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6 New (or Nearly New) Pregnancy Books That Make Life Better

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When I was around 20 weeks pregnant with my first child, a friend gave me a copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. A page in, I got so overwhelmed by the breadth of information I had already missed, I stood on my couch and shoved the book as high up on the bookshelf as I could manage, hoping never to lay eyes on it again. Whether you’re working full time outside the home or full time at home, and whether you’re on your first, second, even third pregnancy, making time to educate yourself on what’s happening to your body during pregnancy can feel not only indulgent, but panic-inducing, if not impossible. But as hospitals sweep aside maternal care in favor of infant care, pregnancy books and prenatal education are now more important than ever. Rather than rely on overworked midwives and doctors who hardly have time to do more than weigh us, check our blood pressure, check the baby's heartbeat and ask us if we're feeling OK before sprinting out of the room, we can take control. We can become experts on our own needs, our own bodies, and, in turn, find ways to make our pregnancies and births more manageable, maybe even – huge gasp – enjoyable? These 6 books for preggos – five of which were published this year – offer the kind of insight, humor, and/or relief I so craved during my last pregnancy. Luckily, 31 weeks into my second, it isn’t too late to read up and try again! The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People by Jordan Reid and Erin Williams This book was just a pure and hilarious pleasure. The intro alone lowered my blood pressure! Many of us spend at least half our pregnancy trying really hard to be our healthiest best selves and the other half feeling guilty about all that we aren’t doing right. But the physiological benefits of laughter and of a witty, grown-up equivalent to Highlights magazine should not go unsung! This book provides both, in spades. It’s a perfect gift for showers or, better yet, for yourself. Reid’s and William’s super entertaining puzzles, activities, and laugh-out-loud pregnancy commentary is an ideal relief from a long commute on the train, or for that quiet time after dinner when your partner is doing the dishes and you are sitting at the table staring off into space--or for those dreaded middle-of-the-night wake-ups when all you can think about is how necessary it is to choose a bassinet right now. I cracked up at illustrations like Things That Will Make You Cry Uncontrollably (list includes tiny shoes and an empty donut box), A Kitten For You To Color While You Sit Around Constipated, and the Bad Baby Names word search, which, if you’re wondering, includes the names Murl and Dock. The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth by Genevieve Howland As someone who reads more fiction than non-fiction (if I can keep my eyes open for more than half a chapter), I love how manageable this comprehensive pregnancy bible is. Each week’s entry is only a few pages long, but includes only the most relevant information on where your baby’s at and where your body is at, as well as a “Nom of the Week” (like cherry chocolate trail mix, chia seed pudding, and, YES, chocolate placenta truffles). It also includes a Mama To-Do list, and suggestions and anecdotes for what to stay on top of, be it essential registry items, whether you’re a candidate for a VBAC, or when to stop flying on airplanes and why. I caught up on a handful of the 30-odd weeks I’d missed and was pleasantly reminded of all that I'd forgotten since my first pregnancy, like how great eggs are for my unborn child’s brain health and the benefits and logistics of hiring a birth photographer. The brevity of Howland’s chapters made me feel like I’d accomplished something major without exhausting myself! This is ideal for busy mamas who aspire to treat their bodies with the utmost care during pregnancy and those curious about attempting an informed drug-free labor. How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn Veteran magazine writer and bestselling author Jancee Dunn’s writing is simultaneously self-deprecating and self-assured, which I appreciated as a feminist and as someone who isn’t necessarily proud of how annoyed I’ve gotten with my own husband about something as trivial as where he stored the measuring cups. Citing more