similar sane pregnancy piece appeared here recently, but I just got this letter this morning and the message bears reiterating: micromanagement and martyrdom are not necessary to create perfect fetuses. Or children. â€“ L.
Dear Free-Range Kids: I just wanted to share my story for your readers of how I am going Free-Range before Iâ€™m actually a parent.
After many years, miscarriages, and rounds of IVF, we have finally confirmed that we are pregnant again.Â Through the process, I had joined several trying to conceive and pregnancy forums to seek support, comfort and camaraderie. While I received all of this in the Trying to Conceive forums, what I found in the pregnancy forums was wrought with an anxiety so pervasive that it boarded on the ridiculous.Â Can I eat cheese?Â Is non-alcoholic wine ok?Â Which deli meat has listeria? Are brown shoes safe for pregnancy?Â (Actual Questions from the What to Expect Forum).
I have a different approach.Â A certain live-life-as-I-always-had-approach.Â And when I shared my approach with other forum members and other women, the passive aggressive message I received was clear.Â Women who avoid a bunch of foods, activities, and environments based on largely unsupported science, bad studies, and modern day myth love their babies and all us coffee drinking, occasional wine consuming, bologna or sushi eating risk takers donâ€™t.
It doesnâ€™t matter that those risks are infinitesimally small, *any* risk is just too risky because they areÂ â€“ as these women believed â€“ unnecessary risks.Â â€œAnyone who canâ€™t live without caffeine for 9 short months doesnâ€™t deserve to have a baby.â€ was actually said by a forum member.Â Apparently, this person has never had a steaming cup of addiction satisfying bliss every morning for the last decade and a halfâ€¦.my preciousssssss.
I suppose that having had spent so much time, energy and what feels like truckloads of money to get a baby would make me be extra cautiousâ€¦.but it doesnâ€™t. I learned early on in the entire process of trying to conceive that sequence of events had to happen in perfect succession in order for there to be a viable pregnancy and 90% of these outcomes are genetic. Translation: I have virtually no control over it. If I miscarry, it wonâ€™t be because I ate some sushi, or drank some coffee, went for a jog or cleaned the catâ€™s litter.
So my Free-Range big step is to refuse to read all the books about pregnancy and to ignore all the â€œadviceâ€ unless itâ€™s substantiated by compelling evidence. I will stay off the mommy forums and avoid the cacophony of worried voices that make it impossible to stay sane. I will refuse to forget that women have babies all over the world without these restrictions, and the women of the 1940s gave birth to the largest generation of Americans while drinking and smoking and eating deli meat. In Norway they eat a diet largely of fish and donâ€™t worry about mercury. And I will remember that life is risky, and to avoid life is to avoid living.
Warmest Regards, Cathy Mustico
Lenore here: This reminds me of one of the most helpful lines I ever read, which came as a comment here, some years ago:
Most of the time, when something bad happens to a kid, it isn’t because of bad parents, it’s because of bad luck.
Online “discussion” forums always suffer from the same fate as 24-hour news stations. With nothing new to say, they end up dwelling on the negatives. Avoid online forums of all sorts when looking for advice, just as we avoid TV newscasts when trying to assess crime levels. Online forums are a great place to practice arguing, but should not be considered a reliable source of information at all.
I had a high risk pregnancy after a late-term miscarriage and before another miscarriage. My doctor encouraged the wine, thereby stopping contractions. When I told him I was craving a tuna maki roll, he told me my body must need something in it. When I lost 25 pounds and the only things I could keep down were coke and french fries, he told my husband to buy a deep fryer. My little one was in the NICU for two weeks after being born at 33 weeks, and my doctor told me he was glad I listened to my body when everyone else criticized me for that darn soda. Turns out, I have a genetic condition that makes it life threatening to carry a baby. I wonder what would have happened had a not listened to my body?
Fair enough, but what is with so many people being proud — or at least unashamed — of their addictions to caffeine? It’s still an addiction, people.
I think the reasons for this are pretty simple. When something bad happens to someone, whether that person is someone we know, or someone we heard or read about on the news, or in some general-interest article, we latch onto the extraneous details, looking for a logical explanation of how it happened. That way, we can say, “Oh, X will never happen to me, because I don’t do Y, and I make sure to get plenty of Z.” For example, “I’ll never get cancer, because I don’t smoke, I’m not obese, and I eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables, and exercise regularly.”
Unfortunately, this has the effect of blaming the victim, because if he or she had only not done Y, and stepped up Z, then X wouldn’t have happened. It’s even spread to more trivial things, like “MY child would NEVER wear Pull-Ups at age seven, like Honey Boo Boo/Alana Thompson. Her mother is a BAD PARENT, and also, she’s FAT!!!” So, it doesn’t occur to them that there might be a logical explanation for the ONE TIME the paparazzi photographed the child in a Pull-Up (medical condition, temporary illness, long road trip, bedwetting, whatever), because people feel safer seeing life in black and white, and as a zero-sum game–basically, “If Mama June is a bad parent because of X, and I don’t do X, then I’m a good parent.”
I think that people think this way, because they like to think that they can control what happens in their lives, to the degree that they try to control their children. So, their mindset becomes a series of bargaining: “If I don’t drink coffee, or alcohol, or eat any of the ‘risky’ foods my Lamaze coach warned me about, I won’t miscarry.”; “If I don’t let little Jayden go outside by himself, he’ll never get abducted by a pedophile.” Meanwhile, a miscarriage can be caused by just about anything, and little Jayden could easily be molested by a creepy uncle or something.
Three cheers for Cathy Mustico! I raise my coffee cup and salute her. She’s got her head screwed on straight. Online forums should be avoided not only during pregnancy but all the time because a good chunk of the people on them are not only misguided but outright crazy.
The whole “they don’t deserve to be parents” routine is not at all attractive. I get it that they’ve struggled with infertility and everywhere they look it seems like there are babies and it doesn’t seem fair (I’ve been there myself and I know whereof I speak) but don’t go around complaining about women who don’t exercise, or who eat nothing but Doritos and Hot Pockets and still manage to deliver healthy babies. It’s not nice.
