Now We Know What To Expect 'Hopefully Mums Are Less Fearful Than I Was'

14/08/2014 16:48 | Updated 22 May 2015
Now we know What To Expect 'hopefully mums are less fearful than I was'

Known fondly as 'the pregnancy Bible', What To Expect When You're Expecting has helped millions of women around the world decipher the various strange symptoms of pregnancy and put their minds at rest.

The woman behind the book, Heidi Murkoff, chatted to us about why she wanted to write it in the first place, how the pregnancy experience has changed in the last 30 years since she had the idea, and how she feels about becoming a grandmother for the first time...

You conceived the idea for What To Expect When You're Expecting when you were pregnant with your first baby – why did you want to write it?

Like every first time expectant mum, I had hundreds of questions and thousands of worries, and at the time I had no reassuring source to turn to. I guess I could have been on the phone with my doctor 24/7 but I was pretty sure she wouldn't be open to that option!

The few books that were available at the time either didn't address my concerns, or blew them completely out of proportion, heightening my anxiety.

So impending motherhood and my own considerable cluelessness became the mother of invention and the inspiration for What to Expect When You're Expecting.

Sometimes, if you want something done right, as they say, do it yourself. So I did – without any expectations.

So you spent much of your own pregnancy searching for solid answers to you own questions then?

Oh, I searched and searched, without success. I read books and magazines and occasionally I would get the nerve to ask my doctor a question (I was always afraid of what the answer would be).

But the answers were elusive and the reassurance even harder to come by. Remember back then, pre-internet, it wasn't as easy as just Googling. And I didn't have any friends who had been pregnant, so no mum network to turn to either.

I read that you submitted your proposal for the book right before you gave birth! That must have been very exciting, but I bet childbirth took your mind off the submission for a while?

It's true – I mean, really, can you make this stuff up? I delivered the proposal literally two hours before going into labour with Emma. It was a busy day – though a decidedly productive one!

And by the time Emma was three months old, we had a contract for What To Expect When You're Expecting – in fact I remember holding her on my lap while having the first meeting with the publisher.

It must feel awesome to know you have supported a whole generation of parents?

It's indescribably gratifying to help parents stress out less and enjoy pregnancy and parenting more.

I'm a mum on a mission and I have been since that very first day, to help parents sleep better at night than Erik and I had.

I figured even if it had been just a handful of parents, I would have accomplished what I set out to do. To have reached as many parents as I have, well, yes, awesome is the word. I love that word, by the way.

So what were your own main concerns when you were pregnant yourself?

Where do I begin? First of all, I didn't discover I was pregnant until – oops – six weeks in, after having already shared multiple gin and tonics and cups of coffee with my well underage embryo. So I worried about that – I figured I'd killed my baby, or at least done some serious damage.

I worried about the medications I had taken before finding out I was pregnant and the prenatal vitamins I hadn't taken.


I worried about every symptom I had and every symptom I didn't have (no morning sickness? That can't be right!).


I worried when I went four days without feeling any movement after having felt it for weeks.

I worried when, at eight months, I took a belly flop on to the pavement after missing a curb.

And I worried that I wouldn't know labour when it started (and in fact, I didn't, I ended up in the hospital 10cm dilated, only after much urging from Erik to take the contractions seriously instead of guessing if they were real or false).

Basically, you name it, I worried about it!

Your own children are grown up now, but does the learning process of parenthood just carry on and on do you think? Will we ever see a What To Expect in the Teenage Years?!

All of us parents are just a work in progress – even as the parent of two adults, I am still learning when to speak up and when to zip it!

As for WTE the Teenage Years, I'm not sure I'll ever be ready to tackle that (I'm not going to lie, teens are tough!).

But in the meantime, I'd say parents should read What to Expect: The Second Year, and to just do some creative editing – after all toddlers and teenagers are essentially the same creature, except that the latter may be taller than you and have the keys to the car!

The dynamics of their development are the same though. There's a reason why they call toddlerhood 'the first adolescence'. When our children are toddlers, that's the first time we witness temper tantrums, power struggles, wars of wills (and won'ts) – but it sure won't be the last!

