Before I became pregnant with my son, I tried to prep myself for the healthiest pregnancy possible. I worked out and got in shape. I followed a Candida diet for several months to get my yeast problem under control. I read pregnancy and birthing books. I weaned off of Prozac because I wanted a drug-free pregnancy. I finished school, quit my job, and only worked on things that were enjoyable to me, keeping my stress levels nice and low. Having a good pregnancy and a healthy baby were very important to me.
When I first got pregnant, I was eating probably the healthiest I had my whole life. And I don’t mean the American idea of healthy, but I was actually eating a lot of butter, whole fat plain yogurt, shrimp, greens, nuts, eggs, and modest amounts of whole grains and a reasonable amount of meat, which I always got from the health food store. I actually think this is why I got pregnant so easily–I was eating a lot of fertility foods, and I didn’t even know it.
The first several weeks of pregnancy went great. I thought I’d be one of the lucky ones who didn’t get morning sickness. But then it hit, and when it hit, it hit hard. The first thing I threw up was a spinach salad with goat cheese. Needless to say, I didn’t eat spinach or goat cheese again for a very long time. In fact, I didn’t eat hardly any vegetables for a long time. Or meat. Or eggs. Or anything else that was really good for growing a healthy baby.
I had thought it was going to be easy to eat well while pregnant because I had already been doing it. But my extreme morning sickness kept me from eating pretty much all real food. Instead, I went into survival mode. I ate pretzels and crackers because they were easier to keep down. I had no shame in eating chocolate cookies when I realized they tasted better coming back up than other foods did. Almost all my nutrition came from commercial nutritional smoothies, a highly-processed food fortified with synthetic vitamins. I hoped these smoothies would nourish my baby despite my now deplorable diet.
The day before my first appointment with the midwife, I went to the ER for dehydration because I couldn’t keep anything down that day. I was put on an anti-nausea medication that I had to take as a suppository because I couldn’t even keep a pill down (I am pretty sure I had hyperemesis gravidarum except I was able to avoid weight-loss through the drugs and the high-calorie nutritional shakes). When I went into my midwife appointment the next day, the nurse who was assisting told me to just stop taking my vitamins. I thought she was crazy, but she told me that babies are very good “parasites” and will get what they need. I don’t know why I actually listened to her because I knew the vitamins weren’t causing my nausea. But I did. Later on, someone else (probably a midwife) told me to take prenatal vitamins, so I bought some cheap ones at Walmart. The multivitamin I was originally taking was actually much higher quality, and here I was taking cheap prenatals. But it didn’t really matter, right? Because my baby was a parasite taking everything it needed from me. Right??
I wish someone had told me that the more nutrients I took in during pregnancy, the better formed my baby would be. I wish I had known that women need a very high amount of nutrition in order to give their baby the best possible health that would affect their whole life.
I wish I had known that eating plenty of protein at regular intervals throughout the day helps keep morning sickness at bay and is extremely important in avoiding preeclampsia, which I was thought to be at risk for. I wish I had known how important protein was to keeping blood volume where it needed to be and growing a baby.
I wish I had understood why I was getting heartburn so early on my pregnancy (the poor food choices and lack of healthy gut flora), and why it kept getting worse despite trying several medications (antacids only deepen the problem of acid reflux).
I wish I knew how beneficial raw milk was and had safe raw milk at my disposal. I wish I knew about pastured eggs. I wish I knew how to make my own nutritional smoothies that were made with real food.
I wish I knew that taking a magnesium supplement before and during pregnancy would have helped with liver function and reduced the chance of morning sickness. I wish I had known that a magnesium supplement would also have reduced my chances of having preeclampsia.
I wish I had known much earlier in my pregnancy that vitamin B6 helps prevent morning sickness. In fact, I wish I had known how important all the B vitamins were in pregnancy.
I wish I knew that the very foods I was consuming to help deal with morning sickness, not only perpetuated the problem, but deprived my baby of important nutrients.
I wish I had known the importance of certain fats and fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and K2 for the development of the baby’s brain and facial structure during pregnancy. I wish I had known there was a way to prevent the need for future orthodontic treatments! (Because guess what, breastfeeding sure didn’t do the trick!)
I wish I didn’t ever read The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy which told me it was okay if I never exercised while I was pregnant. I wish I had understood just how important exercise during pregnancy really was.
I wish people didn’t tell me not to worry about my diet. I wish my doctors could have instead advised me on proper prenatal nutrition instead of waiting for my body to fall apart so they could come in and “rescue” me.
