Seeing Invisible Illness in Modern Storytelling

Illness is portrayed in many modern stories, and most often, the illness is invisible. This allows for the hero or heroine to remain beautiful – something our society values above all else. The one thing these ten stories have in common is that somewhere in the plot, there is sickness. Illness often appears as an antagonist inside the hero, and only rarely as something the hero must come to live with. Sometimes, the illness is not the hero’s, but it belongs to someone the hero loves. In this case, illness is the catalyst that drives the action. Sometimes it is the villain who is sick, and the illness drives the acts of evil in the story. In any case, the story is somehow about illness, life with illness, or overcoming illness. No matter how illness is used, there are positive and negative social implications.

The Pros

There are many pros to the ways illness is used in modern storytelling. Having illness figure prominently in the plots of films and TV shows has one over-arching positive impact, and that, of course, is awareness. The fact that people hear about these invisible conditions is a huge contribution to the world of someone with an illness. It is much easier to find support and acceptance when people can say “Oh, I’ve heard of that.” Storytelling shows us the trials and tribulations of living with illness. Some may rise to the occasion, like the heroes, and some may become corrupted by it, like the villains. Either way, storytelling offers insight into the world of someone struggling with illness.

The Cons

As great as awareness is, there is also a lot of bad coming from the way illness is currently portrayed in modern storytelling. Obviously, the fact that many villains are driven by some kind of illness does not really paint a pretty picture of those of us who carry the burden of illness. Generally, ill villains become evil by stopping at nothing to get their “cure.” But even the ill heroes and heroines have some cons to them. In these stories, is illness too glamorous? Too melodramatic? Usually it is, at best, unrealistic. At worst, it beautifies being sick until it ranks with hubris or some other trite trait. You know the saying “Some are born heroes. Others have heroism thrust upon them.” This is the way that heroic illness is often presented. What are the implications of equating fighting illness with heroism? Is this a realistic view? What are the problems here?

How To Be Sick

By including illness in the plot of these stories, the author does seem to imply some kind of advice on how one should be sick. In some cases, the author is sick, and in some cases not. Generally, though, an image is painted of how a sick person “should” be. The archetypes are not realistic, and perhaps even harmful to real people who are sick. There are basically three types of sick people in stories:

  • –  The Hospitalized Angel – usually a beautiful and innocent female character who is totally helpless.
  • –  The Tragically Ill Hero – the one who stands up to fight their illness, usually alone, and usually triumphant. Generally finds a cure.
  • –  The Desperate Villain – usually sympathetic and male. Will do anything to find a cure to his illness.

How to Be Well

Inversely, as these stories offer advice, both good and bad, on how to be sick, they also offer advice on how to be well. There is really only one person in a sick person’s life in movies, right? Their hero. Their champion. The person who rides out into the sunset, vowing to find a cure. Sure, when a Western hero does that for his little sister, we all cheer. But there is one thing about this that is very destructive. Say you are a healthy young man, and you have started dating this pretty girl. You like her a lot, and as the relationship gets more and more serious, you find out that she has an incurable, lifelong disease. Suddenly, you realize that the world will expect you to be her hero. Can you devote your life to that? Do you want to? How terrible must it feel to know that anyone you get involved with will have to take that place – the sick person’s champion? Wouldn’t you rather be a Tragically Ill Hero, and go off by yourself to find a cure?

What’s the main problem here? This entire scenario revolves around finding a cure. Rarely, if ever, does a couple in a story learn to live with illness.

Change It

I want people to look at these stories and, after weighing the pros and cons, and examining the stereotypes, decide what parts of the story are valuable, and think about what would need to change. Stories about illness should convey illness realistically, and offer help or comfort to those dealing with it. Some of these stories may not need changes. Others may only need a small tweak. Others still may need to be rewritten completely or altogether thrown out. I want to get people talking, get people writing, and get more stories out there about illness. I want stories that raise awareness and bring light and hope back into the lives of those who suffer.

The Stories

Repo! The Genetic Rock Opera

Synopsis: In a dystopian future, the human race almost died out from an epidemic of organ failure. After GeneCo., a company run by Rotti Largo and his three children, begins financing organ transplants, mankind is saved…but when the repossession of organs is legalized, Repo Men begin hunting their patrons down and brutally murdering them to re-attain the organs.

