In the run-up to the birth of our son, my wife and I probably ended up reading more books on pregnancy, childbirth and babies than most. I think that my job as a university lecturer may have something to do with it and why I wanted to feel prepared. I remember coming across a quote once that ‘there’s no crisis to which academics will not respond by organising a conference’. I heard that at a conference, a conference organised by academics. It was actually a conference about a crisis anyway and I think that we saw pregnancy, childbirth and becoming parents as an exciting challenge more than anything else.
Sometimes I found myself asking why there were books about pregnancy especially for men and what it was that they did that ‘traditional’ pregnancy books did not. Whilst a lot ‘traditional’ books on pregnancy doubtlessly provide a lot of useful information about what sorts of things occur during labour and child birth, a lot of them are written in a way that basically tells women what to expect and they tend to focus on recounting women’s stories of their experiences and feelings. All this is in many ways understandable seeing as it is women who carry the baby and give birth to it. However, books in which there is a token chapter telling men what to expect or focusing on the role of men do little to encourage men to feel that they are more than an ‘add-on’ or a spare wheel in the whole process. In other words, this type of pregnancy book does little to empower men or encourage them to take an active role in parenting. I say parenting as I feel that the process of being a parent involves caring for the baby and its mother during the nine months of pregnancy and not just when the baby is born.
When I did a search online for books about parenting that were written specifically for men, I was pleased to find that there were quite a few to choose from. Just as there are different sorts of men and fathers, there were also different sorts of books. I deliberately avoided those that seemed to be written in a lad’s mag style that began by telling the reader of the need to stop sitting on the sofa drinking beer and watching football as there was some real work to be done. I do like sitting on the sofa at times and certainly watching a bit of football, but I found the tone of this type of book a bit condescending and almost insulting. Ultimately, I ended up buying and reading through two books that I felt did an excellent job of helping to let expectant fathers know what to expect.
The two books in question were Pregnancy for Men by Mark Woods and The Expectant Dad’s Survival Guide by Rob Kemp. Being able to download a free sample of these books to an e-reader before buying was very useful as I was able to tell whether or not they seemed just right. Both books did a good job of providing practical advice in an engaging and readable manner and recounting men’s experiences of different stages of pregnancy and becoming a dad.
I also read some books about slightly more specific or specialised aspects of pregnancy and bringing up children such as The Father’s Home Birth Handbook by Leah Hazard and Babynomics: money saving tips for savvy parents by Madeline Thomas. In the course of the next few weeks and months, I will try to provide more detailed reviews of some these books on this blog. I wouldn’t say that reading so many books is essential but at least trying to read one fairly general book about becoming a father is certainly a good step towards getting an idea of what to expect. Oh, and it means that you won’t find lots and lots of books cluttering things up as you attempt to de-clutter in preparation for your new arrival. For a while, we kept our pregnancy books on a sort of shelf underneath the cot that we had bought for our baby. The number of books meant that it became somewhat hard to move the cot and we ended up deciding that it would probably be easier to move the books somewhere else before we started piling them into the main part of the cot and considering making a space on a bookshelf for our baby.