Being currently pregnant with my second, I agree with everything in the letter.
I found a great book through the Freakonomics podcasts. It is called “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know” by Emily Oster. She goes through all the research, being an economist who studies the economics of reproducing, and give data. The ONLY recommendation she makes in the book is Don’t Smoke. Otherwise it is all data.
Basically anything bad for you before being pregnant is still bad for you while pregnant. Smoking, binge drinking, drugs.
Having recently been pregnant, I definitely understand what is being said here. I had my caffeine while pregnant. I’m not a daily coffee consumer (or even caffeinated soda)…but once in awhile, I needed the damn caffeine. And I had it. And I enjoyed it. I ate canned tuna once in awhile (I think I had it four times during my entire pregnancy with Stormageddon). I had to avoid plain water, ice water, or any drinking water when I was first pregnant because that would make me sick all day. Yeah, frickin’ water.
With my first one, I wanted Ho-Hos and McDonald’s fries all the time. No other fries would do but I could get away with the generic Ho-Hos. With this one, I didn’t have any specific cravings, thankfully, but the caffeine was one of the things I needed more often than I did with the first one.
I heard a bit about how I shouldn’t be doing this or that and I just told people to blow it out their backside. And guess what? Both kids are fine!
@Powers: In the U.S., it’s because one of the yardsticks of worthiness is how hard you work. If you work sooooooooo hard that you have to have caffeine to make it through the day, you’re obvs. an awesome person.
Also quitting caffeine purely sucks. I’m on my third attempt.
Thank you for this! I’m only 7 weeks along (super early, I know), but I’ve long ago decided that I will use my common sense to find the best advice, basically, whatever is the least inflammatory. One website said to be absolutely safe, no caffine for the first 5 months. My doctor’s pamphlet suggests 1-2 cups of coffee per day max, so I’ll take the doctor’s recommendation. However, I need to get my husband on board, as he has started to become the food police. One extra sip of his beer or a few fresh-made ham rolls (with deli ham) will not cause me to miscarry.
My twin boys were born at 27w – 13 weeks early. Within hours of their early birth their nutritional feeds were infused with a shot of caffeine.
I looked at the nurse, “I abstained for 6 months and they get coffee before me?” The nurse laughed. “Coffee saves lives. And everything in moderation for mom.”
As with everything, look at the facts and make your choice. I took some precautions with cured meat and fish and avoided soft cheese that was not heated. The risks are small but I found it easy to avoid so I felt, why not. I had coffee once I could drink it again after the third trimester when I couldn’t even have black tea without feeling sick. I did keep to less than three cups a day as the doctor recommended except for once or twice. I had no alcohol, I felt the evidence was not clear enough to not choose “the safe side” but I do drink alcohol (1-3 glasses of beer max maybe once a month) when breastfeeding as the alcohol level in the milk is extremely low even if you get dead drunk. I am still nursing my 2,5 year old so abstaining while nursing too would have put me at over 3 years of no alcohol by now. Moderation, is my keyword, for the pregnancy not having alcohol was fine but when nursing it felt unnecessarily safe.
I agree with Eric. Everything that’s bad for you in general, is also bad for you during pregnancy. However, the fact that it’s also Bad For The Baby induces a lot of paranoia, because if something is Bad For The Baby, then someone who indulges while pregnant is a Bad Parent. That kind of black-and-white thinking isn’t always logical, though, because of special cases like Lindsay’s, but also because it’s just not possible to sustain a perfect diet over the course of a lifetime. So, obviously don’t smoke, or do drugs, or binge-drink, but there’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee in the morning, or a glass of wine with dinner, or a hot dog (or veggie dog) and a Coke (regular or diet) at a picnic.
Even if you do everything perfectly during pregnancy, there’ll be a moment when you’re tired, and you haven’t been to the grocery store, and there’s nothing in the house but hot dogs, so that’s what’s on the menu for dinner for everyone, including the child. Even if this results in the “worst possible outcome” of Kiddo going on a hot dog jag and refusing all other foods, it’s not the end of the world–my brother went through several food jags over the course of his childhood and adolescence, and he’s perfectly healthy now.
But, okay, suppose you keep any and all sub-optimal foods out of the house, so Kiddo isn’t exposed to them. Still not safe–Kiddo turns five, starts school, and trades your homemade, gluten-free, vegan, no-sugar-added cookies for a Twinkie, or a bag of Chee-tos, or maybe some of the harder stuff, like Popeye Cigarettes (sorry, Popeye CANDY STICKS) and Fun Dip. Or, maybe Kiddo’s school gives the kids Popsicles, full of evil artificial food dyes and high-fructose corn syrup, after their field day, or as a reward for good behaviour, or for no reason except that it’s 30 C outside, and everyone’s fed up with the heat. Years of perfect nutrition down the drain. Cue the indignant call to the principal: “How DARE the school presume to make a nutritional decision for MY CHILD?!?!?”
Okay, so you decide to homeschool Kiddo from K-12 so that you have total control over what goes into Kiddo’s body (and mind, for that matter), and send Kiddo to all extra-curricular activities (if you allow any) with a parent-approved healthy snack from home. By now, Kiddo is eighteen, and it’s time for university, where you have no control, and junk food and alcohol are readily available. It’s far better to just use moderation from the start.
P.S., This story isn’t that “out there”–I’ve seen a few versions of it play out at university.
Another commenter mentioned it, but I cannot say enough good things about “Expecting Better.” I read it after my first was born and it made me a very different, much more relaxed (and informed) pregnant lady the second time around.
Coffee is not that addictive. I’ve been drinking it for years and have quit many times.
In fact, I quit every day at about noon. Then I have my next cup in the morning.
When a friend of mine asked her OB about how much coffee was safe for her to drink while she was pregnant, he told her not to worry because he’d seen plenty of healthy babies born to mothers who had nothing but “crack and potato chips.” I really liked that doctor.