I ended up bringing home a “healthy” baby. A “healthy” baby that spent his first three days in the NICU and had to be kept away from people the first several weeks of his life. A “healthy” baby whose head was only in the 25th percentile, while his weight was in the 50th and his length 75th. Did you know that a baby who is well-nourished in-utero will have a good-sized, nicely-shaped head? I wish I did.
My “healthy” baby had a lot of trouble breastfeeding for two solid months. I don’t think I can blame this purely on my nutrition while pregnant, but I can’t help but wonder if his development in-utero affected his ability to breastfeed well.
My “healthy” baby didn’t get sick much and had a good temperament, but when he started sitting up around 7 months old, he had poor posture. I had ignored the advice to administer vitamin D drops because the natural parenting community I was involved with insisted that babies have enough from mom until six months or so and after that they can get enough from the sun. I started getting him in the sun soon after he was born to help build up his stores. I wish I had known that I was probably extremely vitamin D deficient when I was pregnant with him. After I finally started giving him D drops, he finally started getting some teeth, which were very late coming in, and over time his posture improved. I wish I had known that my baby could be born with a vitamin D deficiency if I was deficient. I wish I had known that mother’s milk doesn’t always provide everything the baby needs.
I wish I had known about the Weston A Price diet for breastfeeding mothers. Instead, I ate poorly and suffered deeply because of it. While I have always had mood problems, I had them “under control” before I had my son. Afterwards, I became ten times worse. And I had no energy. Not just for months, but for years after having my son, and I eventually was overcome by adrenal fatigue. If someone had told me about this wonderfully nutrient-dense diet, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache. I could have been a better parent. My baby would have likely enjoyed better nutrition from my milk. Maybe he even wouldn’t have dropped so far down on the growth charts.
I wish I had known the proper way to introduce solids to my child. I had heard of delaying solids and was very intrigued by that idea. Apparently it was a natural thing to do. I loved breastfeeding, I believed breastfeeding supplied everything a baby needed, so I thought maybe this was a nice idea. It turns out that breastmilk only supplies everything for about the first six months, and that is if the mother is eating a sufficient diet. Thankfully, I decided to listen to my son’s cues instead, and started feeding him solids right around six months. But I didn’t know what to feed him! I had heard of baby-led weaning, which allows baby to choose what he wants and feed himself, no purees involved. But I wondered how a baby could possibly digest food well that wasn’t pureed. Gumming food only does so much. I went back and forth a lot and ended up on a combo approach to feeding him, including pre-chewing some food for him, but honestly who cares what method you use if aren’t feeding the right foods?? We mostly avoided grains because they didn’t seem like nutrient-dense food to me, and I didn’t want him addicted to them like so many babies I had known. We avoided pasteurized milk, except for whole fat yogurt. We avoided sugar like it was evil. We gave fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, and I tried to give him some fatty foods. But his diet was lacking in all the “super” foods! I wish I had known to give him egg yolks, liver, broth, fish eggs, and even more fat.
I wish I had known about properly preparing grains, too, because as I slowly introduced grains to him, my “healthy” baby started having mood problems. My “healthy” baby had weak digestion, just like his mama. The winter my son turned 2.5, he was literally sick with something or another every other week and had a very volatile mood. At age three I discovered he had food sensitivities that were likely caused by compromised gut health and began working to restore his gut and overall health using the GAPS diet as well as following WAPF guidelines. This was a turnaround point for my son’s health, during which he went from a “healthy” child to an actually healthy child. He may not be as hardy as a child whose genes were developed on a traditional diet, but now at almost age five, he’s doing really well.
I’m grateful I learned about traditional foods while he was still little. I’m grateful I know better for the next one. I’m grateful I know now for my own health and well-being. But looking back, I can see there is a lot of misinformation and ignorance about the importance of eating well before (men included in the before), during and after pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and how to feed babies solids. To think of the health problems we could avoid!
I am happy to announce that Nourishing Our Children, a resource that has helped me learn how to nourish my body as well as my child’s, is having a week-long promotion of their educational materials, which are available for 50% off during this time. This is purely coincidental to my writing this post! I highly recommend taking advantage of this special offer if you wish to learn how to truly nourish your children. They make it so easy to understand how to eat before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, and how to nourish your little ones with nutrient-dense food. I will be writing another post in the next couple of days to explain more, but you can look for yourself now what is included in this promotion.