My fiance and I are at least a year from starting our family, but I have spent the last 2 years or so “preparing the house for a tenant,” so to speak. I am taking my prenatal vitamins and fish oil religiously. I’ve started using BPA-free, reusable water bottles and avoiding canned tomatoes and fragrances as much as possible. But it seems like every time I turn around there is another warning about BPA, VOCs or phthalates in products.
Just how terrified should I be? Not that I’m not up for a sacrifice, but I’m kind of bummed about giving up my hair dye and make-up for 9 months to prevent my kids from being born with extra digits and whatnot. There is so much information out there, I don’t know where to draw my own conclusions. I was hoping someone could steer me in the right direction?
“There is so much information out there, I don’t know where to draw my own conclusions.” Welcome to parenting in a society that looooves to fear-monger and make recommendations about all the ways in which you’re endangering your child.
First thing’s first: this is great practice for parenthood. Repeat after me: there is no perfect. There is no perfect way to eat or live to reach some sort of perfect health for your pregnancy. There is no perfect way to be pregnant. There is no perfect way to feed your child or raise them. It’s all a big mystery, and we’re all just stumbling around trying to figure it out. Release the idea that there’s a “right direction.” You ask 100 people, and you will get 100 answers. You ask those same 100 people the same question in 10 years, and you’ll get 100 different answers.
But you asked this one person, and here’s my answer for right now: Of course you want to be healthy for your pregnancy, but you will drive yourself BAT SHIT INSANE if you try to follow every recommendation — also, the recommendations change weekly it seems, and half of them are ridiculous.
Every mother has to make her own calls about what she feels comfortable with, but my theory is this: The best thing you can do when trying to conceive (or being pregnant, or raising a child) is to relax. You ask, “just how terrified should I be?” And my answer is “avoid terror at all costs.” Crushing terror is way worse for you and trying to conceive than trace amounts of BPA in a can of tomatoes. So, stay informed, but weigh your risks and then release your fear.
Do the best you can, and then release control. Gather some information, make the decisions that feel right for you, and then let it go. Stop Googling. Stop reading about it. Know that you’re doing your best, and that’s good enough.
The pursuit of perfect health (in trying to conceive, being pregnant, or feeding your child) can be a never-ending anxiety game — don’t play it! Statistically speaking, if you want to talk about changing behavior to protect yourself, your unborn child, or your baby — you know what the biggest thing to avoid is? GETTING IN A FUCKING CAR. But you don’t hear research groups screeching “AVOID YOUR CAR AT ALL COSTS.” Instead they freak out about soft cheeses, deli meats, sushi, plastic water bottles, canned foods.
And have you thought about the historical contexts of recommendations for mothers? There was a time when women were warned not to sleep in a room with paintings of animals, because it would cause their baby to be hairy. We know this is ridiculous now — and I guarantee you that some of the recommendations being made today will sound equally ridiculous.
Look, I don’t want to be laissez faire here and deny that there are very real health risks associated with modern living and toxic chemicals, or that there are very real ways get healthier in preparation for pregnancy. I’m just saying that for me, the best lesson I learned to do was take it all with a grain of salt (OMG SODIUM! NOOOOZE!!!), and get over my Type-A “I can be the perfect student — I’m going to get an A+ in trying to conceive/being pregnant/childbirth/parenting!!!” tendencies. Ultimately, I learned to focus on whole-being wellness — staying relaxed and low-stress. I did my best to eat well and avoid chemically toxic environments and encounters, but I spent more energy on breathing exercises to stay calm than I did on obsessing over all the recommendations over what to avoid.
Women are getting pregnant and having healthy children in environments that are so toxic we can hardly imagine them. So yes, minimize your exposure to BPAs and mercury. By all means, be aware of environmental chemicals. Yes, organic veggies are probably better for you. But don’t get terrified. And don’t give up everything in the pursuit of perfect health.
Because perfect health doesn’t exist, and you can make yourself a different kind of sick by obsessing over it.