Before Mason was born, back when I knew I loved children but wasn’t sure whether I wanted children of my own, I’d eat well sometimes and then other times I’d have what I call “single-girl dinners” whenever Chris was working late. These “dinners” would consist of spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar, whole-grain chips dipped in guacamole or hummus, or rice crackers topped with goat cheese. (One time, left, “dinner” was a bag of M&Ms en route to a night out with friends.) I’d have a big glass of red wine and a few spoonfuls of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt for dessert. I could stay thin enough with only moderate effort, so I didn’t sweat the occasional unhealthful meal.
Around the same time I considered guacamole and crackers dinner, my twin sister had a baby. When I held my niece for the first time I knew I was meant to be a mom one day. Two years later we decided to try for a baby, and I was fortunate enough to get pregnant within a few months. I ditched the single-girl dinners and obsessed over everything I ate. Was I getting enough vitamin C? Enough calcium? An adequate dose of vitamin A? And so on. I planned my meals and snacks obsessively, determined to create a nutritionally superior environment for my babe — whatever that meant. (If you’re reading this and you’re pregnant, take it from me: A “nutritionally superior environment” isn’t a tangible, sane goal; just eat healthfully and you and baby will be just fine.)
Mason was born and I slipped into that tunnel of sleep-deprivation that every mom finds herself in those first six weeks. When breastfeeding ended and I stopped focusing on making the “perfect” breastmilk, takeout became dinner for Chris and me almost every night. Then Mason started solids and I shifted my attention to cooking all of his food. I fell in love with pureeing. It was incredibly fulfilling to buy all of those fresh fruits and veggies and then chop, cook, and puree them. I’d puree and puree and then I’d put some in the fridge and freeze the rest for later. I loved showing off that well-stocked freezer (I still show it off but now it’s filled with finger foods instead of purees).
At one point it occurred to me that Mason was eating a lot better than I was, but I was so happy with how well he was eating that I didn’t really focus on cleaning up my act. I went on with my life, and eventually I made time for a check-up with my doctor (it had been ages). She convinced me to get a number of blood tests to check my overall health since I’d given birth a year earlier. Two days later I got a call from her office. My iron levels were incredibly low and my B12 wasn’t great either. I needed to take a supplement and two different multivitamins to get everything back on track. The next time I ordered groceries I doubled the produce order and vowed to get my act together for good.
I’ve stuck with that vow because I want to be a strong, healthy mom for Mason. I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of him. It’s also important for Mason to see that I’m putting a priority on nutritious food and healthful living. Now, I make a point of stopping whatever I’m doing at mealtime, and I sit down and eat a meal that’s been thoughtfully put together. Of course I still splurge, but I’m proud to say my diet is much more balanced — and free of the canned, frozen stuff. It’s been an easy lifestyle change that has benefited the whole family. After all, both Mason and I deserve a healthy me.
What about you? Has cooking for your babe helped you eat better? Or is there another habit that your babe has inspired you to improve?