In all the traditional pregnancy literature we’re told to eat a “healthy” diet, right? But, come on. We all know that pregnancy is our one time to eat whatever we want and people actually adore our round bellies. Sure, we’ll try to get in that side salad, that serving of steamed broccoli (after we get over our gag reflex), but then it’s BEN & JERRY’S BEN & JERRY’S BEN & JERRY’S!
Our cravings are comical. I mean, really? I MUST have cheese pizza immediately? And not just one slice, but -move over, I’m takin’ the box, Buddy.
We glance sideways a bit sheepishly and then justify ourselves, “Baby’s hungry. I’m eatin’ for two, here!”
I loved justifying my cravings and eating with wild abandon. And I didn’t think I was harming anybody. The baby was going to get what it needed from my body -steal it from my bones, if it had to- and I was going to enjoy this respite from Skinnyville as much as humanly possible. I also wanted to look as pregnant as possible, especially in those first months where you just start to look, well… bloated. “If I plump up a bit faster and stick my belly out a bit more and rub it a lot, THEN people will know I’m pregnant and not just out of shape.” Seriously. I seriously felt that way. Body image is a beast. Even when you’re pregnant!
It wasn’t until recently (three kids later) that I started learning more about nutrition and optimal health, how what we put in (and leave out) has a tremendous impact on not just our waist line but on disease prevention, longevity and quality of life. And the health of a mother pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy has a HUGE impact on the health of her child. (Palm-to-face, all those empty calories/processed junk/high sugar items I was shoving my face with in previous pregnancies. Sorry, Wilder, about all those donuts, man.)
“Mom’s good nutrition during her pregnancy, the quality of her breast milk, and the foods children eat supply the raw materials to construct their brain and ultimately supply their brainpower. Nutrition in these critical early years of life is essential for each child to reach their maximum intellectual potential. Throughout life, what a person eats effects the levels of neurotransmitters and structure of cells and regulates all mental processes that affect how well we think and feel.” –Disease-Proof Your Child by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Truth bomb to my brain. (And please do yourself a fabulous favor and read that book linked above. It’s better than all the pregnancy books I’d ever read COMBINED when it comes to preparing yourself to care for your child from a health stand point.)
But listen. During my last pregnancy when our big switch from from hospital, medicated births to at-home, all natural birth with midwives, I balked when I read legendary midwife Ina May Gaskin recommends a vegetarian diet to all of her pregnant mothers. BALKED.
“But where are they going to get their protein? They’ll have no energy at all. That’s just irresponsible -not providing your baby with all the nutrients it needs to properly develop,” I thought to myself. Little did I know… Now, I’m not a scientist and I’m not a dedicated researcher for a lab with a bunch of fancy published papers, etc. I’m a woman who’s learning how to care for her body and build an as-healthy-as-possible baby, so in a way, yeah. Call me a researcher. But this lifestyle transformation from a high-protein/low-carb diet (which we’d done for years) to whole food plant based was largely thanks to my husband.
He’s a Ironman triathlete and a weight lifter who’s always trying to find a competitive edge with diet/nutrition. And I like to hop on whatever he’s doing. We’ve done Paleo, high-protein/low-carb, Ketogenic, high-fat/low-carb, a short stint of raw vegan and even Fruitarian. Then one day he ran across Rich Roll, a plant-based ultra triathlete, and a new journey began. Our whole foods plant based life.
It took me 35 years to get to this point -I wish I had arrived here much sooner. But now that I have the information that makes so much sense about how to live healthfully, I am thrilled to integrate it with baby making.
Emotional and social ties to food are HUGE. Being in a household that’s dedicated to this lifestyle is my saving grace. Because my will power just ain’t that strong, folks. And the history I have with certain foods -it’s like a bad boyfriend. So good, but so bad at the same time.
GET RID OF THAT WHICH DOES NOT SERVE YOU
Bad relationships -whether with people, foods, or habits- don’t serve me. Poor nutrition does not serve me. And it certainly doesn’t serve my baby.
The best thing I can do -for me, for my baby, for my family- is to 1) Take care of myself and 2) help care for them in the same way. And that starts with loving us enough to feed and care healthfully for each other.