than a handful of recent studies, Dunn explains how frequently husbands inadvertently eschew household responsibilities after baby is born, as well as how unresolved parental squabbling has neurological effects on children. Her book is an attempt to prevent the latter by dealing with our wonderful but often confused husbands. We follow Jancee and husband Tom’s funny and moving emotional maturation, learning techniques like mirroring and allowing effective pauses, how to fight fairly (using non-judgmental I statements), and how to encourage both husband’s and children’s help around the house. Dunn is not embarrassed to tell us how pissed she gets, but she’s never holier than thou (or her husband). Though her advice is sound and concrete, the book is a breezy page-turner, a comedy of manners (and errors), and a treat to get lost in each night. Debunking the Bump: A Mathematician Mom Explodes Myths About Pregnancy by Daphne Adler I was shocked by how hard this book was to put down! Harvard-educated mathematician and mother, Daphne Adler, has painstakingly researched and assessed every pregnancy taboo. Her work is backed up with over one hundred fifty pages of explanatory appendices on her methodology and that sounded (to me anyway) like dry, nerve-wracking data overload. Except…it’s not! Adler’s writing is pithy and her discoveries, illuminating, and often a great relief (like, for example, that sushi is so low-risk, you’d be silly not to eat it). Adler organizes her findings into concise, often just one or two page risk assessments of potential dangers, including perfumes, rice cereal, driving, hot tubs, and sex, to name a few. She concludes each section with the threat level of that particular risk, or, in the case of Chapter 5, the benefit level of things like prenatal vitamins and music exposure in the womb. For those who crave the most informed pregnancy possible and those who take comfort in statistics-backed science, this book will both assuage your anxieties and provide a strong argument for the few truly taboo foods/practices to be avoided during pregnancy (like driving, lunch meat, and lead). Feng Shui Mommy by Bailey Gaddis Trained in HypnoBirthing, author Bailey Gaddis’s soothing narration cultivates positivity and freedom from fear, which is refreshing at a time when we're so often barraged with stories of impossibly tough pregnancies and horrific births. Three years ago, I listened to Hypnobabies tracks during my first pregnancy, as well as my early labor, and I’m fairly sure that work (plus my paralyzing fear of needles)contributed to a drug-free labor for me. Though the book is organized by trimesters, including the oft ignored fourth trimester (featuring a guide to nursing and the postpartum recovery process, both mental and physical), you can really bounce around. Gaddis covers the benefits of doulas, the nitty gritty of water birth, and also includes a chapter on nontraditional pregnancies, like those of adoptive parents. I particularly enjoyed her illustrated yoga poses for relief from pregnancy aches and similar illustrations of helpful birthing positions. Each chapter ends with a link to relaxation recording downloads online and a call to pleasure: unconventional but calming to-do lists for mamas-to-be who want to maintain balanced minds and bodies throughout pregnancy and beyond. 9 Months by Courtney Adamo and Esther Van de Paal, illustrated by Lizzy Stewart I’m always impressed and charmed by children’s books that aren’t only for children and 9 Months fits the bill beautifully. It’s a marriage of vivid and whimsical illustrations with the story of gestation, warmly told using questions and answers, all addressed directly to young siblings-to-be. Adamo and Van de Paal explain how mama is feeling each month, a gentle way of reminding little ones that their mothers might be sleepy or sick or achy and that that’s normal. There are also a host of surprising animal facts, for example, that elephants are born covered in hair and that chipmunks only carry their babies in the womb for a month (oh to be so lucky)! This is one I want not only on my own shelf, but that I’d love to send to friends as soon as I hear they’re expecting a second. I wish I could’ve read 9 Months to my son during my rough first trimester earlier this year as a way of easing his worries, but there’s still time for me to use this lovely celebration of becoming a mother to help make the imminent arrival of our new roommate a little less scary.

