Lake Norman & Mooresville

My midwife tells me to eat sardines

Have you ever tried canned sardines?

Chances are, if you're under 30, the answer is "no."

To me, sardines fall into that vague category of tinned-meats-ahead-of-which-I-would-consider-cannibalism.

Also in this category are such products as potted meat (which could possibly qualify its consumer as a cannibal), Vienna sausages and pickled pigs' feet.

So I was surprised, and a bit repulsed, recently when my midwife suggested that I eat sardines during my pregnancy.

What? They still make those? And who in the world buys them?

Well, apparently, pregnant women do. And sardines are not the only old-fashioned choice that a growing number of them are making. Despite upticks in epidural and Cesarean rates over the past few years, many pregnant women are choosing natural childbirth, midwife care, and even home birth.

As for the sardines, they're a good source of those omega-3 fatty acids that everyone's always buzzing about. And, being whole little fishes with bones and all, they're also high in calcium, protein and iron - all important for pregnant women's diets.

Maybe so.

But my father, 63, is the only person I had ever seen consume sardines or any of the other above-mentioned "foods." He couldn't be satisfied with something simple like pretzels or potato chips.

My dad, who would eat any part of almost any animal however minced and unidentifiable - or, by contrast, the pickled pigs' feet, perhaps a bit too identifiable - was the goat of our family. Like a goat, he would eat just about anything.

I certainly wasn't prepared to follow in his nutritional footsteps, especially while being pregnant. And his pronunciation of Vienna (vy-EE-nuh; rhymes with hyena) sausages sounded nothing like the Austrian city.

But I had already chosen an alternative to mainstream maternity care by going to a midwife rather than to an obstetrician.

So I could go a bit further and consume a food I consider repulsive even when not in the midst of my first trimester. Morning sickness be damned.

After two pregnancies and a lot of self-education on pregnancy, childbirth and maternity care, I simply wanted to try something different - and I don't mean the sardines.

In fact, I already had done things a bit differently; with the birth of my second child, I used the HypnoBirthing method, which involves relaxed childbirth education enhanced by self-hypnosis techniques. I had a comfortable, drug-free birthing experience - in a hospital.

Still, even with the caring, professional environment there, I encountered a bit more management than I would have liked.

So when I went to the first midwife visit, I took care to mention that I'm interested in home birth.

A few years ago - even with my first pregnancy - I wouldn't have thought twice about it.

Home birth sounded like something for outliers, for granola types or for those backwards folks who might also eat canned sardines and Vienna sausages. My dad was born at home.

What I've learned, though, is that not all obstetric practices are, in fact, best practices, and that some studies show home birth is just as safe as hospital birth - perhaps more so in an uncomplicated delivery, where active management of labor often leads to an otherwise avoidable cascade of interventions.

Actually, birth in these United States is somewhat analogous to food consumption trends.

While some of the things we used to do (standard forceps delivery) or consume (Coca-Cola laced with actual cocaine) seemed modern and forward-thinking, we've reversed our ideas about many of them.

More than ever, people are starting to demand natural food, and women are starting to demand natural childbirth, even childbirth in their own homes. I'm not saying that home birth is for everyone, or that I will even go through with it myself.

But, chances are, if you're under 30, you might know someone who's done it.

And that's a good thing - maybe even better than sardines.

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