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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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I honestly can't remember how I used to organize and share baby photos before I started using FamilyAlbum. (What am I saying? I could never keep all those pictures organized!) Like most mamas, I often found myself with a smartphone full of photos and videos I didn't know what to do with. My husband and I live states away from our respective families, and we worried about the safety of posting our children's photos on other platforms.

Then we found FamilyAlbum.

FamilyAlbum is the only family-first photo sharing app that safely files photos and videos by date taken in easy-to-navigate digital albums. From documenting a pregnancy to capturing the magical moments of childhood, the app makes sharing memories with your family simple and safe. And it provides free, unlimited storage—meaning you can snap and snap and snap to your heart's delight without ever being forced to choose which close-up of your newborn's tiny little nose you want to keep.

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And, truly, the app is a much-needed solution for mamas with out-of-state family. Parents can share all their favorite memories with friends and relatives safely within the app without worrying about spamming acquaintances with every adorable baby yawn the way you might on a social network or a long text thread. (Did I mention I have a thing for baby yawn videos? I regret nothing 😍) It's safe because your album is only visible to the people you share it with. The app will even notify album members when new photos have been posted so they can comment on their favorite moments and we can preserve their reactions forever. It's also easy for my husband and I to share our photos and videos. All of our memories are organized in one place, and we never have to miss out on seeing each other's best shots.

And because #mombrain is real, I especially appreciate how much work FamilyAlbum takes off my plate. From automatically organizing photos and videos by month and labeling them by age (so I can skip doing the math in my head to figure out if my daughter was five or six months when she started sitting up) to remembering what I upload and preventing me from uploading the same photo four times, the app makes it easy to keep all my memories tidy—even when life feels anything but.

FamilyAlbum will quickly become your family's solution for sharing moments, like when you're sending a video to the grandma across the country. Grandparents need only tap open the app to get a peek into what is going on with our girls every day. When my sister sends her nieces a present, the app has become where I can share photos and video of the girls opening their gifts so she never feels like she's missing a thing. The app will even automatically create paper photo books of your favorite shots that you can purchase every month so you can hold on to the memories forever (or to share with the great-grandma who has trouble with her smartphone 😉). Plus, you can update the books with favorite photos or create your own from scratch. No matter what, the app keeps your photos and videos safe, even if your phone is lost or damaged.

But what I love most about FamilyAlbum is that it's family-first. Unlike other photo sharing platforms, it was designed with mamas (and their relatives!) in mind, creating a safe, simple space to share our favorite moments with our favorite people. And that not only helps us keep in touch—it helps us all feel a little bit closer.

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This year marks FamilyAlbum's 4th anniversary! Click here to celebrate and learn more about their "Share your #FamilyAlbumTime" special promotion running until March 31, 2019.

For some celebrities, pregnancy is a time to retreat from the public eye and be more strategic about what they share online. They guard their personal lives a little closer, and their social media presence gets a little more curated.

But when Amy Schumer announced her pregnancy in October, she didn't stop sharing. We saw—and heard, in some of her more graphic Insta stories—just how hard this pregnancy and the resulting hyperemesis (an extreme form of morning sickness) have been on Schumer.

Schumer's humor has always been real, and her new Netflix special, Growing, is one of the realest descriptions of pregnancy I've ever seen on my TV.

As a mom who didn't glow as much as I groaned through my pregnancy, I laughed so hard I cried. And as a mom of a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, I cried tears of relief.

In one hour Amy Schumer simultaneously made me feel seen and helped me see a happy future for my son, and I can't thank her enough.

[Warning, light spoilers ahead]

Amy Schumer: Growing | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix www.youtube.com


The Netflix description for this special describes it as "both raunchy and sincere" and that's totally accurate. If you've seen Schumer's previous Netflix special, you know you can't watch this until the kids are in bed.

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In Growing Schumer proves that pregnancy didn't make her a different person or take the curse words out of her vocabulary. She is who she is, she just happens to be becoming a mom, too.

