So it looks like that strip turned pink (…or two stripes appeared, or you saw a plus sign, or a smiley face, or an indistinguishable blob of pastel. Either way, you’ve probably just learned that in the future you’ll be shelling out a few extra bucks for those digital pregnancy tests that just say PREGNANT in all-caps.) Whether your brand new bean-sized babe was long-planned, a complete surprise, or somewhere in between, if you’ve decided there’s room for another soon-to-be book-lover in your life, chances are you’re ready to get reading yourself. And, as a soon-to-be Momma myself, I’ve got a stack of pregnancy books to read, stat.
One of the first things you’ll probably notice the minute you start sharing the news is that everyone — from your friends and family, to your favorite barista and your (ahem, male) dentist, to complete strangers on the street and in the grocery story — is going to have an opinion about what you are and are not doing with your body over the next nine months. And a lot of those opinions, well-intentioned as they allege to be, may not be especially helpful. (Who knew cold cuts and yoga could become so lethal overnight?)
You might find that a lot of books about pregnancy and motherhood leave you with similar feelings: that you’re doing it all wrong, that everything in your life is suddenly a death trap, that you’ll never (really never?) sleep again for the rest of your life (like, not even when my child is collecting their own social security?), that you have to do everything "naturally" but nobody can agree on what "natural" is (so best throw out all your beauty products now and plan to give birth to that babe in the woods with a cartoonishly-agreeable raccoon on standby to chew through the umbilical cord for you.) I think you get the idea here. The empowering pregnancy books on this list don’t do that. They’re judgement-free, they keep it real, they’ll support you in claiming your body and your own unique experience, and they’ll help you tap into the wisdom of your mom-intuition — which will make it a whole lot easier when you have to tell all those advice-givers to kick rocks.
Check out these 15 books to read if your just found out you’re pregnant — all new-Momma-to-be tested and approved.
'What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child — and All the Best Times to Read Them' by Pam Allyn
If you’re a book-loving Momma-to-be, then you’re probably already planning your little one’s first TBR pile (hey, maybe you’ve been mentally stocking her shelves since before you found out you were pregnant.) The perfect book for book lovers and their minis, What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child — and All the Best Times to Read Them by Pam Allyn is full of advice on nurturing those bookish obsessions in your own children, while celebrating the power of reading aloud and sharing stories together. Priorities, people.
'Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood—and Trusting Yourself and Your Body' by Erica Chidi Cohen
Something that most people (and most birthing books) aren’t going to tell you is that there are as many different types of pregnancy and birthing experiences as there are mothers — and they’re ALL valid. Written to support every single mother, and challenging the idea that there’s only one way to go “natural” during pregnancy and birth, Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood — and Trusting Yourself and Your Body by doula Erica Chidi Cohen is filled with easy to understand and follow pregnancy information and advice, as well as plenty of tips for self-care, and more.
'Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong—And What You Really Need to Know' by Emily Oster
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong — And What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster is a book that digs into the actual stats behind all that pregnancy advice you’re going to hear over and over. Empowering women with real research and data, while offering mothers-to-be a much-needed break from all that pressure to be perfect, Oster will give you the information you need to make educated, reasonable, and relaxed decisions. (In case you’re wondering, I myself switched to decaf, but still eat sushi.)
'Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution' by Adrienne Rich
A longtime reader of the fierce, feminist poet Adrienne Rich, I was beyond thrilled when I discovered she also wrote about book about mothering. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution is THE book to turn to when your pregnancy has been mansplained to you one too many times. Resonating with plenty of 1970s feminist rage, Of Woman Born interrogates the co-opting of motherhood by the patriarchy and explores the actual realities of mothering — based on Rich’s own experiences — in contrast to the harmful and unrealistic identity myths that have been perpetuated about mothers for generations.
'Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species' by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
Chances are you already have some ideas about what kind of mother you hope to be, but “perfect” definitely needn’t be a part of your inner Mommy monologue. Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy looks beyond the gender-based myths and stereotypes about motherhood in favor of an evolutionary and anthropological approach, demonstrating that there’s no one, correct, innate type of mothering, and that since the beginning of time mothers have struggled, strived, and thrived in equal measure — and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
'The Mindful Mom-To-Be: A Modern Doula's Guide to Building a Healthy Foundation from Pregnancy Through Birth' by Lori Bregman
While folks will certainly tell you how important self-care is throughout pregnancy, birth, and those early days of motherhood, you’ll probably start to pick up on the subtle social cues hinting that all that self-care should still take place sometime between finishing the laundry and maintaining your career (aka: not self-care at all, rather just one more task you can feel guilty about leaving unfinished.) In contrast, The Mindful Mom-To-Be: A Modern Doula's Guide to Building a Healthy Foundation from Pregnancy Through Birth by Lori Bregman actually reminds you that the best way to care for your baby is to ACTUALLY care for yourself, and a little mindfulness can go a long way.
