Food is nourishment. Food is comfort. Food is pleasure. Food is such a simple thing. But if you’re anything like me, food can also be complicated. There are many many parents, myself included, who have had a
hard nuanced relationship with food at different times in their lives. And things can get downright weird when you factor in cravings, nausea, and the anxiety of eating “right” for pregnancy. We worry that we are gaining too much or not enough weight, that the food is organic, or pasteurized, or otherwise safe. Is the food “clean”, are you getting enough iron, folate, vitamin D, calcium, omegas, OH MY GOD the list is endless! And the decisions seem so important. I mean, during my first pregnancy I literally cried over a caesar salad I wanted because it was made with raw eggs and I was afraid to eat it. Another time, I cried on the phone to my doula while eating a cinnamon danish in the parking lot of my doctor’s office after being told I had gained so much weight I was unrecognizable. So I’m emotional about my food. So what? Some days food feels like the enemy, sometimes it’s a true friend.
When we are in the thick tangle of pregnant food choices, caught somewhere between instant ramen, soda crackers, wild-caught pacific salmon, and kale salads, what is there to do? What if the only thing that is staying down this week is Mr. Noodles (I speak from experience)? I did not die of scurvy, though I did get more sodium (along with god only knows what else) than would be optimal, but I also grew my baby and absorbed every little bit of nutrition from those rehydrated salty morsels of comfort.
We worry that we will never get our old body back, that the fragile peace we have made with food and/or eating will be shaken up by pregnancy. And it often is. The fact is, we have reason to worry. There are a lot of choices to make about food and nobody can make them for us. And each one of us who has built that relationship of trust with our bodies, hearts, and minds after the wilderness years, knows how delicate the balance can be. I can’t tell you what is safe or dangerous to eat and drink during your pregnancy, though I’m sure the internet and your friends/total strangers you meet on the street would love to share their lists of dos and don’ts with you… But I can tell you that my first child marinated in ramen noodles and olives by the jar-full, while my second was grown with the help of a steady (and expensive) diet of sushi and GALLONS of hot sauce on everything (like my amniotic fluid was basically a gourmet blend of Sriracha and Cholula), earning me the side-eye on more than a few occasions. It worked for me, and between kid one and kid two I developed an emotional callous allowing me to make choices that raised some eyebrows with the zero-effs-given attitude I currently employ. My emotional callous could sometimes use a pedicure but that is for another post.
As some of you may recall from my previous post, Pregnancy: The Awkward Phase, I struggled with self-esteem stuff and had to navigate the effects of pregnancy on my sometimes tenuous self-image. It was hard. But, it was really healing. Some of the healing was with my relationship to eating and food. With all the well-meaning people who comment on what we look like, what we are eating, what we are doing, it’s overwhelming. We may have successfully overcome anxiety and negative self-talk only to have it grow back, along with the baby and those random hairs. As if sharing bodies with a growing fetus isn’t enough, everyone and their grandma feels entitled to comment, touch, and wax eloquent on our bodies. It hurts to hear that “You’re HUGE!” or “Aren’t you supposed to be showing by now?” And when you eat in public, comments like “Are you eating for two or twelve?” and “You should’t be eating that because you’re pregnant, and my sister-in-law’s half-brother’s husband’s aunt blah blah rambling story blah” are just crappy. But you aren’t growing that baby for them. You aren’t eating for their approval. Those other people, no matter how much they love you, care for you or are concerned about you, do NOT get to dictate which choices you ought to make. And neither do I, by the way.
You want to eat nothing but pre-packaged food all the livelong day? Okay! You want to be a localvor macrobiotic vegan? You do you, boo! You want to see where those (slightly swollen) pregnant feet carry you? Amen! You’re free! You’re hopefully a grownup! Make those choices wearing your big-kid maternity pants. Odds are, you’ll do just fine.