Food Fight

foodfightFor 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.

food.fightBut 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!

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12 Responses to “Food Fight”

  1. Jessica Says:

    One would think the minute you hear “baby” and “harmful” in the same sentence, that would be all that was necessary to curb a habit. Really – in the grand scheme of things, 9 months is NOT that long, no matter how silly you might find the recommendation. I mean, if DC Cookie can stop drinking, then anything is possible!

    I need to get on this listserv, purely for the entertainment…

  2. K Says:

    That’s one of my favorite Mad Men scenes. “I better not find my dry cleaning in a pile on the floor of the closet.” [big smoke exhale]

  3. Jo Says:

    While I understand that there is a need to curb on a LOT of things during pregnancy, I do believe that a lot of women go above and beyond the preachy what you should and should not eat. Yes, in France and the rest of Europe and South American pregnant women do drink wine (after the first trimester and 1 or 2 glasses a week at most) and eat cheese and fish and everything else… but to each his own. Sometimes it’s more harmful for the kid if you cut something out entirely that your body is dependent on (i.e. caffeine and in some cases smoking).

  4. Hayes Says:

    Ugh. I’m scared to get pregnant. Seems anything I would eat and/or do encourages criticism. If not from society, then my future (unknown yet) mother in law should be happy to chime in.

  5. Mille and Al's Says:

    Good to see you’ve come around and are not in any way using sarcasm. When should I expect you for half-off-Jello-shot night?

  6. Libba Says:

    Well, I’m with the French on cheese & wine, but with gestational diabetes, all rebel tendencies are quieted by the thought of a potentially 12 lb baby — esp. when one’s husband and siblings all had birthweights of AT LEAST 9 lbs! Also, I go with the theory that MY mother drank beer, etc., and I’m practically a genius! 🙂

  7. Johanna Says:

    I think you should start that weekly feature now before you’re no longer eligible.

    Also, who’s meaner, the pro work or pro stay-at-home faction? Just curious.

  8. namaste Says:

    At least the sushi rebel was well spoken/written. Nothing worse than ignorance and bad grammar. Poor dear.

  9. Skywalker Says:

    I ate fish during lent but curbed it when I met with my new doctor. I don’t go over the top. Its more like, I let my body decide what’s enough – I don’t gorge, I don’t request odd and off things, I just roll with it.

    As for the liqour, I take communal wine (less than a true sip) almost every week. In the beginning, I went to a wedding where the couple literally forced the alcohol down my throat, I took a sip and handed the glass to the hubs who discarded it for me. But I read the books and the “doctor approved” lists of foods and avoidances am I pretty good about sticking to it now.

    As for the Pro Work/Pro Stay at Home factions: I think the hybrid mom is worse – the mom that has the option to do either. They can be judgemental. Especially when they think that their way of raising children and running a home is the only way.

    And in my dealings at work, a co-worker came up to me asked “if this is what I wanted”….kinda off if you ask me. But the true venom comes out the people who have never been pregnant (men and single women) – a friend came up to me and asked if I let myself go in front of a senior agency official, who slapped the offender for me (thank God for small gifts).

  10. Brooke Says:

    1) Please don’t get Mike started on car seats. Ugh.
    2) When Mama is happy, kids generally are pretty happy – that encompasses the work/stay-at-home, breast/no breast and pretty much all else. Husbands should also remember this.
    3) I advise not putting scotch (or other alcoholic beverages) in baby’s bottle. This is the same for bottles full of breast milk or formula. It doesn’t bode well for baby, even of your grandma does think it will help baby sleep through the night. True story.
    4) Apple sauce is good for sore throats.
    I have just given you my best parenting advice. Use it wisely.

  11. Julia Says:

    That Mad Men scene was a classic insert into this entry…for so many reasons!!


  12. Phil Says:

    What the baby doesn’t know won’t hurt it.

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