Where I am now…
If you haven’t read my pregnancy story, click here. I am currently 19 weeks pregnant, and I am happy to say that the majority of my food aversions have disappeared. At around 7 weeks, nausea started kicking my butt in a major way. From that week until about 15 weeks, I was absolutely miserable. Let me give you a picture of what I went through… I’m sure many of you can relate!
First of all, as I mentioned in my last post, the title “morning sickness” is a complete joke. My sickness lasted from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning to the time I fell asleep at night (with about a one-week break over Christmas… thank you, Lord!). On top of feeling completely disgusting at the thought of food, I was also starving all the time, even when I’d tried very hard to eat as much as possible. Sometimes I would actually get a big meal down, but then I would be starving again 15 minutes later. It was incredibly confusing for me. How was it possible to be so hungry, but so grossed out by the thought of eating? How could I feel so full, but then so hungry again just moments later?
While I didn’t actually vomit every day (maybe a total of ten times over those eight weeks), I gagged A LOT. Anything could make me gag. Cooking was out of the question, as the sight of raw meat would send me running to the bathroom. Doing dishes was even worse (trust me, I would have rather done dishes than lie on the couch feeling helpless and horrible). Public restrooms were often necessary, especially during travel, but something about just being in one made me gag over and over until I could get out. And taking my cod liver oil/butter oil was quite the adventure (but I did it!). I tried to grocery-shop with my husband one night, and the smell of the produce section sent me literally RUNNING to the car with a produce bag in hand.
The most confusing part of my “morning sickness” was actually trying to decide what to eat. Nothing sounded good, tasted good, or smelled good. If I was lucky, one of my choices would stand out as being not-quite-so-bad, but by the time I took a bite, that had totally changed. Sometimes I would take two or three bites and then feel completely stuffed, and unable to squeeze in one more bite. The emotional roller coaster of all this confusion was almost as painful as the sickness itself. I would often lie on my husband’s lap at night and just cry over how hungry, sick, confused, and desperate I felt. Sometimes I would go to bed really early just to make it stop (I usually paid for this the next morning with even more intense hunger). During all this, the only thing that kept me going was the gratitude in my heart for the little creature causing all these symptoms. I tried very hard not to complain, because I really hadn’t known before now whether or not I would ever experience pregnancy.
Looking back, I recognize some things that did help, and some foods that usually worked for me. This is different for different women, but hopefully something below will help you!
1. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty.
I was somehow under the impression that women on a strict Paleo diet before pregnancy would not experience morning sickness. Don’t ask me where I got this idea… it is not correct. At first, I felt guilty that maybe I hadn’t been strict enough, and that I had caused my own sickness. How ridiculous! Chris Kresser even discusses morning sickness and food aversions in his Healthy Baby Code (which I highly recommend) as something that is a normal part of many women’s pregnancies – even Paleo women. He also states that, while we do not really know what causes morning sickness, midwives say that increased sickness usually means a very strong pregnancy. This was definitely a comfort to me!
Also, do not beat yourself up when you are not able to stay as strict as you were before pregnancy. For me, it became more important to eat food that I could keep down than to eat food that was 100% Paleo friendly. If you get to this point, roll with it. My only firm rule was to remain gluten-free (even though everyone around me told me to eat crackers and drink ginger ale) and to do my very best otherwise. Once you get through those sick weeks, you can improve your diet drastically and get right back on track. Make sure you are getting the vitamins you need (preferably from food, otherwise from supplements), and trust that your baby will take the nutrients he/she needs from you. That’s one thing that made me feel better – knowing that any deficiencies in my diet would have more effect on me than on my baby, as the baby was taking the nutrition he needed from me. While it’s not good to be deficient yourself, you do not have to worry about the baby not getting what he/she needs, particularly if you are only off track for a short period of time.
Do what you can do. There were days when the only things I could stomach were baked white potatoes with loads of grass-fed butter (this was definitely one of my go-to meals), or broccoli/potato/cheese soup (I ate two stockpots of this in two weeks… all by myself… it helped me feel less hungry, and that was such a relief!). These were not choices that I would typically make, but eating something “less good” was better than eating nothing at all, and that was the alternative. Do not misunderstand… I do not believe that pregnancy gives you an excuse to fill up on McDonald’s burgers, doughnuts, and milkshakes. Do the best you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you are not 100% Paleo.
2. Listen to your protein cravings. Most people who have eaten alot of good red meat before pregnancy have plenty of iron, and may not want to eat meat during pregnancy. Too much protein during pregnancy can be harmful to both the baby and the mother (information from The Healthy Baby Code), so listening to your body is important! If you are short on protein, your body will crave it. I have not experienced this yet. In fact, though I am no longer averse to meat like I was during those sick weeks, I still am not enjoying it or wanting it like I did before pregnancy. When I do eat it, I have to take really small bites.
3. Look out for weird textures. This one probably varies from woman to woman too, but I had a very difficult time with food that was too chewy or food that was too mushy. The perfect textures were soups, or foods that were soft but not mushy (like baked potatoes). One night meatloaf did the trick. Learn what works for you, and follow those trends!
4. Try cold food items. I found that eating something cold was much more refreshing than nauseating. I made coconut milk popsicles, ate tons of applesauce (though that was sometimes too mushy), and even splurged on some gluten-free cereal with cold coconut milk. Icy soda water with lemon also helped.
5. Make sure you have lots of choices. I completely agree with Melissa in her Whole9 article on food aversions when she says “bring the whole darn grocery store home!” When you’re at the store (or when you make a list for your husband), think of as many possibilities as you can, and load up your cabinets with choices. In that moment of desperation, hopefully you will have at least one thing that sounds semi-okay.
6. Eat small portions, and eat more often. The idea of three meals a day flew right out the window when my sickness hit. Even now, I probably eat six or seven small meals each day. Keeping your blood sugar from dropping too much, and preventing that desperation hunger, will definitely improve your situation.
7. Listen to your HEALTHY cravings. Your body craves particular food items for a reason. When you are pregnant, you experience more cravings because your body needs more vitamins and minerals. I had major cravings for apples, and I believe there was a reason for that. Do not, however, listen to your un-healthy cravings. You will likely want sugar and processed baked goods because they are yummy and sometimes comforting. Do not give in. These foods will not make you feel better… in fact, they usually make you MORE hungry, and they begin creating addictions that you and your baby do not need.
8. When you feel decent, cook something! My wonderful husband took on all the cooking responsibilities when my sickness hit. He would often make himself a steak and a sweet potato, and then try to cut the meat into very tiny pieces for me to try and eat. However, he does not enjoy cooking or being in the kitchen, so at most mealtimes we played the “what should we eat?” game. I learned quickly to use any time that I felt less nauseous to try and make something that would last a while… chicken soup, meatloaf, potato soup, etc.
9. Listen to music while you eat. This sounds crazy, but it really helped take my mind off the food, and dampened the sound of chewing/slurping (a sound I’ve never liked, but one that became even more detestable during morning sickness).
10. Bland flavors win! I don’t know about you, but my taste buds were (and kinda still are) on steroids! Foods like sweet potatoes or bacon were way too overwhelming to eat. I still cannot stand the thought of eating a sweet potato.
Ultimately, remember that this is only a season… it will end.
And the best part… it’s all worth it! These symptoms you’re experiencing are symptoms that you made a baby! And that’s amazing.
If you have more tips, please share them in the comments!