I appreciate the comments on my letter. I’m very familiar with Emily’s book. I actually approached Lenore back in 2012 to co author a very similar book with me. Lenore said that wasn’t for her, so I set out to write it on my own. I was just getting through the stats of toxoplasmosis when Ms. Oster published her book.
We had a good chuckle together about how she had inadvertently scooped me.
I stay off the What to Expect forums now because they number of women insanely worried about benign things. Like really? This is what you spend your time thinking about? Yikes!
Moreover, reading the forums makes me – and at the threat of sounding smug – very concerned about the amount of women who seem to be very ignorant of the processes and stages of gestation.
I’m not so sure there’s a deep explanation for the “respectableness” of coffee addiction other than the fact that vices do get made in virtues sometimes. For example, being able to “hold your liquor” used to be a positive thing, at least among some people. Having a cigarette hanging out of your mouth was considered sexy at some times and in some circles. Now that discussion of the real effects of alcoholism is fairly close to the surface of social discourse, and the dangers of smoking are no longer glossed over, it’s not funny anymore. Caffeine, being comparatively benign for most people, will probably continue to get a pass for much longer. It’s just the way people are.
For me, a fairly moderate dose of caffeine (2 cups a day, 3 absolute max and rarely) is medicinal. It wards off migraines.
Maybe one of the reasons self righteous “mommy” forum women spout that sort of judgmental and irrational nonsense is because they are overcompensating for the real underlying reason for their fertility problems. If the chemistry of the parents just isn’t compatible, or if one or both of the parents are too sickly with some sort of genetic problem, or the parents are too old, there are going to be issues. Yet instead of confronting that head on, they become fanatical about something they can control like food and exercise, and proceed to use the shit they invented in their heads to judge other expecting women.
If anyone ever claims that schools are successful in teaching math, I can just point them to things like this (what the OP is criticizing, not the excellent letter that I agree with entirely.) Everyone knows SOHCAHTOA but can’t assess risk in a rational way.
Emily, I love the way you dissected the logic here. I’ve been driving everyone I know crazy doing the same thing lately (“assumes without justification that…” “mistakes a necessary condition for a sufficient condition”) because I’m studying for the LSAT, and was going to do a similar comment then saw yours.
Also, my reason for coffee isn’t the caffeine, it’s the butter and MCT oil…but then, I’m unlikely to get pregnant unless either science or nature change dramatically.
My mom never drank beer in her life EXCEPT when she was pregnant with me. She craved good dell sandwiches and the cold beer that goes with them. She didn’t drink a lot of it, but she did drink it.
Finally, some common sense!
I couldn’t agree more! I quit all those “mommy boards”. I will never forget the time I asked for help in getting my 6 month old to stop waking at 3am and people lashed out at me that I was “spoiled” and that if I couldn’t “handle it” I shouldn’t have had kids! Ridiculous!
It’s all part of this idea that we are all 100% responsible for our physical and mental health and by admission, that of our children. It’s very much a western idea. And the media seems to love it.
I gave up coffee only when I started breastfeeding. And it took seeing my newborn projectile vomit after feeding her on a breakfast of black coffee for me to decide that this wasn’t a good idea at all. I didn’t really miss it because it was plain obvious that I couldn’t have it. I only breastfed for 6 weeks (nothing to do with caffeine) which of course was confirmation that I was a bad mother anyway.;)
The best thing to do once you realize you have entered the echo chamber is to slowly back yourself out. Nothing good comes out of those and the noise level will keep you from staying sane and will always push back on anyone who disagrees with their cultural zeitgeist. It happens everyone, not just those Mommy Forums, I have seen it in many subject themed online discussions, and unless you have the stomach for it, just get far away.
I understand and fully support most free range parenting. I am terrified by the level of helicopter parenting that seems to be required by many law-enforcing bodies, because of the negative aspects of not letting children take risks, play, and learn their own boundaries.
But, I guess I don’t really understand a large part of this article. It doesn’t hurt you to avoid (say) alcohol, cold processed meat and raw egg while pregnant. Unless you’re one of those rare cases mentioned below who may have a genetic disorder that requires some sort of sustenance from one of the “be cautious” foods.
So, if it doesn’t hurt you to avoid the food, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t avoid it just to be on the safe side.
I agree on mommy boards. I joined a single mother one twice – once because I didn’t know better and once because I heard it had changed (and it had, just in an equally negative way). I was miserable the entire time I was a member both times. Leaving was the best thing I ever did.
As always, Lenore and her website are a haven of sense in a world of stupidity, ignorance, and meddling. A round of applause for Ms. Mustico, and here’s to all the best for her and her baby-to-be.
i had such severe hyperemesis gravidarum, that I lost 60lbs in pregnancy.
All that obsessing over diet in pregnancy? absurd. We like to think we control every element. I was simply told “if it stays down, eat it.”. I got judged for my coffee intake even though my OB suggested it when I started having low blood pressure too.
Its not about “perfect eating” for your kid. its a sanctimonious martyrdom that some people need to do to prove how perfect they are for their kids.
And mine? supermodel cute and smart, and none the worse for the disastrous pregnancy. I was getting by on maybe 500 cal a day and that was a good day. not ideal but not the end of all things.
Have the coffee. Have the sushi. It’ll be ok.
BRAVO, Cathy Mustico!! From a fellow IVF mama, who eventually also had to excuse herself from various forums and eschew most pregnancy advice, I wholeheartedly congratulate and commend you. Past the first trimester (when I didn’t want much of anything), I enjoyed coffee most days, alcohol on occasion, deli meat and soft cheeses when the mood struck, etc., etc. The saneness carried over through our 20-month nursing relationship, and our now 28-month-old twins are absolutely thriving in their continued free-range lifestyle. You, awesome mama, are absolutely doing it right. Good on you!
I agree with Emily regarding black and white thinking and a more modern than not human desire to control our destinies to the nth degree. It is also true that someone could do everything ” right”
during pregnancy and still loose the baby or give birth to a baby with physical challenges.
