Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Growing and Shrinking - Pregnancy Nutrition!

Dear ones,

The little man has been growing at an almost alarmingly fast rate.

Tipping the scales at 14 pounds when we brought him in
at my six-week check-up with the midwives (he had a 24-hr
check-up and a one-week check-up, both at home with
midwives, but other than that he hasn't had any extra
attention from professionals after birth) 
Look at those thunder thighs! Don't you just wanna squeeze em!?
I say alarming, because by the end of the day he's almost busted out of the onesie I put on him in the morning, that is to say, I've already boxed up half his clothes - and that was at the six-week mark!  The midwives congratulated us and said he was the largest 6-week baby they've seen!

Cozy with Auntie Mandatory during her recent 3-week visit with my mom
and another sister, Auntie Kejmo
Explaining the ins and outs of childhood to Auntie Kejmo - as you can see
we were sorting through his clothes, packing away the small ones and getting
out the larger ones! 
Many thanks to the wonders of breastmilk - his complete diet since day one!

I told you I'd mention something about the part nutrition had to play in my pregnancy and labor, so here it is!

I am no food Nazi - you know I have my weaknesses - but in large part our house is free from processed, pre-packaged, non-organic, un-local food.  I suppose if I had to estimate I would say about 80% of our food is organic locavore.

This trend has been going for some time, and that percentage increases steadily.  This makes it easy to eat well, because when you shop like this, just about anything you pick up to eat in your own house will be nutritious (not to mention pre-made snacks aren't always readily available - have a banana?); and things that are processed or pre-made rapidly lose their appeal.  Yes, even long-standing "but-I-ate-it-when-I-was-a-kid" stuff.  There are a few devilish treats I loved when I was little that don't satisfy any more.  They look good, but when I bite into them they just aren't what they once were; and many packaged treats make my mouth mysteriously sore.  Hmm ... problem with me, or problem with the chemicals in the plastic-wrapped snacks? I'm leaning towards the latter, although conventional medicine might say otherwise ...

My sister sent me some of the homemade cookies from her wedding, which was
three days after the little man was born - and I had no problem consuming those!
And so it was that during my pregnancy, it was easy, nay, it took no effort on my part, to eat a nutritious and balanced diet (it probably would have been even easier if we hadn't moved once every trimester, thank-you Navy!).  I was craving primarily salads and water (water!! water!!!), and had no appetite for sugary, snacky things except a few times.  Once in California, I remember I sorely wanted a doughnut.  I don't know if this had anything to do with the pregnancy, and I was loathe to indulge in things and use the pregnancy as an excuse because I had seen where that road could lead - but Mr H and I bought two doughnuts, one for each of us.  Unfortunately for him, he did not eat his fast enough and I consumed both doughnuts before he had a chance.


Such surprise when he found the empty package.

When we moved to Virginia, our nutrition intake ratcheted up a notch.  Not being on the lam every few weeks helps immensely with settling in and discovering the food culture of a given area, which is what we have been doing ever since we arrived.

Our CSA box started in mid-May, so until the little man was born on June 21 I was automatically compelled to consume half a crate of kale, chard, turnips, beets, lettuces, lamb's quarters, and more a week.  After the little man was born in our living room, the midwives were in the kitchen testing the blood from the placenta to type it.  They came back and congratulated me on my rich blood.

"Such beautiful blood!" my midwife said.  "It must be from all that kale you are eating!"

Lamb's quarters, commonly known as a weed, are rich in Vitamin K.  My midwife, who has known the farmer that runs our CSA for years (she was doula for his daughter's birth, years ago!), advised me not to eat too much in a given day so I don't overdose on Vitamin K, but she was excited that I was eating it!  As any birth worker knows, Vitamin K in the colostrum and breast milk are vital for the baby, and play an important role in blood-clotting and healing for the mother.

