Hey America, Pregnancy: You’re Doing it Wrong

by | Aug 25, 2013 | Can of Worms, Catholic Living, Open Letters, Pregnancy, Things I Think, What I Wore Sunday | 69 comments

I’ve debated writing this post for a while, because really — who wants to be the poster-child for “irresponsible pregnancy?” But, you know me, I can’t resist a can of worms. And I think it needs to be said. So, here goes: You know all that stuff you’re not supposed to do while you’re pregnant? I do pretty much all of it. And mostly, I think you should too. Because the English-speaking world has a fundamentally flawed way of looking at pregnancy. 

I turned up pregnant a month after the husband and I got married. So, of course, I immediately consulted the internet. I learned that I wasn’t to run or hike or jump up and down, I had to be sure to eat a lot of fish while being very careful not to consume any fish. I was to have no alcohol, no soft cheese, no caffeine, no tap water, no cured meats, no sushi, no hot tubs or hot baths. I was to do no painting, no gardening, no microwaving, no housecleaning, and no pet care. I probably shouldn’t talk on the phone or use a computer. I needed to get all the recommended prenatal ultrasound and doppler testing, but be sure to avoid bombarding my baby with sound waves.

And, of course, no feeling stressed. It’s not good for the baby.



But all that just didn’t seem to me like it could possibly be right. Pregnancy is a natural thing that happens to women, often many times, and it’s been happening throughout time and all over the world and how could it possibly be that fragile and burdensome?

Thank goodness my first call was to my very reasonable family practice doctor who told me that being pregnant was not a disease. He had some expertise in the field of fetal alcohol syndrome, and helped me to understand how very rare it is (a woman who consumes 18 drinks PER DAY has a 30-33% chance of giving birth to a baby with FAS). He explained that the safest place a baby could possibly be was inside its mother. He said I should feel free to continue to live life like a normal human being. So that’s what I did. And that’s what I’ve done through all six of my previous pregnancies, and what I’m currently doing during pregnancy number seven.

Because here’s the thing: all that unscientific fear-mongering just serves to degrade a culture of openness to life. How can a woman be expected to avoid all of those things for all of her fertile years? The answer is she couldn’t. So if my view of pregnancy is that it’s something that’s dangerous to mothers and babies, then I’d have to treat fertility as a disease to be cured. I’d have to “plan parenthood” so as to make very, very certain I didn’t ever accidentally ride a roller coaster when I might unknowingly be pregnant. Or have a glass of wine. Or eat a bologna sandwich. I might have to abort a perfectly good baby just in case.


But for me, my fertility and pregnancies (and breastfeeding and newborns and children) are all a part of my normal life. I didn’t step out of real life and into a sterility bubble to carefully breed two children. I embrace both my fertility and my real life at the same time. Because my fertility and my real life are the same thing. 

So when I’m pregnant, I make very few if any changes to my normal routine: 


  • I continue to drink 1-2 alcoholic drinks per week (but recent studies and all of history and most of Europe suggest that up to 7 drinks per week is completely acceptable). 
  • I continue my normal routine of exercising: running up until the last month or two of pregnancy, then walking instead. 
  • I continue to eat in a moderate and healthy way, and limit my weight gain to avoid feeling overweight and miserable during and after pregnancy. This has been a great benefit to both my physical and mental well-being.
  • I go on roller coasters and water slides even into my third trimester, brazenly daring the teenaged minimum wage theme park employees to accuse me of being pregnant.
  • I drink caffeine.
  • I take hot baths.
  • I eat sushi and brie and prosciutto because they are yummy and because they have never yet given me food poisoning, pregnant or not.
  • I don’t smoke or take drugs, but I also don’t do those things when I’m not pregnant. 

I have been fortunate enough to never lose a baby to miscarriage and to have given birth to six children without disabilities or special needs. But I do not attribute that fact to anything I do or do not do during pregnancy. It just is what it is, as they say. Plenty of women do everything just right and still lose a baby. To point fingers and try to figure out what they did to cause their miscarriage seems unhelpful and just plain mean. Tragedies happen, and we don’t always get to know why.

