it takes a village to feed a mama

January 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

ive been meaning to write this post about nutrition for a long time.  but honestly, in some ways my views on nutrition are probably much more controversial than my other thoughts on the childbearing year.

so i kind of held off. thinking that i would do some research or whatever.

but i am just going to state that i think that there is way too much emphasis on nutrition during pregnancy.

now, dont get me wrong one of the first things to come out of my mouth when someone asks me advice or suggestions for having an empowered pregnancy and birth and post partum is as much green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, lots of water, and rest and relaxation that you can get for yourself.

food is an important aspect of human life.

THE IDEAL DIET

and i get wary when i see specific foods and numbers of grams being spouted as ‘ideal’ or ‘optimal’ for a pregnant or breastfeeding person.

one, because we fall into the mistake of creating an ‘ideal’ diet that automatically creates an ‘ideal’ person who thrives ‘ideally’ on this ‘ideal’ diet. and i am not saying that midwives and ob experts are trying to tell us that there is an ‘ideal’ person. i am saying that when we create ‘ideal’ diets, we are automatically also fashioning in the cultural imagination an ‘ideal’ person to go along with that diet.

and we know this.  we are critical of putting a laboring person on pitocin if her cervix isnt dilating one cm every hour even though that is the medical ‘ideal’. we know that pumping a pregnant person full of chemicals, vaccines and then doing so to the newborn because there is a slight chance that something could go wrong, often causes more harm than good.

and yet we are quick to tell a person what is the correct or optimal amount of protein they should consume daily in their pregnancy.  and supposedly we shame folks into these restrictive diets in order to save them from gestational diabetes, or physical weakness during birth, or large babies, or having a c-section, etc.

we dont trust folks bodies to tell them what they need to eat.  we dont trust folks to know what their bodies need. we emphasize our expertise in nutrition which is obviously more knowledge than the people who has been living and eating in their bodies for decades.

and is it any surprise that even the most hands off, trust birth midwives still get controlling and down right stringent when it comes to food. is it any surprise considering how people, mainly women, spend their lives being shamed about what they eat.  that the culture we swim in tells us that eating is about control, discipline, purity, starvation, not trusting your senses, not trusting your stomach, not trusting your desires.

so we start requiring that pregnant folks turn in food diaries to midwives to be checked for protein and vitamin count.  compare it to an arbitrary median number.  and then instruct the pregnant person what to do to eat more ideally, optimally, best for her and the baby?

CULTURAL/COLLECTIVE MEMORY

do we stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, our ideals for what is optimal to eat during pregnancy comes with a lot of cultural imperialistic biases?  like, different bodies process different foods well…differently?  that some people dont need a lot of protein and actually eating the ‘optimal’ amount of protein could make some people sick?  in the same way that n. american indigenous and african-american folks are often lactose allergic or intolerant.

and what do we know?  do we know what are the traditional foods that are held in that person’s specific collective/ethnic memory that balance the body during the childbearing times?  for instance allie, the hb midwife insisted that in order for me to avoid gestational diabetes i needed to eat more and more protein and less carbs, esp. red meat (since it has a high amoung of protein/serving.) she was unaware of the studies that show that diabetes in african americans is more likely to be triggered by a high  consumption of red meat and that a the risk for diabetes is lowered when afr-am’s eat whole grain carbs.

EVIDENCE BASED CARE

i do not understand why so many midwives proudly decry that they are ‘evidence-based’ midwives.  there is a scientific study to support nearly every position under the sun. midwives have to pick and choose which studies they are going to follow.  yes, there are some methodologies that are better than others.  but, considering that the studies that are the most inclusive (and thus ‘conclusive’) are the ones funded by major medical and pharmaceutical companies, even what gets studied are political and self-interested capitalistic decisions, and basing one’s practice primarily off of those biased studies is destructive to the very folks midwives claim to be supporting and centering.  esp. destructive to those peoples who are socially marginalized (poor, poc, queer, trans folk, non-native english speakers etc.).  calling oneself an evidence based midwife is like stating that the knowledge and experiences of those marginalized people, who are also marginalized in those scientific studies, are marginal to your practice and to your identity as a midwife.

TRUST

do we consider that the only person who really knows what is best to consume is the person who is pregnant?  and do we support that person’s intuition more than we support the bradley method or whatever new fangled/old fashioned diet that we have seen ‘work’.

wouldnt it be a better use of our time and energy if we supported and trusted the pregnant person to know and trust their own body’s inuition on what it needs?

for example, one of the first indications that i was pregnant was that i started craving high protein foods. it was amazing, i went from happily vegan eating primarily fruits and veggies with a bit of bean proteins, to needing eggs and meat.  but even with that dramatic increase, i still wasnt hitting the arbitrary marks allie, the hb midwife had as targets.  when i did eat that much, i felt nauseous. she worried that i had an eating disorder, because i obviously did not like food.  i followed my body’s signals.

considering the amount of stress that is placed on food, esp. toward women, in our society, what dominant cultural ideas and ideals are we enforcing when we attempt to control another person’s diet?

when there is conflict between the midwife’s knowledge about food and nutrition and the mother’s own intution—are we saying trust your body, trust the process, trust the intution, trust pregnancy, trust birth?

or are we saying: do this. eat this. because the midwife knows what is best for you?

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§ 2 Responses to it takes a village to feed a mama

  • Suzanna says:

    Thanks, this is a really empowering reflection.

  • Mamita Mala says:

    I honestly can say I never was made to feel bad about what I ate during my pregnancies, even though I went through one with a doctor and the other with a midwife.I think the Dr. figured that since I had spent most of my pregnancy outside his care and in a “third world country” that I was going to birth an unhealthy baby anyway. With la Mapu I craved sushi something crazy, this was before all the warnings and concerns about mercury etc. I hardly ate any meat, just lots of fish with rice.

    With Poroto, my midwife was very laid back too but in a different way. Her thing was that since I had parented for 10 years on my own and had raised a healthy kid and was fairly healthy myself that I knew what I was doing. She never freaked out when I confessed about a glass of wine with dinner or anything else really. As long as it seemed like I was feeling ok and poroto seemed to be feeling ok, she trusted me.

    I was really lucky

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