Nutrition is the foundation of a healthy pregnancy. When you are healthy, you have more options. Again, a healthy pregnant woman has more options. Where does health come from? Health comes from what you eat.
This is not an article about guilting mothers. This is not an article about diets and weight gain and weight loss and food restrictions and how to instill fear into all pregnant women. There are plenty of articles already circulating around the internet that can do that for you! What I want to write about is better than that. I want to write about you being in charge of your health.
There are many things that you cannot control about life, about your pregnancy, and about your birth. But what you eat is completely in your control. And what you eat is the foundation for your health. So, barring pre-existing health conditions that you cannot change, your health really is in your control.
What you should be eating in pregnancy is similar to what you should be eating normally. It's just that we are often more aware of our food choices when we know that it doesn't affect only us, but also another person who is completely dependent upon us.
What are you craving? Cravings say a lot about a pregnant woman. Unless you have previous addictions (to include sugar), cravings are often the body's signal that you are lacking something essential, so pay attention to those cravings!
What colors are you eating? Health comes from eating a variety of colors. So, look at your plate. How many colors do you see there? There should be multiple colors that you eat throughout the day. Keep that in mind when at the grocery store and when preparing meals.
How fresh are you eating? Raw, fresh fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet if you are wanting to be healthy. You cannot have too many! Cooked veggies are okay if they are not boiled or over-cooked, as lightly heating some vegetables will break down cellular membranes that will unlock more nutrients. So, if you want to sauté some greens in butter, that is great! But include raw with the cooked.
How's your fat? Do not restrict your fat intake! Fats are essential for hormone production - which is what drives your pregnancy. Fats are also what make up the brain, so your baby is depending on your fats for it's smarts! Be selective, though, about your fats. Butter, coconut oil, nut oils, virgin olive oil, avocado, oily fish - these are the ones you should feel free to dive into.
How much protein? Because proteins are the building blocks of the body, it is essential to be getting enough protein every day. Look at your meals and snacks during the day and ask yourself, where's my protein in this? Try adding protein to every meal and snack. Cheese, nuts, yogurt, and beans are great protein providers as well as meat.
What about vitamins? Many people believe that it doesn't matter what they eat because they take vitamins and therefore are getting all the nutrients they need. This is a sad misconception, though. Vitamins are not the best way to be healthy. One of my instructors at my midwifery school says that vitamins only make expensive pee! Vitamins, no matter how good they are, cannot replace real food. When you take the vitamins and minerals out of food and separate them, the body cannot absorb and assimilate them in the right way. Most of what you take ends up exiting the body through your pee. Vitamins and minerals work best in the body when they are combined with others. This is why eating real food in multiple combinations will be the best way to get the nutrients you need.
What about my cookies and ice cream? Go ahead and eat the cookies! Go ahead and eat the ice cream! Do not think that you have to take away what you love. But ask yourself this - is this cookie, is this ice cream replacing good foods? If you've had your rainbow of raw, fresh foods along with protein and also want a cookie, yea! If you haven't had anything to eat all day and reach for the bag of cookies...no. Let the sweets be a treat, not a meal replacement.
Healing the Hurt
Hurt people hurt people.
Let me say that again. When people have been hurt, they are likely to respond in ways that end up hurting others. When you look around at this world, you can see a LOT of hurt people. And the cycle of hurt just keeps going round and round and round as we respond to our hurt by acting out in ways that hurt. How do we stop this? And how does this have anything to do with birth?
There is a saying that "peace on earth begins at birth". And I really believe this. If a woman in pregnancy, in labor, in early parenthood is treated disrespectfully, is undermined and treated not as an individual, but as a nuisance, how does this then establish her entry into motherhood? If a baby is talked to as a problem, if it is rough-handled, if it is ignored and jabbed and cut from the moment of it's birth - what foundation are we laying for this child? Families are leaving their birth experiences feeling completely broken. How does this brokenness then translate into how families operate and grow? If you have a traumatized mother, a traumatized baby and possibly a traumatized father going home to start a life on their own, how can that be a recipe for love, respect and peace?
This cycle of trauma and hurt needs to stop. We are setting up families for failure from the start by the type of care we offer in our clinics and hospitals. We need to take pregnancy more seriously. And by seriously, I mean we need to treat women as the intuitive human beings that they are. We need to treat the growing baby as an individual that is deserving of respect. We need to recognize the important role of fathers in the whole equation and support and encourage them to step in and step up.
How do we start this? First off, we need to make choices that support respect and love. Find a care provider who listens to you. Who treats you as the expert of your body, your pregnancy and your baby. Secondly, call out the practices that are harmful. Let doctors, nurses, midwives and hospitals know what is not okay by you. You have a voice and you are called to use it! You are paying for a service and you should be served, not traumatized! Also, give yourself and your baby the space to be loved and nourished. Take time during your day to love yourself. Send love messages to your baby. Take moments to focus on what you are feeling and become well-acquainted with yourself and your feelings. Why are you feeling this way? What is this feeling trying to tell you? What can you do for yourself that will make you feel loved?
Help stop the cycle of hurt. Let's raise up a new generation of people who understand respect and love from the very beginning and so want to share respect and love with others!