And the thing is, most of this pregnancy advice seems to me to come, not from actual scientific research, but rather from theme park lawyers, internet conspiracy theorists, and Victorian novelists whose heroines will insist on going horseback riding against the wishes of their husbands and can be counted upon to miscarry and learn an important lesson about docility.



I don’t think any of those three are better sources of lifestyle advice than the whole of human history in which, for many women, pregnancy was the rule rather than the exception for 20-30 years of their lives. And they didn’t have time to sit around letting Google freak them out about it. They knew that pregnancy was just a natural part of life. 
That’s how I view it as well. I have now been pregnant or nursing for over twelve years straight. And, for me, it mostly hasn’t felt like a sacrifice or a burden. It hasn’t felt like something other than real life, like a season of illness or misfortune to be weathered until better times return. And I think being able to have a glass of wine with the husband or go on a roller coaster with my kids has been a big part of that.


And hey, it’s Sunday so you get to see what I look like pregnant today and what I wore to Mass:


Dress and Belt: Old Navy; Shoes: Zappos; Necklace: Personalized Creations; Earrings: a gift; Bump: 26 weeks!
And, if you’re wondering about that big accessory in the background . . . why yes that is our new BIG van (and my first new car ever!). Thanks to the fine folks who like Catholic All Year on Facebook and responded to my cry for help, we test drove the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford E350, and Nissan NV.
I think any of the three would have worked for our family. But, I felt like the Mercedes was a combination of too spartan on the inside and too fancy (or at least too fancy a name) on the outside. I just somehow don’t feel qualified to be driving around in a Mercedes. Even a decidedly unsexy one. The Ford seemed very utilitarian, so it certainly would have gotten the job done, but then we drove the Nissan and IT felt just right.
While the other two had a rather industrial feel, the Nissan NV really seems like a consumer vehicle. It’s got things like a usb port, gps, a back-up camera, and little slide-out cupholders underneath each of the seats. And this one wasn’t white (hallelujah!) so we went ahead and bought the thing.

It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m really very happy with it. Twelve seats! Imagine the possibilities. Now we just need to figure out if we’re keeping our old 2002 Chevy Venture, too, and if the new one will fit in the garage, and how we’re going to get three cars back up to LA. Jack’s pretty good at Project Gotham Racing on Grandad’s Xbox, but I’m not sure how well that would translate into real life driving skills.

Thanks to the good ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting yet another What I Wore Sunday. Head on over to check out what everyone else wore to Mass today!  


  1. Anne Bazin

    Thank you! As soon as you become pregnant you are again treated like a child and are susceptible to all sorts of public judgments people wouldn't of vocalizing if you weren't expecting!

    A new book came out this week called "Expecting Better" written by an economics professor who was tired of all the cautions with out any actual statistics to back them up so she decided what to do what she does best (and for a living) and combed through all the studies, the well-designed ones and the shoddy ones and then wrote a book about what she found. I'm still reading it, but so far, I like how it deals in facts and not scare mongering.

    • Kendra

      Thanks for the recommendation, that sounds like something I should read!

  2. Cynthia

    This is so wonderful! Really it is. Every time I'm pregnant, it's so important for me to hear things like this. Thank you, Kendra 😉

  3. Colleen

    I think I now know why pregnancy is so miserable for me. I take so many pleasures out of my life. The other day I skipped lunch because all that I had to eat was an Italian sub, and I didn't want to eat anything "wrong". What about tuna? That one is a huge sacrifice for me during pregnancy as only one tuna sandwich pet week is recommended. Do you ignore that one too? (please say yes!)

    • Kendra

      I totally missed the memo on tuna with my first baby. When I was working I took one of those tuna and crackers packs for lunch almost every day. And he's my smarty pants. But I really don't know if the mercury in tuna thing is a real concern or not. It's not an issue for me now, since it's not my kids' favorite lunch. But I doubt it's something I would worry about. If I were nauseous and that sounded good, I would eat it.

    • October Rose

      My midwife said to eat chunk light tuna instead of albacore–I think it's the latter that has potential mercury problems. Hope that helps. 🙂

    • Mary @ Better Than Eden

      Yep, I eat a lot of tuna while pregnant because it's so high in protein. Eat the cheap stuff. Less of a mercury issue. I'm pretty sure it's not even real tuna fish anyway but another smaller fish.

