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Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby—My Journey

Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby - Parents Canada

New mom Brielle McConnell took her cues for a healthy pregnancy, and for healthy baby Estelle, from the lessons nature taught her while growing up on her family ranch near Peebles, Saskatchewan.

My role as a caregiver began long before I embarked on my motherhood journey.

I grew up caring for others—the beef cattle that we have on our ranch, plus, as the eldest of four kids, my younger siblings as well. I’ve had the role of responsibility for the comfort, care and development of others all my life. Being a farm girl, care just ran in my day-to-day experiences from the get-go.

So here’s how knowing how to care for others (cattle included!) shaped my motherhood experience. There are many surprising parallels here!

Making the best with what you get

I had witnessed how nature can throw you curveballs along the way, and that you need to be ready to catch them! My motto: Control what you can and manage the best you can with the surprises you get. Raising cattle gave me the insight to expect the unexpected—no two ranching days are ever the same and no two days with baby Estelle are ever the same!

It’s not all glory

There was no fairy dust clouding my understanding of what hard work raising a baby was going to be. I knew there would be magical moments, but there was also a lot of grit needed in those early days when it came to adjusting to the feeding and sleep schedule of a newborn. A newborn offers good insight into the life of shift workers!

Good health for my baby depended on optimizing my own health

I knew what made for good pregnancies in cattle, so I knew that I had to take good care of myself for the best outcome for my baby’s development and delivery.

I made getting good rest, sleep and exercise a priority, in order to build stamina and strength. I listened to what my body needed.

I also paid close attention to what I was eating, ramping up on quality protein and fibre-, folic acid- and iron-rich foods. I included beef liver in my diet weekly, one of the most iron-rich foods out there, hands down! And the type of iron from liver and other meats (heme iron) is easier to absorb than non-heme iron sources (those you get from plant-based food sources). During the nausea stage of my pregnancy, and when nearing full-term since my tummy couldn’t manage much food, I had to prioritize the foods I ate, making every bite count. My obstetrician stressed that iron is a critical nutrient for healthy brain development from conception through to the early days of childhood. And since babies develop the iron stores they need for the first six months after birth (before they start eating solid foods) iron is mission-critical for a healthy baby. Here’s the handy booklet I got from my doctor during my pregnancy about the importance of iron in my diet.

Depend on family for support

It takes a team to raise cattle, and as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child! The support from my spouse (thank you, Malcolm!) and my family has been awesome. I want to be the best mom I can be, but that’s not possible if I am so tired that I can’t see straight. When they offer help, I accept. And if I need help, I ask. I am so grateful to have this support.

I’m not a perfect mom, but I did what I could do to have the best outcome for my pregnancy. I’ll say it again: Control what you can, and manage the best you can with what you’re given. That’s all we can do in the end!

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