Sam Apple recounts a journey I know well: the journey from childless husband to new parent. As a dad to two boys, 15 and 12, the memories of their births and the anxieties felt at the time have faded, to be replaced by current anxieties like my teen wanting to drive (over my dead body–or a “B” average, which ever comes first). His self-effacing approach makes this less a Dr. Spock how-to than a valuable calming tool for first-time parents. Apple’s book cannot be easily labeled—it is not quite a memoir, not quite a news report, and not quite a collection of humorous essays, but a bit of all of these.
Sam, as a journalist himself, took an investigative approach to all the current trends among new parents, from baby naming (yes, you can actually hire a consultant) to Water Births (I thought that only happened to fish), as well as stops to debate the value of Lamaze vs. Bradley methods of coaching during birth, Pre-Natal Ed, and whether you might need a Doula in the delivery room. Yes, a Doula. I’ll leave that for your reading pleasure when you pick up American Parent.
Part of the fun of reading Sam’s book is his irreverent approach to all the new (e.g. new age) aspects big city parents are exploring. Even buying a stroller gets attention in his book, as well as whether you should strap a BabyPlus to your pregnant wife so the drumming it provides will enhance your baby’s learning abilities. I believe that some of his cynicism may be gender-based, as so many of these sorts of books are written by and read by women. But, that is part of its strength, by having his unique and masculine voice.
Other chapters include discussions of circumcision, crying, lactation, labor pain (including a fascinating history of the Soviet Union’s efforts to eliminate labor pain by instituting various birthing methods as official government policy). But, for this reader, the most fun was reading about Sam’s encounters, which he sometimes made his pregnant wife endure, with various experts on such subjects as Water Birthing, Pre-Natal Ed, or nipple preparation (for lactation).
Sam Apple’s easy-to-read, humorous, and well-researched journey to parenthood, American Parent, was a fun reminder of those anxious times when we were expecting our first child. I recommend it for any parent, as a compendium of all that you can explore and get obsessed about, in those months before D-Day—Delivery Day. It obviously worked well for him, as they had twins two years later, after the birth of their first son.