Book Review: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

what to expect

It’s THE book. Everyone’s heard of it and most people with kids have read it. There’s even a movie of it? More accurately there’s a movie that uses the same title. I’m pretty sure it’s not an adaptation of the book. And I don’t have plans to see it, haha.

Overall, I liked this book. I know a lot of moms who don’t like it, though I’m not sure of their reasons. Most people I know who don’t like it are really in to alternative medicine and all natural lifestyle, but all of those things can be found in this book. They’re not exclusive, and the book is full of information on traditional medicine and c-sections and everything else too. I think it does a really good job of giving you a nice overview of, well, what you can expect.

So if you only read one book while you’re pregnant… well, maybe not this one. While it’s great at giving a broad overview of what’s going on in the womb, what symptoms you may have, complications, and labor and delivery in a variety of situations, I would say it still leaves a lot up to you to research and figure out for yourself. Maybe that’s why ads for other books in the “What to Expect” series are sprinkled throughout every chapter.

Now I will say this: if you only read one book on being pregnant – that is, one specifically talking about the nine months you have a baby in your tummy – this is a great choice! It covers the baby’s development in-depth, and also gives in-depth lists of symptoms which is great for when you’re wondering what’s normal and what you need to call the doctor about. Once it gets in to labor and delivery, though, it starts to feel very rushed. Terms fly by with little explanation and I found myself reaching for my phone to google things a lot in this section.


The book is called “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” which I suppose doesn’t promise a lot of info on labor and delivery itself, but I thought it was kind of a drag to get to the end and not have more info on that. It broadly covers a lot of things I guess, but it reads as if it expects you to have already gone through a labor and delivery class, and this is just an overview. So if this is going to be your “one book,” be sure to sign up for the labor and delivery classes offered at your local hospital so that you’re sure to get all the information you need.

My favorite thing about this book BY FAR was the week-by-week guide to pregnancy. You can actually get this for free in the form of the “What to Expect” app. Each week you can watch a video covering what’s going on with your baby, what’s growing that week, and what milestones they hit. I actually read the book AND watch all the videos as they come. It’s a lot of fun. For instance, this week (25) my baby’s nostrils opened up, and now baby is practicing breathing. That’s cool to know! It also lets you know how big the baby is in lbs, length, and comparison to a fruit/veggie.


If you don’t get the book, do get the app. On top of being fascinating and fun, it’s also a great way to keep track of how many weeks along you are.  I’m always forgetting and it’s nice to just click and get the answer. It even includes days – today I’m 25 weeks and 5 days along. Convenient.

I also love the run down it gives of what to expect at each doctors appointment, and what the various tests are looking for. It’s also helpful to know what all they test for every visit, and what tests are only done once or twice. That way, if you’re feeling a symptom and you look it up on google and it says it might be some scary complication or illness, you can check how they test for it. Oh, they look at the level of protein in my urine? Well, we do that every time I come in. It must not be that! It can save you a lot of worry to be in the know.


Just one criticism of this area though – different doctors do different things, so sometimes the appointment run-downs can be WAY off. You may to certain tests way earlier or way later or not at all. This is just one of many reasons you should read the book as much as you can, and not just save each chapter to read month by month as your pregnancy goes along. The book is set up to encourage you to “read as you go” so to speak, but I think it’s much more beneficial to read ahead so that you actually know “what to expect!”

This is one of the biggest problems with the book. It is set up to read week by week, beginning before you get pregnant. And I guess cramming in the entire labor and delivery section in one long read. And there’s even some chapters for after the baby has arrived. This is just one example of how you kind of need to know what to do with this book to make it really “work.” Ignore the books instructions for reading it – just read it. In fact, when the book gives you specific instructions PERIOD, you probably need to ignore it.


This brings me to “the pregnancy diet.” A large chunk of this book is devoted to healthy eating – which is nice if it were more accurate. Rather than suggesting healthy habits, the book outlines a detailed plan of what you need to eat and when, a guide to counting calories, and a specific weight gain goal you should have during your pregnancy. It’s all bunk.

