It has been 286 days since I have eaten gluten (roughly 10 months).
I have only two weeks until my due date, and I'm honestly not sure which I am more excited about- having the baby, or having my first meal with gluten post-baby.
You think this is a game? The struggle is real!
As women, we make a lot of sacrifices for our children even before they are born! We sacrifice sleep, comfort, our pre-baby bodies, and the list could go on depending on your pregnancy. But I think we can all agree that the sacrifices are more than worth the reward of bringing a new life into the world!
Almost two years ago I had a miscarriage, which was devastating, followed by 15 months of infertility, which was frustrating, and then we were finally able to discover the possible problem. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, which is a thyroid disease in which your body produces anti-bodies that attack your thyroid as if it were a disease, which can lead to hypothyroidism, which can result in infertility and miscarriage. I started medication to regulate my thyroid production and also did some research that suggested that a gluten free diet could also help in regulating thyroid fluctuations. At that point, if you had told me standing on my head might help, I would have done it in an instant!
However, I LOVE food. I grew up in South Louisiana where the entire culture revolves around food, and really good food at that! I knew that giving up gluten would be difficult, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. We were VERY blessed and got pregnant the next month! (Sure wish we would have known about Hashimoto's two years ago...) We did not want to take this new pregnancy for granted or take any chances, so I decided to stay gluten-free as well as taking the medication until the safe arrival of our bundle of joy.
Let me just say...it has been a LONG ten months.
I had read so many blogs about how easy and wonderful it was to be gluten-free. I am an optimistic, upbeat person, but I feel like someone needs to address the other side of being gluten-free just to give others a realistic view. Some of these views may be stronger simply because I am pregnant, and that seems to magnify everything :)
Here are some things that I have learned about myself and being gluten-free over the last ten months.
1. Get ready to cook a lot
Almost all prepared foods, frozen foods, and processed foods have gluten in them. Basically this means that if you don;t plan ahead and cook, you will starve. Being pregnant and wanting to eat a million times a day doesn't help. Especially when those random cravings begin and you can't eat any of them- it is really important to have some kind of back-up plan, which requires...well, planning. The first trimester is the worst, because it always turned my stomach to cook with morning sickness, but if you don't cook, you don't eat, and if you don't eat, that morning sickness will only get worse! Also, get ready to eat the same few meals over and over again (for us- red beans and rice, tacos, spaghetti with gluten free pasta, etc.)
2. There are whole sections of the grocery store you will never visit
I basically shop in only a few aisles of the grocery store in my gluten-free diet- the produce section, the meat section, and the dairy section. Everything else is gluten, and going down the aisles is not only tempting, but kind of depressing. I just pretend like the rest of the grocery store doesn't exist- no cereal, crackers, breads, frozen foods, cookies, the whole bakery, etc.
3. Getting invited to dinner with friends is complicated
I have now become THAT person...the one who gets invited to dinner with friends and then has to ask what we are eating so that I can try to politely let them know that I can't eat that. Or I can choose to not mention it and eat before we go, which is always weird. Or I can offer to bring the food (but they invited us to dinner so that they could make food for us). Bleh. I hate that. It doesn't take long before people simply don't invite us to dinner, because it really is just too complicated to eat a meal together.
4. Eating out is not the same
Eating out at a restaurant is a real ordeal. Choosing something off of the menu can be downright depressing. The first thing I do is scan the menu, skip the sections of pasta, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, desserts, anything battered or fried, and narrow down what options I may have left. This will usually be a salad or a grilled meat with veggie sides. There are times where there is literally NOTHING on the menu that I can eat. How is that possible? The problem is that I know EXACTLY what I want. I just can't eat it. So I try to decided between the two or three options that I have, and then the great inquisition begins. I hate being that person at the table with a million questions and the complicated order, but they are really good at hiding gluten in just about everything. So I order something, and I eat that. It definitely isn't the same restaurant experience as before.