    • Gina Gargollo

      Now I went to the kitchen to get a can of tuna because of this conversation. Such a great idea.

  4. Ashley Sue

    Love the van! I completely agree with you on the pregnancy thing. My life really doesn't change; each pregnancy has been different so that has posed limitations but I don't really restrict myself in any way.

    • Tracy Collins

      I LOVE your post! and your blog! I am amazed at what some women will do when it comes to being pregnant (maybe out of excitement, or what they think their first attempt at being a good mother should be or just plain not being educated). I could jump up on my soap box and give a list of all things I think absurd, but that would be pointless. I just really wanted to say THANK YOU for your common sense approach to pregnancy and the real word.

  5. October Rose

    *waves pompoms* LOVE this post. Now if only I could convince the husband to not give me a hard time about drinking a beer at a party now and then…! We're not big drinkers in general, but still.

    When I was 8 months pregnant (in other words, HUGE) with my first a friend had her bachelorette party in a private room at a bar, and I can remember leaving I got a LOT of stares and dirty looks, hehe.

  6. LouLou

    Thank you for posting this! I have had three pregnancies, with one stillbirth, one preemie, and then a miscarriage. My doctor was wonderful at keeping my care in line with our view on children being blessings. She also was realistic- at one time, the only thing I could eat was brie and apples, and hot baths and wine stopped my contractions more than once. I wasn't encouraged to exercise because it caused contractions and I was on a diet to gain weight, so anything I wanted (even sushi) was encouraged. So many people, including family members, were outraged with my "behavior". I believe that the joy I had during each pregnancy is what helped me through each loss and difficulty. My doctor has jumped up and down with a positive pregnancy test, cried and prayed with me after each loss, and sends birthday cards to my son even though I no longer live close enough to use her for my care. Pregnancy is part of life, and while it may require some adjustment when necessary, it is not something to cure. I believe great doctors help remind of us that!

  7. Mary @ Better Than Eden

    Thanks for writing this! I agree so much that so many of the things that pregnant women are warned about are probably quite harmless. Especially the stuff that women have been doing for centuries and as part of a natural life. I love my baths and occasional drink when pregnant and with my last baby I even dared to drink raw milk. (He was my happiest most content baby yet and my theory is that it was the milk and the good bacteria!) It's funny how so many doctors will give this list of things to avoid that really are no problem because of some minuscule risk but SO MANY doctors I know don't give basic nutrition advice to their clients. Like don't eat a crap ton of sugar and carbs and make sure you eat a lot of protein. So many women then end up with diabetes which DOES have major, possibly lifelong, risks. Same with new medications. Women are made to think that their baby will be brain damaged if they dare to enjoy a half glass of wine but when it comes to all these meds which are relatively new and haven't been well tested, they are told it's fine. It's mind boggling to me.
    That said I get your point that it can be detrimental to building a culture of life but at the same time I see how that concern and care for a pregnancy is actually a GOOD thing (even if the specifics are misguided). I'm not sure I would say that it scares people away from pregnancy as much as I think it makes pregnancy a big deal…which it is.

  8. Rosie

    I totally agree, BUT I find a lot of these things are perks when I'm pregnant – I can't stand fish/blue cheese/etc. and it's a lot less awkward to say, "Oh I can't, I'm pregnant!" than to say, "No… I don't like it…"

    But I don't understand how you can go on roller coasters while pregnant – they're uncomfortable enough when I'm NOT pregnant, so I can't imagine how awful that experience would be while pregnant!

  9. Christine

    Yes! I dutifully gave up alcohol and caffeine with my first pregnancy, terrified I might do something to "hurt the baby." But by the second one I had realized, "hey – I might spend the next 20 years of my life pregnant or nursing. I can't live my whole life as if it's a perpetual Lent." My grandmothers and all their mothers before them drank during pregnancy (probably), so I'm sure the occasional drink is fine.

    That said, I don't always mind the special treatment other people give me when pregnant ("Oh! Don't worry about that! You sit down and let me take care of it!" haha. Sure thing.)

