The Sh!t No One Tells You About Pregnancy is the fourth book in Dawn Dais’ hysterical yet informative series, which also includes The Sh!t No One Tells You: A Guide to Surviving Your Baby’s First Year, The Sh!t No One Tells You About Toddlers, and The Sh!t No One Tells You About Baby #2, about which more here. In her latest volume, she goes back to what is the beginning of the adventure for many of us. As in all her books, she relies on a panel of “Moms on the Front Lines” (and in this case, a panel of partners, too) who share their varied experiences with pregnancy. They are a mix of straight and queer, partnered and single, quickly pregnant and challenged by fertility issues. Although Dais often shares her own experiences, she never assumes that hers are the only ones.
Dais is nothing if not a realist about pregnancy and parenting. Chapter titles include “It’s Hard to See Your Pregnancy Glow with Your Head in a Toilet Most of the Day,” and “You have 99 Emotions and You’re Going to Hit Every One.” She covers bodily changes, preparing your home, what you really need in a baby registry, picking a name for your child, and dealing with the judgments of others in the “Mommy Wars.” Throughout the book, too, are Dais’ funny “Pregnancy Workouts of the Day” for preparing oneself for life with an infant. “Pee while holding a bag of flour,” she suggests, and “Eat a meal with one hand tied behind your back.” Despite those obviously flippant ideas, her overally advice is sound and never assumes that a new mom has a husband nearby. She even includes a spread with input from two nonbio moms about their feelings and challenges during their partners’ pregnancies.
As Dais wrote in a guest piece at Mombian four years ago:
As I’ve read the different reviews that have come through for the book none of them mention that it’s written by a lesbian mom. I think that demonstrates 1) how little anyone cares about the sexual orientation of an author and more so 2) how little sexual orientation has to do with parenting.
I didn’t set out to write a “gay” or “straight” parenting book, I just wanted to write something that spoke to my experiences and struggles in a way that was accessible to anyone tackling new parenting.
I feature stories and advice in the book from several other moms, all of whom have different family situations, but all of whom are moms first and foremost. By including their points of view I was trying to offer various opinions on the topics I covered, but also trying to demonstrate how universal all of our parenting experiences were, no matter what our families look like….
Contrast that approach with that of the 800-pound gorilla of pregnancy-advice books, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. That tome’s 5th edition includes a note proclaiming that it is “A Book for All Families,” but then says that “the use of ‘dad’ instead of ‘dad or other mom’ in referring to the not-pregnant parent” is “a way of avoiding phrases … that are more inclusive but also a mouthful to read.” It then advises readers: “Please mentally edit out any phrase that doesn’t fit and replace it with one that’s right for your and your loving family.” Dais’ book, while not as in depth on many topics as What to Expect, saves readers from those mental gymnastics and shows that it’s possible to build in true inclusion of many family types.
The only note of caution I would sound, especially for queer readers, is that in one chapter, Dais follows What to Expect and the baby industry generally in talking about whether to have a “gender-reveal” party, conflating sex and gender when the newer understanding is to see sex as related to genitals and chromosomes, and gender as related to socially constructed roles and behavior. (See Planned Parenthood and the American Psychological Association, among others.) She writes, “The only people who get a real surprise in regard to gender are the ones who are told the wrong sex by their ultrasound technician. The ones who vomit pink all over their baby’s nursery and then push a penised child out at their delivery.” The overall lighthearted tone of the book tells me we shouldn’t take Dais too seriously here—she seems to be making fun of the families who over-gender their nurseries and would be surprised in this situation, not saying she doesn’t think a child with a penis should have a pink room. Also, I think she gets credit for not herself assuming said “penised child” is a boy. Still, she missed an opportunity to offer some badly needed education around sex and gender. (See Erin Keane’s July Salon article, “It’s a boy! It’s a girl! But, people — it’s not a ‘gender reveal’ party!” Google seems to be faulty in this regard, too: search “sex reveal party” and you’ll get results for “gender reveal party.”)
That aside, this is an enjoyable read for pregnant (or trying-to-be-pregnant) moms-to-be of any orientation, one that emphasizes our similarities while not assuming all of our experiences are identical—and reminding us to laugh along the way.
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