I do not however feel that these beliefs justify being fool hardy or only attending to risk factors where the risk is greater than a certain percentage – i.e. “I will not give up something I want or like unless it can be proven to me that 55 out of 100 fetuses suffer because if this”
Studies are biased and can be incredibly inexact, wanton tisk taking seems silly, and Norway is worried about the levels of mercury in its fish due to health risks.
There is a difference between doing something merely as a statement against micromanagement and martyrdom and doing something in a more considered manner as something within your own life context supports this decision.
In the end, it seems to me to be about balance and motive. The line about women during earlier eras drinking and smoking and delivery fine babies doesn’t fly with me. No way of knowing how we all would have fared without these things.
Sometimes bad things happen to children due to bad luck – other times, misfortune happens due to bad parenting – or parenting missteps. There is a difference between obsessively protecting your children and denying them the right to explore their world as self empowered individuals, and throwing all caution and well considered reason to the wind by not allowing for the vulnerabities of childhood at all.
Awesome approach to life. Sadly many of us lose babies before we have the chance to hug them….and for the most part it is not because what we ate, wore, car we drove, winked at, read or turned our head to the western skies at precisely 5.13 pm. Obviously keep it real, everything in moderation. Some changes will need to be made (most of us can tell stories of things that we love to eat and drink pre and post pregnancy but not during) and if you are trying then moderate. Cut back your 23 cups of java to just one. So you stay sober at the party (it is hilarious to do)… For most women there is no need to do the Martyrdom. Just be sensible and get a floor mirror so that you at least know you are wearing matching shoes!
“So, if it doesnâ€™t hurt you to avoid the food, I donâ€™t understand why you wouldnâ€™t avoid it just to be on the safe side.”
The first issue is the “safe side” of what? Most of these items are absolutely not a danger in and of themselves. They are a danger IF AND ONLY IF they contain a certain rare bacteria which can be found in any food but just happens to be found slightly more often, albeit still infrequently, in the items prohibited. So basically they are telling you not to eat something perfectly safe and healthy for 9 months on the outside, rare chance that it might contain some foreign substance that will make you sick. That seems about like saying pregnant women should never fly because the plane might crash.
And, while mom may not be physically harmed by not eating those items, she may be mentally unhappy about doing it and for no good reason (see above paragraph). Mom’s mental health does actually matter during pregnancy. She doesn’t simply become a incubator for her child.
As for alcohol and caffeine. There is no indication that moderate amounts affect a fetus in any way. So, again, it begs the question safe side of what? Safe side of not over doing? I agree that if you fear your ability to consume these things in moderation, you shouldn’t consume them at all, pregnant or not, but that is a different topic. If you know you can consume these things in moderation, we are just back to mom’s mental health vs … well nothing.
As for cigarettes, why anyone would smoke is beyond my understanding so I will leave that one as something you definitely should not do if pregnant … or not pregnant for that matter.
I think you entirely missed the point, Nicole. These restrictions are not supported by evidence, and even if they do pose risks, the risk is small. Like .0000015% small.
If you focus your attention on the smallest risk, then you are distracted from the big risks. She’s having coffee, not smoking a crack pipe.
This attitude–which is all-too-common online, which is why I avoid any place where parents gather to talk about parenting other than here like the plague–is about self-righteous oneupmanship, not child safety. First of all, I think most of these sanctimommies are lying. Second of all, if they aren’t lying, they are misinformed.
If you are pregnant, use common sense and follow the advice of your health care provider, who is hopefully an OB or midwife who you like and trust. They will give you reasonable advice. I don’t drink caffeine because it gives me heart palpitations, but none of the three OBs I’ve seen have recommended against having any caffeine. I’ve asked my OBs about various “OMG, don’t eat/do/wear/drink this!” stuff I’ve seen online, and in every case they’ve assured me that the given activity is either perfectly safe or safe if not done regularly or to excess.
To put things in perspective, when I could not sleep at the end of my last pregnancy, I had two different practitioners at my OB’s office–my regular OB and a midwife I saw when my regular OB was on vacation–prescribe me Ambien and tell me it was totally fine to take and they prescribe it to pregnant women all the time, including when women are in the hospital on bedrest with high-risk pregnancies.
Random women online who have no medical training, no experience working with pregnant women or neonates, and no qualifications other than happening to be pregnant or have been pregnant do not have any basis for dispensing medical advice, nor more making moral pronouncements about those who do or don’t follow their advice. I wouldn’t trust any of those women to do my prenatal care, so I’m not going to listen to their advice about what I should or should not do during pregnancy. I have an OB for that.
@Nicole, the problem with the “better safe than sorry” attitude is that it’s a bunch of lay people with no medical training basing opinions of what should and shouldn’t be done off of news reports of medical studies that neither they nor the journalists doing the reporting actually fully understand.
So when I was pregnant with my first, he started hiccuping a lot around week 37 or so. I for some reason decided to look it up in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which I had not yet burned. 😉 Well, of course WTEWYE indicated that frequent hiccups could be normal but might also be a sign that your baby’s cord might be wrapped around their neck, so you should call your OB and schedule an ultrasound right away. Completely panicked, I called my OB. When I explained the situation, she laughed at me. Literally just started laughing. Then she apologized, because it was just that they’d had three or four calls the week before from panicked pregnant women with the same concern, and had actually called a meeting that morning to see if anybody had ever heard of such a thing. Not one of the OBs had. They could not find a single study indicating that frequent hiccups was a sign of a cord around the neck. They had no idea how that information had made it into that edition of the book, or why.
A lot of the “advice” you see online is like that. It’s based on either misunderstood studies or just folk tales with no medical basis. “Better safe than sorry,” to me, means following the advice of my doctor, who knows my health and my history and how my pregnancies are progressing. It does not mean following rules that strangers with no medical education dispense online based on alarmist news stories describing studies they did not understand.