Nathan Wallace works for Rotti Largo as a Repo Man after the death of his wife, Marni. Rotti, who also loved her, has convinced Nathan that her death was his fault, and uses this to blackmail him into being a Repo Man. Nathan and Marni’s daughter, Shiloh, has the same grave illness her mother had, and has never left her own house. She lives a very sheltered life. She has no outward signs of illness except hair loss, which she hides by wearing a wig.

When Rotti finds out that he has a fatal disease, he decides it is time to collect and exact his ultimate revenge on Nathan for winning Marni. He lures Shiloh away from her home, promising a cure. Shiloh meets him at the Opera, where it is revealed to her that her father is a Repo Man and a murderer.

SPOILERS (skip to next title if you want to keep the ending a surprise)

Not only that, but he has also kept her sick when he could have cured her – he wanted to keep her locked away at home, sick, to protect her. Rotti hands Shiloh a gun and tells her to kill her treacherous father. She refuses, and Rotti kills him himself. As she holds her dying father in her arms, she assures him that all is forgiven, and leaves the theater with her head held high, vowing to find a cure and be the master of her own fate.

How To Train Your Dragon

In a Viking world where dragons fly, a village lives in constant fear of the onslaught of attacks from wild dragons. Children are raised to hunt and kill dragons to protect the village. As a rite of passage, each child must fight and kill a dragon to be considered an adult.

One outcast boy, Hiccup, finds a rare type of dragon sleeping in the woods. Seeing this as his only chance to kill a dragon, he attempts to kill it. He finds, however, that he does not want to. He observes the dragon from afar, and realizes after a few days that the reason it is stuck in the forest is that it’s tail is injured and it cannot properly fly.

Hiccup begins to befriend the dragon, gaining its trust. He starts trying to train him, and at the same time, he works on designing a kind of fan to attach to his tail so that he may fly again. When the Village decides to send a crew to the Dragon’s island, Hiccup shows the youth of the village how to train dragons, and together they help save the dragons’ home.

SPOILERS

In the climactic battle, Hiccup is grievously injured. He ends up losing part of his leg and must build himself a mechanism to walk again. He and his dragon are rehabilitated together, both of them learning to live with prosthetic help.

The Amazing Spider Man

Peter Parker begins snooping for clues about his parents’ mysterious disappearance when he was a child. His hunt leads him to a scientist who his parents worked with – Dr. Connors. Dr. Connors has only one arm, and is working on a serum to help humans heal themselves the way lizards do. He tests the formula on himself, and mutates into a giant lizard-man who terrorizes the city.

Meanwhile, Peter is experiencing new mutations of his own, as he develops spider powers from a spider bite he got at the lab. He rises to fight off the deranged lizard doctor, and bring peace to the city.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Cloud Strife, an ex-mercenary, has been living in isolation after he came down with the geostigma disease. The geostigma is an epidemic that has been raging all over the world. When all the children with geostigma in town start disappearing, he reconnects with his old friends and comes out of self-imposed isolation to try and find them.

SPOILERS

Three mysterious men have kidnapped them and begun to brainwash them. In a clash of swords, magic, and muscle, Cloud and his friends fight them off and save the children. A cure is found, and Cloud and the children bath in a magical pool and are cured.

“Peggy’s Turtle Song” (King of the Hill)

Bobby Hill is diagnosed with ADD and put on Ritalin. (you can read my detailed analysis here)

“Junkie Business” (King of the Hill)

Hank Hill hires a new part time employee at Strickland Propane. When he finds out the man is addicted to drugs, he tries to fire him. The man finds a loophole in the law and enrolls in a rehab. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Hank can no longer fire him and, in fact, must actually make ridiculous accommodations for him. In response, the other employees self-diagnose their own disabilities and demand accommodation.

“Hank’s Unmentionable Problem” (King of the Hill)

Hank Hill begins having problems with constipation, and is extremely embarrassed about it. Out of concern, his wife Peggy talks about it with everyone. Hank and his family must bond together to overcome the medical problem, no matter how embarrassing it might be. (check out my video review of this here)

The Secret Garden

After loosing her parents in a tragic epidemic in India, Mary Lennox comes to live with her uncle. She discovers a house full of secrets, a very sick cousin of hers, and a garden that’s been locked up forever. Through curiosity and bravery, Mary opens the garden, frees her Uncle from his depression, and helps her sick cousin Colin to get well and walk again.

The Secret of NIMH

When her son falls sick, Mrs. Brisby must venture forth from their small home and unlock the secrets of her husband’s life and death to save her son’s life.

