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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Note to Expectant Mothers: Ignore the Experts (Except This One, Of Course)

Registered nurse Tori Kropp has some words of wisdom for expectant mothers: Stop overwhelming yourself with expert advice. It's a funny statement considering she's the expert behind The Joy of Pregnancy, which doles out an awful lot of information and counsel. So, obviously, she's not saying mothers-to-be need to steer clear of the library's Pregnancy/Childbirth section - she's simply advising women to calm down and trust their own instincts to guide them through their pregnancies. And read her book, of course.
The Joy of Pregnancy professes to be "The Complete, Candid, and Reassuring Companion for Parents-To-Be," and I think that's an apt description. The book is divided into 10 chapters, one for each month of a typical pregnancy plus one discussing postpartum issues. Each section contains information on how the baby is developing during the given month; the changes the mother's body is undergoing; and other subjects that commonly crop up at that point in pregnancy. Also included are Q & As, advice just for fathers-to-be and helpful illustrations. Kropp does write candidly, and offers plenty of reassurance in the form of statistics, research studies, and stories from her own experience as a nurse and a mother.

While The Joy of Pregnancy offers heaps of helpful information, most of it is geared toward first-time mothers. I did learn a few things I didn't know (even after 3 pregnancies), but most of Kropp's suggestions were ones I had heard before. Although this guide is very thorough, offering more and better information than other manuals, it also lacks the quick, conversational tone that makes books like The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy and the What to Expect volumes so readable. Don't get me wrong - it's an excellent resource, just not my favorite pregnancy guide.

For me, the most engaging part of The Joy of Pregnancy was the introduction when Kropp explains how she decided to write the book. She talks about how often she helped pregnant women who had read so many guides and taken so many childbirth classes that "they were trusting a variety of writers and other 'experts' more than they trusted themselves" (xii). This made them so tense about the experience that Kropp feared women were forgetting to enjoy their pregnancies. Kropp decided to change things in her own practice, advising women to stop reading piles of pregnancy books, and giving them permission to "relax and enjoy pregnancy rather than dissect it and figure it all out" (xiii). I love this idea.

So, while I prefer the What to Expect books more than this one, I still recommend The Joy of Pregnancy as an excellent resource for first-time mothers. It's got tons of great information as well as a relaxed, reassuring focus. Although Tori Kropp likes to trash the experts, I have to say she is one I would suggest listening to.

Grade: B

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