Swimming and the Mama Guilt

Yesterday I had a burst of energy and signed myself up for pre-natal aquafit classes at my local city pool.  The class started at 7:30, and while I am usually curled up on the couch at that time of night, now that the sun stays up a bit longer, I pushed myself to just go. And it was awesome! I highly recommend getting into the water when pregnant, ladies. For 45 minutes, I felt like my old self again. The moves are sort of silly, and definitely not the intense cardio I used to enjoy pre-pregnancy, but just to feel light again was miraculous. Also, bumbling around with 10 other pregnant ladies in various stages of belly was so heart-warming. After the class one of the women asked about maternity clothes, and everyone started discussing where their best finds had been (a tie between Motherhood and Thyme, and a recommendation to check out Value Village). Anyway, unfortunately I discovered the class 3 classes in, so there’s only 3 left, but I’ll take what I can get. Once it’s over I might just start swimming regularly, just to be in the water.

I wanted to write a bit about “Mama Guilt” in pregnancy. For us plant-based dieters, or anyone who prides themselves on healthy eating, dealing with “morning sickness” is not only tough physically, but mentally as well. I know I mentioned it here in my first trimester; I was devastated that I couldn’t eat properly in the beginning of my pregnancy. I felt horribly guilty that my first act as a parent was to forgo my usual salads and whole grains, and start on a fairly steady stream of toasted tomato sandwiches (actually, tomato sandwiches have been hard to kick, I had one today) and plain pasta. I remember I made a box of Kraft dinner one night because I was so hungry, and NOTHING seemed edible to me. Even just turning on the burner to boil the water made me gag.

And so the “Mama Guilt” thoughts start running through your head. What happens when my children arrive? Will I cop out and feed them crap sometimes? What is this doing to them now? Will they crave junk food? How can I justify not needing animal protein when I’ve been downing the yoghurt?

Now that the nausea has passed and I am back to eating a more balanced diet, I want to say what I wish someone had told me in the beginning.

Around 3 months my midwife explained to me that the little ones take the nutrition they need, and they leave you with everything else. So really, you are not harming them at all.

The sickness that I experienced was magnified by my twins (two placentas = double hormones!), but even with one, it is like nothing you have ever experienced before, and you really have no choice but to listen to your body. This isn’t just a 24 hour flu that you can power through; this is potentially months of feeling like crap. Do what you can, and do not beat yourself up. There is no such thing as a “perfect” pregnancy.

My version of “eating badly” is often still on the healthy eating scale. I felt so guilty over a Dairy Queen blizzard, but I’ve only had one so far (although I may have to have another one when the weather gets warmer). I have stopped at the Tim Horton’s on the way to work a few times and ordered their smoothie and a bagel/egg/cheese/lettuce/tomato breakfast sandwich. But I did not get a donut to go along with it (even though I thought about it). I have been eating at least a banana and an apple every day. I made a side salad that night I ate Kraft dinner. Yes, it’s not how I normally eat, but it’s not that bad.

All mamas-to-be need to remember that. There are plenty of ways we are going to scar our children in the future, I’m sure (that’s only partially sarcastic!). Worrying about the chocolate bar we ate during pregnancy is such a drop in the bucket, there’s absolutely no point in it.

Finally, just know that you have built up a great base for your little one. Your body has been pumped full of the healthy stuff for the last little while, so it’s not like you’re starting with nothing. You will read websites and books and articles screaming at you about how important your diet is – and it is true to an extent – but panicking or stressing is worse. Do what you can and know that your baby will be fine.

Once the little ones arrive, and my hormone levels go back to normal (ie: the fog lifts) and I start contending with breast feeding and lack of sleep, I will clean out the pantry and focus on fine-tuning my diet again. Right now, my body is being invaded by little monsters, and I’m doing everything I can to keep my sanity. Even if that includes more tomato sandwiches than are necessary.


About Sarah Tombler

I live in Ottawa, Canada with my husband and our twins. I work for the Public Service, and I have been a vegetarian for 18 years. Over the years, I have started to understand that what we eat effects us, through mood, weight and positive thoughts. I am working towards cutting most animal products from my diet, in an attempt to live a life of compassion, and to do what I can to help this small planet of ours. I also love letting people know that the secret to happiness may be as simple as what we put in our bodies. View all posts by Sarah Tombler

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