate to any of the material. It was much more effective to read as I was going through each "stage" of nursing.

After Little Man was born I asked Beau to bring this book and the breast pump to the hospital and I began reading (and pumping...). It was very helpful. Each section has been equally helpful as I reach each milestone. In fact, I referred to the book just a few weeks ago when I was trying to figure out how to introduce solid food to Little Man and still breastfeed him.

I'll come back to it when it is time to wean him, too. Very handy and usefully organized.

I would say that most parents leave the hospital with their first baby not having a clue about what to do. Beau and I felt like that. We got home, put Little Man in his crib to nap and looked at each other with a dazed look on each of our faces. What the heck do we do with this human being? How do we not screw him up? Where is the instruction manual? This book was recommended to me by Cyndi. This is her Bible of childhood. I purchased it shortly after Little Man was born when Beau and I realized we had no idea what we were doing, what we should be looking for, or what to expect. It is kind of a five year extension of a pregnancy book in that it discusses changes to expect, milestones to reach, and various kid-things. Praise God.

It has become my baby Bible. Like the pregnancy books I discussed, a portion of this book is laid out in a super friendly way--month by month which I refer to as I reach each point in Little Man's development. It also deals with other topics which are so plentiful I'm just cutting and pasting a list from the Amazon book description to spare you guys the pain of my lengthy explanation:

• Basic care from infancy through age five
• Guidelines and milestones for physical, emotional, social, and cognitive growth
• A complete health encyclopedia covering injuries, illnesses, congenital diseases, and other disabilities
• Guidelines for prenatal and newborn care with sections on maternal nutrition, exercise, and screening tests during pregnancy
• An in-depth guide to breastfeeding, including its benefits, techniques, and challenges
• A complete guide for immunizations and updated information on vaccine safety
• A guide for choosing child care programs and car safety seats
• Ways to reduce your child’s exposure to environmental hazards, such as secondhand smoke
• Sections on grandparents, building resilience, media, and multiples
• New chapters on sleep and on allergies—including food allergies
• New content on prebiotics and probiotics, organic foods, and other healthy lifestyle topics
• And much more...
(Thanks Amazon!)

This thing is just shy of a thousand pages. It is basically the instruction manual you realized you needed when you came home with your first kid. I highly recommend it. as a very handy resource.

I was going to leave Bringing Up Bebe off my list, but when I really thought about it, I wanted you to know I enjoyed this book. Not all of it. But enough of it to find it very useful and informative. More than that, it was interesting. I really enjoyed looking at motherhood in a non-American context. I think part of my interest comes from being an educator. I see the good, the bad, and the ugly results of parenting. Given the ways kids have evolved in the thirteen years I've been in the classroom, perhaps the American methodology is not working. I really wanted to see how another culture approached parenting.
This book is not a Bible, nor does it intend to be. It is a book of observations on how the French style of parenting differs from that of the American style and that there might be some wisdom in the French style. Obviously, we are not in France, so to take this book as a how-to would be silly. Instead, I encourage new parents to look at this book as a sociological study on a different parenting style. Parts of the book made me want to be French--specifically the chapter on "doing their nights" and getting kids to eat real food. (Because a culture of sleeping babies who eat real, non-chicken finger meals appeals to me.) If you read this you might find yourself adopting parts of French parenting so that you, too, can have independent, sleeping, eating, polite, mindful children.
Or, maybe, you'll chuck the French style and adopt your own methods of creating independent, sleeping, eating, polite, mindful children. That is totally possible. No one, especially the author, is saying American babies have to be rude, dependent, cretins.
I probably have other titles I could recommend. This is a good enough list to get you started.
Do you have any suggestions? What worked for you?

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