This pregnancy book addresses babies with teeth, pancake breasts (and poop, naturally)

Who: North York General Hospital, with Courage for strategy and creative.

What: “What No One Tells You When You’re Expecting,” a book that shares the “unfiltered truth” about pregnancy, childbirth, and what comes after. The project was led by Courage creative directors Cindy Marie Navarro and Domenique Raso, both of whom recently returned from mat leave.

When & Where: A free digital copy of the 150-page book itself is available at, while physical copies are available at for $26.43. The launch is being supported by an awareness campaign including digital out-of-home across the GTA, paid social, a launch video, and guerrilla postings.

Why: North York General Hospital is one of the biggest birthing centres in Ontario, delivering more than 4,000 babies a year. It is in the midst of a $32 million fundraising campaign aimed at modernizing its aging labour and delivery postpartum units, and this project is intended to help.

As new moms of a two-and-a-half-year-old son and a two-year old daughter respectively, both Navarro and Raso found themselves unprepared for some of the emotions and experiences that come with pregnancy and new motherhood. “And not just the good stuff, the real stuff,” said Navarro. The book is an attempt to help other expectant parents get a better grasp on what’s coming.

“After coming back from our respective mat leaves, we would constantly vent about all the things we wish we knew before. So when we were briefed on this project for the NYGH birthing centre, this idea came to us almost right away,” said Navarro. “It’s a resource we both wish we had when we were in the thick of it.”

How: The book is created from hundreds of submissions from families across North America, with illustrations from Emilie Muszczak. Among the book’s revelations: “I had no idea the epidural would make me sooooo itchy,” “I had no idea that babies could be born with teeth,” and “I didn’t know my breasts would deflate into pancakes after breastfeeding.”

The book also covers more serious topics such as mental health, sex and relationships. And no book about pregnancy and new motherhood would be complete without a section dedicated to pooping. The observations are combined with expert advice from North York General Hospital doctors and midwives.

Wait, can this replace “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”? First published in 1984, Heidi Murkoff’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has been dubbed “the bible of American pregnancy.” It has sold more than 20 million copies, claims to have been read by 93% of women who read a pregnancy book, and was even turned into a 2012 film starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Banks.

Navarro said she and Raso both read the book when they were pregnant—”along with many, many others”—and found it so information-heavy and technical that it was impossible to process the emotions and feelings that came with the experiences it was describing.

“Many parents we spoke to didn’t even want to open books like ‘What to Expect…’ because they felt overwhelming and daunting, but our chapters—like sex, feelings and even poop—are so real and raw that parents were excited and curious to crack it open,” said Raso. “It’s also extremely fun and easy to read, with bright and clever illustrations—not the typical medical diagrams we’re used to seeing.”

And we quote: “We immediately loved this idea because it felt like a modern, true-to-life take on the classic pregnancy books we’ve come to know. This book is another way we are caring for our community by helping to normalize the birthing process, all in celebration of our plans to revitalize our birthing centre.” — Ya Shan Waley, chief marketing and communications officer, North York General Foundation

Chris Powell