Mere days after I had given birth to my first baby, I sat in our pediatrician’s office and listened to the nurse prattle on about how I had to read 50 Shades of Grey. She all but shoved her copy in my hand while she gushed about how romantic and dreamy Christian Grey was in the first book.
I looked at her, my eyes glazed over, a newborn suckling at my breast, and nodded silently. All I could think about was that I never wanted to have sex again and if I somehow found time to read ever again, it wouldn’t be a steamy romance novel. (Because, hello? Tearing and stitches.)
Since then, a lot has changed. (Spoiler alert: I changed my mind about the sex but not about the romance novels.) I’ve recently had my third baby and I’ve managed to squeeze plenty of time for reading into the the rare, quiet moments of my life. I’ve noticed that picking books for the postpartum stage is a delicate task. The last thing I want to read while my estrogen levels are plummeting is a thriller involving an abducted child or a self-help book that will make me dreadfully aware of my milk-stained, depends-wearing state of existence. Learn from my mistakes, and my successes — here are 5 books you shouldn’t be reading postpartum.
50 Shades of Grey
If, like me, you can’t imagine how whips and chains could ever find their way into your post-childbirth existence, skip out on this read.
If you’re looking for a romance that won’t leave you wincing, consider Landline by Rainbow Rowell. This novel creatively tackles the changes many marriages face after adding children to the equation. It’s true love, without the “toys.”
Eat, Pray, Love
Those few months after giving birth have the unique power to make women seriously consider running off and changing their name. So, I try to stear clear of any memoirs about women leaving their old lives behind and striking out alone. I mean, I don’t honestly believe I’m a flight risk, but I don’t think planting the idea in my mind is good for my postpartum mental health.
If you’re looking for a memoir filled with adventure and new places, try Four Seasons in Rome. Author Anthony Doerr recounts his time in Rome, when he took a writing fellowship just weeks after his wife gave birth to twins. His writing is excellent and the book leaves you with the satisfaction of knowing that babies simply don’t sleep, even in Italy.
Call the Midwife
Call the Midwife is a delightful book in it’s own respect, but it really ought to be stamped with trigger warnings from front to back. For new moms, topics like child loss and pregnancy complications are better avoided, especially if you’re dealing with any kind of anxiety.
If you are looking for a good novel with strong mother characters, give Little Women a try. This classic by Louisa May Alcott features four daughters and their “Marmee” who is the backbone of the family and an amazingly selfless and strong woman.
In my experience, it is probably best to avoid any books that feature children in danger. The last thing you need during the weeks following your child’s birth is to find yourself struggling to sleep because you’re having nightmares about unlikely and implausible fears. Creepy clowns and child abductions, need I say more?
Still, just because you’ve recently given birth, that doesn’t mean you need to scratch all thrillers off of your list. In fact, there’s another Stephen King novel that is thrilling without being traumatizing for new moms. 11/22/63 follows the adventures of a time traveller with one task—to change history by stopping the Kennedy assassination.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
I love self-help books as much as the next gal, but postpartum life is not the time to be winning friends and influencing people, I promise. In the early postpartum months, I try to avoid anything that is going to make me feel like I’m not living my best life. Instead, I choose books that encourage me to accept where I am in my life — a time of spending hours in bed nursing a babe, when getting dressed for the day is a huge win.
Any book that tells another mom’s story of learning to become a mom is a big comfort to me postpartum. Some of my favorite reads have included Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott and Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa Jo Baker.