Pregnancy books offer some crazy advice -- and us girlfriends follow most of it

Nov. 23, 2012 at 10:26 AM ET

Pregnant woman in leotard, holding stomach; fitness; photodisc; baby weight; getty Images msnbc stock photography pregnant pregnancy
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Pregnant woman in leotard, holding stomach; fitness; photodisc; baby weight; getty Images msnbc stock photography pregnant pregnancy

If they gave out letter grades for correctly following baby book advice, I would have been an “A” student. The cliché of a nervous, first-time mom, I eagerly read multiple advice books and did my best to follow them all.

Somewhere around my seventh month, my husband read that a woman’s water often breaks at night and therefore, women should sleep on a shower curtain to protect the mattress. In addition to the general sleeping discomfort most pregnant gals experience in their last months, mine was also the noisy sleep of one tossing and turning on loud, plastic sheets. We won’t talk about the fact that he also insisted we take our older car to the hospital for the same reasons (didn’t want to risk ruining the seats in the newer, nicer car), or the fact that I had to sit on a towel during the drive – just in case. Of course, in the end they had to break my water for me.

And my devotion to crazy advice is best highlighted in the bags I brought to the hospital. Yes, that’s right – bags, plural. My own bathrobe? Check. Three pairs of socks? Check. Pillow in a colored pillowcase so it doesn’t get confused for a hospital-issue pillow (as if a hospital pillow could ever get confused with anything except an airplane pillow…), magazines (you’ll want to read, but not a full book, the advice went), DVDs, CDs? Check, check, check. I think it goes without saying that I never did read that issue of US Weekly or watch any movies in the delivery room.

The books also recommended bringing snacks to the hospital. I brought an overstuffed grocery bag filled with drinks and nibblies to get us through (the birth of a child or a nuclear holocaust, I was prepared for either). We never ate any of it. Our hospital in downtown Seattle not only had its own cafeteria, but was also surrounded by numerous Starbucks.

I know I’m not alone in my slavish adherence to baby book advice. Talking to friends, I think most of us look back on at least one crazy recommendation that we blindly, nervously followed.

Darlene Baker admits to having brought a razor to the hospital, because a baby book recommended it. “The book said you’ll want to shave your legs, that it would help you feel better, so I did,” she said. “After giving birth to twins, I couldn’t have cared less if my legs were shaved.”

My friend Mona Wine told me, "I purchased the entire check list of 'Things needed/good to have' from '40 Weeks +: The Essential Pregnancy Organizer,' including the quantity. I had read on the Internet and heard from a couple of folks that I ‘couldn't have enough receiving blankets.’ I realized that I actually could have too many, when my count reached 49 (these did not include burp clothes, swaddlers, muslin wraps, etc.) I also tried to do every single step according to the week listed in the pregnancy organizer. You can imagine my dismay when my daughter’s bedroom was not painted between 25-28 weeks (to avoid fumes, according to my book), even though I was in the hospital on bed rest from 26 to 34 weeks. I was insane.”

Elaborate birthing plans are another way many of us first time moms demonstrate our inexperience and nervousness.

“My first birthing plan was three pages long. I went through every single thing they suggested and weighed in. I'm sure those nurses just rolled their eyes, said ‘first time Mom’ and chucked it,” Claudia Shultz said. “Nothing went the way I carefully plotted on paper. By the time my third child came along, I didn't even make a birth plan.”

This isn’t to say dads are immune to the persuasive powers of baby books. My husband had one for expectant dads, which encouraged dads to help their partners eat healthily during their pregnancy, and provided a lengthy list of suggested foods. My husband went out and bought everything on the list, which included way more produce than two people could ever hope to consume. When my morning sickness forced the recommended asparagus from my stomach, my husband fretted about the impact on the baby.

Did you follow any baby book advice that you later looked back on and wondered, “What was I thinking?!”

Dana Macario is a Seattle-area mom who took a minimalist approach to packing her hospital bag when her second child was born.