5. The gluten-free loop holes will always give you the short end of the stick
Every now and then you go to a restaurant that has gluten-free options, which is always great because you have more options, but also bad because it costs twice as much. Trust me when I say that you will always get the short end of the stick when ordering gluten-free. If they have a gluten free bread option for the sandwiches, they usually charge extra. If they don't charge extra, their bread slices are really small and you end up with the equivalent of half a sandwich. When you are eating for two, it can be really frustrating. Also, be prepared to be patient, because the gluten free food is always the last to come out. I'm not sure why, but it happens every time.
6. Gluten-free foods are not the same
When I tell people I am gluten free, they love to make the comment that there are so many gluten free options out there now, which is true, and I do appreciate that there are gluten-free options out there. However, do not think that a gluten-free pretzel is going to taste like a regular pretzel, or gf pasta, or crackers, cookies, etc. They just don't taste the same. The pretzels taste like rice, the crackers taste like rice, the baked goods always have this very distinct grainy after-taste. They are bearable and will curb an absolutely undeniable craving (mostly because after eating the gf substitute you never want to crave that food again), but they are NOT the same. They also cost about five times as much. After eating rice-tasting gf substitutes that cost an arm and a leg a few times, I have learned to live without and eat things that are already gluten free like popcorn or corn chips. It just isn't worth getting my hopes up only to be disappointed.
7. The cravings do not go away with time
What has my #1 pregnancy craving been? Gluten. Hands down. I want it. I REALLY want it, ALL THE TIME. People say that after a few weeks you won't even crave it any more, and you won't miss it, and you will feel so good without it that you will never want to go back. That has not been my experience. I feel the same without it. I do miss it. And I still crave it. It is no joke. I still remember my husband and I going to visit some friends. They asked us to pick up some pizza for everyone on the way to their house. They insisted that we get it from one of the only places that doesn't offer a gluten free crust. I'm a big girl- I can handle it! We picked up a salad for me and the pizza for everyone else. My husband was driving, so I got to hold the pizza in my lap the whole way there...just smelling that awesome cheesy goodness on that puffy, bready crust...mmmmm. This was a low point for me, but I had a minor break down. With tears. Not a little bit of crying either- the ugly crying. Over pizza. I could probably get away with blaming pregnancy hormones, but let's face the truth- I love gluten, and I still crave it. I will literally catch myself watching someone eat a cookie, and I'm just fantasizing about what it tastes like even after ten months.
8. I have developed strange food pet peeves
There are some strange reactions that I have developed in the last ten months that I am not particularly proud of. One thing that annoys me is when people waste bread. Sometimes if a bun is bigger than a hamburger patty people will peel away the extra bread and throw it away. Every fiber of my being wants to swoop down on that discarded bread as if they were throwing away a hundred dollar bill! Or you go to a birthday party and everyone only eats half of their piece of cake and throws the rest away, and inside I just want to cry, and make that cake feel the appreciation that it deserves!
Then there is the issue of non gluten-free people eating gluten-free foods. I will splurge and buy the box of gluten free brownie mix for $6 (which is like a dollar per brownie) and make a treat for myself (even while knowing it will not taste remotely like the real thing). And then someone who eats gluten all day every day wants to have one, just to see what they taste like. This is like asking Frodo to give up the ring. But nice people don't say no, so I give them one. Their reaction at this point is a lose/lose. If they say, "That doesn't taste so bad, I don't know what you're complaining about." Then I'm thinking, "Easy for you to say- you can just wash it down with a piece of cake!" Or if they say, "Oh you're right, that does have a gritty aftertaste," then I'm thinking, "You ate one of my precious brownies and I knew you wouldn't like it!" This is why I hide food now. It's better for everyone that way.
I have a lot to be thankful for. Most of all, this is temporary! I am so glad that I don't have Celiac disease- I would have a serious breakdown. Gluten is a small thing to give up in order to have a healthy baby, but if it were for a reason any less important it would definitely not be worth it. Going gluten free is completely doable, but I will be really glad when I no longer have to do it! There are heroic people out there who create incredible gluten-free cuisine and make it all look easy, but I am just not one of them :(