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FROM THE HIPS: Introduction

We have a confession to make. We didn't know what a doula was when we got pregnant. We thought genetic counseling was some kind of science fiction procedure for choosing your baby's eye color in advance. We thought 12 hours of labor was a long time. Little did we know.

Soon enough, we were swept up in a tidal wave of information. The medical establishment, the alternative birth movement, the baby feeding, clothing and products industries, endless experts touting conflicting theories and ever-changing research made us feel bombarded, cornered and forced to make decisions we never thought we'd have to make.

Should I have an amniocentesis? Should I eat this tuna sandwich? Should I circumcise? Will my baby be more comfortable in a $37 organic cotton onesie? Seriously, will this tuna really hurt the fetus? And what the hell is a doula anyway?

Like most women, we found ourselves braving the road to motherhood without a decent map. We were shocked to discover that every piece of media we encountered on the subject of having a baby made us feel pressured to act in one way or another, rather than encouraging us to find our own voices as parents. There we were, newly pregnant, giddy with excitement as we browsed the bookshelves. To the right, the old-school medical advisory manual, bursting with what to freak out about when you're expecting. To the left, the wise-cracking Hollywood mom, wagging a manicured finger at us all the way to the hospital. Who else? The rustic midwife? The Belgian nun? The more we read the more lost and intimidated we felt.

Please, we thought, please somebody help! We'd have shouted it if we could, but we weren't even supposed to tell anyone for two more months, when it's "cool" to announce that you're pregnant.

Once you're out of the closet, your private life is suddenly subject to public scrutiny. It can be easy to find yourself unearthing insecurities you thought you'd buried in your teens. Am I fat? Is this normal? What's happening to me? Body changes, identity issues, social anxieties -- pregnancy can give puberty a serious run for its money.

Then when the baby arrives, the shit really hits the fan (and the diaper, and that $37 organic cotton onesie) making a further mess of your former sense of self. Your mother-in-law thinks your baby's hungry and your mother thinks feeding him too much. One book tells you to let your baby cry and the other book tells you to pick him up. You don't know what you believe, but you do know that the person previously known as you is clinging to a raft in a stormy sea of pastel burp-cloths and bottle-warmers.

What kind of mother am I? Who the hell am I and what is a "mother", anyway? How did the nine zillion other women who did this before me deal with it? I need somebody to tell it like it is, not tell me what to do.

We just wanted a book that would guide us through the choices and issues we might face without pushing an agenda, being condescending or using scare tactics. We needed a trustworthy resource with an approach we could relate to, and without judgment. We couldn't find one. And that's how From The Hips was born.

This book will show you the range of possible approaches and help you find your own way of having a baby. We'll deconstruct the studies and delve into the controversies. You'll hear from pregnant women, new parents, Ob/Gyns, genetic counselors, lactation consultants, pediatricians, anthropologists, midwives, "old wives" and more-- even the aforementioned doula, (which by the way, is a woman trained to assist and comfort new mothers during and after the birth process).

When we got pregnant, we were both living in the same city, going to the same parties; we were the same age, same shoe size, same bra size. We were friends. We bonded over the same physical dramas and difficult decisions. But we often took different approaches. A decision that left one of us completely wiped out was a breeze for the other. One of us set up the nursery months before the birth, the other didn't buy a thing till the baby was securely in the house. One of us circumcised our son, the other didn't. One co-slept. The other had her baby in the crib right away. One of us was back in the office after a brief maternity leave; the other was home. Having babies brought us closer, but also put our differences in high relief. If two women with so much in common could have such different responses to pregnancy and parenting, the possibilities were clearly endless. We made it our mission to get input from as many new parents as possible. Hundreds of moms and dads gave their stories to this project. We do our best to avoid assumptions about our readers: we won't imply that got the stereotypically clueless uninvolved husband (or even that you've got a husband). Parenthood is as unique an experience as anything else, no matter how much the media tends to generalize.

Not long ago, an eight-year-old girl was watching one of us alternately hug and struggle with a squirmy toddler at a restaurant. Taking in the scene, she asked, "So, is being a mom fun? Is it, like, so great you can't believe it? Or is it so boring you can't believe it? Or is it, like, UGH! I can't stand it!" Well, as far as we can tell, it's all of those things. Sometimes in the same week, sometimes in the same day, sometimes at the same time. This book is about both sides of the story: The warm, fuzzy baby blanket and the poop that gets swept underneath. It's about the real world of new parenthood as we, and all the parents who contributed to its pages see it. We hope it helps you on your way.