Posted by: thatjen | May 9, 2008

In Which I Read and Review a Book for GROWNUPS! Wow!

They tell you, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, as a librarian, let me tell you that people DO judge books by their covers. The cover is a huge part of whether or not a book will move off the shelves. Kids will turn up their noses at a book with a dated cover, one that “looks boring”, or doesn’t look like them. And I’m not that different from the kids I teach, honestly.

If I hadn’t received a review copy of Marjorie Greenfield’s The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book, I probably wouldn’t have paid too much attention to it in a bookstore or delved too deeply into its Amazon listing. And that would have been a shame, as there is much to praise in this book. But the image on the cover is of a pregnant belly in a tasteful black maternity top, while the belly’s owner looks at a cell phone or PDA in her manicured hand.
It’s a far cry from what pregnant, working me looks like, and the image just doesn’t resonate with me. Opening the book and perusing the table of contents doesn’t help, either, as the chapter titles are puns from the white collar world: “Mergers and Acquisitions (Getting Pregnant)”, and “Going Public (Weeks 14-26)” to name a few. I was uninspired when I began reading, but slowly (yes, like a pregnancy) it grew on me.

The adage is true – you can’t judge this book by its cover. While it appears to reach out to the corporate career woman – a narrow slice of the working world, indeed – it is broad in its reach and includes voices of women in a wide array of jobs. The frequent quotes were some of my favorite parts of the book, and came from, among others, a FedEx courier, a supermodel*, teachers, librarians, secretaries, lawyers, a police officer, doctors, a factory worker, and a governor**. Oh, and the author herself, although she doesn’t make it clear she’s quoting herself, which bothered me a bit (Marge G., obstetrician). The quotes brought a reality and warmth to the book which made it fun to read, and really helped present the vast spectrum of working experiences in America. They were still slanted to the middle and upper class (the only housecleaners and nannies mentioned in the book were those employed by the interviewees) but were a far more representative sample than I originally anticipated.

As I read the book, I realized I was at a bit of a (self-created) disadvantage in reviewing it. Despite my obsession with reading and research, I have read very few pregnancy books with which to compare it. In my first pregnancy I read the Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy (ugh, don’t ask me why – worst piece of heterosexist drivel I’ve wasted my eyeballs on) and started on What Never To Do When You’re Expecting (or whatever it’s called)… and then descended into the nine levels of miscarriage and molar hell. When I finally got pregnant again, I had no interest in pregnancy books. Eventually I read a lot about childbirth (and when I got paranoid about a particular symptom, I’d look it up in the Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy and Your Child’s First Year – not a good choice for hypochondriacs!), and I did refer to Your Vegetarian Pregnancy for nutrition information (great resource!), but I didn’t read any of the gazillion pregnancy books.

So I don’t have much to compare TWWPB against, and I did sometimes find myself unfairly comparing the latter part of the book, which address labor and birth, against the books I’ve read which focus entirely on birth preparation and experiences. It’s an unfair comparison because TWWPB tries to be much more, and does a very admirable job.

It covers everything from pre-conception through the return to work and the beginning of the long, long juggling act that is working parenthood. Greenfield is warm and supportive, and shows compassion for survivors of infertility and miscarriage. She provides basic information on unassisted conception, an introduction to testing and options in fertility treatment, and a thorough but succinct overview of the various stages of pregnancy, prenatal testing, medical care, childbirth options, labor, birth, baby care, and the eventual return to work. The interplay, positive and negative, between working and procreating is the underlying theme of the book, but it is often a subtle background refrain. Although the work-specific chapters are less than a quarter of the total, they will be tremendously useful and informative for working women, particularly those who need or want to resume working after their children are born. In particular, the section on “Laws Related to Pregnancy and Work” (p.184-189) is more comprehensive and comprehensible than any other resource I’ve seen to date, and I wish I’d had access to it prior to my first child’s birth!

I have quibbles, of course (would you expect anything less?):

  • I was surprised that the discussion of childcare was left until the very end of the book, when it’s such a difficult hurdle for so many families, and often requires a great deal of research, legwork, and planning during the pregnancy.
  • The author mentions her love for the book Getting to Yes so many times I began to wonder if she was getting a cut from the publisher.
  • I wish the recommended reading sections had been appended to each chapter instead of in one large resource section at the end. And I was appalled at the omission of Taking Charge of Your Fertility from the “On Getting Pregnant” list.
  • Post-Partum Depression gets minimal coverage, and depression during pregnancy, which has been a challenge for me and several of my friends, is barely mentioned at all.
  • The initial presentation of prenatal care and childbirth options is very comprehensive and remarkably open to midwifery and out-of-hospital birth — for a mainstream pregnancy book. The labor and birth chapters are a bit more skewed towards the typical medicalized birth, and don’t always present complete information about risks and benefits of interventions or alternatives.

Those (mostly) minor issues aside, I found TWWPB to be an interesting and informative read, and other than the stress of the review deadline looming over my head (way to draw the second-shortest straw on my first MotherTalk review!!) I enjoyed reading it. I would recommend it to any of my friends pursuing pregnancy as a good overall resource, and a starting point to a pregnancy library (which would of course need supplementation, particularly in terms of childbirth education). All in all, I liked it much more than I expected when I first pulled it out of the package and flipped through the book. So I guess I’ll keep telling the kids not to judge books by their covers….

PS – I would be remiss in my very lesbian blog to overlook the fact that Greenfield is welcoming to mothers of all orientations, explaining in the preface that she will discuss partners as male but was aware and supportive of other family configurations including single moms and partnered lesbians. I was delighted to encounter that statement in the first page of text and it did make the frequent “father” references easier to swallow.

*Identified in the book as Cindy M. Cindy C., I could have figured out. Any ideas for Cindy M.?
Update: Ok, my good friend Google helped me – I think this is Cindy M. Can’t say I’m really up to speed on my supermodels….
**That one was a little easier. How many governors have given birth (to twins, no less) in office?



  1. I love the title to this post! We read a lot of Pooh around here. Happy Mother’s Day to both of you.

  2. Thanks for posting this review!

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