Hey! We're on the Mother Talk blog tour this time around! I got a chance to read the new book The Complete Organic Pregnancy (scroll down to the bottom for a chance to win a copy) and ask the authors, Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu (should have asked if she was any relation but I bet she gets that a lot), three questions. And here they are:
LS: My readership is inclined to be mostly sympathetic to "organic living," but at some point they often have to draw the line in terms of practicality, most often financial practicality. What is the minimum a mama should do?
DD&AZ: In the book we encourage pregnant moms to transition to a more organic lifestyle. Only they know what is practical for them. We're eager to have them be as organic as they can be but any organic step is a step in the right direction – 20 percent or 100 percent. The initial transition phase, which is really as much of a mental shift as anything, might take a little work. But once you're living organically, the issue of is it practical or not doesn't really come up. It just is. Sure, every once in a while the store might be out of organic milk or recycled toilet paper, so you substitute, or you go back the next day when the stock is replenished. But that's the same for any conventional item as well. All of this is to say we think living organically is as practical as any kind of living. As for the minimum a mama should do, we have a list of steps we keep coming back to because we think they're worth taking to protect the baby during the childbearing year. They're not necessarily in order of importance.
1. Buy non-toxic cleaning products because basically everything conventional is bad for a growing baby and for you. This will help reduce your indoor air pollution considerably. (You can make your own cleaning products for a fraction of the cost with a combination of liquid soap, baking soda, water and white vinegar.) [TNH has tons of articles on just this.--L]
2. Eat an organic, whole foods diet. This refers to eating food as close to the form it comes out of the earth as possible (think potatoes, not potato chips!).
3. Have your house and water tested for lead, particularly if your house was built before 1987. Drink your water out of glass, not plastic, whenever possible.
4. Read the ingredients in your beauty products. Can you pronounce, let alone recognize, what's listed? Our government doesn't (yet) regulate cosmetics as organic which means any producer can claim to be organic. Choose products with fewer and more natural ingredients. We have specific brand suggestions in the book.
5. Don't renovate while pregnant. If you need to make basic changes, especially where the pregnant mother or baby will be sleeping, use zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, and nontoxic wood and glue.
LS: And how much DO finances factor into having an organic pregnancy? Is it possible to do it on a budget?
DD&AZ: Yes! With regard to food, we can't argue that organic beef is cheaper than regular beef. It isn't. Neither are organic beets. But the organic beef and beets (or whatever you're buying organic) didn't involve feeding sludge, antibiotics, hormones or grain to an animal meant to eat grass, or spraying pesticides and herbicides into the world, both of which are priceless. It also didn't involve a farmer having to breathe those pesticides and herbicides which will effect his/her health and the health of his/her family.
That said, here are a few cheaper ways of going organic:
1. Join a local CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. Members support a farm by purchasing "shares" of the harvest, and pay the farmers before the growing season begins so that they have money to farm the land. In return they get a wide variety of vegetables (and sometimes fruit and even meat) during growing season (which depends on where you live). Members also share the risk of things like bad weather and crop damage. For more information, checkout www.localharvest.org .
2. See if any of your local health food stores sell organic grains, nuts, and cereal in bulk versions. They often do. Bulk is always less expensive.
3. Switch to a whole foods diet. This means eating food as close to how it comes out of the earth as possible (think potatoes, not potato chips). Eating whole foods means avoiding processed, packaged foods. These are more expensive than you think. Do a shop avoiding chips, cookies, frozen meals and the like and then check out your grocery bill. You'll save money and, when filling up on whole foods instead, gain nutrients needed for your pregnancy. Really.
4. Make your own nontoxic cleaning products with some combination of liquid soap, vinegar, baking powder, and water. This is arguably cheaper than buying brand name cleaners.
5. Cast iron pans are a lot cheaper than nonstick ones, which are toxic.
6. When setting up your nursery, ask around to friends and family to try to get hand me down clothes, furniture and other essentials. Recycling is always inexpensive. (Just don't take any old mattress; it is likely to contain chemical flame retardants and be wrapped in vinyl, a known carcinogen. We urge you to invest in an organic crib mattress instead.)
7. Buy less stuff. Maternity clothes aren't very useful for long, neither are infant onesies. Wear regular clothes if you can while pregnant (tight is the fashion over a cute bump these days anyway). A baby doesn't actually need very much besides a boob and a diaper.
LS: At one point in the book you describe the best attitude to be one of "defensive living." As crazy as some of us get when we're pregnant, is this really a good posture? Mamas blame themselves so much already for practically everything; does this add potential for yet another layer of blame we can drape over ourselves?
DD&AZ: If you're looking to protect your growing baby, your kids, and yourself from the ridiculous amount of chemicals in the world, defensive living is the way to go. We're not saying it is a great posture, nor is it a layer we're creating. It's just a fact of life. There are over 82,000 man-made chemicals floating around our increasingly polluted world, and the effects of only a fraction of them are tested and understood. The burden of these chemicals on a grown, adult body is disturbing -- just imagine their negative repercussions on the fragile system of a still-developing fetus. There are many aspects of our daily lives we don't have control over, so it makes sense to both of us to make good, organic choices where we can, to minimize this burden on our babies and ourselves. In the book we have 27 diaries on many topics pertaining to what it means to have an organic pregnancy, one of our mom-writers, Florence Williams, writes that being forced to live defensively makes her "furious. As mothers, as consumers, as pregnant women trying our hardest to nurture a little being with ten toes and a high IQ and a decent shot in a complicated world, we were inadvertently siphoning them neurotoxins, carcinogens, and who knows what else (and, believe me, we know very little). None of these products or foodstuffs came with warning labels or ingredient lists." Her fury makes sense to us. And so does erring on the side of caution when it comes to those toes.
I'm going to post an actual review of the book on its page here in a bit; I wanted to get this up first. Thanks to Deirdre and Alexandra for answering questions!
OH HEY ALMOST FORGOT! BOOKS TO GIVE AWAY! Comment on this blog entry with the notation you want to be in the book giveaway and I'll put your name in a hat for two copies of this book! Post by 10/2 and we'll pick two names on 10/3.