@anonymous mom: My midwife called that book How to Expect Complications. She said that really it was worth buying for the various charts and such, but moms-to-be should mark those pages with sticky notes and ignore the rest of it!
I love Cathy. I try so hard to not over-parent, but realistically, I probably do. I can honestly say tho, in pregnancy, I did whatever I wanted. My first one, I was too young to know any better, and the next 2, I tended to snort at all the midwives tales. Still do and have had many an argument with other parents over things – cold creating a cold being one of those.
You go girl, the world more free-rangers of every type! (including chickens, even tho it means stepping in a little poo now and then) Range On!
If these foods are that dangerous that they need to be avoided by expectant mothers, the human race should have been extinct. At the very least birth rates should have fallen to the point that a healthy child birth would be a very rare occurance.
I joked about this with one of my friends, Italian as they come. She joked about the cheese, coldcuts and wine, saying that it is amazing her family line ever survived.
I’m already miserable being pregnant, what with the shortness of breath (baby on diaphragm), the regular need to pee (baby on bladder), kicks so hard they make me wince with pain, an aversion to foods that I used to love and eat with impunity, and nausea well into the third trimester. The last thing I want to do is make myself more miserable by avoiding things I can and want to eat, or wondering if soemthing I do during this pregnancy will cost my kid a couple of IQ points. So here’s to hot baths, sushi, and nyquil when I’m sick, and all the other things we’re told to avoid that make pregnancy bearable.
@ Renee Marie, thumbs up for Stormageddon. I didn’t get any further than that, now I’ll go back and finish reading your post.
â€œAnyone Who Canâ€™t Live without Caffeine for 9 Months Doesnâ€™t Deserve a Babyâ€
Does this sound like a threat to anyone else but me?
I would be tempted to answer: “Anyone who can’t stop giving unsolicited advice doesn’t deserve to live.”
I just wanted to post a big ole AAAAAAA-MEN! to Cathy for her rational approach to pregnancy. It’s hard to be sane in this world of what-ifs and worst-firsts, and I think that especially after your struggle to conceive, not going overboard is especially impressive. I wish you the absolute best, and hope you are blessed with an easy pregnancy and a healthy, happy child.
@BL- It’s the start of a passive aggressive approach that many voice on these online boards to feel superior or validate their own choices. Because they do it, everyone else should too otherwise they’re a bad mom for making the wrong beverage choice.
I stopped looking for online advise early in my first pregnancy when I saw (several) posters ask the question: “Is cream cheese a soft cheese?”. Scrutinizing every morsel of food you put in your pregnant body like you’re assembling the atoms of a nuclear bomb is not healthy. It sounds like an eating disorder. I already got enough unsolicited advise from family and coworkers that I turned away from the stress and let my body (and growing baby) guide me to what I needed to feel good.
As for caffeine, I was a serious coffee drinker up until I got pregnant with my first. The smell of coffee, cigarettes, and seafood made me vomit (as did most of the food I ate) and I had severe morning sickness through out most of my pregnancy and just ate what I could keep down. So no coffee for me.
Second and third pregnancies, I looooved my coffee. I had toddler(s)and the morning half-caff of good coffee got me moving and out of bed. My son called it “Mommy’s hot juice” and knew I was pretty much useless to do anything for him until I had my coffee and breakfast. He also tried to close the toilet lid on my head when I was throwing up in the mornings and say “Mommy, no more bleeeeeehhh” because he wanted me out of the bathroom and playing with him.
“I was pretty much useless to do anything for him until I had my coffee and breakfast.”
What scares me are my coworkers who arrive at work with their hands shaking and start gulping coffee.
Did they drive to work that way? On the same roads I drive? I think I’d feel safer if they’d downed a gallon of straight whisky before driving.
The thing is, unless you only have one child and get pregnant on the first try, it’s not “just a short little nine months.” And it’s not just one little thing, it’s a whole long list of little and not-so-little things.
With four kids, I’ve been pregnant for three years. To that, add months when I was hoping that we’d conceived, several early miscarriages…six years of breastfeeding….That’s a huge chunk of life to spend carefully following the long list of pregnancy rules.
My rule when pregnant was… have people been successfully having babies without this ‘advice’ for years? (Or will people in other countries be happily ignoring this because of their typical national diet?) Then I call bullshit.
Most ‘scares’ come down to ‘If you were to ingest [far larger amount than anyone is ever likely to do] of this scary thing, then research suggests there might be a [miniscule] increase in risk of congenital disorders’, but mums to be are encouraged to believe that they’ll harm their baby the moment they so much as look at a piece of sashimi.
The media loves to sensationalise such reports as hard proof that the slightest exposure to the wrong thing spells doom for the unborn child.
You go girl! I just had my first child twill months ago and despite doing everything “right” I still had to have an emergency c-section and almost didn’t make it. It was through that process that I learned to relax. And drink my friggin coffee in the morning.
That is what is great about life. Free will. You do what you want to do and I will do what I want to do. Since I did suffer multiple miscarriages that sent me into a deep deep depression and I was having to shell out tons of money we really did not have for fertility treatments, I was not risking it for a can of soda or a sandwich. I could get by without that. So I chose to not have it.
That is my right and my choice. I also did so on the advice of my Reproductive Endocrinologist. There is nothing cute or novel about what she said. That is just her choosing her own decisions.
I don’t get why you’d WANT to clean the litterbox so badly. Any excuse to not have to bend down to the floor while pregnant is good in my book. Don’t tell any partner of mine that it’s safe as long as we have a healthy, indoor-only cat!
I don’t know anything about listeria. If it is present in my piece of deli turkey, is it only a risk to my fetus? Or is it a risk for non-pregnant people too?
Because I’m thinking, all people should avoid deli if listeria is that terrible of a thing. It seems odd that society is content with people of all ages dropping dead of listeria, but if it’s an unborn child we need to take action, shame mothers, and of course be “better safe than sorry”.
