About the Author

Manda Aufochs Gillespie

Manda Aufochs Gillespie is a consultant, writer, environmentalist, and mother. She has worked in the green field for over 15 years, engaging directly with hundreds of parents through green living classes, consulting for homes and businesses, and through her writing. She lives in Vancouver.

Books by this Author
Green Mama

Green Mama

Giving Your Child a Healthy Start and a Greener Future
also available: eBook
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Green Mama-to-Be

Green Mama-to-Be

Creating a Happy, Healthy, and Toxin-Free Pregnancy
also available: Paperback
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A good farmer farms soil. The plant grows itself.

This saying sums up my experience of parenting. At our best, parents are just good farmers, preparing that soil of family, rhythm, meals, and home from which our children are nourished and fed. This is never more obvious than when the child is still in the womb: where the entire environment of this new life exists within our bodies. Yet pregnancy is just a preparation for the same truths that we will encounter again and again in child-rearing.
When you choose to be a green parent, you are committing to be that farmer, growing the seeds of beloved new beings by lovingly tending to the soil. You try your best, looking to help from the research, traditional wisdom, and other farmers, but you also come to understand that there is a lot of faith involved, since much of parenting, like farming, is out of your hands.
I must admit, I have forgotten many of the details of my pregnancies. At the time, I thought I never would; but, actually, I’m not all that surprised. Pregnancy was not what I expected. I’d read books and articles and researched many topics, so it wasn’t not what I expected either; it’s just that I truly didn’t believe any of it would happen to me — especially the less pleasant stuff.
I’ve met a lot of parents-to-be over the years through my writing, teaching, and consulting as The Green Mama, and I’ve come to think that this attitude is ubiquitous — this overwhelming, almost delusional optimism. Having a baby is hope made manifest. The shadow side of hope, however, is a sort of “but that won’t be me” attitude that can apply to almost everything, even as it’s actually happening to you. For me, this included I won’t be … nauseated, exhausted, incapable of getting out of bed, dry-heaving at the smell of the kitchen, vomiting at the thought of food.… I even thought I wouldn’t find birth all that painful or the postpartum period depressing. Not me. I’d also told myself I wouldn’t gain more than a pound a week. But when my day-by-day pregnancy guide said, “You may have gained up to five pounds at this point in your pregnancy,” I found I was adding a one in front of the five. I just assumed it was a typo. (It wasn’t.) I will never weigh more than 150 pounds, I’d thought. Well, I did.
Some authors claimed that near the end of pregnancy all those hormones could even get me feeling sexy. They, however, failed to mention how incredibly difficult sex is when your belly forms an awkward (and clearly too late) chastity belt between you and your partner. The authors recommended trying different positions, but the books didn’t illustrate these positions that the authors wanted me to try. (I had figured this was because they were prudes, but then I realized it was because the images would be depressing. Just looking at them would tire a pregnant woman out. Or, just as bad, they would tire her partner out!)
I also read that that during pregnancy I might become more emotional. Well, the books didn’t mention that I might find myself calmer and more collected than ever, floating along in relative pregnant bliss, only to turn into a sobbing, hysterical wreck just weeks before the baby was born. Or, if they did mention it, they gave totally inadequate explanations like, “This might be caused by the stresses of becoming a parent and preparing for a new family member …,” not that a two-hour hysterical crying fit might be brought on because my husband came home a half hour late from work or because the sewing machine started sewing backward and refused to go forward (which, of course, would become absolutely, inextricably linked with all my failures as a mother-to-be). They rarely mentioned that there was anything that could be done about it.
I also read that, in preparation for childbirth, my body, which had already nearly doubled its blood volume, would produce more blood, and that it was possible I would experience spontaneous nose bleeds. Okay, fair enough. But, as I found out, when a person gets hysterical over, say, the aforementioned episode in which their husband comes home late (did I mention it was my birthday?), it is possible that they will soak their bed in blood, creating a scene that looks like a reenactment of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The bottom line is, there is no book that can completely prepare you for what is to come, and even if it could, you wouldn’t believe it.
I’ve heard childbirth referred to as an experience in which a woman is birthing two new human beings: a baby (or babies) and a mother. This idea is supported by recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience that show that first-time mothers actually grow radically different brains during pregnancy and while caring for their infants. The very biology of parenthood is miraculous, a time when the body grows its only temporary organ (the placenta) and turns the body’s stores and consumed food and water into a new being: brain, heart, spine, and tiny feet. I’ll never look at dinner the same again.
And when the baby starts to move inside you, the magic and mystery become a conversation. At first it is a conversation spoken in whispers, a language of secrets, dreams, hopes, and expectations. Later, it is a louder conversation in which the demands start emerging: Feed me! Swim! Rest! (and, in return, Get that hand off my bladder please!) I especially remember that conversation during birth when I suddenly became aware that it wasn’t just me labouring to free myself of a baby, but a child labouring to free herself from my ever-tightening womb.
My greatest wish for all new parents is that the act of parenting will do that, as well, for you: make you free. Free to be the hopeful, curious, and engaged citizen that makes the act of becoming a parent so powerful. Free to be the expert on the care of your family that you were always meant to be. Free to farm that soil so well that your child, too, will grow up happy, healthy, and free.

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