Clockwise from bottom left: Lamb's quarters, red-leaf lettuce, kale, drunken
woman lettuce, radishes, various colored potatoes, onion, elephant garlic

My body responded well to the birth - even though the little man had 14.5" shoulders, I had no external tearing.  I credit this to the length of labor, allowing my body to flood with hormones and blood in the tissues, and stretch as necessary, and the attentiveness of the apprentice and midwife who helped gently ease our little man into the world with the help of warm olive-oil compresses.  There was a tiny tear inside, however, because just before his shoulders emerged he did a complete rotation - not a half rotation to work the shoulders out, as is usual for babies, but a complete spin.  The apprentice had not seen this before, and our midwife said she had only seen it two or three times.  It felt ridiculously crazy, and I could see my stomach jostling wildly as his legs and arms swirled all the way over!  The grinding of his shoulders twisting in the narrow birth canal is presumably what caused the small first-degree tear I did experience (although I never felt it), and had stitched up at a doctor's office just a few hours after birth.

The doctor that put the stitches in was pleased with my blood as well, and I was gratified when he complimented me on a strong body with "beautiful" tissue. I was thirsty, which made him concerned that I might have anemia, but a nurse took a blood sample and came back impressed.  "Perfect!" she said.  I did, however, realize why I had been ravenously hungry for beans for the last few weeks when he asked the midwife if I was vegan - apparently he felt I needed more protein in my diet!

I healed well, as far as I can tell - all systems are normal.  I was never sore, and I never felt dizzy or woozy despite losing what amounted to eight pounds worth of fluids and placenta, plus the eight pound-four ounce baby.  I had no night-sweats, I had no extreme fatigue despite having a newborn to look after.  He has fortunately been the mellowest and most compliant of babes, sleeping during the night and waking briefly for his feedings, of which he generally has two, and then falling promptly back asleep.  Our midwife encapsulated the placenta, and brought the capsules to our 24-hour home check-up.  I never experienced any "baby blues" and whether we can credit the capsules, general nutrition, the natural hormones that are allowed with natural birth to enable bonding, or my husband's attentive care or just all four for this, I will never know - either way, the days and weeks following his birth have been joyful and pleasant, and I love that.

The day after the little guy was born and for several days following, I craved and consumed huge amounts of fresh, crispy greens and protein.  Of course, water is ever at my side now that I am feeding him constantly throughout the day!  He was born just before a staggering heat wave - the next day it was 105 by noon, and for several weeks following the temperature rarely left the 90s during the day, and barely dropped to the 80s at night, with humidity ranging at 90%.  I was grateful that I didn't have to be pregnant during this heat, but at times it was torture to clasp a hot little body to myself for nursing - we'd both come away drenched in sweat, myself glued to the couch and his little wisps of hair pasted to his head and cheeks.  Our AC was virtually useless, although with it running nonstop and all the other rooms to the house blocked off, it could with a great effort get our living room down to the mid-80s.

At the beach
Picking blueberries ...
Yum, yum! 
We just took it easy.  With no expectation of getting things done, there was little pressure.  With little pressure there is little stress - life moved back to normal at a gradual, comfortable pace.

The body can do marvelous, wonderful things when it is given the proper tools, and not handicapped by debilitating foods.  I don't mean fats or carbs - I mean empty carbs, homogenized fats, garbage calories.

Perhaps the best part of all this nutritious eating (remember, I wasn't trying!) and my daily yoga practice was that I wore my own jeans for the entire pregnancy, and easily slipped back into my own clothes the day after Farmer Boy was born.  I never felt "sick" of being pregnant - I never felt encumbered by my body.  I was perfectly fine hoeing potatoes and weeding raspberry beds the week before he was born, and picking blueberries while he nursed just a few weeks after his arrival.  I still have extra chub, but the midwife assures me it is due to breastfeeding and my body storing nutrients against risk of famine, to protect the baby.  Eat more, Farmer Boy - the more you eat, the more I lose!

I don't say these things to announce how great I am, or that I did something wonderful, cause I did nothing that should not be normal and customary for everybody.  I say them, rather, to inspire you!  To let you know that yes, it makes a difference.  Yes, it means something to eat nutritious food.  Yes, you can and should start the switch so that you, too can benefit.  Forget about sugar-free foods, non-fat dairy, low-cal snack packs, an extra hour in the gym.  All of that is junk.  Just eat, and enjoy, real, good food with enjoyable, normal activity and (of course) yoga.  Reap the benefits forever!

Weed em and reap,

Mrs H

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