• Motto
  • Parenting

I Was So Fed Up With Unrealistic Pregnancy Books, I Wrote an Uncensored One

5 minute read

“Why did no one tell me that this could happen?”

When I was pregnant with my first child, I must have exclaimed that exact phrase to at least a dozen mamas that I’d known for years. The answer was often: “We didn’t want to scare you, you might not have wanted to get pregnant.” That’s insanity! Knowing in advance that pregnancy might cause your voice to change, or make you temporarily hate the love of your life’s smell isn’t going to tamp down the average woman’s maternal yearning, but being prepared for these mind and body changes can make the experience so much better.

Brynne Zaniboni / Courtesy of St. Martins Press

As the weeks turned into trimesters, I felt very left out of the sixteen mainstream maternity books that I bought. None of them discussed many of the strange and embarrassing symptoms I experienced, and the lack of photographic diversity was depressing. We’re not all cellulite-free moms-to-be. That’s why I decided to write and produce PREGNANCY, OMG! with the hope that every pregnant person can see a semblance of herself in print.

Over a period of multiple months, my photographer Brynne Zaniboni and I captured an incredibly inclusive lineup of pregnant women of varying shapes, sizes, sexualities and skin colors. These awesome moms-to-be were brave enough to bare it all to modernize the conversation about pregnant bodies.

If you’re pregnant, I’m telling you now: You’re in for one crazy ride. If this is your first pregnancy, then for the first time in your life your body doesn’t completely belong to you — you’re the host to a very cute parasite. If you’ve been there, done that, you’re still in for a new and unusual journey — every pregnancy is different in both beneficial and bizarre ways. I know because I’ve been there and done that three times myself, and have two children to show for it. (If you also unfortunately find yourself searching for a rainbow after suffering a loss like I did, this book has you covered).

My female friends are also all knee-deep in the fertility years, popping out babies left and right, and we collectively became exasperated over all the issues the other pregnancy books leave out or gloss over. So after being a pregnant or postpartum mom for basically four non-stop years, in preparation to write this book, I scoured the Internet with fresh, non-hormonal eyes, hanging out in popular birth-message boards, perusing blogs, and checking out what questions preggos asked and the candid pictures they shared in the vast and anonymous online world. I then revisited about a dozen of the top pregnancy books that caused me such angst, many of them bearing bruised spines from being thrown across the room in terror or frustration or both, cross-referencing them all to come up with dozens of concerns that each and every one failed to so much as acknowledge, much less advise upon. And I don’t mean just a couple of accidental misses. In my research I found dozens of major issues that weren’t deemed worthy of discussion by the most popular pregnancy books on the market such as excessive swearing, jewelry allergies, weakened tooth enamel, bad breath and gender disappointment.

Brynne Zaniboni; Courtesy of St. Martins Press

Speaking of other pregnancy books, why is it that most of them are organized by weeks and trimesters? Some women get hit with pregnancy nosebleeds at eight weeks and some at 32. Others don’t have any nausea until the third trimester, while some poor souls start getting back pain before the baby inside of them is bigger than a peanut. That’s why PREGNANCY, OMG! is 100% mama-centric and organized by body part, not timetable, so you don’t have to feel weird because your personal pregnancy issue is “out of order”— every pregnant body is different.

As your fingers swell up and look like sausages and your engorged breasts seem to take on heartbeats of their own, you may feel as if your body is self-destructing. Well, stop. This book will offer visual proof that you’re not the only preggo with a blue vulva, among other disorienting dilemmas. It’ll also feature medically vetted explanations of your frustrating moments — all organized in bite-size portions designed to quickly and clearly alleviate any concerns you may have.

I didn’t set out to give you the play-by-play of your baby’s development, from pea to pumpkin. If you want that type of information, there are plenty of tried-and-true, fetus-focused resources, as well as your own trusted doctor, for you to turn to. Instead, I want to talk about your pregnant body. I want to help inspire you to get through this demanding time, and help you embrace rather than fear it. Relish and rejoice in the fact that no matter what’s happening to you, you’re not alone.

Excerpt adapted from PREGNANCY, OMG!: The First Ever Photographic Guide for Mamas-to-Be (St. Martins Press, 2018).

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com