I’m 5 months pregnant. Actually, in baby speak, the language they communicate in here in the land that I suddenly find myself in, that’s referred to as 20 weeks pregnant. It is quite an experience, has its ups and down’s as any woman with child will tell you. And as my first crack at it, I have to say that I am astounded every day that something so scientifically magical can take place pretty much without intervention, at least when all goes well, thankfully. My body keeps rolling along, expanding and stretching and creating a little life that will pop out in a few months like a cake hot from the oven. Which brings me to the point of all of this: FOOD.
I can, with all honesty and confidence, tell you that my relationship to food has always been a strong one. My work, my life, my self is intertwined in the subject and has been for as long as I can remember. I write about, I make it, I sell it, I eat it, I think about it all the time. So when something like getting knocked up occurs, silly me assumes that my food self will stay the same as always. I’m healthy, I listen to my body, I eat a very balanced, clean yet delicious diet, so what could change? And why would I need to change anything? Well, things do change, and it has led me to ponder some big questions in a way I never have before.
One of the main things I keep running into has to do with cravings. And it’s not at all a cliché to say pregnancy causes cravings. It really does, in a primal, needful kind of way like a wild animal must have. (It also causes really abrupt aversions, so drastic that once-favorite flavors can cause a gag reflex practically overnight). So what happens when a person, let’s say me, who ardently promotes seasonality and supporting local farmers and producers (like my own business), finds herself craving pineapple. So desperately that she has to leave work to go hunt one down. I know it sounds dramatic, but it happens. This brings me to think about moral dilemmas that become less important in the name of nutrition.
I must have needed potassium or Vitamin C. Pineapple also is high in fiber and actually contain large amounts of serotonin, according to “The New Complete Book of Food, A Nutritional, Medical, and Culinary Guide,” by Carol Ann Rinzler. The week or two of pineapple gorging that I had was enjoyable, but I kept having this somewhat guilty feeling as I looked at my counter, otherwise piled with seasonal bounty like Oro Blanco grapefruits and Meyers Lemons from our orchard. The Costa Rican Pineapple (it was organic, at least) stood out like sore thumb. And then there was the weird carob craving, despite the suspicion that the “grain sweetened” (i.e.: malted barley and corn) carob covered almonds I was wolfing down were not organic and most likely contained GMO ingredients, not to mention the soy lecithin, which is a whole other topic.
I’m actually not a crazy, uptight, hyper-vigilant person. I acknowledge that you can never avoid everything harmful or know how to fix everything. I don’t live in a prison of restraint or try to preach it to others. But when you do know certain things, about food additives and politics in this case, it is hard to let yourself go blind to it, especially when you are consuming the very same “bad” thing for two. Yes, I could have maintained stronger willpower and breathed through the cravings, but then I would be ignoring an important voice that my body was literally screaming at me to obey.
Another issue I have come across has to do with food restrictions. Every pregnant woman in America has been told to avoid certain things. Mainly, the list consists of unpasteurized cheeses and dairy products, caffeine, a wide variety of fish (and never raw), and alcohol. We take all of this as scripture, baffled that there was once a time when doctors advised you to limit your prenatal martini intake to only two at cocktail hour. How many of our parents came out just fine, relatively speaking? And I’d love to see some statistics about how many French women refuse to eat genuine Camembert for nine months, or Japanese women who bypass their daily fish diet. What about all the female winemakers or relatives of them, in any of the hundreds of winegrowing regions across the world? (Seriously, if anyone finds stats on this stuff, send it to me…). I’m not disregarding the proven hazards or nutritional research to these dietary recommendations; I’m just bringing up the extreme black and white nature that is often the standard of western medicine.
The point of this diatribe, I guess, is to bring attention once again to trust and intuition. We are all just struggling along in our own little worlds, navigating through life the best we can. The importance lies in letting ourselves listen to ourselves, trusting that our decisions will guide us, and not getting lost in the quagmire of information that is hurled at us every single second in this day and age. So let yourself eat a tomato in Maine in January if you absolutely need it (remember that it won’t taste very good though) or order a milkshake knowing it isn’t organic once in awhile. Just listen, and come back to yourself.