Two hours before going into labor with her first daughter, then-24-year-old Heidi Murkoff delivered the proposal for the book “What To Expect When You’re Expecting”. Little did she know that while watching her daughter Emma grows, she’ll also see the book climb up bestseller lists around the world.
“It’s the ultimate guide to pregnancy and motherhood” is the phrase people today use to describe Murkoff’s book, which is now in its fourth edition, and is the first of the “What to Expect” series. During a recent visit to Egypt to launch a premium line of Pampers, Murkoff gave a special interview to Daily News Egypt, describing how it all started.
“Well, let’s just say I didn’t always know what to expect when you’re expecting,” said the author in her friendly and congenial manner. “The truth is, when I found out I was expecting for the first time I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I think like every first-time mom, anywhere in the world, I had hundreds of questions and thousands of worries … I didn’t have a resource to turn to for answers and reassurance.
“So expectant motherhood being the mother of invention for me, I became a mom on a mission … a mission to help other parents sleep better at night and enjoy pregnancy and parenting more,” recalls Murkoff.
Even though pregnancy, motherhood and children related books have now flooded markets in different languages, the “What to Expect” series and its spin-off “What to Expect Kids” series still remains the most popular parenting guide, as it manages to cover a lot of questions on the minds of mothers-to-be.
“I don’t write from my own experiences, because … every mom — like every baby, and every pregnancy — is different. But, the experience gives me the perspective and empathy I need to write mom-to-mom,” explains Murkoff.
Initially, Murkoff and her team surveyed expectant moms to gather their top questions, but soon the letters started coming in, then the emails, and now questions in every electronic form possible. She was even able to solicit questions — through the whattoexpect.com mom community of nearly three million members — for her latest two books, “What To Expect Before You’re Expecting,” which came out last year, and “What to Expect The Second Year,” due out in April.
Usually books penned by an author of a different nationality aren’t considered by readers as useful, citing differences in healthcare models based on social customs. However Murkoff’s books have defied that rule in book markets around the world, with her wholesome coverage in — to quote a fan of the book — a “multi-cultural” approach.
Murkoff’s books are very popular with mothers and fathers in Egypt; she also holds successful tours in India, China, Russia and other countries outside the US.
“The bottom line is, moms, even though are all different, really share more than [what divides] us. No matter where we come from in the world, I find, no matter what our socioeconomic status or racial, religious, cultural, or political profile are, we all share a universal bond,” explained Murkoff.
“Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood,” she noted, adding that “Moms ‘get’ other moms. And I have seen moms from extremely diverse backgrounds on my site supporting, listening to [and] virtually hugging each other.”
Empowerment through knowledge
Few women enter pregnancy for the first time knowing what to expect and they all crave information in order to do what is best for their child, however that information is sorely lacking especially among developing countries, such as Egypt.
“Knowledge is power, and for a mom to be empowered — which is my goal for every mom — she needs that knowledge at her fingertips. That’s why I am so eager to spread that knowledge, expand my mission to reach even more moms … including those who can’t afford books or don’t have the literacy skills they need to read a book like ‘What To Expect’. Those are the moms who need the information and support the most, those are the moms whose pregnancies and babies are at greatest risk,” said Murkoff.
For this purpose, Murkoff has created the What To Expect Foundation, whattoexpect.org, which is a prenatal health literacy program designed to help moms in need have healthier pregnancies and healthier, happier babies. “So far, the mission of the foundation has helped 500,000 moms in the US, but that is just a drop in the bucket of need. All moms in the world deserve to know what to expect, so I would love to bring the mission to Egypt and elsewhere globally,” she said.
During her visit to Egypt, Murkoff was able to sit with Egyptian mothers and offer advice during a seminar. “We’re all experts when it comes to our children; no one knows your child better,” she advised, “No one should make you feel guilty about the way you deal with your baby.”
Murkoff pointed out to the young mothers and mothers-to-be who filled the hall, that the “most common mistake mothers make is not trusting their instincts.”
Questions mainly revolved around discipline techniques and how to deal with a stubborn child.
“[Stubbornness] is a normal phase of development, as the child thinks ‘last year I didn’t walk, I was just an extension of your arm but now I’m my own person’, so don’t make everything a battle. Don’t put ‘no’ on autopilot; you decide when they win and when they don’t,” said Murkoff.
“Distraction is the best discipline technique. Be calm; take them away from the situation or let them suffer the consequences.”
Regarding television, Murkoff advised the moms not to go more than one show a day or 20 minutes per day. “The time spent watching television is time lost doing something else more productive,” she said, noting that children can watch educational shows such as Barney or Baby Einstein.
Murkoff is now regularly answering questions on Twitter (twitter.com/heidimurkoff) which she says “helps me keep my finger on the pregnant pulse!”
Heidi Murkoff with husband Eric Murkoff.