Review: “Let’s Panic About Babies!”

“Pregnancy is a strange and bloated time,” Alice Bradley and Eden M. Kennedy write in this satirical guide to being knocked-up. “But more important, it’s a time when every single one of your decisions will leave an indelible and unmistakable imprint on your baby forever.”

So no pressure or anything, right? But the authors of the very funny “Let’s Panic About Babies!” want to calm any anxieties moms-to-be may have about this “small, hairy bowling ball” developing inside them.

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For instance, even as the debate continues as to whether fish is safe for expectant mothers to eat, this handbook declares that consuming lox while pregnant will have the rather nasty result of your baby being “born covered in capers.” Also, please be aware that drinking chamomile tea could produce an offspring who enjoys “Hummel figurine-collecting,” and be sure to avoid smoking clove cigarettes because they are “a gateway drug to hacky sack.”

Alice and Eden, as they call each other in the book, address the concerns of various types of families. Are you a grandmother with an unexpected pregnancy? One upside to late-in-life birth is that your “unemployed older children can now earn money by babysitting.” On the downside, the “baby cannot clap hard enough to turn off your lights and TV.”

Other subjects include: “Preparing Your Pubic Area for Labor,” “How To Judge Your Baby Against Other Babies” and “Ways To Handle the Crushing Fear that Washes Over You in the Dead of Night.” (For the last one, the authors suggest repeating a mantra: “I am excited to meet my baby, who will probably not eventually abandon me in a nursing home.”)

With a deadpan delivery and a wonderfully crude sense of humor, “Let’s Panic About Babies!” cleverly apes all those pregnancy and parenting guides littering bookstore aisles. It also draws from the proliferation of “mommy blogs,” where moms (and dads) argue about child rearing with overblown rhetoric.

Take the question of whether you should find out your baby’s sex before its birth. Alice (who lives with the “smug liberal elites” on the East Coast) believes you should know because it’s important to properly address your baby while in gestation: “Defining him correctly helps to cement the Baby’s gender role and keeps him from evolving into one of those newfangled boygals, or ladymen, or whatever they’re calling themselves nowadays.”

Eden (who hangs with “West Coast bohemian nut-job liberal elites”) opposes this view because “the male/female dichotomy is but an illusion!” “Why, indeed, would I presume to say whether my baby is a boy or girl or glorious pan-gendered evolved being?” she asks.

— Stephen Lowman

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