The Directive

When Lynne, an introverted college student who loves books and reading, is diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, her whole life is turned upside down. As she navigates the turbulent new world of hospitals and doctors, she realizes that she must come out of her shell and change herself and her life if she is to now live with Crohn’s. (check out my review of this amazing book here and read my interview with the author here)

Summary

It was actually quite challenging to find illness portrayed in modern stories, and as you may have noticed, I did end up including one story that is not exactly modern – the Secret Garden. I felt, however, that its inclusion was valid, as this book is considered by most to be a “classic” and is still widely read today.

I had a really great time putting all this together. I keep a running list of movies and books I come across that pertain to life with illness, though I was only able to used a few from that list for this particular project. Many of the stories were allegories for illness, and those would simply not work in this setting. Perhaps one day it would be fun to put together a sister collection to this one that is mainly allegories. But for now, I focused on stories that actually featured illness as a big factor in the plot.

I would have liked it if illness was the main driving factor in each plot, but I feel that a collection like that would feature only one type of story – the Tragically Ill Hero story – and it was very important to me to show a variety of ways that illness can be used. Some of the examples are wonderful and realistic, and others are stereotyped and beautified. I am glad I was able to find a good mix, because I think that people in general have mixed up feelings about illness.

(NOTE: I wrote this as a part of my final for my storytelling class back in 2012. What are some good newer stories dealing with illness? Leave your ideas in the comments below!)

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Book Review: Calm the F*ck Down

This is a real book entitled “Calm the F*ck Down: The Only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need” and it is written by a real person named David Vienna. This was gifted to me by my son’s godmother. I’m blessed beyond reason to have godparents that send me and my child gifts monthly, and this particular month I had called with some catastrophe. I don’t actually remember which catastrophe this was – life with a toddler involves a lot of them. But I think it was when he got his finger caught in the pedal of our kitchen trash can.

He pushed the pedal down with his hand, and when he stopped his finger was caught and the mechanism and got sliced open. We got him out and his hand was gushing blood and he was screaming and I was surprised to find my mind was blank. What… what do I do? One does not simply put a band-aid on a toddler. He’d pull it right off. And that’s a lot of blood, why is there so much blood? How can you tell if he needs stitches? Oh man there’s blood on everything, uh, quick, lets put him in the bathtub. Of course, a bath on the best day makes our son scream, so this upset him quite a bit more than he already was, and he was still bleeding, and my mind was still drawing a blank on what to do. So I called and his godmother said put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. A piece of knowledge that did, in fact, reside somewhere in my brain, but that I was unable to call forth in the heat of the moment.

Anyway the moral of this story is that often, new parents aren’t under-educated or uninformed. Often, our questions and need for advice stem from simply being freaked out. Dear godmother had not actually read this book before sending it and prefaced it with “this might suck” but the title had grabbed her attention and it alone was very good advice. So let’s take a look!

Like many parenting books that I’ve reviewed before, this one seems to not be intended as a cover to cover read. Rather, it’s split up into topics like “my child does not understand consequences” or “I’m not the kind of parent I thought I’d be.” However, there’s no reason not to go ahead and read this one cover-to-cover. Why?

  1. It’s REALLY short. I read it in one sitting while I was having my hair done.
  2. Each topic listed has 1-2 pages devoted to it – that’s it. And there’s pictures.
  3. It’s really funny. Even if a topic isn’t specific to your situation, you’ll probably get a chuckle out of what it has to say.

I mean I basically don’t have anything bad to say about this book. It’s an entertaining, light read. It would actually make a pretty good bathroom book. It’s broken up into short, sweet reads, and maybe it’ll make you not want to hide in the bathroom to escape your kid(s). Maybe. No promises.

You can probably guess from the title alone that the book’s advice for most of the topics is to “calm the f-ck down” (abbreviated in the boot as the CTFD method). So you know when you flip to “my boy likes girl toys” or “my baby ate something off the floor,” you’re going to be told not to worry about it. But it’s more than that. A lot of this book is about empathy, and understanding that these things happen and usually have no long term effects. But it’s also empathetic about the fact that you’ll still worry anyway, because you’re a parent and that’s your job. It validates your feelings. And it also taps in to the fact that even if you’re not worried about a topic, someone you encounter probably will be. Your mother in law will be appalled you let your son have a Barbie, your aunt will act like you need to call 911 when she sees your baby eat a dust bunny they happened upon. People freak out, you freak out, but we all need to practice the CTFD method.

