Things I Didn’t Expect combines Monica Dux’s own bravely honest, warts-and-all pregnancy and birth stories with anecdotes, statistics and expert opinion on issues surrounding childbearing. It is sometimes very funny in a snort-out-loud kind of way. Mixing these styles of writing can’t have been easy to pull off, but it flows well. Dux deals with mostly modern maternal neuroses, the obsessions and anxieties that overwhelm us in our information-laden, hi-tech, perfection-striving worlds, and shines a light on the realities behind the labour ward curtain. The target market for this book is a bit unclear. The book’s frankness may have a somewhat terrifying effect on the yet-to-be pregnant. The been-there-done-that crowd may be losing interest in the topic (as Dux discusses, the strong emotion about pregnancy fades over time). That leaves the in-the-thick-of-it group, who could be the most engaged, but may be hard to target, and possibly too sleep-deprived to take much in. Some of the chapters are stronger than others; the one on miscarriage was particularly moving. The book is passionate, broadly researched and gets bonus points for references and a rare bibliography. Importantly, it contributes to much-needed open discussion of pregnancy and birth, plus humour is a great way to deal with the emotional and physical upheaval that comes with creating humans. Dux’s strong opinions may cause controversy. I didn’t always agree with it, but I definitely enjoyed reading it.
Joanne Shiells is a former bookseller, editor and parent of two. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.