My weekly trips to my local farmers markets in Brunswick and Topsham became more fraught this winter, after I learned I was pregnant with our second (and last!) child, another boy, due just before the fall equinox in September. At the market, I load up on the fresh greens, root vegetables, lean grass-fed meats, choline-rich farm eggs and even Omega 3-rich fish (smelts) recommended during pregnancy – and Lola’s A.B.C. (avocado, bean and-cheese) burritos. But I also find myself tempted by delicacies most health care providers tell pregnant women to avoid (or consume in moderation): fresh raw milk, gooey raw-milk cheeses, micro-brewed beer, mead, cider and freshly roasted coffee.

Let’s just say I’m eating with a bit more abandon this second pregnancy, guided by intuition, though my rational, cautious economist husband stays on my case when I get lackadaisical about such risks. Maybe I’m hewing to the guidelines less because I don’t feel as by-the-book pregnant this time. And with listeria bacteria contaminating everything from cantaloupe to Blue Bell ice cream to Sabra hummus – and salmonella in eggs from industrial hen houses and even in those packaged pine nuts recently recalled by Hannaford – somehow small-batch foods from my local farmers and purveyors feel safer.

I’m fatigued, gaining weight more rapidly (15 pounds by 16 weeks) and struggling to feel the magic this second time around. Brunswick/Bath-area massage therapist Kate Nicholson reassured me and other students in the prenatal yoga class she leads that mine is a normal feeling. Fortunately, I’m less fraught with anxiety than I was when pregnant with Theo, who is now almost 4. With him, impending motherhood felt like leaping off an unknown cliff.

I’ve craved salty chips, gummy candy and licorice and all tropical, citrus and tangy dried fruits. The now-bleached, spent halves of grapefruit I threw in the backyard when snowdrifts blocked my path to the compost bin testify to my craving most mornings this winter. I admit to indulging in more imported produce than usual: whole ripe, golden pineapples; papayas; shriveled passionfruit; and creamy, but still often green-tinged and unripe, Ataulfo mangoes.

And, of course, sour pickles (not with ice cream), preferably wild-fermented, garlicky dills. I guzzle the tangy leftover juice straight from the Bubbie’s pickle jar. I just cracked open dilly beans I pickled from Crystal Spring Farm, with garlic from my own garden, and plan to pickle local asparagus, which I last canned 30 minutes before going into labor with Theo.

I’ve accessed a Tao of nutrition more this pregnancy, craving balanced meals without obsessing about their nutrients. By the second trimester, our bodies start to demand the foods we need. As we divided up the bulk foods ordered quarterly by our Merrymeeting Buying Club, Brunswick mom Eli Arlen told me that during her son Micah’s gestation, she swooned over iron-rich grass-fed hamburgers at dinnertime, then found herself downing half a quart of calcium-fortified yogurt in front of the fridge when 3 a.m. hunger roused her from sleep.


I take prenatal vitamins, the New Chapter Organics brand, like I did with Theo, but only two instead of the recommended daily dose of three tablets, which would provide 150 percent of a pregnant woman’s folate needs (a nutrient I also get from leafy greens and legumes in my diet). Theo’s surgeon, who does my son’s follow-up checkups in Providence, Rhode Island, hypothesizes that excess folic acid could be implicated in the metopic craniosynstosis forehead deformity with which our son was born. (Skull surgery magically corrected the condition when he was 11 months old.) Still, I’m making sure to get just enough folic acid, which prods bone to knit together around a midline, since a deficiency is linked to spina bifida.

All the uncertainty and anticipation of pregnancy unmoors one from the present moment. I’m most preoccupied about where I’ll give birth. I spent most of Theo’s gestation fearing I was destined for a C-section, since that’s how I was born, when the obstetrician cut my mom off after 24 hours, perhaps just as she transitioned to active labor. “That wasn’t as bad as I expected,” I exclaimed, upon pushing Theo out after an intense 8-and-a-half hours of unmedicated labor. Nurturing, birth-positive prenatal care from a team of four female midwives at our hospital in Oregon, plus a dog-training Dutch doula and a yoga-based natural childbirth class, made all the difference.

I’m getting such supportive prenatal care again this time through a team of five similarly minded midwives at Mid Coast Hospital here in Brunswick, which boasts a dedicated water birth room. Hydrotherapy soothed my labor pains last time, but that hospital made you get out of the water before pushing. This time, I hoped that gentle cushion of warm water would ease the “ring of fire,” aka crowning.

Working with midwives at the hospital is a comfortable middle ground for my husband and me, between the poles of hippie home birth that several Oregon friends had and often high-intervention, medicalized, obstetrician-led hospital births.