My doctor asked me early on in my pregnancy if I planned to read this book. I said yes and he said “That’s fine. It’s a good book. But ignore the diet section and the weight gain. If you gained as much weight and consumed the calories the book recommends, your baby will very likely be overweight and you may need a c-section if they get too big to deliver.”


The book says itself that the idea of “eating for two” is a myth, but looking at the calorie counts and weight gain recommendation says otherwise. It’s just way too much. The book also heavily promotes the “six mini meals” idea instead of 3 square meals a day. While I think that idea may be good in some situations, especially when you just don’t have an appetite, it is not a healthy habit. As one of my favorite bloggers, the Homeschooling Doctor, explained to me (and I hope I get this right) eating all day puts your body in a constant state of digestion. This can be distressing for your system, plus it takes up energy to constantly digest. Being pregnant I can promise you that I’ve never had less energy in my life, so using extra to burn calories all day instead of giving myself digestion breaks does not sound like a good idea.

Basically all you need to know is that the idea of six mini meals being healthier than three square is as much of a myth as the old saying that you’re “eating for two.”


Now, you don’t need to skip clear over the diet section of the book. One thing that is very helpful is that it lists basic elements that a healthy diet needs and how much per day, and then goes on to list good food sources for these elements. For instance, protein. I had an incident recently of dizzy spells and near fainting, and the doctor said I needed protein STAT. Well, I knew right there in my book I had a handy list of over a dozen foods with high protein. How very helpful! So there is some good information in there, just take it with a grain of salt.

There will be some sections in the book that you can skip. For instance, the preparing to concieve section is pretty dull reading if you’ve already conceived. I read it anyway because I’m a completionist. But the book itself says that if you’re already pregnant then just skip ahead.


Don’t always trust what the book says to skip, though! At the end, there’s a section on complications that it passionately says NOT TO READ unless you’re diagnosed with them. I can understand how reading about these things makes a mom prone to worry, but this section isn’t written like it’s for someone who’s been diagnosed already. Along with basic definitions of many terms, it also lists info on how some complications can be prevented. Well that’s no good to me if I’ve been diagnosed already!

In my mind, knowing a bit about what might go wrong is less likely to cause unnecessary stress and more likely to be a comfort if I find myself in that situation. For instance, I’m not planning on having a c-section unless it’s an emergency. But I still read every bit of the book that talked about c-sections and I’m even planning on taking the c-section class. If an emergency arises, there won’t be time to explain anything, so I need to know now. Isn’t that the essence of knowing “what to expect?!”


Another good thing about reading that section even though the book said not to was reading about the different kinds of miscarriage. Why? Well, early on in our fertility journey, something showed up on an ultrasound. We never did figure out what it was. It wasn’t a baby. The doctor said it looked a bit like the sac, but there didn’t seem to be an embryo anywhere. I was having endo surgery anyway and we had it removed then as well. The doctor said it was possibly a miscarriage, but he was hesitant to call it that when we weren’t sure and it’s such an emotionally charged word. Well, in my reading I found that there is a thing called a blighted ovum, which is when a fertilized egg starts making a sac but never makes an embryo. For me, that was a comfort. To some people, it may not have been, but to me it seemed like there had simply never been a baby there. To me, it seemed no one had died and that it was just a false start.

We need to move away from the idea that “lay people” don’t need to understand illness and medical terms. Knowing your body is such a comfort, and knowing how illnesses and complications work is just as much of a comfort. Shame on you, What to Expect, for encouraging ignorance. I’m getting a little soap boxy here but this is what this entire blog is about so I can’t glaze over it. Education is a comfort, it’s ignorance that leads to fear. Not knowledge. READ THE CHAPTER. That’s the moral of this story.

Things got a little serious there. Want to see something funny? Surprisingly, What to Expect has an awful lot of this going on:

incest what to expect when youre expecting pregnancy cousins

Is this information requested a lot or…?

