DURING MY PREGNANCY, NO STRANGER WAS brazen enough to walk up and touch my belly. But everyone from my sister-in-law to the checkout guy at Home Depot offered advice.
Some of it was valuable (Cherry Mylanta is great for pregnancy heartburn). Some things I figured out on my own (lying on your stomach just feels wrong). Some I had to disregard (baby oil--to prevent stretch marks--gave me a rash).
When you're pregnant, people seem to feel they can comment on your condition, appearance, and behavior. At one point I shared an elevator with a woman who asked my due date. When I told her it was two months away, she looked shocked. "Oh, my God! Are you having twins?"
Then there's the competition with other pregnant women: Who's gaining more or less weight (too much and too little are both bad). Who's playing Baby Einstein DVDs for her fetus.
Some pregnancy books, rather than providing information and reassurance, can make women feel inadequate. They imply that if you don't avoid certain foods and situations and if you don't do the right exercises, you're an unfit mother. The classic What to Expect When You're Expecting is almost too thorough, with its alarming presentation of pregnancy as a nine-month affliction (hemorrhoids! backaches! heartburn!) and unrealistically strict nutritional guidelines.
There's good advice out there, too. Here are my favorite books, magazines, and Web sites, which can help you through those scary but amazing nine months.
The Pregnancy Book: Month-by-Month, Everything You Need to Know From America's Baby Experts by William Sears, Martha Sears, and Linda Holt. If you want good, month-by-month coverage of pregnancy, this book won't scare or berate you. There's a lot of information, including an explanation of prenatal tests and a rundown of Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic-floor muscle to aid in labor and speed postpartum recovery. The main authors--a husband-wife, doctor-nurse team with a large family--have a touchy-feely approach, and some of the first-person testimonials are corny. But their attitude is soothing and down-to-earth.
Pregnancy for Dummies by Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, and Mary Murray. Get past the goofy Dummies format and you'll find sound advice, though not the detail of the Sears book. In a reassuring, realistic voice, the authors point out that most women have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. Stone and Eddleman, both New York obstetricians, have a sense of humor; they debunk myths (babies that kick more in utero do not have more hair).
Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine. Wife of a music producer and mother of four, the chatty, blunt Iovine doesn't take herself or pregnancy too seriously. She disdains the gooey, birth-as-miracle approach. This isn't meant as an all-encompassing guide. There's no month-by-month analysis or breakdown by trimester; rather, Iovine offers a sisterly voice of reason about the overall experience. One drawback: Her fashion tips are pretty outdated. (Stirrup pants?) But Girlfriends' Guide is good reading for any pregnant woman in need of some common sense and a good laugh.
Magazines and Web Sites
Fit Pregnancy magazine (available at bookstores and newsstands) has articles about health and beauty, exercise suggestions, news of pregnant celebrities, product reviews, fashion spreads, nursery-decorating ideas, and features on topics like breastfeeding and postpartum depression. The tone is sassy, the layout is clean and appealing, and the maternity clothes and nursery tips are cute. The Web site, www.fitpregnancy.com, includes some of the published material as well as message boards.
The tabloid Washington Parent is available both online (www.washingtonparent.com) and in print (it's free, distributed at Toys "R" Us, Whole Foods, Borders, Zany Brainy, libraries, and newsboxes). You'll find articles, bulletin boards, and calendars for new and expecting parents. Features might cover moms'-club meetings around the region, finding breastfeeding support and supplies, and the influence of music on children.
Babycenter.com is a good source of information. You can enter your due date and get weekly e-mails about what's happening in your body. You'll find answers to almost any question, from what to wear to an office holiday party to the "Is It Safe?" page, which addresses concerns about everything from deli meats to beauty treatments to using photocopiers.
Babyzone.com, another all-purpose Web site, has a section devoted to new fathers' concerns, including sex during and after pregnancy. See www.babyzone.com/parenting/fatherhood.