Unfortunately, I’m navigating such polarization again, because a month before our baby is due we’re relocating to my husband’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, for his nine-month academic sabbatical. I assumed this progressive college town would also offer the option of midwives at the hospital, but apparently not. So I’m back to choosing among teams of mostly male obstetricians (I’m sexist in reverse; I want a woman to attend my birth) and home birth, which makes my risk-conscious husband uncomfortable.

To distract myself from next year’s transitions, I find solace in the kitchen. Before our hiatus from Maine’s coast, I’m cooking as much Omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish as I can. I made Asian-glazed Harbor Fish Market king mackerel steaks for the first time; given the fish’s high mercury levels I know I shouldn’t make a habit of it. But at the Maine Nutritional Council’s recent annual conference, child development expert Scott Noyes emphasized that the brain-boosting benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids outweigh the cognitive risks of mercury exposure. National Institute of Health studies show the lower a mother’s consumption of seafood during pregnancy, the greater the risk of development deficits.


“When it comes to fish risk, it’s about cumulative overexposure,” says Philadelphia food writer and mom Tara Mataraza Desmond, who includes a helpful pregnancy fish-buying sidebar in her latest cookbook, “Full Belly.” (She touts Alaskan wild salmon, light or skipjack tuna, scallops, cod and sardines.) “It’s not going to happen from one swordfish dinner. It’s a bigger risk for you to eat week-old deli meat.”

I’m peeling open more tins of olive oil-packed wild sardines now that their aroma doesn’t offend my first-trimester nose. For lunch recently, Theo happily joined me for a few bites of sardines, a fish he’s shunned the past year but used to gobble. I made a turmeric-rich curry with fresh Gulf of Maine haddock (the population has rebounded, thanks to a sound fisheries management plan), followed by spicy palak paneer with a pile of wilting fresh spinach from Two Farmers in Scarborough.

I’m also consuming plenty of peanuts (butter), milk (yogurt and cheese) and wheat (in whole-grain sourdough breads, Kamut-and-einkhorn-type old varieties), since their early prenatal consumption is linked with reduced odds of childhood asthma and allergies. Theo has (kina hora*) outgrown his baby asthma and has no tree-nut allergies, only a raw strawberry one we’ll cautiously test with a morsel this coming strawberry season. I’m hoping my varied diet will imbue my second son with a palate as adventurous as his brother’s initially was, just as Theo comes back around to my lamb-quinoa meatballs.

Spring gives us hope.

* A Jewish way to say “knock on wood.” (Pregnancy brings out my superstitious Jewish half. I also like “b’sha’ah tovah,” Hebrew for “all in good time,” and said for good wishes before the baby is born. Congratulations, or “mazel tov,” is more appropriate once the baby arrives.)



This is chef/cookbook author/mama Tara Mataraza Desmond’s favorite recipe in her new publication, “Full Belly: Good Eats for a Healthy Pregnancy.” She compares them to a homemade Lärabar, minus the packaging of the commercial energy bars. Addictive and salty-sweet, these snacks are a great way to achieve the extra 300 calories (only 300 calories!) my midwives advise expectant mothers to consume during their second and third trimesters. They’d provide a welcome energy boost during labor and a natural snack to eat while breastfeeding once the baby arrives, when lactating mothers burn an extra 500 to 600 calories every day.

Makes 12 bars

1 cup roasted unsalted cashews

1 cup roasted unsalted almonds

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


½ cup combination of raisins and dried cherries

½ cup dates (about 6 dates), pitted and stem ends removed

Dump the nuts and salt into a food processor and pulse about 15 times to pulverize. Sprinkle in the cocoa and pulse another 15 times to work it into the nut meal.

Add the dried fruit and process 4 times in intervals of 20 to 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides. Blending the ingredients will be noisy at first, but the sound will dull to a hum as the ingredients are ground into a finer meal. When the mixture is ready, it will still appear crumbly, but it should stick together if you squeeze a bit of it in your fist. As the mixture is rolled and chilled, the nut oils and natural stickiness of the fruit will bind it.

Scrape the mixture out onto a large piece (about 24 inches) of waxed or parchment paper and squeeze it together into a pile situated on one half of the paper. Fold the other half of the paper over the pile and push it down with the palm of your hand into a relatively even thickness in a shape that resembles a rectangle.

Use a rolling pin to roll the paste into an 8 x 6-inch rectangle about ½-inch thick. Don’t worry about the exactness of the rectangle and the precision of the edges, just work it into a shape from which you can easily cut relatively evenly sized bars.

Place the paste in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes, or until cold and firm but not frozen. Peel off the paper and cut into 12 equal-size bars, each about 4 inches long and 1 inch-wide.

Refrigerate in an airtight container with waxed paper or parchment paper between each layer of bars for up to 5 days.

Laura McCandlish is a food writer and radio producer. Follow her on Twitter @baltimoregon and read her blog at

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