Vicki Iovine had four children in six years, no twins, and she just wrote a book about pregnancy. Still, don't expect her to get all nostalgic about the process.
"If it were possible, I'd have had my kids delivered by Federal Express," she says with a grin.
"That whole thing about natural childbirth being such a great thing, with a vaginal delivery and no drugs and a perfectly serene mother who's not screaming or crying - I don't know anyone who's actually had a child that way," Ms. Iovine says.
"We've got this '90s myth about the `perfect birth,' but personally, I think epidurals are a fine way to go."
Ms. Iovine gleefully debunks many other "birth myths" in her new book, The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy, or Everything Your Doctor Won't Tell You (Pocket Books, $10). The book apparently has touched a chord, umbilical or otherwise. Released last October, it's already in its fourth printing, with more than 100,000 copies in print.
The 42-year-old author has appeared on NBC's Today and ABC's Mike & Maty, and has chatted girlfriend-to-girlfriend with Oprah. And to Ms. Iovine's surprise, given its subtitle, the book recently was endorsed by the American Medical Association.
Ms. Iovine, who lives in Malibu, Calif., attributes the book's success to its humorous, but outspoken, answers to the questions that every pregnant woman has, but may be afraid to ask.
In town recently to promote the book, she said that when she became pregnant with her first son, Jamie, now 8, she discovered that "unlike most of life's great experiences, there's no prep time for pregnancy. . . . We don't talk about it like we do adolescence or getting married or surviving your first job. It's just, all of a sudden, there.
"It's like there's this great conspiracy of silence that's been going on for several decades, maybe longer, and nobody really, really knows what it's like until they go through it."
She describes her first pregnancy as "a really alarming experience."
"I was completely convinced I was doing it all wrong. I mean, just the gas alone made me think something was horribly off. I felt like I was as close to a barnyard animal as I could get without moving backward down the evolutionary chain.
"The only way you find out the truth is when you start talking to your Girlfriends." She confers capital-letter status to all Girlfriends because, she says, "They're the ones who're always there for you. Let's face it - parents die eventually, men sometimes come and go, children grow up and go off to live their own lives. But year after year, your Girlfriends are the core of your life."
Ms. Iovine, who has a journalism background, started taking notes during her pregnancy with Jamie and then with Jessica, 6; Jeremy, 4; and Jade, 2. "I had 40 months of pregnancy to prepare me to write this book, including one pregnancy where I was on bed rest most of the time," she says with a chuckle.
"I know, I know - you're thinking, `Four kids, 36 months,' " she says. "But that's the first great lie about pregnancy - that it only lasts nine months. I mean, do the math. Forty weeks equals 10 months. Don't let anyone tell you different."
The nine-month fallacy is No. 1 on Ms. Iovine's Top 10 list of "Greatest Lies About Pregnancy," which kicks off the book. The other top untruths:
10. Lamaze works.
9. Morning sickness is gone by lunchtime.
8. Maternity clothes are so much cuter now.
7. You will have your pre-pregnancy figure back in three months, especially if you nurse.
6. Oil massages prevent stretch marks.
5. Pregnant women have the most beautiful skin and hair.
4. "I swear, your face hasn't changed at all."
3. Pregnancy brings a man and woman closer together ("Yeah, you and your obstetrician!").
2. "You haven't gotten big anywhere but your belly!"
The Girlfriends' Guide delves into more than 100 topics, including such touchy subjects as how to deal with unwanted mother-in-law advice, when you'll really feel like having sex again, and coping with strangers who fondle your belly without permission.
"Most of this is stuff you learn from your Girlfriends network," Ms. Iovine says. "But it's stuff that guys need to know about, and it's stuff that women without a network need - young girls, single moms, women who've been totally involved in their careers until being pregnant completely throws their world out of alignment.
"I call it the 'voodoo-tribal-ritual info,' because I really do think it goes back to tribal roots. The other women of the tribe were the ones who talked you down from the pain, sang to you, massaged you with paint or mud or whatever, and delivered your baby. And then Dad celebrated with the other guys.
"The basic philosophy of the book extends way beyond pregnancy," she says. "It's about going out and getting yourself Girlfriends, getting yourself a network of support that you can depend on."
Ms. Iovine's already working on a sequel, The Girlfriends' Guide to the First Year of Motherhood, due out this fall. "It's not about raising babies," she says. "It's about staying alive as a person you might recognize while you're raising babies. Things like realizing that nursing is not a natural skill."
She expects other Girlfriends' guides to follow, and has received reader requests for books on dating, divorce, plastic surgery and, especially, a Girlfriends' Guide for Guys - "the things we really, really wish someone would tell them about us, once and for all."