  10. Endless Strength

    I appreciate this post. I have had 6 pregnancies and I didn't encounter any issues until #6 (baby contracted an "unknown infection" that caused his death in utero at about 18 weeks). I had always been laid back about pregnancy. But after my experience this year, I have wondered what I would do with the next one (if, God willing, I were to get pregnant again). It's good to remind people that things happen and it puts an awful lot of power in our hands to think we can affect everything.

    The roller coasters though..really? 🙂

  11. Justine/ Sew Country Chick

    I ate sushi,drank coffee, and the occasional glass of wine too during my pregnancies.And your new car ,or Catholic mobile,as I like to all them, is actually very stylish! It makes me wish I'd had more kids to drive around! Seriously,so glad you didn't choose a Sprinter. They are like European cargo vans.

  12. so many things to love...

    I adore this post! And it's so true. With my first baby I was CRAZY about the whole 'not eating lunch meat' and 'no hot baths or showers'. Oh my gosh, I was so annoying. With my second I was so much more relaxed about everything, and now I'm watching friends with their firsts and I want to tell them to calm down, take a deep breath, oh my gosh EAT THE SUSHI.

  13. Kristy

    I love your blog, you say so many things I am thinking. This is exactly how I have felt about pregnancy, but I always follow the rules out of fear. With each pregnancy I am doing more that I believe is healthy and less of what everyone tells you to do.

  14. Danielle

    I appreciate you for being willing to write this post! I am such a rule follower by nature but really have a hard time believing I need to give up so many things I only consume moderately anyway!! Also, I google everything which probably needs to stop… Your 7x over wisdom is greatly appreciated!

  15. Amanda

    I was once told while 8 months pregnant with my 2nd that I could not go on the merry go round with my 2 year old because I was pregnant and it was "a liability". I was so stinkin mad! Nowadays I'd probably just say "oh well, try to get me off" and stay right where I was.

    I totally agree with you. I've climbed fences and trees while pregnant, moved furniture, mowed the lawn, and generally eaten whatever I normally would. I've got 3 healthy happy kids and had 3 healthy uneventful pregnancies and easy labors. I figure I'll keep doing what works 🙂

  16. Suzette

    Amen! Praise the Lord! I am SO blessed by you writing this post. I think I indulge horribly unhealthy cravings in pregnancy because I feel so deprived otherwise. Thank you thank you for this. Ultimately I would rather a glass of wine than a slice of cookie cake, but not having a drink with my husband makes me think I can have some sort of treat (which is a way of thinking that I totally need to do away with…only on our third pregnancy, so I have lots of time to learn!) And about nursing, what do you think is the minimum length of time a baby should be nursed? I imagine there are 100s of opinions, but all things going well, do you ever wean a baby because you feel you need a bit of personal space?

  17. The Fisks

    You look beautiful in that green dress! And, I love your van! We'll (hopefully) someday be looking into the same, and I would love to hear how you end up liking it!

  18. Layla

    Love this post; thank you for saying all of this. When I lost my first baby after nine weeks of microwaving my lunch meat and following all the other ridiculous rigamarole we're told to do/not do during pregnancy to a T, I realized that things were in God's hands, and there was very little I could do to cause or prevent future miscarriages. I've taken a much more sane approach to the Verbotens in my subsequent pregnancies and have two healthy kids to show for it.

  19. Laura Rose

    This is AWESOME! I love when people tell me "I had no idea you were pregnant. Weren't you drinking at that last "fill in the blank" event?" Why, yes, I was. And? I feel the same sort of feelings when the pediatrician asks me if I have been putting my baby to sleep on her back. Ummmmmm…actually, no. She sleeps great on her stomach. Great post and I adore that green dress on you.

  20. Kim

    I don't drink regardless pregnant or not–but i do everything else that is a no-no. Ohhhh I eat tuna every day LOL that is when I am not eating lunch meat hehe. In the first few months I can not drink coffee if i tried–but after about 6 months I get back on my habit 🙂

    I have never believed any of these will hurt you or the baby.

