I have to be honest. At this point, I’m amazed I’ve made it through two child-rearing books. The amount of anxiety these books give me, after repeatedly and forcefully telling me it’s alright if I don’t do things a certain way – then proceeding to dump three hundred pages of advice that, if ignored, will turn my child into a depressed, obese, alcoholic – is getting steadily higher. I went from being the expectant mother with very few expectations to the expectant mother who’s clearly a reprobate for leaving all this research until the seventh month.
It makes me a little resentful because I’ve always trusted and loved books, and now I eye them with an air of suspicion. What will this one dictate? What will that one prepare me for that I had never even considered before? Will the pictures in this one scar me for life, and if I do feel scarred, what kind of person am I that I can be so easily damaged by photos or drawings of a completely natural and healthy process?
I miss my uncomplicated relationship with well-worn paperback novels. I miss the hours of escape the right book provides. I especially miss feeling a little guilty for reading a book with zero literary value. Reading books like this one remind me that in a very short time, my life will be drastically different, and there will be no going back to the way things were before. Sure, every few days and weeks, something will change; one of the most critical things I learned in the years I worked with three month to five year olds is that little is constant when it comes to small growing humans. This is not comforting. It’s familiar, in the way that observing and learning about anything becomes familiar after you’ve done it for long enough, but viewed through the filter of imminent arrival, it’s not comforting.
Many people find that comfort in research. I get it. I personally take more of a measure once, cut twice approach to life, but I’m not fairly confident that’s not the best approach, so I absolutely don’t judge those who want all the data possible before making a decision. That’s where books like these come in. It can be incredibly helpful to have resources like Evans’ book available both before and after a baby arrives. In fact, I learned more from reading this book than I could have possibly imagined. She’s thorough, funny, and of course, consistent in reminding me that although breast is best, formula fed babies probably won’t be horribly scarred for life.
I’m joking…sort of. On the one hand, I definitely plan on bringing this book with me to the hospital when I go into labor because I found it that helpful. On the other, I occasionally felt like taking up arms for a more neutral stance on the baby feeding bandwagon on behalf of all my friends who, for whatever reason, weren’t able to breastfeed and have amazing, well-attached, sweet, smart children who I love to spend time with.
Evans’ strength is really in the palatable way she breaks down the information a new mother might need about how to breastfeed, what kind of help to ask for if things are going awry, and how to handle the strain this process can put on a mother’s body. After I finished the book, I looked back and counted fourteen pages I’d flagged so that I could go back to those sections quickly if I needed a reference. I certainly felt better prepared to approach the process, which before had seemed like a complete mystery to me, with confidence. I’d also made note of some questions I wanted to ask the friend who’d given the book to me, a mom who had great success with breastfeeding her children and who I feel comfortable asking questions that make me feel vulnerable and sound (probably) idiotic.
I actually have a hard time imagining a better written reference guide for families interested in breastfeeding, or for those who are struggling and would like concrete solutions for their problems. It was a light-hearted read, especially considering the topic, and if I hadn’t felt the author’s occasional pressure about making the “right” choice for my baby, I would have been completely smitten. As it was, I finished the book with the feeling that I had a well-intentioned if slightly preachy friend on my side for tackling this particular hurtle of parenthood.
That being said, after I was done, I ate half a sleeve of Thin Mints and binge-watched some really trashy tv in an effort to keep from going full-on crazy mom mode. It seemed like a fair trade off for all this responsible pre-parenting…