The Pregnancy Countdown Book: Nine Months of Practical Tips, Useful Advice and Uncensored Truths, by Susan Magee with Dr. Kara Nakisbendi, Quirk Books, 2006; $14.95.
Classics like Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and What to Expect When You're Expecting are invaluable resources for any pregnant woman. But sometimes you don't want to stress out about your birth plan; you just want to know what type of fruit your baby is comparable to in size this week.
The Pregnancy Countdown Book pretty much works its way up through every piece of fruit in the bowl, from the teeny blueberry to the corpulent watermelon. This handy, pocket-size tome is sort of a what-to-read-when-you-don't-have-time-to-read What to Expect When You're Expecting. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but includes plenty of helpful reassurances and pithy quotes from women who've been through it all.
"To celebrate my first trimester's end, I went to the hardware store and bought a new toilet seat," confesses Dana, mom to Evan, in the entry for Day 183. "I got sick of seeing the old one so up close and personal, every day, several times a day, for months straight."
My favorite place to read is in bed, but I've had to cut that short because lately I start snoring just hearing the word "bed." This makes Pregnancy Countdown ideal-five minutes a week, and I'm all caught up. In the process I learn stuff, like that lying on my right side instead of my left won't hurt the baby, and that it's fun to play "flashlight tag" with your kid-to-be after 15 weeks, when she starts to see bright light.
Bringing Up Baby: The Modern Man's Guide to Fatherhood, by Sam Martin, Perigee Trade, 2006; $14.95.
For the first few months of my pregnancy, I feared my husband was the only dad-to-be in the world who was traumatized by the mere thought of reading pregnant-dad books. But then the moms in my childbirth class got to talking. To our astonishment, we found that none of our sensitive, well-educated spouses was the least bit interested in such reading material-even though we had casually yet lovingly placed it near the TV remote and in the bathroom, in case they had free moments to brush up on comfort measures for labor.
Considering the lameness of the literature out there for new dads, however, can you really blame the guys? Dad books typically fall into one of three categories: overly folksy, overly jock-y or so high-minded about the grave importance of fatherhood that dad's going to need an epidural just to keep from jumping out a window.
Which is why I feel it is my duty to recommend Bringing up Baby: The Modern Man's Guide to Fatherhood. Finally, a dad book that is well-written, un-condescending and wryly funny at times without feeling forced. It helps that author Sam Martin writes in the voice of the type of dad everybody wants: manly, worldly, compassionate and witty. A former senior editor at This Old House magazine, he dispenses frank, fatherly wisdom with moments of well-placed levity, making reading a breeze.
"Do not say things like, 'The baby is so ugly,' 'Check out his mammoth cone head,' or 'He looks like your old boyfriend,' " Martin suggests in a chapter called "Life Will Never Be the Same."
Ha ha, you say, but this is actually good advice for guys who prefer not to be flogged with a phone book in the labor room.
Chapters are brief, so it's a great book for the bathroom. Diagrams of baby holds and infant massage techniques, mingled with charming 1950s-era pictures of dads and their small fry, also keep things moving.
And yes, there are sports and beer references, but they're used sparingly, so even sensitive, well-educated dads who never watch football and love reading pregnancy books will appreciate them.