Whether you’re carrying the child yourself and preparing for childbirth, or expecting a baby who will arrive in another kind of way, here’s a petite list of reading that I found to be helpful and inspiring while waiting on babies to arrive myself.
For my part, checking in with a manual to calm nerves about every strange tug or pull in pregnancy only inspired more of them (nerves, not tugs, though I swear the two can be related). I never had any interest in books that told me what kind of schedule I should plan to feed my kid on, or if I was doing sleep right. I didn’t really want to read about every possible gestational hiccup that could be coming my way.
But there were other kinds of books that did feel at least a little bit helpful. Books that humanized the mothers (and the impending babies) were especially welcome to me. These books all embraced pleasantries and unpleasantries, but unless I’m too inured to recognize it, none of them fall into a fear-mongering or stress-celebrating habits common in the genre.
Little Labors by Rivka Galchen (Amazon/Indiebound)
This slim volume is just right: part intellectual investigation of the absence of babies in literature, part personal stories of parenthood. It’s a quick and encouraging read without ever being insipid.
After Birth by Elisa Albert (Amazon/Indiebound)
This brutally honest novel was riveting. There were passages that I didn’t identify with at all, and others that made me want to cry from the raw, relatable humanity of it all. Maybe a better read for sleep-deprived nights post-birth when you may or may not be wondering how many hours until morning, but worth a read at some point all the same.
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott (Amazon/Indiebound)
Anne Lamott is an original in the elusive writers who write about infancy club. One of my friends gave me this book when I was pregnant with Faye and I so appreciated Lamott’s characteristically honest and funny account of grappling with the first year her son’s life.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin (Amazon/Indiebound)
Designed to prepare women for natural childbirth, I’m inclined to say that there might be something useful for anyone preparing to give birth (and partners planning to stick around for it). More useful than any of the techniques offered, is the simple recounting of birth stories more generally. Reading them made me remember that “Yes. This is a thing. People have done it before.” And it just made a whole lot of murky stuff seem a lot clearer. Childbirth can feel daunting and unknowable, this made me feel less that way.
Expecting Better by Emily Oster (Amazon/Indiebound)
I listened to this book on tape after Silas was born which meant it was a little beside the point by then, but I’d definitely recommend it for anyone who does want some concrete answers and who isn’t terribly interested in myths or legends but would very much like some cold, hard facts.
If you have favorites to share, please do.