Been there. Done that. Now she tells you

September 25, 1995|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,SUN STAFF

When Vicky Iovine told her husband she was pregnant for the fourth time in six years, he said, "How could you do this to me?" And she said, "Wait -- I thought you did this to me."

Nowadays when the youngest one does something that brings tears to his eyes, she has been known to toss out, "And that is the child you didn't want!" and run out of the room as fast as she can.

Which is to say, women should not despair at their husbands' initial response to the news of their pregnancy. Most men come around eventually.

Mrs. Iovine includes this bit of advice in her new book, "The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy, or Everything Your Doctor Won't Tell You." It was published, appropriately enough, on Labor Day by Pocket Books.

A very funny former corporate lawyer from Malibu, Calif., Mrs. Iovine was infertile for four years. When she finally got pregnant eight years ago, she read every book she could find on the subject and couldn't find any answers to her most important questions.

"I can deliver your baby. I could probably perform a bris," she says, referring to the Jewish ceremony to circumcise baby boys.

"But I knew nothing about the rest of pregnancy. I had no idea why husbands could talk about other things [besides babies] and why super models could continue jogging and I couldn't [even] put on my tennis shoes."

"I wanted to know why I'd be drooling in the middle of sleep, why I'd get funny red dots, and whether my stretch marks would go away." The answer: no.

She's 41, an incredible size 2, a full-time mother whose "issues" are school lunches and car pools. She wrote the book -- her first -- at the urging of her friends, who found her an agent after they finished laughing at her jokes. Her mother-in-law is minding her four children while she makes an exhausting nine-day book tour.

"I used to look at pregnant people with such envy," she says over tea in her room at the Ritz Carlton in Washington. "When I'd hear them complain I thought: 'They have a lot of gall.' " But Mrs. Iovine said that even though it took four years in a fertility program for her to get pregnant, "The first thing I did was complain."

The reasons pregnant women complain, she says, have nothing to do with wanting a baby. "It's a reaction to knowing nothing. If the baby is in front, why is my butt getting bigger? Why do I get heartburn? Why is my husband driving me crazy?"

Her book covers everything from the emotional to the superficial. For instance, pregnant women should never get their hair cut short during pregnancy, she says. "You are asking the haircut to make you thin. It's a tall order."

Uncontrollable urges, such as dyeing one's hair red, are nothing more than an attempt to distract people from the obvious, she says. This also invites a visit from the pregnancy police, the people who warn about the danger of hair dye (even though doctors say it is OK) and then take the opportunity to touch your stomach.

Her basic message is use your own judgment, don't believe media hype, have real conversations with your doctor, and don't fall victim to the pregnancy police. These are the people who tell you to "put your microwave in the trash, never drink alcohol, and God forbid you should have artificial sweetner," Mrs. Iovine says.

Often pregnant women are scared to death. "Things alarm us unnecessarily," she says. She aims to restore self-confidence.

"You have to make it up as you go. Trust your instincts. Everybody is way too fanatical. If you throw away your prenatal vitamins, you'll still be fine. As long as you don't do stupid things like smoke or build your home on an atomic blast site, you'll be fine. If you feel like a glass of milk and a couple cookies, I say do it."

Wait, there's more. "There's a lot of pressure to stay fit in pregnancy," Mrs. Iovine snorts. "That's an oxymoron -- you're in no position to build muscle."

All the books on pregnancy say a woman should gain 25 pounds to 35 pounds. Mrs. Iovine gained 19 pounds even before her first doctor's visit. When asked how much she weighed before, she (( says, "I would lie. Twenty-five pounds? That's just water retention."

Her two most essential pieces of advice: First, find a friend early in pregnancy, someone who has been through it before and who is willing to hold your hand while you consider the pros and cons of cloth vs. disposable diapers and other oddities.

Second, rely on family and a circle of friends for the first few days after the baby is born.

"Don't try to go it alone the first night or two," she says. If you're without nearby family or friends, she says, hire an extra set of loving hands. This can be somebody else's grandmother who is on a fixed income and loves babies -- someone who can stay overnight for a few days or come over every day for a few hours to hold and feed the baby so the new mother can sleep.

"Girlfriends" is the bridge "between our mothers' day, when a vast body of knowledge about pregnancy and childbirth was passed on by women, and today, when pregnant women often live miles away from family and even friends."

Vicki Iovine's Top 10 Greatest Lies About Pregnancy:

Lamaze works.

9. Morning sickness is gone by lunchtime.

8. Maternity clothes are so much cuter now.

You will have your pre-pregnancy figure back in three months, especially if you nurse.

6. Oil massages prevent stretch marks.

5. Pregnant women have the most beautiful hair and skin.

4. "I swear, your face hasn't changed at all."

3. Pregnancy brings a man and a woman closer together. (Yeah, you and your obstetrician, if it's a male.)

"You haven't gotten big anywhere but your belly."

1. Pregnancy only lasts nine months.

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