Things I Didn’t Expect (When I Was Expecting)

Monica Dux

Things I Didn't Expect (When I Was Expecting)
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Things I Didn’t Expect (When I Was Expecting)

Monica Dux

Pregnancy is natural, healthy and fun, right? Sure it is, if you’re lucky. For others, it’s an adventure in physical discomfort, unachievable ideals, kooky classes and meddling experts. When Monica Dux found herself pregnant with her first child, she was dismayed to find she belonged firmly in the second category. For her, pregnancy could only be described as a medium-level catastrophe. So, three years later and about to birth her second child, Monica went on a quest- to figure out what’s really going on when we incubate. Monica explores the aspects of baby-making that we all want to talk about, but which are too embarrassing, unsettling or downright confronting. She also looks at the powerful forces that shape women’s experiences of being pregnant in the west, the exploitative industries, and the medical and physical realities behind it all. Along the way, she fends off sadistic maternal health nurses, attempts to expand then contract her vagina, and struggles to keep her baby’s placenta off her hippy brother’s lunch menu.

Review

It’s been nearly a decade since I was first expecting, and six years since my last child, but I seized on the chance to read what might be described as the anti-pregnancy book – the one that tells it like it really is. And that’s because, like Monica Dux, I’m still really miffed about the whole thing.

In Things I Didn’t Expect (When I Was Expecting), Dux categorises all of the remarkable and unremarkable aspects of being pregnant – from petty annoyances to major outrage – and her personal experience creates a far more realistic document than the books that tell you to look forward to shiny hair, an increased sex drive and bucketfuls of euphoria.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments, though admittedly some of my laughter had a distinctly hollow sound as a few of the disappointments and discomforts of pregnancy, birth and post-birth came flooding back. Dux discusses the vast range of emotions women experience, most notably guilt, fear and anger, as well as the accompanying physical symptoms of an average pregnancy and post-birth, from unrelenting nausea to mastitis. Try knitting booties during that lot. But Dux isn’t just angry with Mother Nature, she has bones to pick with the way the medical profession and wider society treat women who are pregnant or have just given birth, including the righteousness of breastfeeding evangelists.

Blokes get their own chapter, with Dux pointing out the honest truth that one of the best reasons to have your partner in the room when you give birth is so you can use the ‘I gave birth, you saw how awful that was, so it’s only right that you should clean up this poo/make the tea’ argument, which, when used sparingly, can work for years.

This is a smart, sardonic but somehow joyful romp. Dux gives just the right amount of history and social commentary to make Things I Didn’t Expect an intelligent read without turning it into a dry text. Accessible and lively, with a satisfying blend of humour and fact.


Emily Gale is a Children’s & YA Specialist at Readings Carlton, and a Children’s & YA writer the rest of the time.

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