So this guy emails me about a month ago and asks if I want to do some shilling for the "What To Expect" brand. You know, What To Expect When You're Expecting--the pregnancy Bible--and a number of other titles that deal with post-pregnancy (i.e. child-rearing), as well as a website that has tons of articles and resources for pregnancy and beyond.
I was pretty flattered that they would be interested in marketing their stuff on my blog, and wondered why any reputable operation would want to be associated with what I do here. After a while (a really long time, actually) it dawned on me that on my Blogger profile, I included What To Expect When You're Expecting among my favorite books, along with a couple kids' books and William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch. I was just trying to be funny.
But honestly, when I made up my profile, What To Expect When You're Expecting (heretofore referred to as WTEWYE because I'm sick and tired of typing out that long-ass title) was the most recent grownup book I had read. And then, as now, I recommended it to anyone expecting to expect something, especially one or more children.
Reading WTEWYE, it dawned on me that it's really a Sex Ed text for graduate students in the discipline. It made me recall my first exposure to the Sex Ed genre, a children's book with cartoon figures approximating what happens "when a man and a woman want to get as close to each other as they can," tossed to me by my dad after a perfunctory introduction ("Uh...your mom and I think you should read this") when I was in the fourth grade. Then I thought of the fifth grade assembly when our P.E. teacher, Mr. Moyer, showed us a film and afterward, in his deep Virginia drawl, fielded some anonymously penned questions from the crowd. He answered two of the queries ("No, boys can not have periods," and "It is very unlikely that you would urinate during intercourse") before concluding, "I believe the rest of these questions should be answered in the home."
Of course, WTEWYE is light years beyond the basics of how to not get your classmates pregnant. As amazing as it is to learn about sex for the first time, the process of pregnancy blows it out of the water: it seems as unlikely as any science fiction plot dreamed up by teenage fanboys obsessed with engorged breasts.
WTEWYE explains this extremely complicated process of pregnancy in a way that is easy for the layperson to understand, and it does so without coming off as condescending. The writing is straightforward and familiar, as if your really smart friend were laying out all the facts for you. It's also very frank about risks without ever being even slightly alarmist, and that kept me alert, but not paranoid. (I have talked to a couple people who didn't want to read WTEWYE when they were expecting because they thought they would be freaked out by knowing about the risks inherent with certain stages of pregnancy. To me, it seems crazy to deny yourself information. Whatevz.)
What I really appreciated about WTEWYE is that, even though it's clearly directed primarily at women, as they are statistically much more likely to become pregnant, it doesn't exclude male readers at all. The edition I read even had a regular segment about what dudes could do to be helpful or at least not make things any worse. I have thumbed through some of the very gendered books about pregnancy (Girlfriend's Guide, Caveman's Pregnancy Companion, e.g.), and found them only mildly amusing, and more than a little annoying. In contrast, for me, the tone of WTEWYE was for the most part pitch-perfect.
So there you have my full endorsement, without reservations. As if they need it: 93% of preggos who use any kind of pregnancy guide read WTEWYE. I guess the What To Expect marketing geniuses figured tastemakers like me (*coughbullshitcough*) could convert the other whatever percent is left after you do the math. Instead, I'm going to take this opportunity to mock the Pregnancy Bible, the Koran of Conception, the Gestation Dissertation. With great affection, of course.
The edition of WTEWYE that my wife and I read was a hand-me-down from a friend, and was a bit dated. It included a nutrition section called "The Best Odds Diet," which is not what they call it in the new version. In fact, the new edition tells the reader that there are many ways to eat well during pregnancy, and they don't have to follow a particular diet. So my mockery is anachronistic. But still.
Unlike the nutrition advice in the latest edition, The Best Odds Diet laid out a very strict regimen of self-denial in the interest of fetal health and maintenance of mom's girlish figure. My resourceful wife, however, quickly found another reliable expert who argued that in the case of multiples, an expectant mother should eat whatever the hell she craves in order to bring those babies to term. Dr. Mom lustily followed the latter advice and carried our girls for 37 weeks, working full-time well into the third trimester. But we sometimes read the Best Odds Diet just for laughs.
And the thing in that old edition of WTEWYE that really won me over was a suggestion for dealing with "intimacy issues" later in the pregnancy. It recommended that, rather than intercourse, an amorous couple might consider enjoying a milkshake in bed. It would be just as romantic, but not as uncomfortable.
Then it told us to turn to the page with the recipe for the Best Odds milkshake. I don't think there was even any milk or yogurt in it, much less sugar and cream. It was an ascetic blend of frozen bananas, ice, flax seed, and like some twigs and grass, I think. The recipe was as sensual as a quarterly financial report.
So, you are hoping to knock pregnant boots till the break of dawn, but instead you end up in bed with a mug of frozen mirthlessness.
You might think that this would have eroded some of the credibility the book had in my estimation. On the contrary, it made me love the book even more. It was just trying so damn hard! And its intentions were so good. All it wanted was for us to do everything we could to keep ourselves and our babies as healthy as possible. And the latest edition wants the same thing. It just doesn't demand as much self-denial.
Okay. Now. Back to my full disclosure. The guy from What To Expect asked me to write a review and/or include a link to the WTE website in exchange for providing some books for me to give my readers, as well as copies for me to review. I asked if I could have some copies to donate to my wife's clinic instead. (My wife is a doc at a community clinic where most of the patients are uninsured or covered by public programs, and don't have a lot of resources.) So he said how about we give a bunch of books to the clinic and give some away to your readers? And I was all, cool.
So, to make it interesting, I decided to turn this into a contest. If you don't expect to be expecting, and you don't want any of these books, I still encourage you to play the game, just for laughs. Also, remember that these books make great gifts for your knocked up friends or new parents that you know.