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Before I had a baby, postpartum depression (PPD) was something I only heard about on the fringes of motherhood. It would occasionally get brought up among mom friends, but only in the tightest of circles and usually in whispered tones conveying depths of shame I couldn't quite understand.

Every so often, I would see a magazine article citing women who admitted (again, in voices heavy with shame) that they didn't immediately bond with their baby. That they felt soul-crushing sadness after giving birth. That they felt wholly unable to mother properly.

When PPD was mentioned (which wasn't often), it always seemed to follow the same formula: a lack of bonding with the baby, followed by extreme sadness that could last for months―or even years after birth. And long before I ever had a baby, it was clear to me that the majority of women I knew who suffered didn't want anyone to know about it.

Years later, and with two births under my belt, I'm grateful to say that I've seen some things change. Slowly, but with increasing pace, I see more and more parenting communities shaking off the stigma of PPD. I see more and more women breaking the silence and coming forward with stories of their own. I see more and more compassion for the one in every seven moms who experience postpartum depression each year—that's over 500,000 mamas.

And, even more surprisingly, I see a greater understanding of just how varied the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety can be. Because, the fact is, PPD rarely looks the same for any mama―and it can be especially hard to explain feelings that feel unique to you. The experts at Allegheny Health Network get it. They've made it their mission to not only bring more understanding to postpartum mood disorders, but also to help every mom break their silence and remove the stigma of postpartum depression and anxiety.

Here's what some of the women they've worked with want you to know.

When I say "I'm feeling lonely," what I mean is... I feel alone in my suffering.

The trickiest part of PPD? You probably look exactly the same on the outside. In many cases, women continue to power through their daily routines so it can be easy to miss their suffering. "You feel like you're drowning," says Heather, a PPD survivor and an Allegheny Health Network patient. "[But] physically looking at me or at anyone that suffers from something like this, you can't see it. That's what makes it so difficult."

How to help: If you know a new mama, don't assume she's doing okay just because her life isn't obviously going up in flames. Check in. Ask about her health, not just her baby's. And let her know you're a judgment-free place to share.

When I say "I'm not feeling how I thought I would," what I mean is... motherhood isn't bringing me joy.

As moms, we're expected to feel an almost blissful happiness every second of pregnancy and motherhood. But for many women, that happiness seems to evade them―and it often doesn't come the moment they're handed their new baby―leading them to feel like they're already failing as a mother. "I felt so guilty because, here I am, I have this new, adorable baby who doesn't cry and is fantastic," says Ashleigh, a PPD survivor and Allegheny Health Network patient. "I didn't want to seem ungrateful."

How to help: Many mothers with PPD feel guilty for it. One of the best ways to lessen the load? Sharing your own story. It's normal not to immediately connect with your baby (you did just meet them, after all!), and the more stories we hear of strong connections that took a bit of time, the easier it will be for new moms to talk about it.

When I say "I don't feel like myself," what I mean is... I'm getting overwhelmed with anxiety and/or anger.

Sadness is just one of the possible symptoms of PPD. For many women, the condition manifests itself as extreme anxiety, OCD (especially worrying about bad things happening to their babies), and even rage. "Before I personally experienced postpartum depression, I thought, that's only for people that feel like harming themselves or harming their children," Heather says. But the truth is, PPD can look different for everyone―and it can affect anyone. "I never thought that I personally would have postpartum depression because I like to laugh and make jokes about everything," Ashleigh says.

How to help: Postpartum depression and anxiety doesn't discriminate―anyone can be affected. Look for signs that your new mama pal is feeling out of sorts. She might say she lost her temper or that she feels extra frazzled, not necessarily that she's feeling sad, but these can still be symptoms of a greater issue. You can have a more objective view of her feelings even when she can't.

When I say "I don't know how I feel," what I mean is…we still have a lot to learn.

So many symptoms of PPD are similar to general depression and anxiety, it can be scary for a new mom who isn't sure what's wrong with her. "I didn't know how to distinguish from it being...depression or anxiety versus it just being motherhood. I think part of the cure was just discovering that I had postpartum," says Chrissy Teigen, who is Allegheny Health Network's partner. "It was just such a sigh of relief that we can fix this."

How to help: Remember that you don't need to fix her symptoms―you just need to be there when she needs you. Be a listening ear, and remind her that there's no shame in needing help.

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When you're pregnant there are so many medical appointments, and many moms look forward to each one. We want to know what is going on with our bodies and our babies. But once the babies are born, many moms aren't able to keep their own medical appointments and experts are worried.

New moms are missing key appointments in the critical fourth trimester, or the first three months postpartum, according to a new study from Orlando Health.

Nearly a quarter of new mothers surveyed admitted that they did not have a plan to manage their own health in the first weeks and months postpartum. The numbers are alarming as nearly half of new moms have admitted to feeling their most overwhelmed, anxious and depressed during that time period.

Worse, the incredibly stressful first few days and weeks of their baby's life is the time when many mothers have admitted to feeling the least supported by their doctors. According to a survey from Healthy Women and 2020 Mom, nearly 30% of women have felt "no support" from their health care provider. This even as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recently adjusted their guidelines to suggest that women see their doctors within the first three weeks after birth, rather than the traditionally recommended six weeks.