Anyway, moving on. There is an entire section at the end dedicated to pregnancy and chronic illness! Points for that! I went in to it expecting to be disappointed but I was actually very impressed at the variety of illnesses they covered and the information on how these illnesses can affect pregnancy! They covered fibromyalgia, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, and even IBS just to name a few. No PCOS or endometriosis though. I know this book isn’t exhaustive but come on, I think there are more people with endometriosis than there are people marrying their cousins. I’M JUST SAYING.

Speaking of endo though, the book does mention it. But it lists it as the “most common postpartum infection.” Which is EXTREMELY misleading and also not even true. It might be true of c-sections, but pregnancy most often cures endo rather than causing it. Plus they make it sound like its something that can be treated with antibiotics – it’s not. It’s also not a short term problem, it’s a chronic illness. This one sentence kind of ruined the whole book for me. I mean it’s presented as a fact and there’s just no basis to it. It made me wonder about the rest of the book.


So that’s another reason that I say to ignore any outright instruction in this book. At least some of it just isn’t true. The week-by-week pregnancy tracking is fun and harmless and there are a lot of things in this book that I know are right because I’ve heard them from my doctor or from labor classes. I’ll say the same thing I said about Healthy Baby, Toxic World: it’s a good guide book of things to think about and research for yourself. I think that most people have no idea where to begin in pregnancy. They don’t know what they should know, so they don’t know what to ask. This book is great at introducing you to the most basic info. Pregnancy 101.

But in my opinion, pregnancy is such a special time and there is so much to know about it that you shouldn’t just read one book about it. You should google things and read blogs and talk to your doctor in-depth. If you are wanting to find an all-in-one book, well, I haven’t found such a thing yet. I think What to Expect is a great starting point, but the idea that it’s the Bible of pregnancy and all that is way overblown. Remember that in addition to flat out mistakes (yes I’m still made about the endo bit!) medical technology advances every day. My copy was from 2008, the 4th edition, but that’s still SEVEN YEARS old! A lot has changed! Get the latest info, take in-person classes, find out what’s been proven and what hasn’t and what the jury’s still out on. Life is so complicated and amazing. It’s worth learning about!


So take a look at What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Take it with a grain of salt. Use your critical thinking skills and don’t blindly trust everything you read – that goes for any book. Since this book is so popular, you can find it at the used book store for almost nothing, and while I do have some harsh criticism of some things, remember that there was a lot of usefulness I got out of it, too. It’s a pretty good deal all around.

Pregnancy Update: 25 Weeks and Gender Predictions

It’s been a while since I checked in on the pregnancy front! And what a big front it is. I’m currently sporting a tummy the size of a soccer ball. I need to do another bump pic soon.

I haven’t had a sonogram in a while, and I was kind of thinking I’d do pregnancy updates with sonogram pics, but they’re fewer and more far between than I thought. I don’t miss them too much, though, because as much as I would love to see baby, I can feel them 24/7 now. So I know baby is always there and they’re not an imaginary friend.

Right now baby is about the size of a rutabaga, but if you’re like me and you don’t handle a lot of rutabagas you’ll appreciate knowing that they are about 1.7 pounds and 9 inches long. Baby will be arriving in less than 3 months, which is crazy!

We’re waiting to let the gender be a delivery room surprise, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been enjoying the gender guessing game.

So far, we have two strong arguments for each gender.

The first was just after we found out we were pregnant. We hadn’t told a soul yet and had only gotten the news a couple of days prior. We were having Chinese food for dinner and the “lucky word” in my fortune cookie was “girl.” Later on, I checked the Chinese birth calendar and it, too, predicted girl.


Boy has a strong argument too, though! We won’t be revealing what each Disney character guessed just yet, but we still have a Disney-related prediction story. I’ve mentioned before that we collect vinylmation, small Disney toys that come in blind boxes that you can collect and trade. Early in our pregnancy, we went to the local Disney store to trade some of ours. Trading involves a large opaque box where you choose a number and draw a vinyl to trade for. Inside the box could be any vinyl from any collection – thousands of possible toys.

Out of the thousands of possible themes and characters we could have pulled blindly, hubs pulled a blue teddy bear vinyl that read “It’s a boy!” Seriously, what are the odds of that?


