Teresa Strasser wants you to know that her new book is about a Chinese mother who can give you the secret to raising Carnegie Hall–playing wunderkinds.
OK, it’s not. But “Exploiting My Baby (Because It’s Exploiting Me)” is about Strasser, a journalist, TV and radio host and writer who became a mom for the first time at age 39, candidly revealing every gory detail of her pregnancy and her persistent worry about being a bad mother.
“For some people, [pregnancy] is a light, fluffy experience. For me as an older mom, it was really intense,” Strasser says during an interview from her home in Los Angeles, where she’s busy taking care of her now 17-month-old son, who’s sick, of course. “I don’t want to hear about your nursery curtains. I want to hear about your fear that you’re not going to be a good mom … My book is like, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Fail.’ ”
Strasser will read from her book, which was published last month, at Green Apple Books in San Francisco on Feb. 25, and at Bookshop Benicia in Solano County on Feb. 26. It’s a homecoming of sorts for the author, who grew up in San Francisco and attended Lick-Wilmerding High School.
At 19, she was a Kohn intern at j. (then the Jewish Bulletin). After graduating from New York University, she returned to the Bulletin for a full-time reporting job.
A few years later she moved to L.A., and since then has done a little bit of everything: writing for “Win Ben Stein’s Money” (for which she won an Emmy Award), working as a correspondent for “Good Day New York” and covering the red carpet at major awards shows, among many other gigs.
She also hosted the first season of TLC’s home improvement show “While You Were Out,” and was a cohost of “The Adam Carolla Show” on radio and, later, podcast.
“Exploiting My Baby” began as a blog when Strasser got pregnant. The title came from her observation of celebrity mothers such as Kathie Lee Gifford “trotting out” their children in an effort to appear more sympathetic.
Baby Nathaniel (whom Strasser and her husband, Daniel, affectionately call “Buster”) was born Sept. 24, 2009, and on the day of the interview, he was dealing with a raging, well … something nasty. “Day care is the Muhammad Ali to my son’s tin can of an immune system,” Strasser says.
Oh, and then there’s the diaper rash.
“He had a diaper rash so bad that I ended up using actual surgical strips, like you use to heal wounds,” Strasser says excitedly. “So in the middle of the night I’m cutting surgical strips to put on my kid’s scrotum.”
That kind of candor is Strasser’s trademark — she didn’t censor a thing for “Exploiting My Baby,” from detailed descriptions of her skin problems to the story of how she strapped frozen peas to her stomach to try to turn her breech baby.
“I manage to delude myself when I’m writing that no one’s going to see this except my editor,” she says. “But there’s no point in writing something if it’s not going to hurt you a little bit.”
There are many “villains” in Strasser’s book, including other pregnant moms who ignore her, maternity models and former “Access Hollywood” host Nancy O’Dell, author of the chirpy pregnancy memoir “Full of Life,” to which Strasser devotes an entire vitriol-filled chapter.
But no one takes more punches than the author’s mother, with whom Strasser lived in San Francisco after her parents’ divorce.
“If Auntie Mame were less chirpy, more medicated and prone to dating angry, homeless Berkeley poets or leaving her kids for a month to chop trees in Vermont, that would be my mom,” Strasser writes, describing her mother as distant, neglectful and downright unloving.
Today, Strasser says, their relationship is somewhat less tense. Her mother even moved in down the street after Nathaniel was born.
“After I had a kid, I suddenly wasn’t too nitpicky about my childhood and my mom that had bothered me for 40 years,” Strasser says. “I needed a sitter, so I begged her to move here.”
Her mother hasn’t read the book — though, Strasser adds, she doesn’t need to. She was there.
“I think she’s just proud that I wrote a book,” Strasser says. “No matter how half-assed a job she did, she’s still a Jewish mom.”
Right now Strasser is a co-host of the “Peter Tilden Morning Show” on L.A. talk radio station KABC, and does a show on Yahoo’s Shine network called “This Week in MOM.” She also occasionally does guest spots on Carolla’s podcast.
As for her next big step, Strasser says she has no idea. “I kind of go about my career like that chess piece that only moves laterally,” she says.
“I moved down here with 400 bucks and an old Honda,” she adds. “And here I am on deep cable and AM radio, so I think it’s really worked.”
“Exploiting My Baby (Because It’s Exploiting Me)” by Teresa Strasser (304 pages, NAL Trade, $15).
Teresa Strasser will read from her book at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Green Apple Books, 506 Clement St., S.F. and at7:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Bookshop Benicia, 856 Southhampton Road, Benicia.