'The Birth Of A Mother: How The Motherhood Experience Changes You Forever' by Daniel N. Stern
You baby will definitely take center stage during pregnancy — understandably so — but you may start to wonder where YOU went in the whole process. Suddenly, everything is all about someone else — and someone you haven’t even met yet! The Birth Of A Mother: How The Motherhood Experience Changes You Forever by Daniel N. Stern will remind you the birth of your baby also marks the birth of you as a mother, and how that transformation is just as important as all the transforming your lil’ peanut is doing in-utero. I see you, Momma.
'Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience' by Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake
Again, there are just as many ways to birth as there are mothers — and there is no one “right” way to bring your baby into this world. But, for those mothers interested in learning more about the ways you may or may not want the medical industry involved in your birth, Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience by Abby Epstein and Ricki Lake is a definite must-read. It’ll help you make informed decisions, rather than fear-based ones, about where, when, and how you prefer to birth your brand new babe.
'Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession' by Erma Bombeck
This is the book that was on my own mother’s bookshelves my entire life, and now I’m proud to have it on mine. Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck is a powerful, touching, and hilarious look at the highs, lows, struggles, successes, and all-around absurdities that have been innate to motherhood since the beginning of time.
'Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Although written for a girlfriend seeking advice about raising a feminist daughter, I think Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is just as important a read if you’re planning on raising a feminist son too — and if we’re raising our daughters to be feminists, we should definitely be raising our sons to be feminists. It’s beautiful, concise, and empowering.
'Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year' by Anne Lamott
This now-classic memoir of mommyhood is so honest, relatable, and funny, it’ll make you realize that no mother is “perfect” (nor are we meant to be,) while also reminding you that you’ll essentially have no choice but to mother your own way. Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott follows the writer through the ups and downs of her son’s first year of life and her first year of motherhood.
'How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: Parenting Wisdom from Around the World' by Mei-Ling Hopgood
If you feel like you’re already up to your eyeballs in parenting wisdom, don’t worry — How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: Parenting Wisdom from Around the World by Mei-Ling Hopgood is NOT one of those books that purports to have the one and only legitimate “expert” opinion. Rather, it’s got advice from real families living, loving, and parenting all over the world. Spoiler alert: even though each family parents a little (or, a lot) differently, their children are doing just fine. Yours will too.
'Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us' by Christine Gross-Loh
If you’re loving the ‘round-the-world approach to parenting, I’ve got another title for you: Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us by Christine Gross-Loh. It challenges some of the long-held parenting norms of North America, exploring what American parents can learn from other cultures. Take what you need, leave what you don’t — it’s all good stuff.
'Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home' by Christopher Gavigan
Parenting (and gestating) “green” can be beyond overwhelming — not to mention expensive. Everything from dish soap to fabric softener suddenly seems to hold your child’s entire future in their complicated chemical compounds. But one book that will help you make informed, reasonable, sustainable, and affordable decisions about where going green is most important for you and your family is Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home by Christopher Gavigan. It begins with small steps you can start implementing now, and gradually adds others for every stage of pregnancy, infancy, and childhood.
'Last Child in the Woods' by Richard Louv
Most books that purport to “save” my soon-to-be-here child from anything are a little off-putting to me — as though life for little ones is just one, long, constant state of unmitigated peril. Last Child in the Woods by child advocacy expert and nature enthusiast Richard Louv is, so far, my only exception to this rule. Although your bouncing babe won’t be taking walks in the woods for a few years, you might find it helpful to consider what kinds of habits you’d like to cultivate (and perhaps, integrate into your own life now.) Louv describes the proven physical and psychological benefits of getting that kiddo outdoors and away from the screens — but don’t feel like you have to wait for your mini to get here to start. You can enjoy all the benefits of reconnecting with nature yourself, right now, too. And if you’re feeling good, baby is feeling good.