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"Seeing your doctor within a few weeks of delivery and sharing any concerns is critical to getting the care and treatment you need," Megan Gray, MD, an OB/GYN at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, told Orlando Health. "The fourth trimester can be difficult and overwhelming for women as their bodies go through physical and emotional changes, and this time deserves the same support and attention as the first three trimesters," Gray said.

Yet, with many women going back to work at six weeks postpartum, up to 40% of moms are missing that first appointment entirely. For most mothers, that represents a rapid and drastic shift in their approach to maternal health care, as prenatal care is full of regularly-scheduled appointments and check-ups. Given that the US remains the most dangerous industrialized country to give birth in, the statistics can't be ignored. As the survey notes, it is impossible for mothers to take care of their babies without taking care of their own health as well.

Still, the onus shouldn't be placed solely on new mothers, who are already riddled with exhaustion and anxiety. With doctors and employers failing to support them, it's hardly surprising that they are struggling to keep up with their appointments or feeling comfortable enough with their doctors to open up about their physical and emotional changes.

In fact, a recent study from Maven reported that as many as 54% of new moms were never even screened for mental health concerns during their pre and postpartum care. Of those who did raise concerns, nearly 30% were not given concrete steps to get treatment.

All of this contributes to the cycle of shame that leads to nearly 60% of new moms experiencing depression and anxiety in silos, only furthering their feelings of extreme isolation. "I thought everything would come more naturally, but it was so much harder than I expected," one mama, Rachel Kobb, told Orlando Health. "Women have been raising babies forever, and I felt selfish for feeling like I couldn't handle it," she said. "I felt very lonely, but I didn't know how to ask for help," she added.

Still, there is hope for new moms, even during those incredibly difficult early months. Medical professionals like Gray and the ACOG are continuing to push for proper training for doctors, midwives and doulas to help new mothers cope with the emotional demands of motherhood, in addition to improved programs for mothers like lowering costs for mental health care and urging companies to provide paid maternity leave for at least the first half of the fourth trimester.

Moreover, simply reminding women that they're not alone is a critically important shift in how society treats new moms who are struggling emotionally.

"There is no perfect mom out there," Gray noted. "Taking some of that pressure off yourself will help you be the best mom you can be and help you better experience the many joys of motherhood."

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The phrase "women can have it all" has always left a sour taste in my mouth. Sure, our options for fulfillment extend beyond the home. But between wage gaps, the astronomical cost of childcare, student loans and ever-rising living costs coupled with shrinking wages, can we have it all?

Some women know their calling is at home with their babies and they make it work. They budget like it's an Olympic sport and find resourceful ways to save money. Many women are single mothers and are the sole earners in their homes. Every household has different needs and we absolutely deserve to choose whatever best fits our lifestyle.

Whatever that fit may be, it never encompasses "all."

I knew from a young age that I loved babies and wanted a family of my own, but that vision always included me working. Maybe it was the 90's TV boom of Ally McBeal and Detective Olivia Benson but I knew I wanted a career. I wanted a purpose that contributed to the world outside of my home. I knew I wanted a degree or two, maybe three. The fact that I made up my mind so early and never wavered, made me sure that "mom guilt" was something that other women felt; women who maybe felt the pull to be home but other circumstances were in their way.

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Mom guilt wouldn't hit me, I'd be immune, I thought.

Fast forward to the first month I went back to work from maternity leave. I ugly cried on my way into the office so frequently that I kept makeup in my car so I could fix it before going inside.

I'd dive headfirst into work until I had to pause to pump. Work, pump, work, pump, shove in some lunch at my desk at some point and sprint out the door to get my baby. I was productive but distracted. When I was at work, I wanted to be home. When I was home, I thought about the possible mistakes I had made at work.

I was in a job that was full of stress, last minute late nights, terrible pay and no appreciation. But from the standpoint of working and having a family, I had both. I had it "all."

Some days, I felt as though I was maybe just ungrateful for all the responsibilities I had to juggle. I blamed my attitude.

