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When I got pregnant last year, food
took on a whole new level of meaning. And for me, that is saying a lot: I love
food so much I write about it for a living.
But pregnancy gave me reason to
think even harder about food—and that's where I began to run into problems, too.
I wanted every calorie to count. I had visions of vitamin-laced green juice and
omega-packed sardine sandwiches, finished off with Greek yoghurt and homemade
granola chock full nutrient-rich nuts and seeds. I thought of feeding my
pregnancy as my most important job.
Then came the nausea.
The morning I
began my seventh week of pregnancy I hurled my entire kale smoothie down the
sink. Soon I was projectile puking several times a day. I didn't have it quite
as bad as Princess Kate, but let's just say I couldn't leave the proverbial
throne for long.
The only thing I could keep down
was carbs—and barely that. But because pregnancy is unlike being sick with the
flu, I was also simultaneously starving. I wanted bowl after bowl of pasta. My family
will never let me forget the time I ordered a second serving of spaghetti
Bolognese at our favorite Italian restaurant after I finished my first plate
and promptly vomited up its entirety in the bathroom.
But most of my diet was not so
classy. I craved junk food, especially. Gummy candies, check. Boxed mac 'n
cheese, check. White bread, check. Who was this baby that invaded my foodie
paradise? I hated myself for betraying my highfalutin eating goals, but that
didn't stop me from making my husband run out for cherry pie and chocolate milk.
My pregnancy progressed without a
hitch and nine months later my healthy baby boy arrived.
Of course I planned to breastfeed him solely. Even when my obstetrician's nurse gave me free samples of
formula, I promptly donated them. Not my baby! Or so I thought.
Two weeks after my son was born my
pediatrician suggested we visit a lactation consultant—immediately. My baby wasn't gaining weight fast enough.
Obviously I wanted what was best for my baby, but as a new mom I quickly learned that is never a simple thing.
We scurried over to our local
breastfeeding support center and it was there, of all places, I was told we
would need to supplement my low milk supply with formula. Eventually, with
enough pumping and fenugreek pills, we could try to transition to solely breast
milk, but for the time being, he would need formula to increase his weight.
Obviously I wanted what was best
for my baby, but as a new mom I quickly learned that is never a simple thing. Neither
is letting go of the wishes and desires we harbor as parents for our children. And
for me, many of those well-intentioned thoughts circle around food.
Within a few months my baby's diet
consisted largely of formula—my milk supply had only increased so much, and his
milk needs exceeded my output. So I reluctantly made my peace with it—after
all, there were mothers all over the world who would kill to have access to the
selection and quality of baby formula we have in the United States.
Yet once again my expectations were
quickly overturned when we transitioned to solid foods. Even before the age of
six months, when our pediatrician wanted us to begin experimenting with foods,
I turned our kitchen into a baby food factory. I planned—though I now realize planning
is clearly the problem—for our son to eat only homemade foods, and only organic
at that. I became an expert in baby food cuisine and filled our freezer with
individually portioned pureed mangos, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes,
blueberries, and green beans. I had visions of food-filled fun.
Was the universe trying to punk me with a picky eater, too?
But a couple of weeks after we
started solid food, my son decided to refuse it—or at least, refuse to eat
anything off a spoon. He shut his mouth the moment he saw a bowl and any
utensil approaching his face. Was the universe trying to punk me with a picky
Weeks of frustration ensued over my
lack of control in this latest food situation. Because clearly for me, food is an
expression of control. And as any seasoned parent knows, and I am slowly
learning, how kids grow up is something we cannot totally control—much as some
of us think we can.
Then one day at the grocery store
recently I decided on a whim to give my son a packet of baby food from the
shelf, the kind with a little spout for sucking. Even though it was just pureed
bananas—a food I tried to feed him countless times at home by just mashing a
fresh banana—he sucked it dry before we even got to the cash. He's downed
countless little pouches of store-bought or homemade food since then (though he
prefers store bought, of course). Turns out my son, of all people, is a control
freak. He wants to control each bite of food as it enters his tiny little mouth.