I knew another couple that had waited to find out the gender, so they ordered one of each – the blue “it’s a boy!” bear and the pink “it’s a girl!” bear. But when the package was delivered there had been a mistake, and they only received the “it’s a boy!” bear. Sure enough, come delivery day, they had a little boy. Disney knew!

So the bets are placed. Disney thinks it’s a boy, and China thinks it’s a girl. Who will be the victor? Which empire will triumph? Well stay tuned for about 15 more weeks and find out!


Have I ever told you wrong before?

We have a lot of babies, we know what we're talking about!

We have a lot of babies, we know what we’re talking about!

Coming Soon: The Spoonie Experiment Episode 4

I dropped off the face of the planet recently, but I promise it’s for good reason! I’ve got a brand new episode of the Spoonie Experiment coming your way! And…perhaps a new sub-series?


I’m excited to bring you some thoughts on invisible illness through one of my favorite shows, King of the Hill! Being that I not only live in Texas, but that I currently live in Garland and I grew up in Richardson (the two cities that inspired the fictional “Arlen, Texas” where Hank Hill lives), King of the Hill has always spoken to me on a deep, personal level. It only makes sense that I started seeing themes and morals that directly applied to life with invisible illness — specifically in Texas, but they apply everywhere overall.


I’m working on a review and analysis of one particular episode, “Hank’s Unmentionable Problem” from season 1, but I have a whole slew of episodes noted on my “to blog about” list. So “King of the Spoons” will probably be its own sub-series of the Spoonie Experiment.


I’m super excited about it. But I will warn you that this episode is taking a little longer than usual to put together, mostly due to the fact that I’m six months pregnant. Have I used that excuse too much?


In any case, hang tight! New videos are coming soon!

king of the hill spoons

Why I Hate “Love Your Body Week”

At my university we had a thing called “love your body week.” During this week, there were some nice things, like balloons left around campus with positive messages written on them.

But there were also weird things, like lots of students walking around in their underwear. I think it’s great that you love your body, sir, but buy me dinner before you hug me wearing nothing but boxers please. There were also student organizations that would hand out condoms – although I’m not sure what kind of “self-love” you’re practicing that requires condoms.

But none of this is what made me absolutely despise love your body week.


When I’d see the underwear students dancing around in hippie circles, do you know what I saw? Healthy people. People with the energy to run around outside for hours. People who weren’t in pain or fighting nausea. People who might have some extra fat rolls or hair patches, but no scars. I never saw a girl’s midriff sporting laparoscopy scars. I never saw an ostomy pouch.

And I realize that this jaded view is inherently anti-invisible illness. Invisible illnesses are, after all, INVISIBLE. How did I know none of them were sick? One in two people are, so it was very likely many of them were. But I felt that some acknowledgement of illness or scars or SOMETHING would make love your body week a little more real and a little less of an excuse to be an obnoxious college student.

Because woo sex! And edgy naked people! Breaking social norms! It was just more of the same to me. It was just party college crap. And it made me hate my body more than it made me love it. It was healthy people strutting their health around.


And if we are making this about sex, then what about the people like me who really struggle with sex because it’s painful and sometimes downright impossible? That fact has always made me feel like less of a person. After all, sex is this universal thing, right?

I guess the biggest problem with love your body week is that it acts like so much more than it is. It’s sold as this positive affirmation that everyone is beautiful. But, as my favorite tagline for this blog says, “health isn’t just skin deep.”

Your body is so much more than what’s on the outside. I know that body image is a really hard thing, especially for women, and especially for young women. I know that having a good body image can be a life or death situation. I know that anorexia and bulimia are epidemics that are ravaging young women today. I think it’s good to promote the acceptance and love of one’s appearance.


So call it “everyone is beautiful week” or something like that. Because positive body image does NOT equate to self love.

Loving your body is loving your whole body. It’s hard when you have a chronic illness. It’s an important obstacle to overcome. Most of the time, I love my body. Most of the time, I can remember that with all its shortcomings, it has borne me through many storms. I remember that as much as my body tends to suck at being a body, it is very good at healing.

