This weekend I finished reading Having Faith, another accidental find from Bookins.com. It was such a good book--both fascinating and frightening. The subtitle is An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood. The book is the account of an ecologist's pregnancy and then two years of breastfeeding. She turns her ecologist's eye toward studying her own pregnancy--she herself has become a "habitat" an "ocean for one" and she explores pregnancy through that lens (of herself as habitat). I learned all kinds of things about how the body works, about the physical processes involved in pregnancy, and WAY more than I wanted to know about the role of environmental contaminants (that was the frightening part of the book). It sounds boring on the surface, but she was very skillful at weaving together the human interest parts of the story with the very technical/scientific elements/descriptions/parts of the story. She also talks at length about birth defects and about past major scandals/tragedies involving iatrogenic birth defects (Thalidomide, etc.) Some of it was horrifying. With regard to environmental contaminants such as lead, mercury, etc. she makes the point that books geared towards pregnant women are very strict with the "no smoking, no drinking, no changing the cat litter, and no eating soft cheese" stuff and RARELY mention, except to totally blow off, things such as the nitrite levels in your drinking water. Or, the pounds and pounds of lead that was belched into the atmosphere during the "leaded gasoline" era and that we are STILL absorbing into the bodies of our unborn right now through soil and water contamination. Conventional books tend to pooh-pooh worries about environmental things as, "don't worry your pretty little head about that," while taking a hard line at the soft cheese which are, frankly, the least of our worries!
When it comes to breastfeeding, she makes a wonderful point that had never even crossed my radar--when considering ecological models of food chains and biomagnification (the process by which contaminants are increased the higher the step on the food chain), motherfed BABIES should actually be considered the pinnacle of the food chain. Usually, the charts stop with "man" as the top of the foodchain, but HELLO, it is actually the baby at mother's breast who is at the top of the food chain. This is kind of cool in a sense, but deeply horrifying in another--the baby is receiving the highest body concentration of poisons and toxins from our planet's food chain :-( Mothers actually reduce their own body's load of toxins by breastfeeding (because much of the fat in breastmilk comes from the mother's stored body fat, which is also where all the nasty stuff like DDT is stored :-( WAH! Of course, this does NOT mean that breastmilk is bad or that women should not breastfeed--what it means is that it is inexcusable that day by day we are poisoning the bodies of our women and their babies. Breastmilk is the superior infant food--it is also the baby's birthright and isn't it also the baby's birthright to have clean, pure, safe milk? We have a major cultural and biological crisis when mother's milk is tainted with pesticide residue, carpet cleaning chemicals, hormone additives, etc. etc. ::sobs::
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