What is it about that glorious round belly that invites so many crazy comments and so much unsolicited advice? How come everyone becomes a pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting expert except for the one going through the experience themselves? People say some of the darnedest things to parents-to-be about any subject, not the least, about food. I’m going to share some crazy things people said to me during my pregnancies, by whom, and how it affected me. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments. I’m sure you have some gold of your own!
“Are you sure you should be eating that?”
I’m sure this is probably the most common question that most of us get from strangers and co-workers. Or maybe even that lady from church who you’ve seen around but with whom you have never actually had the opportunity to have a conversation. This was definitely said to me several times, but I can’t remember who said it. I didn’t mind too much because no one I truly cared about said this to me, and plus I don’t recall eating anything unless I was abso-freakin-lutely sure that, yes, I definitely should be eating it. Sonic tater tots? Yup. Wendy’s baked potato? Oh yeah. (And screw that pregnant lady that bought the last one right before my husband was responding to MY Wendy’s baked potato pregnancy craving.) Subway tuna fish sandwich with LOTS of vinegar? You betchya! I should have been eating ALL of those things, and I was most definitely SURE about it.
“You get to eat for two now!”
Why now? I can eat for two any time I want to. This was another random stranger/person-I-don’t-really-know-all-that-well comment. Most of the time I smiled and nodded because I really didn’t feel like educating random strangers that, “No. Pregnancy really isn’t the time to be eating all the crap you can get your hands on. And no, you really only need a few hundred extra calories a day to fuel a healthy pregnancy, not two adult-sized amount of calories.”
“You want your baby to come out of your cooter, don’t you?”
Okay, so this was one of my all-time favorite comments because I was newly pregnant with my first baby, and I totally trusted anything she said to me about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. This was a co-worker who was a highly-sought-after doula and childbirth educator in Houston. This was long before I knew much about doulas and became one myself. And it was fun that she was pregnant too!
So why did she say this? Because I was having a hard time being able to eat certain things and was about to buy a big, nasty, greasy, delicious-sounding bagel with egg on it from the Einstein Bagel, Co. downstairs. Not only did that comment make me laugh because she said “cooter,” but it helped me think about whether or not I could make a better choice than that. I could, and I did. And I laughed. And it motivated me because I did indeed want my baby to come out of my cooter.
“Bananas are trash fruit.”
This was a totally random comment my midwife said to me during my second pregnancy that has stuck with me way longer than it deserves to. The amazing thing about midwives is that they really like to take a holistic approach to pregnancy, and that means lots of advice on how to stay healthy and low-risk via nutrition. Even other midwives have told me that my midwife is particularly good at helping her clients grow big, healthy, and strong babies. And boy did I. But she was a stickler about nutrition, and I really wanted to please her.
I still have this funny little image of a cartoon banana going, “Ah! I’m a trash fruit!” every time I go to eat a banana. I carried shame around eating bananas for a long time. I even avoided them for awhile, but I think I’ve gotten over that by now. We’ll just file that one away under “unhelpful comments said with the best of intentions.”
“Don’t eat sweets.”
This was said by one of the midwives in the practice that I saw during my first pregnancy. She said it during one of the weekly (or monthly, can’t remember), New Patient Orientation meetings and also during just about every prenatal visit I had with her. I really took this to heart because I wanted to do everything in my power to have a natural childbirth and also to avoid growing a freaking ten-and-a-half-pound baby. My husband was a ten-and-a-half-pound baby, and I was terrified of making a baby that big. I figured a baby that size would mean an automatic C-section, and I really didn’t want that either.
I did an amazing job not eating sweets during that pregnancy. I had zero brownies, and brownies are my favorite. Unfortunately, I learned how to feel ashamed of my food choices when I worked with this particular midwife, especially when I ate things that weren’t perfect. Which I totally ate things that weren’t perfect because I didn’t know anything even remotely close to what I know now. And I am no food expert even now.