  21. Anonymous

    LOVED what you said here. Thank you for writing it! I am bookmarking this post so I can come back to it. God bless! You are looking fabulous, and congratulations on the car!! ~Mary

  22. Lisa

    Loved this post, Kendra! I know a mom of 12 who says the same thing about drinking during pregnancy. 🙂
    You Sunday outfit is so cute, and those shoes are fabulous!

  23. Son Mom

    I remember once putting on my sweater on a warm evening to hide my pregnant belly so I could take my kids on the Autopia ride — you are officially not supposed to ride those little cars when you are pregnant, which seemed the height of lawsuit paranoia to me!

  24. KJL

    I have mixed feelings about this. For the most part I'd agree with you wholeheartedly, and I do tend to think that the way pregnancy is treated in America is straight-up insane. On pretty much all fronts.

    Still, having miscarried, there is always the hint of guilt that says, "you might have done something to cause this." I don't think that will ever go away. So, while I ate the ceviche and the sushi in the pregnancy that followed my miscarriage, it wasn't a care-free throwing off of the madness of American pregnancy restrictions.

    • Kendra

      I'm so sorry for your loss, and I can only imagine how hard it is to deal with and how tempting to blame yourself, if only just to have an answer to "why me?" But I think there are millions of unmarried women throughout history would could tell you how difficult to impossible it is to make yourself miscarry, even if you think that's what you want and do everything you can think of to try to make it happen.

      Anyway . . . back to happy, congratulations on your baby!

  25. J. Giunta

    PREACH! Americans are so afraid of being pregnant. I was raised by foreigners and I have always known that having a beer, drinking coffee (and mate), and giving birth to my babies where they were conceived is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. And do not even get me started on formula versus breastfeeding.

  26. Emily

    I agree with almost all that you said, however, my mom was that way as well. She and my dad went on a roller coaster on vacation(it was kind of a jerky one) and at her next appointment, she found out she lost the baby due to a tear pulling the baby away from her uterine wall. Given the development of the baby, it happened on that vacation, and she believes it happened on that roller coaster.

    So, I have a drink from time to time, I eat sushi and drink caffeine and the works, but I did do just about nothing exciting during my last pregnancy at the water park.

  27. Anonymous

    Hey now, my poor minimum wage earning daughter was instructed what is allowed on a ride or not and getting mad at her does nothing but convince her that pregnant women are b******s. it's management at theme parks that make those rules! My daughter has learned more about parenting from working at that miserable job this past summer — basically what NOT to do ("This is the LAST time" five turns later… "don't do that or we'll leave!" … Still at park). And about whether or not to eat nutrient dense food while pregnant: if not, are you saving for braces because narrow palettes have become the norm. I think we get over anxious but I had a miscarriage my first pregnancy and was afraid I'd never have kids (now I only have two) and my best friend almost lost her second child after she went on a roller coaster and spent most of her pregnancy on bed rest. Just my experience. Bethany

    • Kendra

      Hey Bethany, thanks for your comments on this and other posts! I feel like I should address the roller coaster thing so people aren't too worried about me. I do go on kiddie and family-type coasters, but not the super daredevil kind or anything particularly jerky. And I'd never give any of the kids working there a hard time. If they ask me, I tell them the truth. The only ride I've ever been refused entrance onto was at Lego Discovery in Chicago and the ride was basically the equivalent of going on a brisk jog in a circle. But the kid said I couldn't go on it, so I didn't. I don't blame the employees, I know they're just doing what they're told. But I do appreciate the fact that the majority of them are either wary of confrontation or pretty oblivious to pregnancy.

  28. The Nem's!!

    I may be in the minority of commenters here, but I do think a pregnant woman should seek out a doctor that she likes (someone who falls in line with their beliefs) and follow what the doctor says. After all, if you chose and trust that doctor (or midwife) to deliver your baby, surely you wold trust their knowledge.
    Personally, I do not drink (I just feel its not worth it…I do have a cousin whose daughter was born with FAS so I know it happens) and I do not feel like I'm missing out on anything so it's not a huge deal for me. I'm in MN, so it's more sledding than roller coasters and I do pass on sledding when pregnant but I think the reasons for that go without saying (right?!?).
    For me, I do not find it too much of a sacrifice to give up some things I normally do or something I really like for 9/10 months while I grow our baby in my belly. I actually find some woman-power in that and I secretly love it! In the grand scheme of our lives, it's really not that long to give something up!
    But again…I would stress to find a doctor you trust that is in line with your beliefs!