But some days, I hate my body. And it’s not just on days when I feel extra bad or I start a new medication. It happens a lot on days like the love your body week days. Days when healthy people unknowingly make me feel left out of a club. It’s such a huge club that most people assume everyone’s in it. Love your body week is well-intentioned, but very poorly executed.


I know I sound like one of those internet people who’s just looking to get offended by something that really is probably harmless. Maybe that’s true. I was in college when I wrote out my notes on this topic, and college students are the most easily offended people ever – check out this Nostalgia Critic video for some great commentary on that. Maybe I was being too sensitive.

But to anyone planning a love-your-body-week-type of event, I would ask that you think outside the box a bit. Remember that the body is a whole. Remember that loving one’s beauty is important, but don’t neglect to promote well-being in other ways as well. Celebrate self care! Encourage people to take time for themselves. Hand out boxes of tea and bottles of bubble bath. Open up a conversation about how hard it can be to love your body for reasons beyond aesthetics. Talk through illness. Connect with people. More skin to skin contact does not equal deeper connections.

Remind people that today they woke up. They got to campus. They’re breathing. And that is a show of twenty-something years of your body being there for you. Maybe it wasn’t always perfect. Maybe it sometimes even almost killed you. But something pulled through, and no matter how many doctors and nurses and medicine was involved, you owe part of your survival to your body. Ultimately, it has not failed you. You have not failed it. Teach people that “love your body” is a labor of love and teamwork.


That is a cause worthy of the title “love your body week.”

Let’s Talk About Zombies

Zombies have been hugely popular for my entire adult life. It’s a trend that hasn’t seemed to get old or die down, and you see it everywhere. Zombies are nothing new, of course. In fact, the old 1960s-1970s zombie movies are some of my very favorites. But zombies have gone from being a movie monster or the center of a disaster movie to being their own genre.

Now, I’m not an expert or a mega fan, but I think zombies started their rise to mega popularity in 2002 with 28 Days Later. Zombies started cropping up in films more and more, until they were so prevalent that that they got a super successful spoof movie, Shaun of the Dead, in 2004. Nights of and returns of and days of the Living Dead seemed to come out left and right, and zombie movies were no longer for a niche audience. Major blockbusters like I Am Legend and World War Z brought it much more than the normal horror movie crowds, and zombies even found their way into family films like Pirates of the Caribbean.


But it’s not just movies. Zombies have taken over every facet of media possible. Zombie games are wildly popular. Resident Evil became such a popular series, starting way back in 1996 and still releasing new games today, that it got a slew of movies as well. Dead Space, Left 4 Dead, Lollipop Chainsaw, The Last of Us… these are all games that are so popular that you’ve probably heard of at least one of them even if you’ve never played a video game in your life. There are literally hundreds of zombie games to choose from for every platform out there.


And of course, zombies have invaded the world of television as well, most notably in The Walking Dead. The fan base for the Walking Dead is insane, there are actually conventions dedicated solely to this one show. The only other time I’ve heard of a convention for one show is Star Trek, and that’s no small banana. Just think about that for a second – The Walking Dead has been on for five years, and they have a fan base similar to Star Trek’s – a show that began in 1966. That’s insane. And like the films and games that sport zombie disasters, this show has drawn in people of all demographics, not just the horror crowd. My dad has never watched a zombie movie in his life – and doesn’t care to – but he LOVES The Walking Dead.


So what’s up? What does any of this have to do with invisible illness? Well, have you ever wondered why you see so many zombie trick-or-treaters these days, or why the CDC has released a protocol for a zombie outbreak? Well, it has a lot to do with chronic illness.

Trends in horror/disaster movies tell us a lot about what we as a country currently fear. In the 70s, slasher movies were all the rage. Teens were routinely killed off in slashers as punishment for getting drunk, having sex, or doing drugs. It showed a fear of repercussions for being rebellious, and a fear of murder.


