From “National Geographic boobs” to the first post-birth bowel movement, Santa Barbara author Jenna McCarthy lays out, in no uncertain terms, what you really might expect when you’re expecting in her new book, The Parent Trip. Sure, there are other books out there that can illuminate the science, telling you when the mini-person within is likely to start sprouting a brain or when your belly button might pop from an innie to an outie, but, let’s be honest, who cares? For McCarthy, the real question was: What is my life going to look like once this chapter is over, and the rest of my life begins?
After reading pregnancy book upon pregnancy book, McCarthy found that question remained stubbornly unanswered. “When you’re pregnant,” McCarthy said, “you go out and buy every single book; you have this stack of books on your nightstand, but there was nothing that was preparing me for anything even remotely resembling what my life was going to look like. I just wanted to know what was really going to happen.” And so, after scoring some positive feedback in response to the pregnancy diary she’d been writing for Fit Pregnancy magazine, McCarthy set out to tell us all what really is going to happen, in her inimitable, the-whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-scary/ugly/hilarious-truth kind of way.
In fact, the only censoring she admitted to was ramping down her notorious potty mouth at the suggestion of her “holy roller” sister. (McCarthy, who enjoyed a two-year-long stint as a morning deejay on KTYD’s Early Show, claims a dubious distinction: she-or, more specifically, her mouth-is the reason Matt McAllister acquired the delay button. And, I might note, during the course of our interview, she let fly more than a single F-bomb.) Despite scaling back her language, McCarthy’s not likely to be accused of mincing words. Nor can she understand why she might want to. “I have nothing to prove by pretending I’m something I’m not,” she said. “I’ve made a successful living for 17 years writing the truth.”
Write it she does, and, as blunt as she is with the more comical physical affronts of pregnancy and childbirth, she attacks the emotional landscape with equal honesty. The book begins with her discussion of the fact that she’s pretty sure she has no desire to have children, ever. Then, a bit later, very much consumed with getting pregnant, despite the fact that she knows she’s just supposed to want a healthy baby, she riffs on the fact of the matter: she’s pretty much only interested in a daughter. Later, she has a few choice words regarding the guy who landed her in her delicate position in the first place. “You will hate your husband,” she said. “You will hate him when he’s drinking a beer and you can’t and : you’ll hate him when you get the baby home and he’s like, ‘Okay honey, bye, I’m going to work!'”
She takes on baby-raising “experts,” and the Keeping-Up-with-the-Jonesitis that can afflict some new parents. When you’ve never done it before, it’s difficult to avoid being sucked into those angsty twin worlds of doing everything right and pint-sized one-upmanship, but, McCarthy offers, “You have to draw the line somewhere. There will be people who have True Religion jeans on their one-year-old. You have to decide what your own comfort level is. One of the greatest antidotes is to have a second kid.”
Now a veteran mom to two daughters, ages three and five, McCarthy has a few words of wisdom for those new to the game. “Lower your standards. I mean, really! Especially for the first year-it’s a blur; you’re exhausted; you’re going to have all this primary-colored crap all over your house. : I’m not a particularly sappy person, but every time I was about to lose it, I’d quote my sister: ‘The days are long but the years are short.’ All those really trying moments go by in the blink of an eye. You will look back and go, oh, remember when?”
Really, she says, you will.
In the end, the book is a sympathetic, shocking, laugh-out-loud glimpse at the world of new mommydom that offers other new moms the best possible kind of comfort: the knowledge that you are not alone. Sure, it’s not for the squeamish. But then, neither is motherhood.
Jenna McCarthy will sign copies of The Parent Trip at Due Maternity (1223 State St.) on Tuesday, November 11, from 5-8 p.m. For more information, visit jennamccarthy.com.