And becoming a mom has not been easy. Schumer's description of yeast infections, and vomiting and hemorrhoids and all the parts of pregnancy that nobody puts on a felt letter board gave me flashbacks and validation.

In Growing, Schumer is saying that it's okay not to love being pregnant and that it doesn't mean you don't love that baby growing inside you. It's a message more women need to hear because it's hard to see photo after photo of smiling mamas sporting cute bumps and wonder if you're the only woman who doesn't love feeling someone sit on your bladder.

That feeling (the emotional one, not the bladder one) made me feel alone in my pregnancy, but it's been three years since I wondered if there was something wrong with me. These days, I'm more worried about whether my son, who is now a preschooler, will grow up to think there's something wrong with him.

As the mother of a kid on the spectrum, I gasped when Schumer explained that her husband, Chris Fischer, is too. I sobbed when she described some of her husband's quirks, because I see them everyday in my son.

I don't want to spoil the special too much, but let me tell you this: In revealing that her husband, the father of her future child, is on the spectrum, Schumer gave me so much hope.

I'm so grateful that Schumer (and Fischer, who must be on board with this) shared that bit of info because sitting there in front of my TV all the versions of my son's future that got erased when we got our ASD diagnosis came flooding back.

I could see him as a grown man, and he wasn't alone. He was falling in love with a partner like Schumer. He was becoming a father like Fischer. He was happy (and different, in the way Schumer describes her husband) but he wasn't alone.

Schumer's trademark raunch isn't for everybody, but her authenticity and vulnerability sure is for me. For 60 minutes I watched a woman stand alone on a stage and I felt less alone.

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Over the years, switching to nontoxic products has become a popular trend. But, as moms ourselves, we understand how overwhelming it can be to consider a lifestyle change. We founded Branch Basics with the idea that simple swaps in your cleaning closet could be the jumpstart to living chemical-free.

For many people, the swap has been influenced by various headlines. One study compared cleaning your home with conventional products to smoking an entire pack of cigarettes every day. Additionally, the EPA has reported that indoor air quality is actually worse than outdoor air quality.

With every reason to make the swap, here is a beginner's guide to non-toxic home cleaning. We call this process our Clean Sweep with just three simple steps.

1. Review

Pull out all of the cleaners (and pesticides) you currently have in your home. Yes, even the dusty ones deep in the back of the cabinet! Once you have these out, review them for red flag words, like "caution, warning or danger."

Cleaning companies are not required by law to list their ingredients, so any cleaners that are not transparent about their ingredients should be taken out of your home. Remove anything with parfum or fragrance, as the word fragrance represents a fragrance recipe that may have never been tested for safety. (Pro tip: You can use essential oils to make scents you like.)

Other common ingredients to avoid are:

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  • Perchloroethylene or "PERC"
  • Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or "QUATS"
  • 2-Butoxyethanol
  • EPA registered pesticides like Chlorine
  • Methylisothiazolinone "MIT"
  • Benzisothiazolinone "BIT"
  • Any of the Isothiazolinone family
  • Ethoxylated Alcohols

Finally, toss your dryer sheets and fabric softeners if they're loaded with carcinogens such as dichlorobenzene and benzyl acetate, respiratory irritants such as chloroform and benzyl alcohol, neurotoxins like linalool and ethanol, and endocrine disruptors such as phenoxyethanol and phthalates.

For any ingredient you are unsure of or don't recognize, the internet has great resources like the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning, where you can look up health ratings from 1-10 (1 being the safest to 10 being the most toxic).

Another excellent tool is the Think Dirty® app, an easy way to evaluate ingredients in your beauty, personal care and household products. Just scan the product barcode and it will give you easy-to-understand info on the product and its ingredients. We recommend that household products have ingredients rated A on EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning or a zero on Think Dirty.

2. Remove

If you find products that have toxic chemicals in them, remove them from your home. If you aren't ready to part with some of your products, put them in an airtight Sterilite container in your garage or backyard. This simple act of removal will improve your air quality immediately.

