Are you wondering what to read when you are pregnant? Some pregnant women seem to sleep best beside a massive pile of books. Ironically, seeing as I spend a lot of time writing material for pregnant women, I find myself often counseling women to read less rather than more. Or rather “read smarter, not harder.” It’s important to leave time to listen, feel, and live. You need to be choosy. Reading in pregnancy should help you accomplish something beneficial:
- Inspire vision of a strong and healthy family.
- Build your confidence.
- Teach you to trust and work with your body.
- Offer effective ideas for how to care for yourself or your partner.
- Increase your joy and awe.
- Strengthen knowledge and understanding of your baby.
- Help you clarify the purpose of parenting and your dreams for your baby.
- Help you develop self-care skills & life/work/wellbeing balance.
- Enhance supportive relationships.
- Empower positive birthing.
- Orient you to options and tools.
- Arm you with evidence-based information applicable to hot debates.
There are a wealth of incredible books that will help you do these things. Unfortunately, there are even more books that are mediocre at best. A lot of the top pregnancy literature does little more than help take the surprise out of what you will encounter from the standard American pregnancy/birth/parenting experience. The status quo is not good enough.
While being prepared for what to expect pacifies our anxieties, it doesn’t do anything to build a brighter reality for you or your baby. Our culture is failing to empower new families to be well and thrive. If you approach the childbearing year passively – reading the mainstream books, watching made-for-TV deliveries, and expecting your doctor to get you through the birth process – you are preparing yourself for the status quo experience.
The possibilities are so much greater. Pregnancy and birth, or the adoption process, are so much more than the sum of their parts. They are natural catalysts for self-growth and maturation. The physical impact of pregnancy and birth on our lives, and our baby’s life, can be great.
It is useful to prepare both your body and self. Becoming a parent brings incredible change into one’s life. During the adjustment period that begins before birth and continues throughout the first year, powerful patterns of self-talk, perspective, and beliefs about the world are being formed. Relationship roles and priorities are being established. And the health outcomes during your birth may have lasting impacts.
The milieu around expectant families matters! And you are largely in charge of what you bring in through the written word. Language is never neutral – it shapes how we think. Choose your reading with great care. In addition to information, books reveal entire belief systems. The emotional context of new information and learning makes a bigger impression than information itself. Read material that enlivens and empowers intentionality.
Books should inspire you to create a life of significance and community. Many books in the US over-emphasizes fear, discomforts, and embarrassment. These themes lay a foundation for anxiety, isolation, whining, and burnout. Some books foster connection, confidence, and nurturing, while others promote self-pity and competition in a real vacuum of practical information on wellness or purpose. Here are some examples of cultural beliefs about pregnancy prevalent in pregnancy books:
- Pregnancy = Ordeal. It’s a pain in the butt, but you just have to get through it.
- Mothering is about being ever vigilant about the dangers everywhere and keeping our baby safe, safe, safe.
- Birth is a disgrace. Your best bet is to rely on medicine to numb you completely so you can keep your dignity intact.
- The marks of pregnancy – weight gain, stretch marks, and so on – are a necessary evil. Cover them up and get rid of them as soon as possible. Beauty looks like a young girl.
- It’s a woman thing. Men should just keep quiet and do what they are asked.
These beliefs can also be found in the better, more empowering pregnancy books:
- You are the last link in a chain of 10,000 successful births.
- Experience increases a woman’s depth, mystery, uniqueness, and magnetism. The more you learn and experience in life, the more amazing you become.
- Relationships are living and need to grow. Your changing needs and insights water relationships and spur them to develop and mature.
- Each parent leads and serves the family in significant ways. When each contributes to their fullest, the family potential is completely actualized.
- Pregnancy, birth, adopting, and parenting all are best served by a combination of your personal conscious determination to take charge and apply yourself to this meaningful work, and also by your choice to trust and be carried by faith or love.
I trust that you can see for yourself that reading material steeped in the first set of beliefs will impact you in different ways than literature promoting the second. It is crucial that you realize the power of belief. Books can have a positive or deleterious impact on a woman’s self-concept at a time when she can be stepping into her strength very powerfully. Men are equally served or unserved. And ultimately, as parents, our awareness and personal health profoundly impact our babies.
So go for the good reads for pregnancy! Always ask yourself, “What is the point of reading this? What will it help me do?” Broaden your pregnancy reading goals to include learning about the impact of early life experiences for your baby. Become aware of your baby’s needs and how to meet them. Read about healthy families. Read about inspired women. Read about involved and effective fathers.
You do need good birth information. Birth is a high impact event, and your choices in birth make a profound difference. But birth is also just a gateway to the far more lasting world of parenting and carving out a good life while raising little ones. These are all themes you will do well to explore – and a good book can be a wonderful companion for the journey.