Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: Baby Bumps

By Jami Deise

I believe your age predicts your reality show addiction. Women in their 40s like me enjoy the home buying/home renovation shows on HGTV. Women in their 20s enjoy The Bachelorette and wedding shows. Women in their late 20s and 30s are addicted to those baby stories. And men have golf. Whatever life stage you’re at, there’s a block of reality TV programming just for you.

If you’re at the life stage where a baby is the next item on your to-do list, you may want to think twice before reading Mommy Blogger Amy Sprenger’s not-quite-fiction debut novel Baby Bumps. Not because it isn’t good – it is – but because expectant or to-be-expectant moms already worry too much as it is without this detailed guide to things that can go wrong in your pregnancy. At least, that’s what my ob-gyn told me 20 years ago. That particular book was the back chapters of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but I believe the lesson holds true today. Worrying about what might happen never makes it easier, and Sprenger’s book will make pregnant women worry every time they go to the bathroom. Which is a lot.

I’m not sure how much worrying Sprenger’s heroine, Annie, got in at the beginning of her pregnancy. The novel starts when she’s about 20 weeks along, far enough to know she’s carrying a boy she and her husband Jake have nicknamed the Blob. Annie seems more concerned about looking cute in her maternity wear and getting her Starbucks fix than about getting to her ultrasound on time. Unfortunately, the images reveal that Annie has an incompetent cervix. That doesn’t mean that the sensitive piece of female anatomy is unable to make its own legal or medical decisions; rather it means it’s not up to the task of keeping in the Blob for his required 40 weeks. In fact, Annie’s uterus is already protruding into the birth canal. She’s hospitalized and her cervix is stitched up and told to behave itself for 20 more weeks.

If everything went swimmingly from that point on, Annie would be the protagonist of a short story, not a novel. But she’s not, and more complications happen. Eventually, Annie’s required to go on complete bed rest. At the same time, her husband has a job that takes him out of town during the week; they’re in the middle of completely rehabbing their Chicago home, and they have a crazy – although very supportive and close-by – family.

Annie narrates the tale with a brave sense of humor. She’s determined to keep joking, and keep everyone laughing while going through scary and sometimes painful and humiliating procedures. (Sprenger’s descriptions of medical appointments and procedures are highly detailed, and perhaps not for the very squeamish.) This is a book that easily could have delved into pity-party territory, but Annie refuses to go there … although she does act bratty during certain times, such as a falling-out with her mother over socks.

My one quibble with the book is Sprenger’s decision to write, as she puts it, an “Almost, Barely, Not-Quite-True” story. In her forward to readers, Sprenger says she started to write a memoir but realized it would be funnier if she could make stuff up. So she wrote a novel, but, she says, “The framework of the story is true… names have been changed… timelines have been compressed and events have been slightly altered. Slightly.” If most of the book is true, why not just write the memoir? Sprenger’s voice is funny enough that “making stuff up” really isn’t necessary. And it left me wondering if she really is married to someone who gets drunk at an office party and humiliates his wife. I really hope not. I would have preferred the true story, and as a blogger, it’s certainly something Sprenger is capable of delivering.

And I would like to add one caveat to my warning to women who haven’t yet but will soon bear children: You may decide to wait to read this book until after you’ve had your brood. But by all means, give it to your husband or significant other and make him/her/them read it right away. The universe has a way of laughing at expectant fathers who think it’s OK to be hours away from a woman who could go into labor at any minute. The sooner they learn this lesson, the better.

Thanks to Amy Sprenger for the book in exchange for an honest review. Baby Bumps is $2.99 for Kindle.

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