One day soon there’s going to be a new man in my life. Though I’ve been waiting around for 9 months for the big day to arrive, it’s nonetheless really hard to wrap my head around the idea that soon there will be a completely new little person in the world and he’ll be calling me ‘mom.’
Working at Vitamin Angels I’m privy to a lot of information about the importance of health and nutrition during pregnancy after birth and through those first few formative years. This is great, but at least for me, also gave me plenty of opportunity to worry that I wasn’t doing it well enough. I was taking my prenatal vitamins (of course!), but I wanted to be as informed as possible, and read a bunch of books trying to make sure I did everything ‘right.’ Looking at the lists of foods I was meant to consume everyday was overwhelming. How was it was remotely possible to eat:
6-11 servings of whole grains, 4 servings of protein, 3 servings of green leafy vegetables, 2 servings of other fruits & veggies, 2 servings of vitamin C foods, 4 servings of calcium foods, iron rich foods, and 4 servings of high-fat foods – every day?! Not to mention that being a vegetarian came with special requirements for 5 servings of complex proteins, one serving of which, for example, might be: 1 cup of beans + 1 1/3 cups of rice… and I was supposed to eat 5 a day!? (These recommendations are actually out of a well-known book!)
Wouldn’t all of those servings combined equal something like 5,000 calories? And wasn’t gaining excess weight also a big no-no? Not to mention I had decided to inform myself of all of the nutritional do’s and don’ts during my first trimester when a queasy stomach made wanting to eat at all a challenge. The whole thing was laughable. Yet I will admit I did actually have a small panic attack or two worrying that I was going to let my baby down and mess up his health forever. After all, nutritional intake from conception to age 2 can irreversibly affect a child’s health… for their whole life.
My personal nutritional drama was starkly juxtaposed to the images and stories I encountered at work each day. Stories of moms who couldn’t make ends meet or who couldn’t get the nutrition they needed for themselves or their children because they couldn’t afford it. Severe rains washed out their crops, farming was too dangerous due to unexploded bombs littering their land, droughts, and on and on. It was hard to think of these women who wanted the same healthy beginnings for their children without the means to provide it. Meanwhile I was sitting at home feeling guilty that I should have eaten a whole grain bagel instead of that blueberry muffin. Or that I felt too nauseous to eat my 5 servings of veggies that day and could only manage to get down some cottage cheese and crackers.
I remember hitting about 25 weeks (full term is 40 weeks) and my little week-by-week chart telling me that my baby was 1.5-2lbs and realizing that this was the size that many of the babies that we are reaching are when they are born. I went back and looked at the pictures of tiny babies in the NICU in Kenya. And looking at little baby Jenny in Haiti who was only the size of a man’s hand, and feeling just crushed. The world was so unfair. And yet the stories of strength and perseverance of these mothers and children were amazing. Looking at their faces you could see the determination to make the most of their circumstances and succeed.
I already love my job, and motivation to show up everyday has never been a problem. But going through this process has made me all the more enthusiastic to do my best to help those moms who are so strong but don’t have access to the nutrition they need. The least I can do is work to get them a bottle of vitamins, which as we’ve seen time and again with moms like Asha in India, can make a world of difference. Seeing the gratitude on the faces of moms like Esperanza in Guatemala, saying thank you for caring and for something as simple as a bottle of vitamins speaks volumes. Seems like the least I could do.
Update: It’s been nearly 9 months already since Sebastian came into our lives, and what a great time it’s been. I’m sure any parent out there will agree, there’s really nothing like it. Our little boy is growing like a weed. He’s at the top of the curve (actually above it according to the doctor!) for both height and weight; he’s got a head full of hair and four (!) adorable little teeth – must be those prenatal vitamins! Having a healthy baby has given me a renewed appreciation for the impact Vitamin Angels’ work is having on mothers and babies around the world who need it most. I’m so happy to be a part of such an important cause. And when I’m not working, we’ve been having a fun time introducing new foods and developing a love for nutritious and delicious foods. So far Sebastian’s favorite is sweet potatoes – he must know they’re full of vitamin A!