This is not to say that every section is just things not to worry about. One that caught me by surprise was this one pictured: “I haven’t kept up with CPR training”. I’ve taken CPR classes a few times over the years, most recently when I had my son. But before that I had taken it for being a babysitter, a camp counselor, a life guard, I think we even did it in girl scouts once. I have not been worried about it. Can I recall exactly what to do, and the numbers, and every step? Uhh… I dunno. No? Not really? But I’ve taken the class several times, I know basically what to do. So imagine my surprise when this laid-back book took the hard stance that you MUST take this class EVERY YEAR. It never uses scare tactics like some other parenting books (I’m looking at YOU, What-To-Expect!), but it just says hey, go take these classes. I hope you never need them, but you’re going to want that info fresh in your mind if you need it. That’s a good point, book. So I’ll be heading back to class soon. Well, yeah, it’s partially because I’m pregnant and they make you. But next year? It’ll be of my own volition.

Another thing that caught me by surprise is that this book is for dads! I guess the language might should have tipped me off, as moms are, generally speaking, a little more fluffy touchy feely in their diction when talking about babies. But what’s strange is that I never got the inkling that this book was specifically for dads until the second to last section, titled “Parenthood.” Which is still gender-neutral. But here there were topics like “I don’t feel like a dad,” and “I don’t plan on taking paternity leave.” The advice here is, of course, applicable to both moms and dads, but the language only specifies dads and paternity. Again, the entire rest of the book didn’t specify one way or the other really, and it’s not a bad thing. I was just surprised when I got to the very end and it was suddenly talking to dads so specifically. Still, both moms and dads should give this a read. Even the paternity-specific topics apply to both.

That about covers it! Like I said, I read this cover-to-cover in one sitting, and it was a very enjoyable read. Good for a gag gift that doubles as a whoa this is actually useful gift. If you’re a stressed out new parent who loves to read but doesn’t really have time to get through a traditional chapter without interruption, this is a light, interrupt-able read that will make you smile and leave you better equipped to handle those moments your mind goes blank. Buy it by clicking here. Give it a read and remember to CTFD.

Book Review: The Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Year

If you saw my review of The Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, you know how excited I was to read this. But this review will probably be much shorter and less glowing than that one. In a nutshell, this book is a bit superfluous. And coming from me, that’s saying something. I love reading and researching and will jump on just about any chance to do so, but in this case? Well, let’s jump right in.

There’s nothing really wrong with this book, it’s just kind of boring. Most of the information in it is a retread of info found in The Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, and I would recommend reading that over this. Once you get past the first few months of having a newborn, there’s a lot less to worry about. Or at least, there’s different things to worry about. But you’re no longer in that stage where sleeping, eating, and falling are life or death situations. Once your little one’s a bit older, you rely more on common sense than needing to look up what to do.

The Pregnancy Guide’s chapters on the first few months offer great coverage of breastfeeding, immunizations, sleep training, and all those things. This guide really just elaborates, and I found the elaboration to not really be necessary.

One thing I did really enjoy about this book were the parts on what it’s like to be a new parent emotionally. It’s very cathartic to read that your feelings, especially negative ones and “baby blues” ones, are common and normal. And it offers good ways to cope. But again, rather than recommending this book, I’d lean more towards suggesting finding a book that exclusively focuses on parenting and feelings.

The more utilitarian information is all stuff that you’re gonna hear from your pediatrician. Developmental milestones, when to get immunizations, introducing solid foods, these are all going to be covered if you’re seeing a pediatrician regularly. Don’t replace that with a book, babies need all those checkups each month. Your pediatrician will tell you when your little one can start table food, and you can judge if you want to go ahead or wait on it.

If you don’t have a communicative pediatrician and can’t switch, or if you don’t have other mom friends or your own parents around to talk to, then maybe this book would be helpful to you, but honestly, once the baby is out and growing, you’re going to get floods of information from everywhere. From programs like WIC where you have to attend occasional classes, to alarmist facebook posts from well-meaning in-laws, you’re going to hear about most everything. Plus, that first year goes by so fast, you’ll hardly have time to research each step (or read a book, for that matter).

So yeah. My consensus is basically “meh.” There’s nothing bad or wrong about this book, it’s just kind of dull and an extra thing that you don’t really need to be fussing with in your child’s first year.

Sorry this wasn’t more exciting to read, haha. Meh reviews are hard. I’ve got a few more parenting/pregnancy books to read since I’m unexpectedly pregnant with #2 on the way. Stay tuned!

The Health Disrupter Journal from The Allergista!