Facing my unhappiness at work and the baggage I brought home to my daughter and husband weighed on me. Then, six months postpartum, I lost my dad. I packed up that baby and flew home to say goodbye.

At the visitation, his colleagues shared many memorable stories, but the ones that kept coming up were his dedication to his wife and six children. They were memories of my sisters and I hanging out in his office, coloring while our mom worked. In fact, one of my masterpieces, a mosaic Great Dane, still hangs in my dad's old office window on Court Street because the owner of the building watched us grow up and didn't have the heart to take it down when he retired.

Dad was an attorney who nearly always made it home by 5:30, something unheard of in the world of owning your own practice. He didn't live to work; he worked to live.

I realized that when I leave this world, I don't want anyone to tell my children stories about how hard I worked. I wanted them to tell my children stories about how much I loved them and that they always came first. I had to make a change.

The right doors opened in the next month and I eagerly took on an entire career change (not something I necessarily recommend with a 7-month-old, but we made it work). I closed the doors of childhood ambitions that didn't match with the type of mother I wanted to be. It wasn't sad, it was liberating.

My new job included work from home days and a team of women, mostly moms, who value hard work and success but prioritize family and their roles as mothers. That attitude starts at the top of the company and trickles down. It was a breath of fresh air after seven months of feeling like I was suffocating.

Despite these life changes, I still don't have it "all." What I do have is realistic expectations for what I can accomplish in a day.

I have a house that looks like it's been ransacked Monday through Friday. I have a sink full of dishes.

I have a car littered with smashed cheddar frogs and peanut butter smears. I have a bedroom containing endless laundry baskets of clean clothes that get folded and put away maybe once a month.

I have a supportive partner whom I madly love and helps me rage clean all of the above when we can't take it anymore. I have a happy, healthy daughter who couldn't care less about dishes, laundry and dog hairballs.

I have a job that contributes to the betterment of humanity and a team who makes office days a joy.

I have women in my ear sharing their disdain for me working out of the home, but I also have women in my ear championing me as a mother, wife, homemaker, and career woman.

Maybe the answer to finding that peace was leaving a toxic job. Or maybe it was found in losing my dad and having my daughter in the same six months. Perhaps it was the priority shift that followed those changes. It could have been extending the same grace to myself that I so willingly give to those I love. Whatever it was, I'm grateful to have found it so I can enjoy living in our good old days, today. I don't have it all, but I really love everything I have.

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It's been more than a year since Khloé Kardashian welcomed her daughter True Thompson into the world, and like a lot of new moms, Khloé didn't just learn how to to be a mom this year, she also learned how to co-parent with someone who is no longer her partner. According to the Pew Research Center, co-parenting and the likelihood that a child will spend part of their childhood living with just one parent is on the rise.

There was a ton of media attention on Khloé's relationship with True's father Tristan Thompson in her early days of motherhood, and in a new interview on the podcast "Divorce Sucks!," Khloé explained that co-parenting with someone you have a complicated relationship with isn't always easy, but when she looks at True she knows it's worth it.

"For me, Tristan and I broke up not too long ago so it's really raw," Khloé tells divorce attorney Laura Wasser on the podcast. She explains that even though it does "suck" at times, she's committed to having a good relationship with her ex because she doesn't want True to pick up on any negative energy, even at her young age.

That's why she invited Tristan to True's recent first birthday bash, even though she knew True wouldn't remember that party. "I know she's going to want to look back at all of her childhood memories like we all do," Khloé explained. "I know her dad is a great person, and I know how much he loves her and cares about her, so I want him to be there."

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We totally get why being around Tristan is hard for Khloé, but it sounds like she's approaching co-parenting with a positive attitude that will benefit True in the long run. Studies have found that shared parenting is good for kids and that former couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Khloé says her relationship with Tristan right now is "civilized," and hopefully it can get even better with time. As Suzanne Hayes noted in her six guiding principles for a co-parenting relationship, there's no magic bullet for moving past the painful feelings that come when a relationship ends and into a healthy co-parenting relationship, but treating your ex with respect and (non-romantic) love is a good place to start. Hayes describes it as "human-to-human, parent-to-parent, we-share-amazing-children-and-always-will love."

It's a great place to start, and it sounds like Khloé has already figured that out.

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