I’ve made it to the eighteenth week of pregnancy pretty much unaffected by three phenomena that turn life upside down for many expectant women: morning sickness, food aversions, and cravings. “I feel like I’m cheating!” I told my obstetrician last month. She told to count my lucky stars (and not to mention how great I felt to the other women in the waiting room), but I still felt like a fraud every time my friends and family kindly, concernedly asked how I was doing.
There were about two weeks in January when I had mild morning headaches and afternoon nausea. Instead of disappearing, however, my appetite increased. It was like having a slight hangover, just enough to make you feel a little loopy and put you in the mood for a big brunch; I’d treat it with ginger ale, white rice, peanut butter, and homemade cookies while my med-student husband muttered about gestational diabetes.
Then one week I felt perfectly normal again. I worried that something was wrong and found myself very alert to every hint of queasiness, achy temples, and fatigue, practically rooting for these blips to turn into full-fledged nausea and prove that I was still pregnant. Once an ultrasound put me at ease, I went back to those lucky stars and just enjoyed my health.
“Oh, are you so sensitive to smells now?” is a question I’ve gotten a lot. Eight years in New York have made me a determined ignorer of repulsive smells, a mind/body survival skill pregnancy has yet to weaken. My one new smell-taste-sight aversion seems very weird to me: I don’t want to eat sweet red-orange vegetables any more. I discovered this when I tried a new recipe for sweet potatoes in January. I really wanted to like them, so I choked them down for one dinner and one lunch before facing the fact that food should not make you gag. Then I discovered that carrots—even little bits of carrots in soup—evoked a similar but milder reaction, as did tomatoes. Tomatoes! Who doesn’t like tomatoes? I thought I was over it, but just this past Saturday as I was making tomato sauce for pizza, tasting it to correct seasoning still turned my stomach a little.
When I was beginning to read about pregnancy nutrition, I came across a statistic, took note of it as crazy, and promptly lost its source. It was something along the lines of, “Eight in ten women crave ice cream at some point during pregnancy.” Don’t eight in ten people crave ice cream at some point during any given week?
Although my persistent lifelong desire for ice cream remains unshaken, I haven’t developed any particular cravings. I have to admit that I was kind of looking forward to finding out what crazy things I would want, so it’s been a little bit of a disappointment not to have to sweet-talk my husband into running out for pickled beets and Twinkies. (Needless to say, he is delighted with the actual state of affairs.) I did eat a lot more dessert than usual during the second and third months, mostly ice cream and homemade cookies. What seemed to me at the time to be poor willpower may have been a legitimate craving, I think, since that urge passed in March. I still eat dessert, but in reasonable quantities and not as often.
With absolutely no proof, I attribute a lot of my good fortune in avoiding pregnancy’s unpleasant side effects to the breakfast I eat every single day. I’ve been devoted to yogurt since I worked on French Women Don't Get Fat in my old job, and when I got pregnant I added a few things to make it even more nutritious and substantial. So this is my healthy breakfast: 1/2 cup plain full fat yogurt, 1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, a spoonful of ground flaxseed, and a drizzle of honey. (For some reason your body can’t extract all the good stuff from whole flaxseeds; they should be ground. Since I don’t have a grinder to devote to this, I was delighted to discover that you can buy them already ground.) Even if it doesn’t quell your morning sickness (hey, even if you aren't pregnant), it’s a great idea to start your day with all that calcium, whole grain, and omega 3 action. The oats even offer a little protein, too.
About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.