The Allergista is one of my favorite bloggers, and I’ve talked about her many times on here. She was kind enough to reach out to me to give me a chance to try out her health disrupter journal and share it with you guys!

Now, I have a confession to make: she asked me to do this a looooong time ago. Like, months ago. And I have not adjusted well to keeping up with blogging and parenting a 1 year old. Add journaling on top of that and I majorly failed. But I wanted to complete the journal before writing this post, so… here we are, months too late but honest!

So this isn’t my first health-journaling rodeo. I’ve kept a diary of what I eat and my digestive reactions before, and I’ve also tried out a few apps to track symptoms along with diet, sleep, and other things. I have a love-hate relationship with journaling this way. It’s great because it’s shown me patterns in my health, and helped me to discern what foods/habits cause my pain to flare up, or cause my IBS to get bad. But it’s really hard, at least for me. The first few days go well. I’m excited and write down everything in detail. But after that… life happens. I try to jot down some notes at the end of the day, usually while half-asleep, and soon I miss entire days.

And of course, when I do get sick, journaling is hardest of all, and also most crucial. So this is a huge challenge for me. The great thing about journaling is that even small bursts can be helpful in solving health mysteries. So with the Allergista’s health disruptor journal, that’s exactly what I did. I journaled for a week or two at a time, then took a hiatus. Not by design, but because that’s kinda just how it happened. But I still solved some of my own health mysteries.

The journal has four basic parts: a daily log, a weekly notes section, a weekly summary of symptoms, and a monthly calendar. To be honest, I didn’t use the monthly calendar much, but only because I have another one that I keep all my appointments and life notes on. I know in this day and age, most people don’t have a monthly paper calendar posted up anymore, so this would probably be more useful to someone who didn’t have another system in place.

The daily log is set up for allergies, but is easily adapted to chronicle chronic pain or gastrointestinal problems. The only section I didn’t use much was logging skin problems, since that’s pretty exclusive to tracking allergies. But I liked the tally system of giving each symptom a number and totaling it. The higher the number, the “worse” a day is symptom-wise. This is great because when you’re in a flare, you can feel like “oh I’ve felt horrible all week” but looking at the numbers you can see that there are days where even though you have symptoms, you’re feeling a little better. That can be really encouraging, especially in a long flare.

I like the body location symptom tracker. I’m a very visual person, and I like to doodle, so it was fun and also informative. I could see pain “make its rounds” so to speak. I like that a lot.

Finally, the notes section. At first, this was the biggest chore, mostly because I was unsure what to put there. But I ended up using it as my place to pose questions and come up with hypothesis. I could look back at previous weeks and see if I’d proven my ideas or answered any questions.

The biggest health mystery this journal helped me solve actually had to do with anxiety. When I have a panic attack, it almost exclusively happens at night. My anxiety keeps me awake, and eventually builds until I’m sweating, pacing, and generally loosing my mind. I found out through journaling that there are two things that I thought were helping me that were actually contributing to my panic attacks.

One was drinking. I had gotten into a bad habit of always having a glass of wine at dinner or bedtime most nights, thinking it helped me relax. It kind of did, but on nights when I didn’t drink I was much more likely to sleep well. Stopping this habit didn’t completely eliminate my anxiety attacks, but it helped a LOT.

Second was reading. Yeah, the thing EVERYONE tells you to do when you can’t sleep! I adore reading, and I read paper books with no irritating backlights to disrupt my sleep cycle. But I think I must love it a little too much. I noticed I tended to have trouble sleeping after reading, and noticed that I get a little too into books to relax. I stay awake thinking about the book (especially suspenseful ones) and end up in the anxiety zone. Now, I’m careful to only read either books I’ve read before or calm, non-suspense/mystery/adventure books before bed if I read at all.

So what’s my final verdict? Health journals are great, and the Allergista’s is one of the best I’ve tried! If you’re like me and can only journal in spurts, remember that it’s better than nothing and you can still benefit from what you learn from it. I highly recommend this one for it’s organization, it’s tracking tools like tallying and body diagramming, and it’s coverage of all areas you need to track in an easy format. You can download it by clicking

HERE!

I hope you all check it out and give journaling a try if you haven’t already. You’ll be surprised what you can learn! Plus, if you have an attentive doctor, they may like to look over it and help you find patterns and give you advice.

