Self Help for Pregnant Bimbos

This purported guide to pregnancy is not just another unnecessary and lightweight piece of bimbo lit; it is clearly a dangerous book, a mirror and magnifying glass held up to the society we've become.

OMG, Ani Beherayon (OMG, I'm Pregnant! The Complete Guide to a Perfect Pregnancy ), by Liat Levi-Kopelman and Hagar Sheffer. Yediot Ahronot Books (Hebrew ), 181 pages, NIS 118

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Some people will see "OMG, I'm Pregnant!" as just another really ostensibly cool self-help book for pregnant bimbos. "Pregnancy books are so long and boring; there's no way we can get through them," the authors - Liat Levi-Kopelman (a lifestyle and shopping expert ) and Dr. Hagar Sheffer (nutritionist and dietician ) - said to each other (according to page 6 ). They are "best friends who shared pregnancy, birth and diets" (back cover ). Their guide, they say, "has no shame. ... It tells you the truth and nothing but the truth, without prettifying anything, in young, lightweight, understandable language, and without complicated and pretentious terminology. And so you'll know exactly where to save and improvise (see the entry for: package deals on baby goods ), which weeks you won't stop farting, when your hormone levels will go down and when your husband will beg you to leave him in peace."

Anyone familiar with "The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy: On Everything Your Doctor Won't Tell You," by Vicky Iovine (1995 ), will immediately identify the source of their inspiration, and wonder why another guide of the kind that offers less medical information and more emotional support and tips from the experienced seemed necessary. And if she herself does not speak bimbo-ese ("OMG," for example, is short for "Oh my God" ), she is likely to be put off by the vulgar, chummy tone of the writers, who venture far from Iovine's intelligent and witty style.

But "OMG," to call a spade a spade, is not just another unnecessary and lightweight piece of bimbo lit; it is clearly a dangerous book, a mirror and magnifying glass held up to the society we've become, one that encourages consumerism (and childbirth ), worships the self, chats non-stop, chases nonsense and depresses women. And it is, in particular, as nearly every page in the book proves, a society whose pressure on women to look good turns them into fashion victims and leads them (on stiletto heels ) toward the verge of anorexia. Now, after many years during which pregnancy was grasped as a grace period when women were not told to suck in their stomachs and watch their diets, the mirror has reached the last refuge of unrestrained femininity. In the United States, where the phenomenon of a strict regime of diet and sports during pregnancy has taken over, it even has a name - "mommyrexia," the anorexia of mothers-to-be.

The co-authors' approach to gaining weight during pregnancy may be summarized in precisely one word: obsession. The subject is raised for the first time in the opening paragraph of the first page. Yes, in the introduction to the book, where other guides discuss anxiety in the face of the unknown (labor contractions, birth defects, parenting ), or, alternatively, amazement at the wonders unfolding within your womb, these authors cling, with the narcissism that characterizes the entire book, to their first encounter with each other. Liat arrived at their meeting "with six months' seniority as a parent and an extra eight kilos"; Hagar was "slim and well-built but with a large hole in her bank account due to various pregnancy purchases." Liat "took hold of Hagar by the hand that held her wallet," and Hagar weaned her friend from "inserting her hand into the cookie jar." And so, at the end of "just several months," Liat testifies, "I could get into a very skinny and attractive pair of jeans."

The writers end their introduction with a promise to readers that "each one will find an answer tailored to her size." As if to clarify that "size" is not a metaphor, a detailed list follows: "thin, chubby, those who vomit," and so on. All this from a guide that calls itself "complete," that is, a general guide to pregnancy, and not a pregnancy diet book.

Weight at center stage

The first chapter, which deals with preparing your body for pregnancy, also places weight at center stage. "Start to exercise," the writers instruct, "check to see if you are at your correct weight." And the pointed finger in warning - "underweight harms your menstrual cycle" - cannot be disconnected from the endless other utterances about the aspiration to be thin: "I kept the final goal - [becoming] a hot mommy - before my eyes and it helped me fight the carbohydrates along the way." "I tried to avoid thin girls. ... I'd simply discovered they had a cruel hobby: Feed the pregnant lady."

"I've already gained more weight than is recommended and I'm only in the middle!" "I haven't gained anything; I retain water." "It's true it took two years but I managed to get rid of the weight I gained in my first pregnancy," and so on, up to the last chapter, "Cooking for pregnancy," with a host of low-calorie recipes ("Home cooking, light," "Schnitzel without guilt" ) and tips for maintaining one's weight. If anyone still doesn't know what a "killer pregnancy" looks like, she will be helped by the numerous illustrations, in fashion magazine style. They show a series of slim-necked, long-legged figures, always in stiletto heels and for the most part with two or three boutique shopping bags hanging from their (thin ) arms with effortless nonchalance.

Because pregnancy, and this is another unique lesson characteristic of the complete guide, is also the time for shopping. On the face of things, there is a real need to acquire clothes for one's changing body, and baby supplies too, but this need is imagined to be bigger than it really is, encouraged by manufacturers, and nourished by the constant need of many women for compensation, a sort of payment for the torments of a killer pregnancy - especially one that "kills" the body. Shopping for the newborn - who comes into the world naked and lacking everything - is much more legitimate.

"As the birth approached," Levi-Kopelman says, "I discovered that my babyitis had gotten much worse." At this stage, she says frankly, "I fell in love with an indescribable hotty," with "perfect curves, and weight and flexibility to die for." It was, as you may have already guessed, a baby stroller with a four-figure price. While Levi-Kopelman does offer a sermon condemning the purchase of expensive and unnecessary products, "so that the book will be morally instructive," about the stroller, she confesses, "Of course I bought it!"


This consumerist attitude also characterizes the chapters about that finished product, the baby. One small sub-chapter addresses the woman's partner, the man (Mr. Guy, in the authors' parlance ), teaching him "how to produce super-sperm." A long chapter offers detailed nutritional and coital instructions (very challenging to carry out ) in order to yield a boy or girl, depending on the customer's specifications, and another chapter deals with the choice of the baby's name (the first suggestion is to look for names on television series, where many original names lurk - Yotam, for example ). In addition, you will find a chapter about "grooming" ("Stretch marks appear on nearly all women. Only a few do not suffer from them - and we will go on silently hating them." ) and one about pregnancy clothing, called "Pregnancy in style" ("Dear fashionista! Pregnancy is not a reason to stop being sexy. This how I turned into the best-built pregnant woman around!" ).

The sub-chapter on childbirth preparation courses is an exception to all this, and contains an entertaining and even subversive report on the class in which Liat Levi-Kopelman watches the teacher, who is holding a giant vagina, and then arouses the amazement of all those present when she dared to ask the heretical question: "At what stage can you ask for an epidural?" As in most pregnancy and childbirth books, here too one finds the ass-saving disclaimer that "This book is not a substitute for a doctor's care during pregnancy."

It would have been more appropriate, considering that the book offers very little information on pregnancy and childbirth, to have added the following note: "This book is not a substitute for a pregnancy and childbirth guide."

Writer and critic Shoham Smith is a frequent contributor to Haaretz Books.