The title sounds like I must be lying, but the answer is no. When I’m at my usual adult self, I tend to think of myself as a healthy balanced eater. Love my vegetables, fruit, grains, meats and dairy with including ‘sometimes’ foods. To sum it up, I LOVE food, it’s something I won’t deprive myself and I try to indulge to a comfortable point. I was also very active, walking everywhere whilst lugging my kids on my back and in the pram was my passion.
I’m writing this to hopefully help people understand why and how our eating can change in our lifetime and why it’s NEVER as simple as ‘just eat healthy’!
I’m fortunate to have 3 children now, however pregnancy and recovery has not been kind to me. That pregnancy glow people talk about, was the sweat I felt trying to contain my nausea, horrible taste and smell changes, pain and bad fatigue. Some women get the worst side of pregnancy symptoms called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which is severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy that usually requires medical intervention and can lead to dangerous consequences. Please sign these petitions relating to improving outcomes and quality of life for those with HG (https://www.change.org/search?q=hyperemesis) as well as offering support to those who suffer from this.
Whilst I was not diagnosed with HG, this last pregnancy was my worst so far. The other two were far from a walk in the park, my second being the ‘least’ hard. After suffering a miscarriage before this pregnancy and rainbow baby, I fell into comfort and emotional eating to deal with the loss of a very long wanted baby, as well as the stress of buying and moving home. I was so grateful and fearful when we fell pregnant again straight away. However, that would be the last time I would feel happy and my best.
Six weeks pregnant, I had bad nausea, cramps, severe taste and smell changes and such bad fatigue I was scared I would pass out when out and about with my kids. If you’ve ever experienced gastro, where you just can’t look at food due to nausea, and vomiting just happens hopefully in a toilet. Imagine going through that, and more for your entire pregnancy.
My nausea was debilitating all the time, but it seemed to be ‘slightly’ better when I ate (or the times it ended up in the toilet). So, I ate, and I ate, and I was sick, but I ate. I wasn’t hungry, but anything that gave me that ‘slight’ relief that WASN’T vomiting, I did, so I ate and snacked, and tried to not vomit or collapse exhausted on the couch all the time.
My mouth was riddled with a taste that would only be described as a metal spoon with butter and pureed oysters. So, I ate some more, to try and rid myself of this taste, that I thought would forever doom me to never enjoy food again. I couldn’t stomach any vegetables, fruit (some dried apricots at my best), most meat, most dairy (my beloved yoghurt and coffee was just foul now). All I could literally keep down was chocolate, lollies, biscuits, bread, crackers, plain pasta and luckily my multivitamin and other cocktail of medication in the first 16 weeks. I would only use Zofran when I absolutely couldn’t take the symptoms anymore, those damn tablets are so expensive (hence sign the petition).
Some women will lose weight with these symptoms, but for me the torment of having to eat to offset the taste, nausea, tiredness, for even a minute was leading to a huge weight gain (in all my pregnancies at least double the recommended). Some people ask if there was anything I could’ve done different. Maybe take more Zofran etc., but that didn’t seem to help the debilitating taste changes, smell changes or the bad fatigue that meant even preparing a microwave meal, or grocery shopping online was effort.
The pain to walk from 6 weeks, meant my exercise had dwindled to what I needed to do day to day. When I over did it, I suffered for days. I was so constipated most of my pregnancy (add anaemia and iron tablets to the mix). This exacerbated the pain and nausea/reflux (GREAT!). Let’s just say I kept the laxative companies earning profits galore last year, and not that it helped that much.
I sunk deeper into depression, anxiety and as much as I wanted this baby (and of cause was grateful). I HATED pregnancy, it wore me down to less than a shell of the person I was. The smell changes meant the smell of my children and husband made me sick, washing my hands and clothes made me sick. I couldn’t go into my children’s new bedroom or the laundry in our new house without wanting to throw up, and don’t even go there with wiping the children after their number 2s. I convinced my husband we needed to paint the house to maybe get rid of the 30 yr. old smell. Thankfully we (mostly hubby) did this in my second trimester where I felt somewhat better. Some of my symptoms got less horrible as time went on in my pregnancy, like smell and excessive nausea. But I still had the horrible taste changes, tiredness, pain, and nausea. The third trimester everything seems to hit once again. When it came time for the birth, I was unlucky to have a very long traumatic labour, then emergency caesarean followed by complications leading to severe pain needing a cocktail of pain medication to keep myself from screaming in agony.
So here I am, blessed with my wonderful family of 5, but broken and picking myself up from a 1 year of a complete change in me. So, what does this have to do with nutrition. I hope this experience shows that even I, being a dietitian, with all my healthy and happy habits prior to pregnancy, struggled deeply with this sudden change that took over me like an uncontrollable force (for some this can be cancer, loss of a loved one, an accident, changes to hormonal treatments and much more).
To all the women that are lucky to have a good pregnancy etc., support and uplift your fellow struggling pregnant friends in need. Let’s not as a society only idolise those who are the few that are able and blessed to continue a radiant lifestyle during/post pregnancy and get back to pre-pregnancy body asap. They have privileges many women do not. Let’s bring more awareness, support and admiration in the strength of those women who struggle to have that much wanted baby, who struggle with loss of their baby, who struggle through pregnancy with changes far imaginable, who struggle with birth trauma, and who struggle after. Let’s celebrate and love all bodies.
Eat what, when, why and how you can. Eat how you can manage. For some of us, life throws us curveballs, which means we can’t always adhere to our optimal, and that’s ok. Our strength goes where it is foremost needed at that time, and sometimes our diet is not at that time. I can help guide you during these times, so your strength remains where it is needed, and the easiest, simplest nutritional needs are met.