Judging pregnant women for their dietary choices is a fun national past time that I’m sure we can all admit to indulging in at one point. After all, with most areas of motherhood there is little proof that one method of child rearing is more effective than any other. Spanking? I was spanked as a child and don’t feel I have any issues because of it. Bribing? Though recommended against by most experts, the majority of parents use it out of exasperation and their kids turn into functional human beings at some point. But many of the dos and don’ts of a pregnant woman’s diet are regarded as fact, with lines never to be crossed. Though I certainly am not advocating for the intake of caffeine or alcohol during pregnancy (I avoid both whether I am pregnant or not), as the author of this article points out, the science behind the restrictions on a (singular) cup of coffee or a glass of wine after the first trimester, really isn’t as strong as we might initially believe. And yet few pregnant women enjoy their time spent at Starbucks, even if they are sipping on a hot chocolate or creme frappuccino, because those who “know” the facts about what is best during pregnancy are sending looks of judgement their way. Not an experience anyone wants to have after paying $5 for 12 ounces of liquid.
Even if I did drink coffee or wine I think I probably would have abstained during my pregnancy. Better safe than sorry when it comes to those two substances I think! I admit to eating frozen yogurt while pregnant (although I’m a bit hesitant about this one as I’ve read more into the reasons behind it and I do believe that most machines I’m using to dispense my treat are quite filthy and germ infested), eating deli meat that I judged to be fresh, and indulging in all of the pasteurized soft cheese I wanted over Christmas. Be proactive about your own healthcare! Learn why the guidelines are in place! Drink a glass of wine if you don’t feel like the research you’ve done has proven the side effects you’ve been told are a guarantee. Blah, blah blah, you’ve come to expect this kind of talk from me.
What boggles my mind is that we will turn to one pregnant woman and judge her for having a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and then turn to the next and encourage her in her efforts to down a slice of chocolate cake as big as her head. “You deserve it!”, the masses purr in the chocolate cake eaters ear, even though excessive amounts of both chocolate cake and a cup of coffee can be harmful to both the body of the woman and her baby. Eating junk is a bad idea pretty much always, but why would we want to be a part of galvanizing a pregnant woman into indulging even more often than normal when she is feeding both herself and her baby whatever crosses her lips for 40 weeks?
I admit to goading this response on a bit as I find it fascinating. I tweet ”I want to make no bake cookies. Husband accuses me of taking things a bit too far now that I know I don’t gave GD. I plead the fifth.”*, and I receive several replies telling me to indulge because I’m pregnant. This is not an isolated occurrence either. Once your pregnancy is public any comment about desiring an indulgent treat is sure to elicit reactions along similar lines. Why are we encouraging this, ever? If your sick friend or your overweight friend were to express the same desires would you be telling them to “live it up” as well?
The best response I receive to the tweet above came from reader Cécy: “Good to hear you’ve got the thumbs up. You could make cookies, eat one and give out the rest in celebration.” Maybe the difference between her and other commenters is that she is French? Whatever it is, I think Cécy has the right idea. Cécy is the kind of friend I’d like to have around post baby too, as encouragement like hers would likely mean I reach my post-pregnancy weight and health goals much faster, thus ensuring the timely return of the positive thoughts surrounding my body image. I want that so much more than I want a batch of no bake cookies!
Instead of encouraging indulgence or forbidding altogether, let’s encourage moderation in all things. I know of no diet that suggests nachos, doughnuts, burritos swimming in grease, fast food, chocolate cake, cookies, ice cream, or any other food commonly regarded as “junk” to be a good idea. When your pregnant friend suggests the lava chocolate ice cream hot fudge indulgence when you are out to eat, suggest she split it with you (wouldn’t you suggest that very thing if she weren’t pregnant?) instead of laughing and telling her to order all of the dessert she wants since she is on the Pregnancy Diet. When she talks about wanting chocolate and ice cream for breakfast lunch and dinner, commiserate by sharing your own cravings and praise her for doing such a wonderful job of growing a fetus inside her belly, don’t galvanize her efforts to indulge in something she and her sweet baby most certainly don’t need.
Let’s support each other, whether pregnant or not, in our efforts to be healthier, and thus happier. It’s possible that the indulgence now could cause your child problems farther down the road, something I am sure we all would like to avoid.
And if you can’t thing of a single thing to say that doesn’t sound like a judgment, raise your eyebrows, purse your lips together and say “mmmmmmm”. But let’s stop with the facilitating.
*Yes! I don’t have GD. I’ll write all about my midwife appointment (and all of the stuff I did to prepare for the test) this week.