Moderation in all things. When I was pregnant, I avoided wine, but I went to a food tasting where they had this amazing wine. No way was I not having it. Two glasses even! I told Baby Bear he was just going to have to deal. I had another glass when DH & I had a date night at a wine bistro & they had no NA wine.
I didn’t actually drink coffee until AFTER he was born and I was so sleep deprived I would nearly fall asleep on the way to work. And I always wanted to write a book that got down to the real truth about what to avoid.
@Buffy: My doctor told me that the issue was how listeriosis tends to set off premature labor.
Buffy – Listeria can affect anyone, but the symptoms are more likely to be severe for the young, old and immune suppressed. If the mother is infected during pregnancy, it can cause a miscarriage or stillborn baby.
But the thing is, listeria is (a) rare and (b) potentially in ANY food. There is a current outbreak from candy apples that has killed 5 people. I haven’t heard of a listeria outbreak from deli meat or soft cheese … well ever. I’m sure it happens, but not regularly or exclusively. And listeria is an outbreak, often covering many states from a single food source, not something that just suddenly sprouts up in your sandwich and your sandwich alone or something that exists in deli meat all the time. In fact, if someone contracts listeria, the CDC springs into action to hunt the source and shut it down.
I so strongly agree with this philosophy, yet I allow my fears to dictate what I do. There are, for me, mitigating circumstances. 1) I have a full guardianship and always must guard against what Social Services deems “inappropriate”. 2) The courts these days do not believe in “accidents”. If a child falls down a flight of stairs the parent was negligent – never mind that the child climbed over the child safety gate for the first time ever. If a dog bites a child, you must put him down – never mind that the child was beating him with a stick. If you run a petting zoo and your kangaroo hits someone (yes, kangaroos hit with their feet), you are negligent. You should have anticipated that a big, 6’4″ dude would come in and start boxing with your pet kangaroo and punch him in the nose. The guilt was with the petting zoo owner, not the guy who punched the kangaroo! We live in a twisted society. If your dog gets ahold of a pill bottle that dropped out of a guest’s purse. The dog dug it out from under the couch and chewed it up, ingesting some of the pills. You are a negligent owner. You should have KNOWN that pill bottle was under the couch! Who cares if you were at work throughout the entire incident. YES, these are all real-life examples! Did anyone else see the petting zoo decision on one of the TV courts? Disgusting! Never-the-less it is what we live with.
Well, the article nailed pretty neatly the key issue: “I have virtually no control over it.”. Accepting that is not easy because we tend to hate and be scared of not being in control of a situation, which is the reason “free range” parenting is unpopular. We rather go with deluding ourselves of being in control than accepting a reality in which we only wait and see.
I think this argument could also be a slippery slope. Okay so if drinking wine and coffee is okay, then why not cigarettes? Why not vodka? The problem is there are always those people that take things too far.
But yes, the healthy woman with no fertility issues or health issues probably won’t miscarry or get fetal alcohol syndrome if she has a few glasses of wine over the pregnancy.
I am reminded of the hulabaloo over UV from fluorescent lights that was a media issue in the 1980s. One researcher finally had had enough of the ruckus over very little if any UV and data that said there was no detectable effect. He pointed out, “We don’t know if the small amount of UV is harmful at all. We do know stress is harmful, and going on about the UV is causing plenty of stress.”
Tricia: I’m having a t-shirt printed that says “Coffee Saves Lives.”
As a migraine sufferer, I need coffee to prevent my head from exploding. Caffeine is one hell of a good drug.
It’s interesting to reflect that at one time, people drank beer (even children!) because the water wasn’t safe. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that there were loads of people walking around with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, so either the alcohol content in the beer was very low, or nobody connected diminished IQ and the typical physical characteristics of FAS with maternal alcohol consumption.
>I think this argument could also be a slippery slope. Okay so if >drinking wine and coffee is okay, then why not cigarettes? Why not >vodka? The problem is there are always those people that take things too >far.
That problem only arises if we presume that there needs to be one standard. If we stick to “mind your own business” no problem comes up.
A friend of mine gave up caffeine during her pregnancy, and ended up with horrible dibilitating migraines. Her doctor told her to go back to drinking caffeine, as the migraines were worse for her than the caffeine would ever be.
“I think this argument could also be a slippery slope. Okay so if drinking wine and coffee is okay, then why not cigarettes? Why not vodka? The problem is there are always those people that take things too far.”
Should sugar be banned because some become addicted? Maybe we should all stop eating and just receive our nutrients via feeding tubes since many overeat, eat the wrong things or have eating disorders? Make TVs illegal because some watch too much? Movement is only allowed under proper, professional supervision lest you do too much or too little or pull a muscle? In fact, every woman should submit to a pregnancy test daily. The second the test comes back positive, she must be locked into a facility until birth where every single morsel of food, movement and breath she takes is monitored lest she do anything that is not 100% ideal. Upon birth, the children must, of course, be removed and raised by experts as we can’t trust their parents properly raise them.
ANYTHING can be a slippery slope into doing it in excess or improperly. People have a right to make their own choices and have everyone else keep their noses out of them, even pregnant people.
“But yes, the healthy woman with no fertility issues or health issues probably wonâ€™t miscarry or get fetal alcohol syndrome if she has a few glasses of wine over the pregnancy.”
Stop with the infertility crap already. Infertility has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with fetal alcohol syndrome. And the only effect alcohol has on fertility is the possibility of passing out before sex is had.
SOA, the problem is that the argument is already a slippery slope in the other direction. Is fetal alcohol syndrome a problem? Yes! Then we must bully all mothers into never ingesting a mouthful of wine! Can overuse of caffeine lead to problems for mother of baby? Yes! Then we must gang up as a society on women who decide to have a cup of coffee!
The slippery slope isn’t the danger that responsible people will start slamming down the vodka shots willy-nilly if we say a beer with dinner now and then is okay, because treating people like adults doesn’t make responsible people suddenly become irresponsible, and making up paranoid rules with no actual scientific basis doesn’t prevent irresponsible people from breaking those and the ones that really matter, too.
