Toronto Hospital Drops Raw Truths About Baby Making

It's no fun to grapple with the unexpected when you're expecting

To raise funds for a more modern birthing center, Ontario-based North York General Hospital worked with agency Courage to modernize a different standby for expectant parents: The preparation guide.

The classic book that comes to mind is Heidi Murkoff's What to Expect When You're Expectingpublished in 1984, the same year I was born. Now in its fifth edition, it was probably so popular because nothing like it really existed.

It's been a few turns around the sun since then, and preggy books have since proliferated. NYGH's take on the genre winks back to the original while being a far more digestible read: What No One Tells You When You're Expecting.

The 150-page book is the fruit of hundreds of submissions from new parents, sharing the surprises they encountered through pregnancy and their baby's first year. These occasionally eye-popping admissions are accompanied by advice and observations from the hospital's doctors and midwives—a warm touch that guides you back to the brand.

"After coming back from mat leave, Cindy and I constantly talked about all the things we completely didn't expect," says Domenique Raso, creative director at Courage. "When it comes to babies, you often hear about all the good stuff, but not about the real stuff. So the idea of asking real parents to help us write a book outlining everything no one told them felt like a natural fit for the birthing center."

A few insights: "I had no idea the epidural would make me sooooo itchy." "I didn't expect my nipples to crack and bleed from breastfeeding." "I didn't expect the pain and bleeding for days after giving birth."

I was brusquely acquainted with that last realization recently. I'm six months pregnant now. A neighbor, whose wife just had a baby, appeared at my door bearing a torn bag of adult diapers. "She doesn't need them anymore, so I thought of you." When I looked confused, he added: "For the bleeding and ruptures after birth."

I don't even know this guy.

A lot of my own discoveries collate with examples shown in the video. Friends told me about the cracked nipples, but I didn't know what caused them; I assumed they were inevitable, or a matter of luck. (Thanks to the book, I now know better.) Another page reminded me of a story my mom tells about my own birth: She didn't want to push because she thought she was having a huge bowel movement. She held it in until, the pressure unbearable, she stopped caring whether she shat all over the place ... and out I came!

The book observes that this is something that happens when the baby starts to crown. On its way down your body, its little head presses against your coccyx, which yields that unmistakable sensation: When the time comes to push, it might feel like a huge poop. This is also something my midwife described during a birthing class. 

The text is pleasant to peruse (far less like an encyclopedia than the original What to Expect), packed with illustrations by Emilie Muszczak. Topics meander through mental health, sex and relationships, and—yeah!—poo. It's supported by digital out-of-home throughout Toronto, paid social media, a launch video, and local guerrilla postings. Proceeds support NYGH's $32 million fundraising effort.

"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," says chief marketing and comms officer at North York General Foundation, Ya Shan Waley. "As a hospital that delivers thousands of babies each year,  we understand what new parents are experiencing, and that understanding trickles down to the outstanding care we give them. 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."

Download a digital copy at this dedicated subsite. will also stock printed copies.

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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