Today, I am a burrito with a side of sweet pickles.
If you are what you eat, last Monday I was a can of spinach. Yesterday, I was a bowl of gloopy instant mashed potatoes with rivulets of melted butter. I’m certainly not the Bradley Diet or the FDA’s nutritional guidelines for pregnant women.
Trying to manage nutritional needs in a woman’s first trimester of pregnancy is akin to juggling starving weasels. Someone’s going to get bitten. Yes, women who find they are the mother ship carrying a new alien should certainly try to eat well. But when just eating… anything proves difficult because of nausea or vomiting, finding what will stay down is the key.
I have a friend who could only eat saltines and lime popsicles for the first few months of her pregnancy. Her daughter is now 7 and is not only healthy and beautiful, but she’s also not green! I couldn’t stand the THOUGHT of chicken when pregnant with my first, and yet I somehow made it through my pregnancy without chicken or beef, subsisting mainly on vegetarian sushi, tomatoes and avocados.
You make the best choices you can. You take the prenatal. You try to manage the nausea. You wait for that time in pregnancy when you CAN manage your diet better.
I’m closing out week 10, and here is the list of foods I want to eat: sweet gherkins, instant mashed potatoes, cinnamon toast w/apple butter, grape tomatoes, broccoli, the ubiquitous coffee ice cream, chocolate milk, fresh fruit, orange juice, Chipotle’s vegetarian bol, Subway’s spicy Italian sub with banana peppers and oregano, Panera’s pecan twist pastries, and almost anything from ** my friend Sierra‘s stash of leftovers! I’m in the cravings stage now, moving OUT of the nauseated phase. When I get something in my brain that I want to eat, it’s very hard to switch tracks and accept eating something different without triggering those feelings of nausea.
After doing a little research, it appears there is still little known about women’s cravings and aversions during pregnancy. There are cravings that may possibly be influenced by a lack of iron, and then there’s the great unknown. Most cravings are linked to, big surprise, a pregnant women’s emotional/hormonal imbalance. Of course, science has been baffled by women’s issues for centuries and subscribe anything mysterious to our hormones and emotions. Why do some women eat baking soda and dirt during pregnancy, that feared pregnancy disorder called pica? If it’s NOT mineral deficiency, a mental disorder is diagnosed. That’s science for you, in a nutshell.
Maybe when I get a hysterectomy, my hysteria levels will decrease and the scientists can breathe a sigh of relief.Â In the meantime, I have crazy cravings, and I and my peace-loving husband try to find ways to meet them. Because it’s GOOD to want to eat. It’s happy-making to fill my belly with foods that make me smile and NOT feel nauseated.
Managing to eat, eating to feel better, managing to escape nausea — these are issues pregnant women have a lot of anxiety about. One look through the October 2009 discussion boards on Babycenter.com brings an alarming number of posts from women concerned about what to eat/what NOT to eat. For every google search on “effects of nausea-induced starvation on a growing fetus” there’s a women in her first trimester, sitting in front of a computer and biting her nails off in fear that she’s harming her baby.
Find something, ladies! Take your prenatal right before bed on an empty stomach with a small glass of OJ (not calcium enriched) so that the iron absorption is optimal. Eat popsicles if you have to. Fruit, crackers… just get through to the time when you can open up your food choices and get a little closer to those recommendations.
Most importantly of all, surround yourself with friends who are supportive and understanding, who will indulge in your weird Chipotle cravings and meet you for burritos and good conversation. Or who open up their fridge and say “what can I heat up for you?” Or the understanding friend who gets it when you’re late picking up your kids from a playdate because the only Subway in town is actually two towns over down mysterious twisting streets that the GPS finds baffling.
I’ll be back next week. So if you see a large pickle with fabulous hair and a protruding belly walking around Davis Square, give me a wink!
**Sierra blogs over at www.childwild.com. Check her out!