Finding out you’re pregnant is one of the most exciting moments of your life. But almost immediately after that plus sign appears, the fear sets in. Oh no, I was drinking last weekend! I went into the sauna at the gym this morning! My friends are going out for sushi, but I’m not supposed to eat raw fish! These are just a few of the fears American women are taught go hand-in-hand with pregnancy. Not to mention: no soft cheeses, deli meats, active sports, or alcohol of any kind during the “precarious” nine months.
Let me start this off by stating that I am not an expert. I am not a nutritionist, nor a doctor. What I am is a mother of almost three kids, a woman who loves long-distance running, a person who believes in a healthy, natural diet, and someone who does not see pregnancy as an affliction. Will that deli meat, Grade A sushi, blue cheese or glass of wine really hurt my baby? Most likely no.
Over the last 6 years of having children, I’ve made a lot of “extreme” pregnancy decisions (according to the people who list all of things you shouldn’t do while pregnant) that felt right to me. Here’s a few:
1) I don’t take prenatal vitamins. I tried. Because basically everyone believes that somehow these little capsules of processed material will make or break your baby’s health and brain. I didn’t experience extreme nausea, constipation or any of those “common pregnancy issues” — except for when I took the vitamins. The process of breaking down that tiny pill of manufactured nutrients was so hard on my body, that I decided I would just aim to actually eat the foods that are being supplemented in the pills. Imagine that!
2) I drink alcohol. I’m not ashamed to say it. I drink a glass of wine with dinner, or a half pint of Guinness at my husband’s bar. I’m never drunk, or even tipsy. But I enjoy the taste of it, and it helps me relax, and probably even sleep better. I’ve done this through three pregnancies, and at a rate far less than our mothers did in the 70’s and 80’s (hello?!!), and so far, my children are perfectly normal. In fact, they are fantastic.
3) I continue to eat from the “Don’t” list. About 8 weeks into my first pregnancy, my husband and I took a trip to visit my father in Greece. There I am sitting at a cafe, in front of this plate of fresh Feta cheese, and I’m thinking: how can this be bad for me when it’s completely natural and was made down the street? Don’t all the pregnant women of the world continue to eat their native cheeses? For that matter, don’t the women in Japan eat sushi, and don’t the ladies in Italy still drink espresso? Aren’t each of these things a thousand times more healthy for me and baby because they’re natural whole foods as opposed to McDonalds or a processed/packaged food? Yes!
4) I continue to exercise. I had just completed the Brooklyn Half Marathon and was halfway through training for the NYC Marathon when we found out we were pregnant with our third child. For about a minute I cried and mourned the loss of yet another attempt at my first full marathon (I was part of the 2012 crowd whose marathon was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy), but almost immediately my husband said, “You can still run it. We’ll do it together.” And just like that, I decided to continue training, listen to my body, and go for my goal. In my research, I found a lot of people saying that you “shouldn’t do anything extreme like run a marathon while pregnant,” but I didn’t find any actual documentation saying why. With my doctor’s whole-hearted blessing, we continued training, albeit at a drastically slower pace, often run/walking the long distances and stopping frequently for food/drink/bathroom along the way. And on November 3, 2013, my husband and I ran/walked the NYC Marathon. All 26.2 miles at exactly 26.2 weeks pregnant.
As I sit here typing, we are counting the last few days down to the birth of our third baby. I don’t think I’ve made any bad decisions. In fact, I think I’ve done a really great job listening and responding to my body. I eat what I want, but I try to keep it to “real” foods. I partake in the occasional glass of wine. And I luckily have a very supportive and non fear-mongering doctor who was more impressed by my glucose tolerance test results than my 18-mile run to his office.
So remember this: You don’t have to live in fear and stop your life from moving during your pregnancy. Continue to do what you love to do, you may just have to modify how you do it. Surround yourself with people who say yes instead of no. That positivity is incredibly beneficial to you and your baby. And above all, be your own judge, listen to your inner voice, your body, and your intuition, and trust that you can do much more than you are lead to believe.
*Editor’s Note: Andriana gave birth to a handsome, healthy boy last month. Congratulations mama!