3. Replace

Now it's time to streamline. Do some research and find items that are plant-based or otherwise naturally-based. Branch Basics offers a variety of nontoxic alternatives to popular household products, like laundry detergent and bathroom cleaner. The Honest Company created safe baby and beauty products. And Beautycounter provides safer skin care and cosmetics. You can even scour the internet for resources for homemade alternatives, too. If it feels overwhelming, start with your most-used products and work your way down the list.

Switching to nontoxic cleaning supplies is one of the easiest ways to start creating a healthier home and there's so much information out there that can walk you through what should and shouldn't be in your products. Simple swaps can make a big difference for your family.

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You know that you want to raise your children differently than how you were raised—with compassion and connection, instead of punishment and reward. Except the only thing is, friends and extended family just don't seem to get your parenting choices.

You can feel their spoken and unspoken judgments, and it's really putting you on edge, but you don't want to have uncomfortable conversations or tension. So what do you do, mama?

Here are 10 positive phrases you can say to family and friends who just don't seem to get your parenting.

1. "I appreciate how much you care about our kids, but I'm really happy with how we're doing it."

This response finds the common ground. Both of you care deeply about your children, and that's the main thing to acknowledge. It sets a limit and lets the other person know you are not looking for help and advice, but appreciate their intention.

2. "I've thought and read a lot about parenting and I'm really happy with what I've learned."

Parenting nowadays can look pretty different from how it was in previous generations, and there are so many resources giving contradictory advice. A friend or relative may make the mistaken assumption that you are doing it all wrong simply because it's not how they did it, or are doing it. This response lets them know you have made a thoughtful choice.

Gently pointing out that you have read and thought about their parenting style may surprise them. Perhaps your confident response may even make them curious about what you have read, and why you decided it's the right way for you to parent.

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3. "We've tried different methods, and this is what works best for us."

Let your friend or relative know that you aren't looking for advice, you've tried different styles of parenting and are content with what you're doing.

4. "We find that they're more responsive when we set limits gently."

If you are taking the more peaceful route, then you'll find that it's pretty common for parents to mistake gentle parenting with permissive parenting. Pointing out that you are setting limits, even if they look a little different, can be reassuring to a relative who thinks you are not in control.

5. "I've noticed that if we listen to the crying rather than distracting or ignoring them, then they let out their feelings and are less likely to be upset later."

A lot of people have a huge misunderstanding about crying. They think of it as a negative that needs to be stopped instead of as a healthy and healing way to express emotions. This is a simple way to tell them that there is a purpose in allowing feelings, and it's actually better in the long run for your family.

6. "Every family is different, but this is what works best for us."

Parenting differences can often bring up strong feelings between friends because one person may assume you are judging them and think that what they're doing is wrong. Acknowledging that every family is different is a peacemaker. It shows that choosing a different path doesn't mean you are judging or critical of others, and you get that everyone makes different choices.

7. "Kids are so different. This is how my child responds best."

Everyone is the best expert on their family and what their children need. Nobody on the outside looking in can tell you how to parent. This phrase lets the other person know that what you are doing is based on what your understanding of what your child needs and ensures they won't need an explanation.

8. "Don't worry, I can handle this!"

If a friend or family member wants to step in and parent for you, this is a polite way of saying "no thanks."' A lot of people aren't comfortable around big emotions so perhaps they see your child crying and want to give them a lollipop to cheer them up.

This phrase gently lets them know they don't need to fix or solve the situation. It can be reassuring to them that despite the wild emotions of your child (or their challenging behavior), that you are feeling calm and under control.

9. "Thanks for your advice. I'll give it some thought."

This is a conversation closer. It lets the person know they've been heard and you aren't just dismissing what they say. But it also ends the debate, so it's perfect to use with someone you know will never understand what you're doing.

10. "I guess this must look a little different to how you were parented?"

