Motherhood Mondays: The Best Book for Mothers-to-Be

When I was pregnant, I noticed a funny phenomenon…

Some other mothers, even those who were trying to be nice, would often regale me with “horror” stories about parenthood—from saggy boobs to sleepless nights to temper tantrums. They were probably just trying to be amusing. But I was like, um, dude, did you not notice my giant belly?


After hearing one too many of these stories, I did what any mature 31-year-old would do. I called my mom.

“Will you please tell me some of the good things about becoming a mother?” I asked her, my chin wobbling. “Some of the lovely little moments?”

Happily, she launched into a reverie about how sweet newborn babies are and how you experience beautiful everyday moments with your child that people don’t often talk about and how her three children are the joys of her life…

Then she gave me an amazing book: Great with Child by Beth Ann Fennelly. After learning that her friend was expecting a baby, Beth Ann decided to write her friend a letter every day of her pregnancy. She published the letters — all about motherhood, marriage and life in general — in this book, and they’re warm, wise and absolutely wonderful.

Since Beth Ann is a poet, her writing is often lyrical. One of my favorite lines: “Has your belly button popped out? Ah, the pregnant belly button: the knot of an overblown balloon, its puckered mouth holding back too much air, the cheeks stretched thin with the effort.”

Reading Great with Child renewed my HUGE excitement for Toby’s arrival. I was so grateful for this funny, lovely book about motherhood — it calmed my nerves during my pregnancy, at a moment when I really needed reassurance. It reminded me that motherhood is beautiful and wonderful (which it really is!). I’d highly recommend the book to all pregnant women (especially fellow worriers) — it’s basically a 220-page pep talk!

I’m curious: Which books did you read when you were pregnant? I’d love to hear your recommendations. And did you feel like other moms told horror stories, or were people more ginger around you? xoxo

P.S. Belly shots and pregnancy hair and my mom when she was pregnant in Paris.

  1. E says...

    Joanna – you just responded to another post of mine and sent me here, and I’m basically in tears because a) I’ve never gotten a direct response from you so I’m sort of fan-girling here and b) I needed this so badly, feeling like I was flying solo in my sentiment. Thank you for caring so much about your readers. I’ve been here since you started and I’ll be here for another decade +. <3

  2. It is great article. Thanks for sharing this information. It is very useful to everyone.

  3. Hi Joanna, what a great post! I just bought the book for my sister who’s due in just a few short weeks! I write about small blogs and found yours to be just the epitomy of greatness! You can read my feature here: Hope you enjoy! Also a huge fan of the mothers around the world series! You’re raising the bar for all small bloggers out there.

  4. I am 38 1/2 weeks pregnant right now (and ready to be done!) with my first child and I find it SO annoying that everyone has to tell you all of their horror stories or make negative comments about how you will never sleep again, your life will be over as you know it, etc etc… I mean god, what a morale killer. I find myself just blowing most of them off. Most of my reading has been on natural childbirth and positive birth stories so I haven’t read much about motherhood in general. Trying to get through my hopefully out of hospital unmedicated water birth first :)

