Welcome to the Ancestral Parenting series. Find the introduction article to this four-part series of preconception through postpartum here!
My first pregnancy happened just before my 24th birthday, four months into a relationship so I won’t sugarcoat it…there was no planning involved other than I wanted a baby, but I was totally clueless! My subsequent pregnancies were planned out so I’ve been in both places. As a Nutritional Therapist now, I wish I knew more before I got pregnant and had to quit smoking, wean off antidepressants, and learn that Coca-Cola doesn’t count as water just because it has water in it.
I’ve come a long way, baby.
In this day of genetic technology, it can feel like doomsday when you get that 23andme health report back. Feel free to go down the rabbit hole where you find out you have every SNP for cancer, autism, red hair, twins, and type II diabetes. Oh wait, that’s my DNA report!
If I had known 16-years ago that my DNA belongs on the psych ward, would I have gone ahead and had children? For sure!
We live in a world with a million options at our fingertips. Passing on mutations and stressed out genes to our kids may seem cruel, but there are so many ways to offset genetic expression. However, this is where some amount of preparation comes into play. Once you glimpse the rabbit hole of your DNA test results, you may want to hide under the blankets with a box of cookies and a weeklong binge session on Netflix. I encourage you not to do that and to instead realize that most of those SNPs don’t mean much to you. Knowledge is power as long as you don’t let it completely freak you out.
Epigenetics is a complicated science we’re just cracking open. Heck, I found out I’m 4% Neanderthal from my DNA test. I’m still wrapping my head around that one!
There is so little we actually know about our genes and how they may express even with access to all of this technology. These tests didn’t exist when I had my daughters. What I did have was my intuition and it has guided me through all of my mothering endeavors. I slowly built confidence to rely on my gut about what was best for my daughters. Some of it scared the daylights out of me and I second-guessed myself every minute, especially when it seemed like relatives and friends were telling me I was wrong. I know now that 100% of the time my intuition was spot on and the only time it didn’t work was when I didn’t act on it.
The final note on genetics is that we can look to our mothers and our grandmothers for clues about our own DNA since their genes for reproduction are passed on to us. This too isn’t the whole picture, but it’s a starting place.
With or without genetic information, I would advise others to seriously consider your diet for pregnancy planning. I was in my last trimester when I left the medical care of an OB/GYN and moved to a Certified Professional Midwife for my homebirth. The first visit with Charlie went something like this: “If you don’t clean up your diet, I can’t be your midwife.” I really, really wanted a homebirth so I listened and let her knowledge sink in.
While I’m a little (a lot) embarrassed to say that I ate a cheeseburger and fries from a fast food place the night I went into labor, it was Charlie’s loving care and attention that evolved inside of me. I owe her for my eventual passion about healthy eating and my now title of Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.
The mainstream docs I worked with didn’t have the first clue about eating for pregnancy. While I firmly believe that a woman should choose the practitioner she is most comfortable with to guide her through her pregnancy and eventual delivery, she should also know that obstetricians know very little about nutrition and what they do know or the nutritionists they outsource to are using the USDA guidelines for pregnant women. These guidelines are not optimal for growing tiny humans.
If you choose to be under the care of one of these physicians, outsource your nutrition knowledge. Doctors specialize in medicine, not holistic health. You have the power to create a holistic pregnancy by deciding who to hire to meet your pregnancy needs and that could be an entire team of folks including your doc, nutritional therapist, body workers for stress, and maybe even a doula for your birth. But we’ll get to all of that!
Speaking of stress…
I almost can’t believe I’m typing this, but perhaps even more than nutrition, stress management is basically everything when planning your pregnancy.
Have you ever had a friend or known of someone who was deemed infertile and chose to adopt? Next thing you know, their new child joins the family and shortly after, mama is knocked up. That’s because the stress of the infertility is removed and her body says “Oh I’m good now, let’s get baking!”
It’s not that simple of course, because if it was, the infertility business wouldn’t be rolling in the dough and folks wouldn’t be taking second mortgages out on their houses to get pregnant.
Chronic stress is a disaster for baby making in many people. If you are super stressed out now, and I mean like your hair is practically falling out, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to easily get pregnant. What it does mean is that you want to get on top of that stress before you do have a tiny human in you…because your stress is your baby’s stress.
If you are currently facing infertility, first of all…so many big, giant hugs to you. This experience is one of the most stress-inducing struggles a woman can face. I would encourage you to make a commitment to uncovering the sources of all of your stress and getting it managed. Often times when women are going through infertility, they lose sight of themselves in the process and become hyper-focused on getting pregnant. Stress management is the key to helping you navigate your way through this difficult time.
Want to know where to begin when it comes to all things stress management? I’ve created just the thing for you! Reclaim Your Power: The Ultimate Guide to Self-Care is free. It includes a deeper understanding of what is causing our stress and what our stress is causing, plus worksheets to start practicing daily self-care. Grab your copy here!
Thank you for reading and please share your own experiences as they relate to pre-pregnancy planning.