I’ve taken many risks while pregnant. I’ve consumed cold deli meats, cheese made with raw milk, and frozen yogurt. I eat spoonfuls of dough/batter containing raw eggs when I’m cooking. I like to eat my eggs sunny side up with yolk running all over the plate. I’ve dyed my hair, rode my bike during the first half of my pregnancy, and didn’t switch to prenantal vitamins until close to my 20th week (which may or may not have been the reason why I had so little nausea my first trimester!). Once I was so congested that I took a cold medicine pill. I ate a hot dog. I didn’t switch to organics, possibly exposing my child to pesticides. I used bleach to clean the tub and made myself sick for an entire weekend. I chose not to get vaccinated for the flu or H1N1. I take baths and don’t worry about the temperature, I just go with what feels right to me. I never consulted my healthcare provider when I wanted to exercise, I chose activities that felt appealing to me at the time. I did some painting during my third trimester. Oh yeah, and I’m choosing to give birth at home, a decision which carries it’s own risks and possible negative outcomes, that I don’t deny.
Though some may place me in the “selfish baby maimer” category for admitting all of this, I don’t feel I deserve the title. We all take risks every single day, whether pregnant or not. These can include going for a run after dark because you *have* to squeeze it in that night, checking your phone while driving, not buckling our seat belt as soon as you begin driving, driving over the speed limit, driving in inclement weather, laying out in the sun in an effort to achieve that oh-so-popular sun kissed look, etc, etc. Though there are certainly individuals who are naturally inclined to play it a bit safer (my husband being one of them) I think it’s important to realize that when a woman learns she is incubating a fetus in her womb her very nature isn’t going to change overnight.
Am I worried that my baby suffered permanent damage because of my choices? For some of them, yes. The weekend of tub bleaching, for example, was an episode of complete irrationality, where I felt that the entire apartment just had to be cleaned or I would go crazy. I also wish I was smart enough to figure out how to fill our house with organic food without breaking the bank, eliminating pesticide exposure completely. I personally think though that these risks were small, and I’m not beating myself up over them after the fact.
Other choices though, were made because I believe in the importance of relying on a little thing called common sense. Exercising and bathing fall under this category. If the activity I’m engaging in hurts, I quit. If the water feels too hot, I cool it down.
Then there were some risks I took either because I am, as all are humans, inherently selfish, or because I carefully weighed my options and decided to go against the common recommendation. Eating deli meats, cheese with raw milk, and frozen yogurt are examples of pure selfishness, as I most certainly did not have to eat any of those things, there are plenty of other options out there, but I chose to consume them anyway. I could certainly stop eating my eggs sunny side up, and life wouldn’t end without spoonfuls of cookie dough on my tongue (although I might argue that it would be a lot less enjoyable ), but I choose to take the chance the small chance of listeria for my own enjoyment. Dyeing my hair, not switching to prenatals right away, and passing up the flu vaccinations are all examples of deliberate risks I took because I felt I had researched my options, and I made an informed decision to choose something different than what might be recommended for/by others.
I am certainly not a perfect pregnant woman, and I will never be a perfect mother. I’ve made mistakes throughout my pregnancy, some I’m sure I can’t even see the consequences of now, but I feel confident that I can accept the consequences of my decisions, even if those consequences are regrettable in the long run. After reading this article which points out that stressing about one’s pregnancy while pregnant can actually harm the baby, I hope that other women will work to come to terms with the idea that some risks, some selfishness, some mistakes, are a part of life. Know your options, weigh the risks, learn from your mistakes.