When I was pregnant with my first child, I sat in my mother's kitchen one day, sharing. (She sipped coffee; I drank water.)
I remember opening with, “I'm doing something you might find a little weird, but bear with me. I'm aiming for an organic pregnancy.”
My mother sat across from me with that “She's about to come out with something adorable” look that drives me mad and said, “Organic? Tell me all about it.”
I pulled myself up straighter and informed her that it might be hard for her to understand, since in her day (she was pregnant with me in the 80s), women smoked during pregnancy, colored their hair with ammonia and took whatever medications the doctor said would be “good for them,” but as for me, I intended to have as natural a pregnancy as possible.
Her smile widened. She didn't interrupt.
I then gave her the anthropological low-down (thank you, Professor Cratz). In pre-industrialized societies, women ate unaltered foods, slept when tired, were active when needed (even if that meant all day), slept outdoors in good weather and never took a prenatal vitamin. And their children were healthy.
“You spoke to these women?” Mom inquired, innocently.
I stiffened. “There's lots of evidence, Mom. Anyway...”
“You're aware that hunter-gatherer societies drank boozy milk, took hallucinogenics and died a lot, right?” Mom added.
I looked at her with irritation...but perhaps a little respect, too. (Shh. I hate to admit when I'm being pwned). “Look, Mom, the take-home message is...”
“I get it.” Mothers are allowed to interrupt. It's not FUN when they do, but it's allowed. “You may be forgetting that I went to school too, hon. And even if I hadn't, I do have eyes. I know most of what we eat and live in and breathe is artificial. I get that. AND I'm fully aware that we did ridiculous, dangerous stuff 30 years ago. And by the way, during my pregnancy with you, I drank wheatgrass juice. For nine and a half months.”
I couldn't help it...my lip curled. (Just a little.) “Wheatgrass? You did?” My mother drank wheatgrass? My Hostess cupcakes-eating (she peels the icing off in a slab to eat first), bad sleeping habit afflicted, HRT-taking (I can't seem to talk her out of that) mom?
I listened closer. This was something I really had to hear.
“Yup. And I did yoga and I worked out with Kathy Smith. On VHS. Oh,” her eyes looked off in the distance, remembering: “and I slept on a futon.”
“Why a futon?” I don't know why that's what grabbed me, though I admit that later, the VHS reference made me laugh a little to myself. I'm such a superior goon, shame on me.
“Oh, I don't remember. Something about firm support but a degree of yield and unbleached wool weave and something-or-other-blah-blah.”
“Well...wow, Mom. This is a side of you I never knew.” I was still trying to picture my mom on a futon.
“And you were healthy,” Mom went on. “But I don't know if it was because of the wheatgrass and the futon. It could have been sheer luck. It could have been some other thing I did, or didn't do. It could have been genetics. It could have been a good egg. I don't know. I'll never know. Mostly, I think I just got lucky.” She reached for my hand and cuddled it in hers with one soft rap on the table as she's done for as long as I can remember. “I feel luckier more than ever to have such a smart daughter today.”
“Oh...blah,” I burbled, horrified and delighted.
“It's true. And do you know what? Here's the one thing I really did learn during my pregnancy with you. A woman should use her own common sense. A woman should do what she feels is right. We DO have the know-how. It's in there. Did you know Gramma was offered Thalydomide with Aunt Trisha?”
Oh my God. “She was?” Aunt Tricia is my mother's older sister. Mom was a “surprise” baby; Tricia had been 16 when Mom was born. I knew Gramma had smoked while pregnant with Mom but I hadn't considered late-50s pregnancies and their implications. This was all news to me.
“Oh, absolutely. She threw up three times a day with Trish and got down to 98 pounds. She thought she was going to die. Thalydomide was the answer, according to her doctor. Mom said no.”
“Why? I mean, thank God....but why?”
Mom shook her head. “She could never say. It was just a feeling. Mostly, she just felt it was common sense that the fewer drugs a woman took during a pregnancy, the better. She bucked the trends and she was a warrior even then.” She grinned. “Just like you.”
Maybe. But I wasn't so sure I couldn't have been talked into a dangerous drug in those days, in the face of puking my guts up and getting down to a middle-schooler's weight. I squirmed a little.
“Anyway,” Mom said, “if you want my advice, which I KNOW you don't...” (I made a face at her.) “...just go with your gut. You'll never know until much later what really was good for your baby and what was bad for him. I'm not just talking pills here. I'm talking anything. Essential oils, prenantal vitamins, different yoga moves, whatever. All you'll really know is that you kept the fake crap down to a minimum, used your head, went with your gut and that was the best you can do.”
My heart sank. “That's it?
That's all the wisdom there is?” “That's all the wisdom there EVER was,” Mom smiled. “And, know what? It's pretty friggin' good advice.”
It was. Whether through luck, genetics, or lack of wheat grass juice, my baby was born very healthy indeed. And interestingly, Mom had pegged it, though subtly, in our eye-opening conversation. My baby had indeed been a “him.”
I won't lie. I DID attempt an organic pregnancy – and I did a pretty kick-A job of it, if I do say so myself. (Maybe I'll tell you about it some time.) I still believe in going as natural as possible, not just during pregnancy but in one's entire life and as much of your environment as you possibly can – eating and drinking, sleeping, working, surround yourself with as few chemical, treated, and/or synthetic items as you can.
Other than that, keep the fake stuff down to a minimum, use your head, and go with your gut.
It's pretty friggin' good advice.
Your Home. Your Life. All Organic.