  5. I was 37 when I conceived my first (and only so far) child and 38 when he was born. I had always wanted to adopt and had heard all those horror stories. I was surprisingly clueless about everything going around/on in the world of pregnancy and motherhood despite most of my friends having kids already. I found that I suffered from some severe social conditioning – you can’t get pregnant after 35! (eh, first try) – you can’t conceive a healthy child after 35! (eh, not true) – those were the things that scared me before ttc and during the first 20 weeks. The second 20 weeks of my pregnancy were mostly just miserable and I felt mostly pissed off at the long list of discomforts I’d never heard about before (like how much your feet hurt when you stand up in the morning and pretty much every other moment of the day and occasionally still at 12 weeks pp). I was afraid of the pain of childbirth, terrified of huge needles (epidural), and didn’t think I could have a c-section without being put fully under. I was a rebel and refused to attend child birthing classes, played the epidural by ear, etc. In the end I was in labor for 16 hours, my contractions started 2 minutes apart (WTH?), I had the epidural (pain can remove fear of needles), and I had a relatively uncomplicated vaginal delivery considering I apparently have world’s most narrow birth canal. Who knew? I was given an episiotomy and I’m happy with that since they were discussing vacuuming, using forceps, and emergency c-sections to remove my baby. I pushed for three hours (without the epidural, they turned it off for the pushing). I also gave birth in a local hospital overseas. I don’t regret (at all) refusing to attend child birthing classes, I don’t regret not having a birth plan (not that it would have mattered where I delivered anyway), etc. I’m really quite pleased with my whole delivery experience. I never want to be pregnant again though, that was miserable. I read the Mayo Clinic book since it was sorter and slightly less terrifying than What to Expect, and I read Bringing Up Bebe (hey! you can parent like that! in France.). Oh, and I decided to formula feed before conceiving but kept an open mind. My mind didn’t change, I have exclusively ff and I am very happy with that decision as well.

  6. Wow this article is really interesting.

    I actually loved the Mayo Guide to Pregnancy…its just medical stuff but that was my biggest worry. I heard every horror story known to man as well, but I didn’t care. I still don’t. The boob thing, the stretch marks, the weird post pregnancy belly button…it is what it is…the marks of motherhood and its beautiful.

    Thanks for share.

  7. Thanks for share this fantastic article with us.

    I was hoping that certain acquaintances of mine had exhausted their store of horror stories about birth and nasty ignorant comments… I was wrong and I now avoid them at all costs. I don’t know if i’m even more sensitive than i already am due to hormones, but the baby is definitely teaching me what’s most important: the baby, my husband and the cat, of course! Everyone else I’m nice too and when they cross the line I do my best to ignore what they say and then call my mom to check the truth!

  8. That would be normal to any pregnant woman.

  9. Congratulation Good Post
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  10. You’ll be normal for sure. Just be positive.

  11. i am 37 weeks pregnant and have only read the mayo clinic guide to pregnancy. it’s a pretty clinical book but it’s been good. this definitely seems like a book i should pick up though!

  12. Thank You for posting this. My non-pregnant, non- mother friends love telling me horror stories :D So appreciated!

  13. When I read this post, the book sounded so perfect for a friend of mine that I ordered it immediately. It arrived yesterday, and I’ve been reading it before pass it along – it’s lovely. I’m giving it to a friend who is three months pregnant and is already dismayed/discouraged/intimidated by the more traditional pregnancy books. I think Ms. Fennelly’s words will bolster her spirits greatly! I see this book becoming a regular on the baby shower gift circuit!

  14. I’ve always known I wanted to be a mother. But lately, spending time with my sister-in-law (who has 3 boys under the age of 5) and her moaning about her kids has really got me thinking twice! What is the point of having kids?!

    Not to mention all the physical changes: saggy boobs, stretch marks and whatever the heck your nether regions end up looking like.

    I’ve also wondered whether the physical act of love changes – does it feel different? Is it as pleasurable? Sorry, I know these are really shallow reactions but these points are part of my life as I know it right now. I’m sure my feelings will change once I fall pregnant (and I will hopefully become a lot more selfless!), but I also don’t want to lose myself and my life as it is now in becoming a mother.

    My mom has never had a bad thing to say about being pregnant, giving birth or raising children. She beams everytime she talks about any of these things and I love her for that!

    Maria xx

  15. I totally agree with this post! You would hear so many horror stories, leaving you to wonder why anyone has kids at all.

    Truth be told, I felt this same way when I was about to get married. It seemed like at all the parties I went to when I mentioned I was engaged it was a green light to complain about how horrible their husbands were. And then I got married myself and it has been wonderful.

    Maybe it’s because happiness doesn’t sell? I suppose it’s always more entertaining to tell the horror stories :)

    Anyway, the BEST book for new parents is called
    Be Prepared, a Practical Handbook for Dads

    It’s SO funny, go check it out. I give it to all my friends when they get pregnant.