“I see someone has been food shopping!”
One little sentence spoken by one little boy,
In an epic pose,
Hand on hip,
Peering into my fridge.
We just looked at each other
And we laughed!
It was a simple statement.
At three years old, Finn knows that his Dagum (Grandad) and I (Deecy) keep quite an empty fridge. We tend to do European-style daily shopping for our meals - whatever we can carry home in baskets or on my bike. We eat very well. He was just genuinely surprised to see that we’d filled the fridge before he (and Jack, of course) arrived for a sleepover.
But, what if an adult had said that to me? Would those words have been interpreted as a comment on my (lack of) organizational skills? If I had just announced a pregnancy, or embarked on a postpartum weight loss challenge, think of the potential impact. My confidence would have been shaken. I might even remember the comment for a lifetime.
“Does she think I bought the wrong stuff? Is she going to critique me on my fruit purchases? Do I have too much dairy? Too much carbs? I shouldn’t be eating meat…or maybe I should? So glad she didn’t open the freezer! She just eats nuts and seeds.”
Yes, Finn’s innocent comment started me thinking about how much we read into what other people say to us, especially when we are pregnant. “What was she implying when she said that?” “Was he judging me?” The resulting guilt and loss of confidence can really shake us to the core.
I still remember the sleepless nights spent thinking about my weight gain (or lack thereof) and eating habits (or urges) during my pregnancies, just as clearly as if it was yesterday.
At 16 weeks in my first pregnancy, I had a nutritional consultation at our local health unit. I’d had to record my food intake for a week. “Not enough cheese, I see,” said the nutritionist, shaking her head. “Not enough crackers. You’ll have to add more snacks throughout the day – cheese and crackers.” She looked me in the eye. I’m sure she would have been fine if I ate something different, but I spent the rest of my pregnancy scouting out different cheeses and something other than Carr’s water biscuits.
I had an obstetrician (for no particular reason). At 35 weeks, he said, “Let’s see if you’ve grown this week.” Yes, there were italics in his voice. All I could think was, “Didn’t I grow last week? What’s with the emphasis?” I went home and worried. At 38 weeks, I was sent for an ultrasound "for suspected IUGR"...growth RETARDATION???, and told to expect a baby under six pounds at birth, and told to eat more.
At 40 weeks, I stood on the scale so the nurse could weigh me. I had gained fifteen pounds in a week! “Oh, my!” said the nurse. “You’ve been eating some good meals this week!” I looked down, shocked, but then I started laughing. I was holding heavy shopping bags in each hand! It wasn’t until I was home that I felt the true absurdity of the situation. If I had been able to weigh myself (or even been given the right to NOT be weighed) like an autonomous healthy adult, I certainly wouldn’t be recalling this event 26 years later!
No one ever asked about our food habits. No one knew that we rode our bikes to Granville Island to buy our food, cooked wonderful meals, and grew our own summer vegetables.
Just to let you know…at birth, my daughter was a happy chunky 8.5 pounds…cheese or no cheese.
In contrast, during my second pregnancy, I was in charge of my chart. I wrote down my weight (if I liked) and checked my urine myself before each prenatal visit. I was treated as an adult. I was trusted. We talked about nutrition, sharing recipes and ideas and laughing about the comedy of pregnancy. No judgment. No pronouncements. All the comments were positive. “Oh, what a bonny baby!” didn’t make me worry that I was eating the wrong food. It filled me with pride and confidence. I’d made a bonny baby! The experienced hands palpating my uterus belonged to Sheena Mavis. She described my pelvis as “cavernous,” so I could easily imagine birthing my baby (who, after a joyful labour, turned out to be a slippery 9.5 pounds).
What astonishes me is that my clients still describe similar critiques of their weight gain or food intake. “It makes me feel like a child,” said one client recently. “I can’t even be trusted to weigh myself or eat properly. I have a CSA and my caregiver has no clue!” (We laughed together!) Don't think that one caregiver type or another make these comments - it's across the board. We all say these things. Thoughtless comments (without any implied meaning) can have such a negative impact. Rather than expecting people to stop making these comments, we must become more informed and increase our confidence in our bodies.
We need to arm ourselves with the best evidence, so these comments won’t touch us. I love how the current BC Maternity Care Pathway comments on the practice of weighing a woman in pregnancy, “Some women may not wish to be weighed regularly. Since the evidence for any benefit is not strong, the woman’s preference should be a consideration.” It recommends that caregivers “advise women to refer to Healthy Pregnancy BC, a BC online resource for women related to healthy eating and healthy weight gain.” It expects that women can be trusted to educate themselves about healthy eating and weight regulation in pregnancy.
The UK NICE guidelines (which I love for its simplicity and clarity) lists “antenatal interventions not routinely recommended”, which include:
- Repeated maternal weighing
- Iron or vitamin A supplements
- Ultrasound estimation of fetal size for suspected large-for-gestational age unborn babies
- Routine ultrasound scanning after 24 weeks
- Gestational diabetes screening using fasting plasma glucose, random blood glucose, glucose challenge test or urinalysis for glucose
For more information, go to Eating Well, BMI Calculator, Healthy Eating, have fun walking to the Farm Markets, and, if you really need to enter a supermarket, make it as organic as you can, and cruise the outer rim of the store (where the unprocessed foods are), and keep your armour on when anyone says, "I see someone has been food shopping!"