I want to make it clear that she didn’t SHAME me, but that I felt ashamed all by myself. She educated me about WHY it would be good to avoid sweets during my pregnancy, but me and my people-pleasing nature took things a bit too far. So much so that at my 40 week appointment, when she walked in, I totally deflated and dropped my eyes to look at the floor. She said, “I saw that. What is going on?” (These are the things midwives notice.) I told her, “I ate some Sonic this week.” And she said, “You’re 40 weeks pregnant! Of course you ate some Sonic this week.” And I thought, “So NOW you are cool with me eating Sonic? NOW?”
This midwife probably didn’t remember she was my midwife once, and when I was pregnant and working as a doula around her, she checked up on me throughout the birth we were supporting and even said, “I want to see you eat something.” She didn’t have to do that. Maybe she just didn’t want to have a doula pass out on her watch, but it came across as caring. So yeah. She wasn’t trying to SHAME me, but I did carry that baggage into future pregnancies, and I still carry it with me long after my pregnancies have passed.
“Lay off the carbs.”
So there’s always this time during my pregnancies where I make a huge jump in weight. I’ve done it every time. It’s somewhere around 32 weeks, although I can’t remember the exact number. I know it is around the time visits are two weeks apart but not quite down to the time where they become weekly visits. In the two weeks between visits where I previously have barely gained a pound, maybe two a week in the third trimester, I’ll gain 5 pounds in this particular two weeks. And then I go back to gaining a little over a pound a week again.
I never got tested for gestational diabetes during my second or third pregnancies, but I asked my midwife to treat me as if I had it. So I ASKED her to help me with my nutrition. And it was hard. Especially during my third pregnancy. By this time I was teaching Birth Boot Camp classes, so I knew quite a bit about nutrition during pregnancy. I love carbs, especially pasta. But I was also eating a ton of leafy greens and protein. I really was doing my best. Mostly.
But when I told her that I’d gained 5 pounds in those two weeks between visits, she looked at me point blank and said, “Lay off the carbs.” After she left, I burst into tears. I was trying so hard, and I felt so disempowered by so many things going on in my life at the time. But I did better and tried harder to do what she said. And I had an amazing birth and a nice, big, healthy baby just like she is good at helping people grow.
I think I am pretty much over the fact that she said that, but I do still carry some baggage around carbs. I am trying really hard not to buy into all the hype that carbs are the devil. They are NOT the devil. But I also am trying to learn how to use carbs as fuel to help my body work its best rather than a delicious indulgence that isn’t helpful to me in the long run.
“Try to eat food that is as close to its original form as possible”
One of my midwives during my first pregnancy said this around 24 weeks or so, and it made so much sense to me. This really was my aha moment about food. I still keep this in mind as much as possible. She explained it by comparing an apple to apple juice. Instead of having apple juice that is full of added sugar and metabolizes faster, therefore contributing to more weight gain to the baby, eat an actual apple. It will take longer to digest and doesn’t have nearly as much sugar in it. At this time, I didn’t really know about “processed foods” and “added sugar” and how processed foods tend to have added sugar which contributes to excess weight gain. This concept really resonated with me.
“Cook your food, and eat at home.”
This goes hand-in-hand with #7. This same midwife told me that if I am cooking at home, I can see what ingredients are going into my food, especially if I am using ingredients that are as close to the original form as possible. Being a very recent college grad at the time, neither my husband nor I were accustomed to cooking or eating most of our food at home. We had crazy hours and were rarely at home. Most nights, we’d grab something from a fast-food restaurant near our apartment. And luckily our 20-something-year-old metabolisms didn’t really seem to be bothered all that much by it.
But then we decided to have a baby. It totally changed our lives in more ways than one, especially when it came to food choices. I was a recent college grad who completely overhauled my college student diet of Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Pizza Patron. Becoming pregnant and working with amazing midwives helped me to make major changes that would not only help me have a healthy pregnancy, but also a healthy life.