Okay, I hear you on coffee and soft cheese – but kitty litter? If you can’t use “But I’m pregnant!” as a way to get out of cleaning the litterbox, you might as well adopt.
SOA, you ask: “Okay so if drinking wine and coffee is okay, then why not cigarettes? Why not vodka?”
Easy to answer: there is strong, consistent evidence that smoking – any amount of smoking – in pregnancy causes significant harm, such as low birthweight.
There is no evidence that moderate consumption of caffeine or alcohol (and yes, that could include vodka, actually – I think we all tend to say “wine” because it sounds more respectable) causes any ill effects whatsoever.
The idea that to be “on the safe side” you should have none has no scientific basis. It’s like saying that because too much Vitamin A can be toxic you should avoid all Vitamin A “to be on the safe side.”
Let’s say 10 cups of coffee a day can harm your baby. (And by the way, even for that the evidence is ambiguous, as I recall.) It simply doesn’t follow that one or even three or four cups a day causes any harm. It seems like you’re assuming that one cup will cause 1/10 the harm, or perhaps pose 1/10 of the risk. But that’s simply not the way the body works. 10 bananas a day would have me excruciatingly constipated. Choosing to eat one banana is not choosing to be in 1/10 of that pain; rather, it’s a perfectly rational choice and part of a well-balanced life and diet.
“Stop with the infertility crap already”…and stop equating infertility with miscarriage. If you have a miscarriage, you. were. pregnant.
The slippery slope is already here.
Making rules that people should not do whatever, because the minority cannot regulate itself is idiotic. Why should those that can regulate themselves be subjected to either social pressure or actual regulations because of the morons?
As is with any other guideline, rule, regulation or law, the responsible people do not need them. The irresponsible will ignore them. Making more only puts pressure on the responsible not the idiots.
If anyone had ever taken it upon themselves to lecture or pressure the mother of my kids on what she should or shouldn’t do while pregnant, they would have been put in their place immediately by me.
As for the vodka thing Dolly, do a little research. A vodka and OJ is no different than a glass of wine or a beer. The amount of actual alcohol is damn near the same. Hell even if it was a straight shot, the amount is damn near the same.
I see a pattern in mothers who did everything *perfectly* during their pregnancies (no lunch meat, soda, coffee, alcohol) seem to have the kids with the most things wrong with them.
Jill – actually liquor content in beer WAS low waaaay back in the day (remember hearing how the Pilgrim kids had to drink beer while on the Mayflower b/c the water was bad?). There’s a fantastic documentary called “How Beer Saved the World”.
I think every pregnant woman deserves a rational OB. To get through my first pregnancy (emotionally, I suppose) I gained 60 pounds (I’m 5′ 2 1/2″). I was wondering if I should feel guilty, so I told the doc I was eating ice cream every night and he said “I’m with you there!” My second I could hardly keep anything down and gained barely 20 pounds (I weigh what I weighed before I got PG the first time, just FYI).
oooh that is a bold statement to make Lollipop lover. You inadvertently probably just insulted and insinuated a lot of people. Probably some people on this very site that you normally think highly of. A lot of women abstain from alcohol and smoking and caffeine and the litter box etc when pregnant. Now you are saying all of them have kids with things wrong with them? That is a ballsy statement.
Beth- I already went over this on another thread but let me school you again.
the definition of infertility according to the WHO is
It includes the inability to produce a live birth. So yes, that includes miscarriages. To sit there and say a woman who has 23 miscarriages and zero live births is not “infertile” is pretty fucking ignorant and insensitive.
Someone that has 23 miscarriages and zero live births? Really? That person should have had better doctors, and a better value system.
I could not fathom continuing to try to the point where you have had that many. Crap on a cracker, that is insane.
Betsy, I think you mean alcohol content, not liquor content. Beer and liquor are two different things.
I personally know someone who had 12. Regular obgyns won’t do anything until you have between 3 and 5. Which to me is awful to make women go through that many before you treat them. REs will give you treatment when you ask for it. They treated me after 2.
As long as you pay for it, REs will treat you for miscarriage issues whenever you ask. They suggested me trying one more time but I said “No I want the tests now.” and they did it.
But that was one of the very offensive things people used to say to me that bugged me. “At least you can get pregnant.” “you are not infertile you got pregnant”. That does not mean jack crap. I did not want a clump of tissue in the toilet, I wanted a baby. So that did me zero good.
That definition from the WHO is correct. Infertility is the inability to produce a live birth. That is what infertility sucks because its a two part problem. You have to first get pregnant and then second stay pregnant.
Dolly, from your very link: â€œInfertility is the inability of a sexually active, non-contracepting couple to achieve pregnancy in one year.”
Remember, I’m speaking as one who had many miscarriages, but could get pregnant whenever I wanted, and sometimes when I didn’t. I was fertile. I couldn’t carry most of my pregnancies to term. So don’t tell me I’m being insulting, or that your miscarriages were so much more traumatic and depressing than anyone elses.
Dolly, Then I guess I just insulted myself.
My first pregnancy was the one I abstained from caffeine but that is the kid that *had something wrong with him* (though he’s since outgrown this hereditary condition).
The other 2 pregnancies I enjoyed my morning cup of coffee or two and had perfectly healthy kids. I ate everything I wanted (deli meat, good cheese, fish, sushi) and even drank Guinness as per my OB’s recommendation for my low iron levels. I actively exercised too (running, swimming, biking) and was the healthiest I’ve been in my life.
Pregnancy nutrition is one small component of making a healthy baby. Back to what Lenore said: “Most of the time, when something bad happens to a kid, it isnâ€™t because of bad parents, itâ€™s because of bad luck.”
I was so excited, at 40, to finally be pregnant that I joined all the parenting web sites and message boards and proudly announced my little pea pod to the internet community. I was met with a backlash of such hate that I pretty much shut off the computer for a year.
Young moms accused me of being selfish for daring to be so “old” and try to raise a child. “You’ll be almost 60 when he graduates!”