  29. Katie Sullivan

    There is one flaw with your paragraph about FAS. drinking while pregnant may have a low change for your fetus to have FAS but a pretty high chance of your child to be born with a cleft lip or palate if you have wine or other alcohol during the weeks of prenatal development when the palate and vermillion are forming. I would know…I'm a Catholic pediatric speech language pathologist and a previous member of the Children's Hospital Los Angeles craniofacial and cleft palate team. That's great that is what you do, but to say it comes with no risk is irresponsible. I don't think a woman needs to be paranoid while pregnant but some of the recommendations are there to help you have a healthy baby. That should be worth being inconvenienced in your diet or activities for a few months. Geez…

    • Kendra

      That sounds like wonderful work that you're doing. But, again, I think we are needlessly scaring women who wish to behave in a reasonable, moderate way during their pregnancies because of the dangers of irresponsible, immoderate behaviors.

      This is from nih.gov: The researchers found that women who consumed an average of five or more drinks per sitting were more than twice as likely than non-drinkers to have an infant with either of the two major infant oral clefts: cleft lip with or without cleft palate, or cleft palate alone. Women who drank at this level on three or more occasions during the first trimester were three times as likely to have infants born with oral clefts.

      There's a big difference between having a glass of wine with dinner and having five or more drinks in a evening, multiple times during your first trimester. I do the former, I certainly don't recommend the latter.

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      Who wants alcohol during the first trimester anyway??? Ugh. I can't have caffeine either; it aggravates my nausea!

    • Megan McQuaid

      Hahaha that's what I thought about everything in this article…if only I even FELT like eating that stuff!! Maybe in trimester #2…

  30. Meg Anderson

    What about medicines? Do you follow the rules on which over the counter drugs to take/not take while pregnant? (Sudafed, Tylenol, etc.) Im always so confused about that and what I should/shouldnt be taking!

    • Kendra

      I'm kind of a weirdo when it comes to medicine. I try not to take it, not for hippie reasons, but just because I prefer to try to tough everything out. But my understanding is that things that have be proven harmful say so on the package, but everything else just says "ask your doctor," so if it says "ask your doctor," it means it's considered safe, but they don't want to tell you.

    • Diedre

      I know I'm a bit late to the party here, but my midwife told me that just because it doesn't say that it's proven to be harmful doesn't mean it's safe. Many of the medications that say "ask your doctor" are thought to be unsafe but there is no way they would ever purposely test that theory on innocent unborn babies. Therefore they cannot be marked as "proven" to be unsafe, but that doesn't mean you should take them without first asking your trusted doctor's opinion.

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      I took Zofran (the generic form) during my pregnancies with #4 and #5, on my doctor's recommendation due to severe nausea, and #5 was diagnosed with bilateral clubfoot. There's no family history. I'm pregnant again and have refused Zofran this time around, just in case it was the cause of my son's birth defect.

    • laurazim

      Good for you for refusing Zofran. It's now the subject of class action lawsuits because of birth defects. *sigh*

  31. Melissa Shanks

    Thanks for this post. I am a mother of three and my first has Autism and a developmental delay. When you are the mother of a child with a non genetic disorder you spend alot of time going back over everything you did "wrong" during that pregnancy. I still have alot of guilt over it sometimes, and just have to take a deep breath and remind myself of the things I did "wrong" with my normal kids, lo, It is good to be reminded that this is really all in God's hands, and we can relax and enjoy being pregnant!

  32. Marian Ninja

    I've been married just over a year, and I'm not pregnant yet, but I really appreciate this post, because people have told me all these "Dos and Don'ts" in order to get pregnant and while being pregnant. And, there were times where I would actually believe all of it and think that it had to be true since "that's what everyone's saying." This post is definitely fabulous, and much-needed in our culture. Thank you so much!

