Books Are Pretty

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Complete Organic Pregnancy

In order to avoid the inevitable questions from strangers regarding my non-existent pregnancy, I loaned this book to one of my coworkers, Sirnollia, who was actually pregnant and asked her if she would share her opinions on it with me. If I played my cards right, I thought, I would let Sirnollia do all the work of reviewing and just write up what she thought about it. At the end of September she gave the book back, and we agreed to meet at lunch to discuss it.

“I’m sorry I took so long to read it,” she said. “After I read it, my husband did, too, and my mother. I really loved it. I’ve been thinking about getting into more organic living.”

Then, before we could meet for lunch, she went into labor, and I was stuck reading the book myself anyway. After the first day, I stuck a Post It note on the cover that read “I AM NOT PREGNANT.” That taken care of, I could settle in for a stress-free examination of it.

I have to come right out and say it: I loved this book. In the pregnancy book market, it seems like the tone is split between two camps: books like Vicki Iovine’s Girlfriends’ Guides, which are light on up to date medical information, heavy on witty anecdotes, and treat the reader like an adult, and the What To Expect books, which portend to traffic in factual information, the anecdotes are few and far between, and the reader is treated less like a human being and more like an untrustworthy vessel for one.

I do not like the What to Expect series. I realize it’s one of the sacred cows of the pregnancy industry, but I think the writers are, how shall I say this tactfully? Condescending liars. Mothers, do you remember the “Best Odds” diet? Where you have to eat a truckload of food 6 times a day? Who can eat all that food? Nobody. Not even me, and I can really put it away even when I’m not pregnant. And I tried to do that Best Odds diet; I bet a lot of us did. And I failed. I didn’t even come close. I called my doctor, Dr. Pamela Goodwin, the World’s Greatest Gynecologist, in tears, feeling like a failure.

“Leave that diet,” she said. “Just eat healthy foods, eat until you’re not hungry, take a prenatal, and don’t worry about it. That’s all you need to do. Nobody can eat all the food in that diet.”

Then, years later, guess what I found out? That the authors of the What to Expect books knew that diet was impossible to follow, but created it so women would try it and fail, but in trying would be tricked into trying harder and eating enough.

Bitches! First time pregnancy is stressful enough. To deliberately stress out a pregnant woman and trick her into thinking she’s failing at taking adequate care of her baby before it’s even born? And if they’re lying about the food you put in your body, what else are they lying to us about “for the baby’s own good?” Because of course, total strangers know more and care more about your unborn baby than you do, because obviously a pregnant woman can’t be trusted to weigh the facts and make an intelligent decision with regard to her eagerly-anticipated first child. Gah! I want to throw rotten tomatoes at the lot of them, who’s with me?

But enough about that crappy book and those lying liars. The Complete Organic Pregnancy does pregnant women the tremendous service of providing a myriad facts that guide the organic-leaning woman to making healthier, chemical free choices, but it manages to do it without being condescending, judgmental, or relying on fear-mongering. Plus the book is filled with wide-ranging anecdotes from Barbara Kingsolver’s tale of eating organic while traveling internationally, to a very friendly and charming essay by Moon Unit Zappa regarding her daughter’s switch from breast milk to solids.

The philosophy of the book is to present the full range of organic choices from the food you eat to the stuffing in your sofa, but there’s also a very reasonable acknowledgement that pulling up all the floorboards and replacing all your furniture may not be the most practical choice. The information is there if you need it, but the authors trust the reader to make the best decisions with the resources available to her. How refreshing!

The book is broken up into three parts: Planning for pregnancy, the pregnancy itself, and post pregnancy/breastfeeding. Each chapter within the parts is devoted to a different area of organic living to tackle, and provides both medical evidence and anecdotal examples, as well as countless websites where one can purchase organic makeup or eco-friendly flooring.

In the end, while the authors hope to inspire new parents to live as chemical-free as possible, they’ll claim a win if they can get people to stop storing food in and drinking out of plastic, and this is an approach I can get behind 100% percent.

The Complete Organic Pregnancy
By Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu
September 2006 by Harper Collins
Paperback, 272 pp
ISBN: 0-06-088745-2

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