Disaster movies reigned over the late 90s and early 2000s. With doomsday fears for the new millennium and the Mayan’s 2012 end-time prediction,  movies like Independence Day, Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow, and of course, the film 2012, played on these fears.

So now we’ve got zombies. What does it mean? America – and perhaps the world – is terrified of illness. Illness is the new great disaster. We see this not only in zombie apocalypse fiction, but in the news every day. From swine flu to ebola, we’ve had CNN offer 24 hour coverage on more than one medical “emergency” that really turned out to be no threat at all. Add in the recent outbreak of “bath salt” murders – which usually involve a druggie with seeming immunity to pain eating other people – and you can see that our love of zombies indeed stems from a real fear.

Something I’ve read on a few blogs dealing with life with chronic illness is this advice on understanding the reactions of the people around you: the reason it can be hard for friends and family to talk about your illness or sometimes even be around you is because your illness becomes a reminder of their own mortality. Now, rarely do I think that my friends or family are actually struck with macabre thoughts of death when we talk about my illness. But I do believe there is a subconscious connection there. It is frightening to think that one day, a germ, a growth of tissue, or a mis-shot nerve impulse could remove your abilities or even identity. That’s true horror.

I’ve watched people slip into Alzheimers and dementia. I’ve seen my sister have countless seizures that she doesn’t remember happening. It is draining. To spend time with people when they are suffering and not themselves is real life horror. No, I don’t need to shoot them in the head, but in a way it is worse to try and help. Because I love these people, I don’t actively try to avoid spending time with them, even though the heartbreak of it is exhausting at the end of the day.


But I know what people mean when they say that illness can remind us too much of our mortality. Subconsciously, I do believe it might make some friends turn down an invite to hang out if you have a chronic illness. Forgive those people. Keep inviting them. Remember that you have the same feelings about death, sometimes at the surface, sometimes deep below. And remember that part of their fear comes from love – a sincere love for you. They desire your wellbeing. It hurts them to see you hurting.

I’m lucky. Most of the time I feel fine or can fake it. I can still think and talk as myself. I have independence. I don’t need a lot of physical help. I know it was hard for my husband and parents to be with me in the hospital after surgeries. I know I wasn’t myself then. I know I cried for things I couldn’t have, and I know that’s terrible. I’m so grateful for their love and willingness to not turn away from me when I’m not myself.

But when I’m medicated and hurting and crying nonsense, I am a zombie. I look like Rachel, but I don’t act like her. Luckily, though, I come back. This isn’t a horror movie and I won’t hurt anyone. They need only wait a bit to get me back. They always keep their sense of humor in tact, and have always been able to laugh because they know I won’t be a zombie forever. Mom always laughs when we talk about the morning I needed to go to the ER for the first time, and she told me to put on shoes. I was in a frantic state of panic and pain and exploded with “Do I NEED shoes?!” My husband laughs when he recalls how after surgery I’ll ask the same question over and over and over. I laugh too. All comedy is tragedy plus time.

But some “zombies” don’t get better. Sometimes, in real life, people become ill and they aren’t themselves ever again. This is our worst nightmare, because you can’t do anything to help, but you also can’t do anything to stop it. You don’t know if it will happen to you or your spouse or your parents, but you’ll probably encounter a “zombie” at sometime in your life.


But here’s the good news – we’re coping with it. We’re coping with our fears healthily. That’s what zombie movies are. That’s what zombie games are. That’s what The Walking Dead is. We’re not turning away. We’re exploring our fear and letting our feelings out through catharsis when we flock to the theaters. Every movie is therapy. That’s why women watch chick flicks when they’re already sad. That’s why we get excited to see a horror movie about something we’re afraid of. That’s why we say “Wow, that looks really good” when we see the trailers for the Oscar bait movies that are almost always about unfathomable tragedy.

In a way, dressing up as zombies for Halloween is almost like the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. We honor death and celebrate it – though our way is decidedly less beautiful.

What do you think about the zombie phenomena? Are you a big fan? Even if you’re not, have you still seen a zombie movie or played a zombie game? What do you think the next big horror craze will be and why? Tell me about it in the comments! And thanks for reading.