This might not always be appropriate, but if the timing seems right it can open up a discussion about the roots of why the other person might feel the way they do about parenting. Sharing stories about how you were parented can help both come to an understanding that everyone chooses their own parenting path based on their own complex histories, and personal choices.

It also gives the other person a chance to express how they feel about their own childhood, which can help them feel heard, and more relaxed and flexible in their attitude to how you are parenting.

Plus one more that isn't a phrase: Just listen.

Sometimes, no response is needed. Often when people give advice or have strong feelings towards other people's parenting, it's because they feel a sense of responsibility. Perhaps your children's big emotions triggered memories from their childhood, and how they would have been treated if they acted out or expressed themselves.

In those moments, their unheard feelings get ignited and they respond from their own sense of hurt. It can be helpful just to listen to them, to accept that their reaction has nothing to do with you and your parenting, but is about their own history.

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Motherhood is a journey with highs so high so you'll remember them forever, and lows so low you'll curse the day away. I'm still navigating these uncharted waters and just when I feel like the sea has steadied, the water turns choppy again.

My days are filled with uncertainty as we discover more about what's beneath this sweet boy of mine. I know he is smart, strong, passionately curious, compassionate and spirited. What I'm still learning, though, are the differences that make him unique. It's difficult to describe what it's like to be a parent of a spirited child. The answer depends on the day, the task, the weather—the answer is always changing.

Our days ebb and flow, like waves of the ocean. They swell with enjoyment and eagerness and then naturally fade through periodic episodes of misunderstanding and confusion. Attachment and connection, followed by detachment and disconnection. Up and down, back and forth, give and take, push and pull.

My strong-willed child keeps me on my toes, but when I'm able to lift the hood, I can really see what's going on in with his engine. His spirited nature has brought brightness to my life. He is a child of high standards, but is an absolute delight. He is sweet and generous, creative and bright.

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Here are the joys I've learned from parenting a spirited child:

1. His curiosity is a good thing and it reminds me to slow down.

He's always interested in how things work and asks a lot of questions—oftentimes, he tries to figure it out on his own. His senses are keen, and his observations are imaginative and rich. Our five-minute walk to school quickly stretches to 15.

On our way, he'll notice the grasshopper sitting alone on a single branch and the intricate spiderweb laced in the bush nearby. He notices the beautiful colors of the flowers and the leaves changing in the fall.

He'll look up at the sky and see a heart-shaped cloud and hear the distant sound of a siren. He'll notice when one of my shirt buttons is unbuttoned and the single strand of hair on my sleeve. His mind never stops because he is always seeking out knowledge and gathering the data in his mind.

2. His compassion for others and empathy for his friends is admirable.

When he feels, he feels hard. When he expresses love for his baby brother, I'll catch him gently patting his back and giving him a soft embrace, followed up with a kiss and a whisper saying, "I love you."

He once saw his friend fall off her tricycle on the playground and quickly jumped off his and rushed over to make sure she was okay. Every ounce of his body and soul is poured out in those moments. The intense, passionate emotions add depth to my life and make me want to be a better person.

3. He never gives up.

He is determined, tenacious, and will not take "no" for an answer. And if we do say "no," he'll find another way to get a "yes." He's not intimidated by adults or peers and is confident in who he is and what he can do.

At soccer practice, he is the first in line to practice short drills and will run himself ragged until he scores a goal. During our morning school routine, he is the master of negotiation and can somehow convince me he's too full to eat the banana on his plate but not too full to finish off the glass of orange juice.

He is strong-willed and headstrong, qualities I know will serve him well in the future. He wants to learn on his own and test his own limits.

Parenting a spirited child is hard, but it's also rewarding. While it may be a frustrating and exhausting endeavor, I take comfort in knowing that he will grow up to be a leader.

He will be resilient and passionate, focused and unafraid to speak his mind. I don't want him to blend, I want him to shine. I want him to march through life, and not just add to the noise. I want him to love his spirit always, in all ways.

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