  33. Sarah

    I never thought I would be a statistic, but we lost our daughter the day after she was born to a Placental Abruption. I had a healthy pregnancy and avoided everything the doctor recommended that I avoid, and my body still gave out on her and deprived her of oxygen for a period of time. I know that many of those things that you listed, do have some risk involved even if it may be very slight. But for me, even the slight or potential risk is enough. After holding my daughter as she took her last breath, I want to give any more children that I have every advantage possible in life just like I gave me daughter. If it means there is even a slight chance that no caffeine, alcohol, certain fish etc will improve my chances of making that happen, I would do it and ANYTHING else for any future children that God gives us in hopes of never having to experience the intense grief that comes with losing a child ever again. I just wanted to throw my two cents in. Thanks for sharing.

    Feel free to check out my grieving journey at http:///www.puzzledbythepieces.com I couldn't figure out how to comment as my blog since I am not affiliated with any of the options.

    • Kendra

      I'm so, so sorry for your loss Sarah. But what happened to your daughter was not your fault. And, goodness, it sounds like you were already restricting your diet and behavior. This is what I think is dangerous about the line of reasoning that we are given by experts, it gives us a false sense of control. Nothing you did caused your daughter's death. I hope you believe that. But mostly I'm just so, so sorry. It's every mother's greatest fear.

  34. the little guild

    I appreciate your blog (just spent most of last night devouring all of your parenting posts). I think this is one that I'd like to voice respectful disagreement about (just came across it via your facebook post). Praise God for all of your healthy pregnancies and wonderful children. You are so very fortunate; I actually do believe that pregnancy is "that fragile" and God's exacting design for creation of life is that miraculous. Otherwise there wouldn't be SO MANY women who experience miscarriage (through no fault of their own). I can completely understand why someone who hasn't experienced loss themselves would view pregnancy as so carefree- and for many women, it is! But I do get frustrated at women's cavalier attitude toward the precautions that their doctors (family, friends, etc) advise with good intentions. That, to me, is a luxury. Sure, avoiding deli meat for the minuscule risk of listeria seems ridiculous, unless you have been on the other side of the statistic… the one where your baby dies. My daughter was stillborn at 22 weeks due to a Cytomegalovirus infection that I contracted while pregnant. There was probably a less than 1% probability of that happening, but in my case, it was because of a common yet devastating virus that doctors DON'T warn their patients about specifically to avoid fear-mongering (because a large percentage of women already have it in their systems and there is little risk of them passing it on to their unborn child). Would I have appreciated a heads-up that I was susceptible and that I needed to be extra vigilant about hand-washing and sharing food with my toddler, among other things (the same way women are warned about litter boxes and toxoplasmosis)? You bet! And I hope that one day, doctors actually do inform their patients about precautions surrounding CMV and pregnancy. And I hope that for the sake of their unborn children, women listen. http://www.stopcmv.org/

    • Kendra

      I'm so sorry for your loss. I had never heard of CVM, and I find it interesting that the precautions the site you linked to recommends wouldn't affect a pregnant woman's quality of life at all. It's just an awareness. That seems very reasonable to me. The listeria thing, on the other hand, IS a quality of life issue for many people. And listeria can be found in MANY foods. I'm going off of my memory here, but I believe you're nearly as likely to contract listeria poisoning from cantaloupe or spinach than you are from deli meats. The only statically significant listeria carrier according to that WSJ article is that crumbly white queso cheese on Mexican food. So, I avoid that. But I get anemic when I'm pregnant, so I don't avoid spinach. I'm WAY more likely to injure my baby in a car crash, right? But I don't avoid cars during pregnancy, because it would be too much of a burden. I just don't think we can control everything, and if don't think we should be told we can. But not putting pacifiers in my mouth? Done. No problem.

    • Kendra

      Blogs and info graphics like those you mention here are based on fear, not on facts, not on science. I really recommend reading economist Emily Oster's very well reasoned and researched piece at the Wall Street Journal: Take Back Your Pregnancy

      "The limits on drinking while pregnant are based, for the most part, on strong medical research. Frequent heavy drinking or binge drinking can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, with serious long-term consequences for your child. Women who report binge drinking during pregnancy are more likely to have children with serious cognitive deficits.

      But all drinking isn't created equal. When I looked at the data from hundreds of studies, I found, basically, no credible evidence that low levels of drinking (a glass of wine or so a day) have any impact on your baby's cognitive development."

      If you choose not to eat or drink certain things during pregnancy, that's up to you. But we should be allowed to make our choices based on truth, not on fear.

  35. Sadie Walters

    "The enemy is fear, we think it is hate, but it is really fear" -Gandhi.

    Thank you so much for your post. Off and on, I have been haunted by fear during my pregnancy- I listen to my body, I do something that seems perfectly appropriate, that happens to be on the "not while your pregnant" list and then fear creeps in and I worry for days. It is a repetitive cycle that has been making me feel a bit nutty and very much alone. It's a strange time we live in, where fear drives propaganda that everything is dangerous, it silences the wisdom of our own bodies. So, it is encouraging and helpful to read your post, to remember not to deny myself the enjoyment of pregnancy and that yes, my body does have wisdom that is worth listening to. So thanks. Also, I loved Emily Oster's book, just gave it to my cousin.

  36. Katie Kasper

    I love your blog but strongly and respectfully disagree with much of what you've written here.

    My son was diagnosed in utero with a massive brain malformation (and so sadly, recommended for an abortion). He was born blind and partially deaf with a cleft palate. He was that low probability baby.

    I think that gives a different perspective on odds. While they are low, the implications are so massive, it really puts the little "restrictions" during pregnancy in perspective. My son is unable to eat solid foods like deli meat, sushi and cheese. It would be great if he one day develops the strength and motor control to ride a roller coaster. He paints in his own way but really can't enjoy a work of art.

    I don't harbor guilt, but I did enter my next pregnancy with a new view of joy. For me, there is so much joy in the little sacrifices we are asked to make, even when it seems unlikely that they will matter.

    And while women have been doing all kinds of things while pregnant for centuries upon centuries, I am so grateful to live in a time when everything we have learned has minimalized risks so much that we barely feel them.

    All that said, I agree with your view that pregnancy is made out to be some melodramatic situation where we have to follow all these draconian rules, etc. I guess I just choose to avoid melodrama rather than the rules themselves.

  37. Unknown

    Is your lack of restraint for 9 months worth the risks (real or not) that could affect the child for a lifetime? This thinking seems quite selfish to me.

    • Kendra

      I've been pregnant or nursing for 166 months straight. Over fourteen years now. I have eight lovely children and, I gotta say, I don't often get accused of being selfish.

    • Lisa

      Brava, Kendra, for that reply, which had the perfect amount of "restraint."

  38. Desiree H

    Hey, this is great. Over the (many) years of pregnancy and nursing, I have ignored a lot of the "rules" too. I never really connected the paranoid pregnancy culture as being opposed to an openness to life, but I think you are absolutely right. And I am encouraged to hear about the wine…I've been planning to do more research on that. 🙂

  39. Laura S

    This is an excellent post. I do agree with it, even having miscarried my last baby at 9 weeks, after seeing a perfect heartbeat the week before. I thought for sure it was something I did, but I know now that I did "everything right" in the fact that I hadn't had any alcohol or lunchmeat, etc. Luckily I had already been blessed with 3 healthy babies, each which I had a glass of wine on multiple occasions. Some people's jaw dropped when they saw an 8 month pregnant woman having a glass of wine on her anniversary. And to that, I understand. Unless you do your research, the one thing people all seem to know is "alcohol is bad during pregnancy." Even some know that it is unlikely harmful,but just cant comprehend why a woman can't abstain for 9 months. But as a Catholic woman open to life, for many of us it is not just 9 months. And I dont think God intended for us to be so paranoid that we lose joy in the little things. So absolutely do not binge drink, but feel free to have a glass of wine on occasion. And to those who feel it is inappropriate to indulge in things like wine and soft cheeses, don't! The stress of worrying about what you eat isn't worth it for you, and I know because I have been there too. The point of this article, I think is to lighten the guilt of those who want to do the same as the author, but feel ashamed because our society can be very judgemental about a pregnant woman's choices.


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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