Dolly, Except the clinical definition given by WHO in your specific like states that infertility is ONLY the inability to get pregnant. The WHO may be trying to redefine infertility, but even it admits that the clinical definition has nothing to do with miscarriage.
Our first daughter passed away shortly after birth. I was scared when I was pregnant with my son but I had to consciously decide that worrying wasn’t going to help and that just because one study said something didn’t mean it was true. And what happened to my daughter was something that was out of my control anyway. I didn’t smoke (didn’t before either), didn’t drink (didn’t before either), but I sure drank my Diet Coke. Aspartame and all. I followed my doctor’s advice and tried to let common sense be my guide. There are so many things to worry about it’s overwhelming, therefore I decided not get too excited about things.
I can understand the concern people feel and how they can be overly obsessed over their own pregnancy but it’s not ok to chastise others for making different decisions.
Seems to me that the WHO page linked to is inconsistent. It starts with the definition everyone is pointing to, but also has this:
When a woman is unable to ever bear a child, either due to the inability to become pregnant or the inability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth she would be classified as having primary infertility. Thus women whose pregnancy spontaneously miscarries, or whose pregnancy results in a still born child, without ever having had a live birth would present with primarily infertility. (Trends in prevalence4).
So unless ‘primary infertility’ is not a type of infertility, which would be odd, the page has two non-equivalent definitions on it.
On the original topic – it seems to me that most of us are lucky that people don’t get what they deserve.
â€œYouâ€™ll be almost 60 when he graduates!â€
What the blazes is that supposed to mean anyway? Sixty isn’t one foot in the grave, and who cares how old you are when your kid graduates? Are you supposed to still be holding his hand in 12th grade, so you need to be fit and forty to manage it?
There are downsides to being older when you have kids — as a kid of older parents, I’ve experienced them and observed my parents experiencing them. I’ve also experienced the advantages. People just need to shut up about other people’s life experiences, especially the ones that are too late to change.
Pentamom – I was wondering the same thing. What is a parent supposed to be doing at graduation that being 60 precludes? At the same time, you can have a kid at 20 and be 60 at graduation if they aren’t inclined to follow the traditional path, and end up going back for a diploma later. Or you can attend a graduation at 60 if your child decides to be a lifelong student living on assistantships while they pursue degree after degree.
Trudy: Sorry for your loss. You are right. We are free to abstain or not abstain in whatever during our pregnancies whatever we want. And neither side needs to judge or say anything rude to you about it.
I may not like seeing a mother smoking it up while pregnant, but I don’t say a word to her because not my business.
LOL at the professional student. If my kid did that, I don’t think I would see her fourth or fifth degree worthwhile to attend the graduation.
It’s all I see on websites. There is no evidence that responcible and moderate intake of coffee or alcohol will harm the fetus. But “better save then sorry”. Scuse me but why don’t we hear about grease munchers? What about women that won’t eat their brocolli and thus deprive their little diaper of joy from the blessings of the green miracle http://www.npr.org/2011/08/08/139033757/babys-palate-and-food-memories-shaped-before-birth forget McDonalds marketing…. Baby not eating ther peas is moms fault! and it’s proven!
Having gone down Infertility Road… I understand a bit.
Have you ever knocked on wood? Just because it might keep the bad thing you just mentioned from happening even though your rational self realizes that there is NOTHING to do with it?
Not eating fish or soft cheese or a glass of wine is the same thing. Part of it is a little bit of science but the rest is knocking on wood. You’re having such an incredibly difficult time trying to create this baby that there is nearly nothing that you wouldn’t do to help make it happen. Does one have anything to do with the other? If there is even a shadow of a chance then odds are good that you’ll do it – just in case. Because if at the end of the road you still don’t have your baby you don’t want to be able to look back and blame yourself. You don’t want the what ifs and the I should haves… Because at that point in the road it is all that you can do to stand up and keep walking and anything extra to point blame on yourself, even if it is all imaginary, is literally more than you can bare.
Luckily, for us, our very last month of trying – it worked. Was it the Robitussin cough syrup (look it up – seems to actually work for some women) or the Chlomid or the forces of the universe finally giving us a break in the year from hell… who knows. But, despite a few minor complications, my baby is 2 1/2 and happy and beautiful.
And, despite knowing all of the fears… I still drank tea and ate canned fish. Seriously, I cannot explain the cravings for whole wheat bread with guacamole and sardines. (And yes, I realize that this may win the award for the most disgusting pregnancy craving ever.) I listened to my body and thankfully, things turned out fine.
Knock on wood.
Wow about the graduation thing. Never thought about worrying about that. My mum had me at a very ordinary 25, and will be 73 when she sits quietly in the auditorium watching me graduate. And my grandad was about 85 when my dad finished his apprenticeship in his late 20’s. Neither has suffered in being elderly parents of graduating ‘children’.
It seems that every culture imposes weird ass dietary restrictions on pregnant women, usually insisting that they avoid foods that they like. If the big local snack is pickled ginger pods, then the rule is that pregnant women should lay off pickled ginger pods. It’s totally weird, but totally human.
I can understand avoiding raw milk products. Listeria is a bummer and probably worse if you are pregnant. But, what are they worried about with sushi though? It’s salt water fish and it’s frozen, so it’s safe to eat and any parasitic worms are frozen dead. Fetal alcohol syndrome can be a problem; if you typically drink enough to wake up on the living room floor with your shirt on backwards, that’s something you should do something about whether you are pregnant or not. As for smoking, there are some good arguments for quitting, pregnant or not. If nothing else quitting will jack up your odds of spending some quality time with your grand kids.
There seems to be a human urge to guilt trip pregnant women. “You took iPhone selfies while you were pregnant instead of using an Android phone, now your kid is never going to get into Harvard.” Given how many of us are here thanks to some pregnant woman or another, I think we should all lay off a bit.
It all depends. Caffeine can – not will. Nothing is fool proof though. I had 2 miscarriages and I haven’t taken caffeine for years and years.