Message From Heidi

Message From Heidi

Since the day I delivered Emma and the proposal for What to Expect When You’re Expecting — and yes, I delivered them both on the very same, very busy day — I’ve been a mom on a mission: A mission to help parents know what to expect.

By 2000, that mission had grown…and grown. We knew we were reaching the majority of book-buying expectant parents with What to Expect When You’re Expecting — which was incredibly gratifying, more gratifying than I can even begin to say, but which wasn’t enough.

Because as many parents as we knew we were reaching, we knew we were missing even more; an entire — very important — segment of the pregnant population. Moms who can’t afford to buy a book like What to Expect — or who don’t have the literacy skills they’d need to read it — need vital information, support, and reassurance the most, but are — ironically — the least likely to receive it.

For years, we had received requests from clinics and programs that care for underserved expectant moms (and many expectant teens), with heartbreaking pleas: “Do you have a spare copy or two of What to Expect we can let the moms in our clinic borrow? We’d buy them but we don’t have enough funds.” Or: “Is it okay if we photocopy the book? Our moms can’t afford to buy it.” We’d send a copy here, ten copies there, twenty or more when we could – but it seemed like we were just dropping them into the bucket of need. It was never enough to go around — and we knew it.

Then, came that epiphany moment — the moment we realized we had to do more, that we were compelled to do more, and that doing more could actually make a difference.

It was the day we held a What to Expect seminar at Rikers Island Jail, to expectant inmates.

We brought books — one for every pregnant woman in the program — and we handed them out. The faces of these women — women who were safe for the first time in their pregnancies because they were off the streets, being fed healthy food, receiving prenatal care, not drinking or smoking or using drugs — lit up. Clearly, no one had ever given them a book before…any book. They dove into their copies of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, pointing at the pictures, reading the headings of the questions out loud, saying “Look, this is just like me! I have this, too!”

Then we took questions. And what struck me right away — really, what blew me away, and what ultimately changed my life and expanded the mission of What To Expect was this: The fact that these women, these moms-to-be whose lives couldn’t be more different than mine, and most likely than yours, were just like any other mom. They had the same questions. They craved the same answers. They loved their babies — and though maybe they weren’t quite sure how to, they were determined to take care of their babies. They, too, wanted to know what to expect. They, too, deserved to know what to expect.

Being pregnant — and those of us who’ve been, know — is never easy. But for far too many women in this country — and their babies — it’s a lot tougher. According to the latest numbers from the March of Dimes, the US ranks 30th in infant mortality (the rate of babies who die before they reach their first birthday). Economic and racial disparities widen that healthy baby gap, which becomes even more glaring among at-risk populations (the poor, the very young, the uninsured or underinsured, minorities, especially African Americans and Native Americans) — moms who are far more likely than the rest of us to give birth to babies who are too small, too early, too sick. A lack of literacy skills (50% of American adults read below a 5th grade) increases risk – after all, what an expectant mom doesn’t know about pregnancy (and what most of us learn through reading) can hurt her, and hurt her baby. Knowledge is power, and it’s especially empowering when you’re pregnant.

And that’s why we started the What to Expect Foundation and created Baby Basics — a beautiful, culturally-appropriate, low-literacy pregnancy book, available in English, Spanish, and Chinese, that’s given free to underserved moms at clinics and through home visiting programs in 49 states. Baby Basics — and the Baby Basics prenatal health literacy program — has delivered empowering pregnancy information and support to over 500,000 expectant moms in need.

So they, too, can know what to expect. And they, too, can expect healthier pregnancies, safer deliveries, and healthier, happier babies.

I hope you’ll want to read more about The What to Expect Foundation — who we are, why we are, what we do, and how you can help.

May every mom’s greatest expectations come true!