December 5, 2011 by Leah
I kind of slacked off re: avoiding chemicals and being a good environmental citizen while we were living in the trailer in September and October. This was bad because I knew I was pregnant at the time, but I was also too darn tired to do much about it. My life always seemed to smell of propane (Aaron swore this was not the case) and when I discovered they were sanding lead-based paint in my workplace, I made a fuss and left, but I can’t say I was really surprised. I was so totally overwhelmed by everything that it just seemed like a natural progression in the absurdity of life this fall.
Thanks to a lifetime of experimentation, I know that quality food and enough sleep are the two biggest factors for me when it comes to staying sane, and so I was in bed most nights by 6 or 7 (unless I had work commitments). But there were a lot of days during the Trailer Period where my big achievement was avoiding trans fats. And then there were the days we ordered take out. Or made pita pizzas with commercial pita bread, non-organic canned pizza sauce, and pre-shredded mozzarella. If we have a non-mutant baby, it will be down to my purchase of a $12 slow cooker at a thrift shop and our local butcher, Blue Valley Meats, which only offers grass-fed and humanely-raised meats. (Thanks, Christopher!)
One of the problems I had at the time was a lack of familiarity with the locality. I didn’t know the stores, and the only people I knew I knew through work (in case you’ve forgotten, socially navigating a new workplace is hard and if you start babbling about organic produce – or hippopotami – on Day 1, you might sound like an elitist jerk). I found our local Seventh-Day Adventist grocery store here early on, which was cool as they carry grass-fed and raw dairy products, but they don’t have fresh organic anything. It took me several weeks – until we moved into our house, really – to realize that the best organic produce and natural foods section was at a store conveniently located down the street.
I was trying to explain all of this to my mom when she and my step-dad came for a visit (although, because of the timing of our home purchase, they had to help us unpack for three days, so it wasn’t exactly a relaxing retreat for them). Naturally, she told me to stop worrying and assured me I won’t have a mutant baby, but then as I was wailing about the canned tomato sauce I’d ingested, she asked a very telling question, which was: “What’s BPA?”
I was shocked, and started mumbling about it being a nasty chemical found in hard plastics that disrupts hormonal and endocrine function, particularly in young children and fetuses (I hate that word, btw) while wondering how she could be so out-of-touch. But then I stopped talking and realized that it’s not particularly weird that my mom isn’t up on the dangerous scourge that is BPA: she had her last baby 20 years ago. BPA is not going to come up on her radar as a major health worry at this stage in her life.
I also realized that Aaron’s and my decision to have a baby doesn’t just impact us, it also makes our parents into grandparents. Aaron’s parents seemed a little more ready for this, as they are among the last people in their social and familial set to become grandparents, but my mom is like, the first person in her close social circle to become a grandmother. (She is thrilled; however, if you see her, please tell her this does NOT mean she is old.) And a lot of things have changed since the early 1990s when it comes to infant and child safety. Heck, a lot of things changed in the decade between my brother and me. (I slept on my back, he slept on his front, we are both functional adults.) So, for all our sakes, I thought I’d do a few entries on new frontiers in child safety. Just so we are all on the same page.
For the record, here’s what the Environmental Working Group has to say about BPA: http://www.ewg.org/chemindex/chemicals/bisphenolA (I looked up what several government agencies had to say about BPA and found them namby-pamby at best. Yes, I’m still reeling from the controversial Fox News/Prevention Magazine link I posted recently that vilified BPA in canned tomatoes.) This is why Aaron and I never microwave anything in plastic and keep our leftovers, dry food, and even frozen foods in glass or stainless steel containers. Why we use stainless-steel water bottles and travel mugs. Why I try to avoid canned foods, and one of the many reasons I try to avoid processed foods and cook all our meals from scratch. We want to give our kids the healthiest start possible, and keeping chemicals out of our bodies is a good first step.