As the founder of MumsVillage, I often get asked for recommendations on all things parenting– everything from who the best bouncy castle providers are, where to find locally made baby carriers to which books about parenting to read.
I woke up this morning with a sudden inspiration to share my recommendations of books that I’ve read during my two pregnancies. I have curated these in a way that hopefully gives you ideas for your own reading, or for gifts to friends who may be pregnant or first time parents.
Written by author and journalist Annie Murphy Paul, Origins is a captivating mix of the personal reflections of a pregnant woman and her examinations of the most compelling research about what really affects foetuses. Most people are familiar with the dangers of alcohol and drugs but what about the impact of chronic stress or traumatic shocks to the mum? What if you were pregnant and inside Westgate Mall or experiencing domestic violence trauma during your pregnancy – how might that affect your baby long after when they are adults? We are all also increasingly aware of the different type of toxins that surround us. However, since many of these are beyond our control, we often choose to simply not think about them. Paul, on the other hand, swings in the opposite direction by revealing how the effects of some of these toxins can, in fact, be transmitted across generations. These insights not only deepen our understanding of how foetuses develop but also illustrate how things that our children are exposed to even before birth can have far-reaching consequences for their development and well-being. This knowledge can, in turn, empower us to make different – and better-informed – choices where possible. Overall, it left me even more appreciative of how amazing our wombs are!
My mother gave me this book last year and told me to read it right away. I didn’t because I was so busy (and also steeped in pregnancy related content due to the nature of my work so I felt I was already highly informed). But every time we spoke, she asked me if I’d finished it yet so eventually I complied. And now I highly recommend it to all first time pregnant couples!
I recommend this book for: every pregnant woman and, particularly, those who think they know everything about pregnancy (because they’ll find out they don’t!)
I received this book from a friend who is part of the MumsVillage community and can’t thank her enough for giving me such a thoughtful gift when my first child was born. I was also delighted to find out that she picked it up at a local bookshop in Nairobi. Ellen Sue Stern is a prolific writer who has authored more than 20 books on relationships and parenting. For many new parents, the first year is an intense blur of incredible change and not only do we not have time for many things such as reading long books, we also barely have time to reflect on the very change we are in the midst of. This book is a great way as you can take 5 min every morning and evening to read a one-page reflection of this precious stage in your new life. Content-wise, she includes a diverse range from Bible verses to insights from other mothers.
I recommend this for: baby shower gift for a friend who is having her first child- especially for a friend who is not a bookworm since it’s only a one-page a day commitment.
I absolutely loved reading this book during my first pregnancy! Written by journalist Mei-Ling Hopgood who has a global background and lives in Argentina, I literally couldn’t put this book down. Hopgood selects 10 unique parenting habits from around the world and goes into depth about the origins of these customs. Before I bought the book, I skimmed the Kenya chapter telling myself I would only buy the book if that chapter was genuine and not superficial or patronizing – if Kenya was accurate, then that meant to me that her observations about other countries would be well-informed. Kenya’s chapter was a celebration of kang and kikoy baby carrying practices (long before “baby wearing” became a verb elsewhere in the world) in urban and rural areas. I burst out laughing when she started by talking about how impractical strollers are, given how we have almost no sidewalks or smooth surfaces to push them on.
She talks about places elsewhere in the world where cotton wool and warm water is used for wiping and not baby wipes – I personally think this is a great practice we have in Kenya, also. Her chapter on potty training practices in China opened by eyes to a completely different norm of training from infancy so babies don’t ever need to be in diapers. Based on reading this chapter, I became obsessed by this idea and went on to read Diaper Free Baby and tried the cue-based method with my firstborn for a while with mixed success (my main challenge was convincing my nanny that this was possible so we weren’t consistent in implementation). Overall, what I loved most about this book was the affirmation that there are almost no absolutes when it comes to parenting and there’s much to be learned from our global village.
I recommend this for: parents who are curious about how things are done outside of Kenya and have read enough “expert” books already.
The ‘What to Expect’ series by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel has become a staple (18M copies sold) for new parents around the world and they have done an impressive job in keeping current with new versions. The 2017 version, for example, includes commentary on the Zika virus, VBACs. It’s one of the most widely distributed pregnancy-related books in bookstores in Kenya so the most immediately accessible in hard copy of the books on my list. Most of the content is useful to but as a pregnant woman in Kenya, there are many times (especially with the prenatal care services at local hospitals) when I would come back from a prenatal visit and say to myself “that was NOT what I expected!”.
I recommend for: first time mum to read throughout pregnancy to understand the basics of what’s happening to her body and how to have a healthy pregnancy.
I hope this round up is useful! I always love to know what others are reading so do share comments below. Also let me know if you decide to read or gift any of them and if you have other suggestions of good reads for pregnant women or mothers.
As I draw up my own reading list for 2018, I’m going to read two books connected to the Village – Things I will Tell My Daughter by our very own Nairobi-based journalist and contributor to MumsVillage, Joan Thatiah . I’ll also be reading Third Culture Kids – Growing up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken recommended by a mum in our Kitisuru Mums WhatsApp Group.