Something you realize, after realizing you are going to have a baby, is that there a whole grown-up industry of mommy-to-be guides out there just waiting to envelope you in its caring, sadistic arms.
There are the pregnancy books: Belly Laughs: the Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth, Eating for Pregnancy: the Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook for Today’s Mother-to-Be, 40 Weeks+ the Essential Pregnancy Organizer, Dude! You’re Gonna Be a Dad!: How to get (Both of You) Through the next Nine Months, Taboo Secrets of Pregnancy: A Guide to a Life with a Belly, and, the supposed bible of them all, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, a book of which we had three copies at one point, one purchased and two gifted to us by others.
Then there are the pregnancy Web sites: The Pregnancy Center, The Baby Center, The Baby Zone, StorkNet, Pregnancy.com, Pregnancy.org, Pregnancy Week-by-Week, Fit Pregnancy Week-by-Week…and on and on.
When we went to see our midwife for the first time about a month ago, she looked us dead in the eye and said, “Don’t you dare read What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”
The woman is a fast-talking New Yorker (is this redundant?), a trait always a bit jarring once you’ve settled into the laconic Iowa way. In addition to scolding us for having as much as peeped in said pregnancy book, she also chastised Marta for having gained two or three pounds in the first eight weeks. “There should be a zero weight gain at this point. Those pounds are on you, mom.”
Her rationale for avoiding What to Expect, and nearly all baby books for that matter, is not a bad one. They’re filled, she explained, with detailed descriptions of all the crazy but rare things that might happen to you or your baby during pregnancy: Subchorionic bleed, preeclampsia, oligohydramnios, symphysis publis dysfunction, and, of course, miscarriage, miscarriage, miscarriage (which is more common). And yet having someone tell me I shouldn’t avoid a particular book makes me want to read it cover-to-cover.
In truth, What to Expect is not all that bad. Especially if, say, pregnancy rears up that old case of Restless Leg Syndrome and you need some quick advice on how to handle it (get acupuncture, eat right, and just deal with it, mom). Or if you’re worried that your baby keeps kicking whenever you have an orgasm (it’s normal). Or what to do about gas, headaches, dry skin, achy swollen pelvises, stretch marks, spider veins, heart burn and indigestion, fatigue, the microwave, your regular hair-dye appointment and the family cat.
What I’ve really enjoyed, however, are sections in these Web sites and books devoted to tracking just what is happening with your baby each week. And here is where I get back to my point, my point being Balduino’s surname, Kumquat.
The Baby Center blog is by far the more attractive and user friendly of the many options we have for getting an “inside look” at our fetus’s development. So this is where we normally go each Saturday when we want an update on how Balduino is shaping up that week. For each week of development, the Baby Center estimates the size, appearance (i.e. tail or no tail), and the body parts your fetus-child has or is developing. Most importantly, the Baby Center provides you with an image to help you visualize just how big the little guy is.
At week four he is a poppy seed, at week nine a grape, eleven a fig, fifteen an apple, and, near the end, any number of melons: honey dew, crenshaw, mini watermelon.
Are you detecting a trend?
The Baby Center adheres to a strict edible-only metaphor policy when describing baby growth. And not just edible-only, but fruit and vegetable only, a stance that seems pretty standard in the industry. It’s a phenomenon that is alternately cute and frightening. Kumquat, for instance, was Balduino’s supposed size-gauge at 10 weeks. I found this adorable, though Marta asked, “What the hell is a kumquat?” The “English Hothouse cucumber” he will supposedly mirror at 26 weeks has befuddled us both, while his future transition from a cucumber to a head of cauliflower between weeks 30 and 31 makes me want to scream.
I’m unsure why mothers-to-be should be limited to fruits and vegetables when visualizing that growing bundle of cells in their bellies. Except that it’s supposed to be cute. I’d frankly prefer an animal metaphor any day. Week 4, a louse; Week 7, a beetle, Week 15 a chipmunk, Week 40 a skunk.
If only there were an industry for that.