The same strategies apply: choose your battles; be consistent with limits; be fair with rules; love unconditionally; and keep your sense of humour handy.

How has pregnancy changed since you had your children, in terms of attitudes, expectations and so on?

Some things about pregnancy will never change. It's still nine months more or less! You're still queasy, bloated, riding an emotional roller coaster and doubting yourself at every turn.

But so many things have changed – most significantly the way we look at ourselves when pregnant.


Pregnancy was once a condition, not an experience, part of the life cycle but not part of our lifestyle. It was hidden, and when it couldn't be hidden any more, it was draped in a polyester tent you could sleep a family of four under!


Today, expectant mums celebrate their pregnancies (Hollywood does too!), they're pregnant and proud and hot mamas are hot (see our gallery below).

Mums flaunt their new curves, post their bumps of Facebook and share every detail with their social network.

While I went it alone, women today can swap insights, advice, symptoms and birth stories with hundreds if not thousands of other mums who are going through the same experience at the same time.

Hopefully mums are more knowledgeable than ever before and consequently less fearful than I was.

If you met the 23-year-old pregnant you, what advice would you give her?

I'd tell her to stop worrying so much, and start enjoying pregnancy more! Also, stop and smell the babies, they grow up far too fast. Oh, and do your Kegels!

My own copy of What To Expect is well thumbed, and I love the very calm and relaxed way the experience of childbirth is explained! Come on though, what was the reality of it for you?

Well, let's say a good time wasn't had by all! Or at least, not by me. I would love to say that the experience was exhilarating, thrilling and intensely moving – but it was actually just really really painful.

I forgot everything I learned in childbirth class and because I'm not a screamer, I whimpered quietly into my pillow and prayed for it to be over (back then epidurals weren't really on the table).

But that said, all the pain and whimpering was worth it (yes, even the three-and-a-half hours of pushing the first time).

Natural childbirth may not have come naturally to me, and motherhood may not have either (at least not initially – the first time I ever held a newborn was the first time I held my own), but being a mum, well, nothing is better and I am, in so many ways, a very lucky mama.

You've just become a grandmother for the first time to baby Lennox – congratulations to your daughter Emma and her new family! Were you with her when she gave birth?

Thank you! He is gorgeous and I am thrilled! Actually, we were all there when she gave birth, though Russell [Emma's husband] and I were the only ones down the business end.

We were in the room with her the entire time, and so we had the unbelievably moving experience (yes, this time it was moving!) of watching Lennox arrive.

Mind blowing, life changing, truly incredible.

There are obviously a great deal of sources of advice out there now for expectant parents. But is it all becoming just a bit too prescriptive, with pregnant women constantly reading, you MUST do this, or you MUSTN'T do that?

Without a doubt. It has been empowering for pregnant women and new mums to have access to more information, but having too much information, or conflicting information, or advice that is overly prescriptive, didactic or dogmatic can be overwhelming.

Worst of all, I guess it can have you doubting your own instincts. Every mum, and every pregnancy is different, so what feels right for you is most often what is right.


You know yourself best and you know your baby best, so just don't let what others say derail you or feel guilty about your choices. There are many ways to be a good mum.


You seem very proactive online, on Twitter and Facebook and so on. Is it really you writing all those posts and what do you get from interacting with mums online?

It is me, and only me! Ask Erik, he has to carry me upstairs to bed every night to disconnect me from my mums on Facebook and Twitter! I get as much from other mums as they get from me and it's never been easier or more fun for me to keep my finger on the pregnancy pulse.

I answer people's questions, but I also learn from them – and often they become sources of material for the books or for

And of course, I gobble up the pictures they send of their little ones – pre Lennox they were the only way I got my baby fix.

I've had the chance to share people's stories, their joy, sometimes their sadness. It all really humbles me and it keeps me connected to the experience of pregnancy, without being pregnant myself.

Heidi has recently launched – for the first time, the WTE site and its contents have been specifically tailored for UK parents.

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