Healthy Eating? How About Healthy Mom-ing!
Happy Wednesday! I am on a break from school for the week, so I thought I would write a blog post that is important to me: nutrition! Specifically, I am going to be addressing nutrition and pregnancy, but mostly, how that manifests in our culture. What are key nutrients to get during pregnancy? Why is there still societal pressure for women to look a certain way when they are GROWING A HUMAN? And when is it okay to just go ahead and eat what you want?
I have been plant-based for a few years now, and while it is important for me and my family, when people ask me for advice about their diet, I do not immediately recommend going plant-based because it is certainly not for everyone. With that being said, there is a lot of information out there about nutrition in general. It can be overwhelming to sift through the millions of articles that argue whether eggs are good or bad, with the yolk or without, fried or scrambled. Who can keep up? At this point, nobody can really say, and it should be an individual decision about what your diet should be, especially during pregnancy, based on personal research and consultation with your doctor or midwife. So as I mentioned, I do not suggest everyone goes plant-based. BUT, I do know that when we eat good, we feel good. And what better way to feel good than to add more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes to our diet when we find out that we are feeding more than one person! According to Ina May Gaskin, one of my personal heroes, the more whole foods we eat during pregnancy, the easier labor will be! Eating for essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, folate, zinc, iron, B12, protein, and omega-3's are much more important than trying to figure out what is and is not healthy. Just eat the whole foods mother nature provides for us and you will probably be okay! Also, most physicians recommend taking prenatal vitamins to ensure adequate nutrients are being passed through the placenta to the baby. So maybe skip the bag of chips one night and eat some strawberries instead! But if you really want the chips, I say go for it.
This brings me to the main purpose of this blog post: societal pressures and shaming of women to look and act a certain way during pregnancy. Why is it that when a woman becomes pregnant, people suddenly feel the freedom to comment on her body? Whether it is a "good or bad" comment is irrelevant. The amount of work it takes to grow and have a baby is immeasurable. The cellular energy used to create all of the organs, tissues, muscles, and neurons in a fetus is incredible. And moms, most of all, are amazing! So many women have said to me, over the years, I just cannot do it. They say it during pregnancy when the nausea, exhaustion, and constipation are unbearable. They say it during their twelfth hour of labor when their body has been pushed to the limit. And they say it when their newborn takes ten tries to latch each feed. Yet, they do it. It is truly heroic! Then why is it that the first thing pregnant moms hear when they see an acquaintance at the grocery store is "oh wow you're all belly!" As if that is the most notable factor of their new journey. So when you see that your old high school friend is pregnant, just ask her how she is feeling. Better yet, ask her how you can be supportive of her journey.
As a doula, I am not in a position to tell people what is and is not appropriate to eat during pregnancy. The nice thing about not being medical (I get enough of that as a nurse), is that I can provide a judgement-free space for moms. Mothers-to-be are often under scrutiny and pressure from their medical team, family, and friends. As a doula, I hold space for what mom needs, so when my friend was pregnant (she just went into labor yesterday!!) and asked me if she should eat a piece of chocolate cake the night before her glucose test, I told her what might happen. But, I also told her that if she needs to eat it, go right ahead, and that I will support her decision. Sometimes, something small like a piece of cake, gives us back our power that has slowly been taken away from women. Birth used to be so natural. Now, in such a medically-driven society, birth is becoming more pathological than biological. So, she ate the cake. She failed her glucose test and had to retake it which ended up being totally fine. When I asked her if it was worth it, she said "absolutely." So moms, if you want more information about nutrition during pregnancy, I am able to provide a ton of resources and support, but if you want the piece of cake...eat it!
Lots of love to all of the powerful women out there! I should mention that even though this post uses "her/she/moms" it is meant to be inclusive to all reproductive bodies including our trans community! As always, this is not medical advice, please consult your doctor for individual concerns.