Also, don’t forget to enter the #SPOONIERAGECOMICCONTEST! There are free prizes to win and I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s not much competition right now. So enter today! Google “rage comic maker,” choose your favorite, then create a comic that has something to do with health, chronic illness, allergies, doctors, medicine, or anything in between! Then upload it to twitter or instagram with the hashtag #spoonieragecomiccontest.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Book Review: The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

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My son did just turn five months old, but I still finished reading this book (however slowly) because 1.) I am a book completionist and 2.) out of all the pregnancy/childbirth books I read, this one was my favorite.

My insurance company is Blue Cross Blue Shield, and they surprised me during my pregnancy. I mean in a good way – yes, it is possible for health insurance companies to have good surprises. For one thing, I was given a case worker who called me every month to ask me how my pregnancy was going and check up on my physical and mental health. That was pretty nice. But what I liked more was getting this surprise package in the mail. A free book!

Book-Lover

And I really really liked this book. I was sort of predisposed to because it’s from the Mayo Clinic. I admit I don’t actually know a lot about the Mayo Clinic, but when it pops up on the health blogs I read, it’s always a good thing. I think of the Mayo Clinic as the place you go when doctors fail you. Like, going to the Mayo Clinic is actually a little medical fantasy of mine.

(Side note: how sad is it that I have a medical fantasy instead of fantasizing about just being well?)

spa-hospital-ok

This really is the perfect pregnancy book in my opinion. It’s all fact-based and it focuses on delivering medical information in a way that’s simple enough for a non-doctor to understand. There’s no kumbaya in this book. I’m an emotional person who loves romanticizing things but when it comes to my health and my body, I don’t like to wade through fluff. I want the facts. I will add my own kumbaya, don’t worry. It’s childbirth, I was drunk on kumbaya hormones the ENTIRE time. I needed to understand what was happening and what was going to happen, and I only had nine months to learn.

Speaking of which, that’s another great thing about this book – it’s quick. It’s also got a great reference section that will point you exactly to whatever information you’re looking for. This book is definitely set up to be a reference book – you can read month by month chapters on the developing pregnancy, and you can look up any symptoms, illnesses, medicines, diet questions, basically anything that pops into your head very easily. Of course I read it cover to cover because that’s what you do with books in my opinion. If I need a quick reference, I’ll reach for google faster than I’ll reach for a book. Still, it wasn’t bad as a cover-to-cover read either, and I appreciate that versatility.

Look baby, no hands!

Look baby, no hands!

It did pull the same thing as What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the Official Lamaze Guide did in the chapters on complications and loss – saying not to read this unless you’re experiencing a complication. I get that pregnancy involves a lot of undue worrying – BELIEVE ME, I know – but I don’t know. Education eases my fears. I know not everyone is that way. But I’d prefer to see warnings more like “read this section only if you feel learning more will ease your fears – anxiety is very bad for expecting mothers and you may skip this section if you feel it would distress you.” Or something like that.

As much as I really liked this book, it was pretty far from perfect. I admit that some of my thoughts may be biased because of the fact that this book was free. I automatically assumed that because it was free, not as much effort was put in to it.

This book does seem like it was largely copy and pasted from a conglomeration of Mayo Clinic sources rather than compiled by an actual writer. I say that because there are a lot of formatting errors, like a lack of spaces between words or extra spaces around punctuation. And occasionally there are typos, usually in the form of tenses that don’t make sense. There was even one instance in the pregnancy loss section where a paragraph was straight-up repeated. That’s pretty sloppy and does sort of make you wonder how much you can trust it when there were clearly…. lapses in effort.

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But I also got this book for free. And the information was good. It never showed bias towards natural childbirth or more medicalized childbirth. Plus, even in sections where you might think they’d have to get fluffy (like the section on pregnancy loss) they keep it very respectfully informative. They discuss the emotional recovery aspect very seriously, encouraging the reader to seek support and care, but the book also remembers its role as a giver of information, and offers data as a was to understand what physically happens in the hopes that it might bring some level of comfort and acceptance. It also very pointedly lays out things that cannot cause pregnancy loss, to lay to rest any blame game the reader might take up.

It also had an entire section on chronic illness and pregnancy, and it was pretty extensive! That’ll always win you points on this blog.

All in all, I do recommend this book. If you get it for free, definitely read it. If you’re interested, go by your local Half-Price Books or check online and buy it used. It’s not going to read like a New York Times Best-Seller, but it’s got accurate, unbiased info, and that’s very hard to find. Especially when it comes to pregnancy.

After reading this, I am definitely going to seek out the Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby’s First Year (even though it’s almost half-over already) ((*cries in the corner*)).

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They hooked me with their free book and now I’ll buy the rest of them. That’s how they get you!