When I was pregnant, my eardrum ruptured. After an incredibly painful night, followed by immediate relief once my eardrum burst and started oozing a yellow liquid, I visited my primary care physician. While I was at the appointment, I told my doctor I was about five months pregnant with my first child. She calmly told me, “Things like this happen to expectant mothers all the time.”
I left her office with a prescription for a pregnancy safe antibiotic, a wad of cotton stuck in my weeping ear, and a completely shocked look on my face. I was so surprised because I considered myself to be a well-read pregnant person. In none of my books did it inform me that you could have a pregnancy-induced eardrum explosion.
It took about three months for my ear to heal completely. During that time, I could not hear very well. It sounded like everyone was throwing their voices across the room. I used this as an excuse to stay home and catch up on my pregnancy reading. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy, and Bringing Up Bebe. All excellent reads, but none mentioned the stabbing pain of a pulsing eardrum.
My son is now five years old, but I still find myself reading books about pregnancy. I have moved away from the how-to manuals and the baby raising books. I now prefer books simply about the experience of being pregnant or books where pregnancy is a major plot point. Pregnancy has so many variables (like a burst eardrum) and makes for great reading! Below, find some of my favorites about the prenatal period in a parent’s life.
Memoirs and Novels about Pregnancy
The Farm by Joanne Ramos
The uber-wealthy have the ability to outsource many tasks in their lives including childcare, shopping, and even writing their own thank you cards. In The Farm, very rich clients employ surrogate mothers to have the pregnancies they either cannot or do not want to have. The surrogates live a life of luxury at Golden Acres, a beautiful retreat that offers them daily yoga, nutritious meals, and other amenities one would normally find at a five-star resort. The only catch: the surrogates must stay at Golden Acres for their entire pregnancy and have limited contact with their friends and families.
After establishing this premise, we meet Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines who is also a new mother. In order to secure a better life for her own daughter and aging cousin, Jane agrees to carry a baby for an unknown but extremely wealthy client. Jane quickly learns that all that glitters is not gold and life at Golden Acres is not what she expected.
The Squire by Enid Bagnold
The Squire was first published in 1938 and is one of the first novels ever written about pregnancy and childbirth. In the novel, the mother to be is called The Squire. She oversees her Seaside house while her husband is abroad and while expecting her fifth child. Even though this was published over 80 years ago, The Squire deals with the same issues and tasks that current day parents attend to. She prepares the home, her family, and herself for the birth. She discusses her choice to have children with a neighbor who chooses to live without them. The mother also shares the most beautiful thought concerning the pain of childbirth when she says, “And if you can marry the movements, go with them, turn like a screw in the river and swim on, then the pain becomes a flame which doesn’t burn you.” This is a beautiful read for anyone interested in the experience of being pregnant.
Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley
In Kid Gloves, Lucy Knisley documents and illustrates her difficult journey towards parenthood. Knisley does not shy away from any details. The graphic memoir delves into her miscarriage, fertility problems, a difficult pregnancy, and a very dramatic labor and delivery. Interspersed throughout the book are fascinating facts about the history of childbirth, fetal development, and reproductive health. Knisley’s illustrations and insights provide the reader with a very heartfelt and rewarding read.
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
In this memoir, Jennifer Worth writes about her days and nights working as a midwife in the 1950s in the East End of London. She provides a very rich and detailed glimpse into the lives of those who lived, worked, and gave birth around her. Fans of the Call the Midwife series will recognize some plot lines and familiar faces. This book really puts into perspective how far medicine and childbirth practices have come since the 1950s. I read this one while pregnant and felt an appreciation for all of those people who gave birth before me.
The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
Gaby Rodriguez based her senior project on defying stereotypes. Throughout her life, it was assumed that Gaby would become a teen mom just like her mother and older sisters. Instead of following this path, Gaby defied what many considered the inevitable and pretended to be pregnant in order to study the social implications of being a young mother. Throughout her senior of high school, this honor roll student documented her community’s treatment of her as a teen mom to be.
If you need some more books about pregnancy and childbirth, take a look at these lists: