For new expectant mothers in the D.C. metro area, the DC Urban Moms listserv looms like a grotesque freak show tent at the edge of the circus. Sensible women who have gone before in motherhood warn the uninitiated not to pull back the flap and go inside but inevitably their advice goes unheeded.
Once inside, the expectant mother finds fellow moms-to-be and moms-have-been hurling all manner of judgments, smugness, sarcasm, and snark at each other. The anonymous venom isn’t even instigated solely by the Big Three—natural v. medicated childbirth, stay-at-home v. work-out-of-home mothers, breastfeed v. bottlefeed. No, the most innocuous of questions or comments can quickly devolve into a battle of epicly stupid proportions. It’s such a ripe source of eyerolling that when I started Baby Bird I contemplated a “DC Urban Moms Listserv Fight of the Week” feature. Then I realized that it was just too depressing to call weekly attention to my gender’s willingness to cannibalize itself.
But in the past week there have been a couple threads that have begged comment, not so much because a fight ensues, but because of the attitude conveyed by one contingent of the combatants. They focus on what the pregnant woman should and should not be eating. What rises up from the pages of comments that follow the original posts are steaming smoke tendrils of delusion and rationalization, which, when called out by the more incredulous readers, turn into full-blown conflagrations.
Let’s start at the beginning, with this post, in which the poster inquires of her fellow denizens, “Are you a food rebel?” Some highlights:
“I have eaten sushi every week at least 2-3 times a week for the last 20-25 years…I probably won’t eat tuna or salmon as much but that’s more because I don’t want to support unsustainable fishing and farming practices and species scarcity rather than a fear of mercury-poisoning.
“I’m eating soft cheeses, just not anything that has mold (i.e. blue cheeses) or made with raw milk…I believe that if you eat foods which are closer to their natural, unaltered states, then your body functions better.
“The myriad of food restrictions is just another way that U.S. society tries to keep pregnant women in the “vulnerable female” role.
“I think it would be great to have a group of pregnant women go out to a restaurant and order a table full of sashimi or go to a cheese shop like Cowgirl Creamery and drink red wine and eat soft cheeses.
Yes, you read that correctly. Her paramount concern with eating tuna is overfishing, not her baby’s health. Another greatest hit this week is “If you drink wine…” in which the original poster wonders whether others who drink regularly during pregnancy—flouting the advice of roughly four gramillion medical and scientific bodies—had an OK from their doctors, or, she inquires coyly, “do you not mention it?” It comes as no surprise when she says her post was inspired by Che the Sushi-Eating Food Rebel.
On both threads, anyone who has the audacity to suggest that perhaps nine months of abstaining from nibbles and bevvies deemed to place one’s unborn child at greater risk of physical and mental developmental disabilities is quickly slammed as being a sackcloth wearing worrywart, a slave to the sciencistas, or an idiot. These bon vivants base their choices on such scientific principles as: “I just don’t believe that [insert arbitrary amount that the commenter has deemed healthy] is going to do anything…”, “I did it with my last baby and he’s fine…” and “In France/Spain/[insert Other Country I Visited Once on Spring Break] they do it all the time…”
One woman manages to hit the trifecta, saying that while vacationing, on most days she “limited it to one beer, but one day I had three and a half glasses of wine in one evening, spread out over a few hours. My French Canadian friends thought this was perfectly fine, as did my husband and I…My little one is healthy and delightful at 6 months.”
The more I consider it though, the more I think that my verbal-hair-pulling sisters have liberated me. If I don’t have to worry about the decades of research that went into warnings about things like sushi, and soft cheese, and alcohol, think of what else I can disregard. Car seats? Why bother?! Smoking? Light ’em up, ladies!