Recap: While Jake presents his findings on preconceptual care – which clearly is going to require dedication and quite a bit of self-sacrifice from both mom and dad to be – Zani deliberately masks her thoughts.
Antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E, selenium, zinc, manganese and copper) are important to fight free radicals. All B vitamins are essential for ovulation, hormonal control and implantation. Folate is a B vitamin and helps prevent defects of the spine and brain. Calcium is important to keep the bones and teeth strong, and maintains the circulatory, muscular and nervous systems. DHA is an important Omega acid and, according to Professor Michael Crawford of the Institute of Brain Chemistry, “DHA is the backbone of the brain’s signalling structures. It plays an especially important part in the growth of the foetal brain and during a baby’s first six months of life.”
Vitamin C improves sperm quality, zinc improves sperm count and fights impotence [I glance up at Jake – Naah, he doesn’t need to take zinc], vitamin B12 also improves sperm count, selenium is an antioxidant, arginine for all of the above as well as maintaining circulation to produce an erection, and then DHA, which is highly concentrated in the testicles and regulates enzymes in sperm production.
I am growing a little overwhelmed by this time. Not only by what falling pregnant entails, but by Jake’s meticulous notes. He has really taken this very seriously, and must have spent hours and hours doing his homework, conducting research and jotting down notes. What I’m not quite sure of, though, is whether all of this means he is trying to convince himself that the time is indeed right to try for a baby – or to convince me that it’s not.
But I read on – it is the least I can do after all the effort he has gone through. We now come to exercise.
Exercise is important for circulation, flexibility, muscle tone, stronger joints and better posture. It also releases feel-good hormones and fights depression. About 20–30 minutes of enjoyable exercise per day is recommended; too much exercise impacts negatively on fertility.
Exercise is important, but so is relaxation. Relaxation means participating in an enjoyable activity, for example taking a walk in nature, spending time with positive people, reading a book, watching a movie, gardening etc.
Next up on Jake’s list is ‘Stress’, and I can’t help but notice that he’s underlined it not once, not twice, but three times. This is obviously a sore point for him and one that in itself would cause even more stress if we didn’t take it seriously and make a real effort to remove as much of it from our lives as possible. It’s stressful just living in today’s manic world, never mind trying to bring a new life into it.
Constant stress from being pulled in many opposing directions impacts on your immunity and affects your health. The baby will be partner to the female’s stress when stress hormones cross the placenta to enter the baby’s bloodstream and create stress circuits for life. Normal stress is beneficial and enables the baby to establish circadian rhythms of activity and passivity. Excessive stress is said to contribute to miscarriage, Down Syndrome, cleft lip, neurological impairments, premature birth, low birth weight, eczema, respiratory difficulties, ulcers, ear infections, colic and, sometimes, even death in the first few months of life.
“Did you hear that?” I look over at Jake. “Did you?”
“Yup, I got it. Don’t worry – I’m listening. Really interesting, actually. Carry on.”
The stress hormone cortisol, if the female secretes it excessively, has a dramatically negative effect on the development of the baby’s brain and how the brain circuits are put together. Adrenaline is a by-product of anxiety and restricts blood flow to the womb and the flow of both oxygen and nutrients needed for foetal brain development. This may trigger contractions and the premature onset of labour. If a foetus becomes used to high levels of adrenaline in the womb, the baby may tend to be hyperactive, fussy and irritable, and grow up to be an anxious child.
What scares me senseless is a note Jake has made about a comment from Zita West that pregnancy doesn’t last forever, but the effects of a stressful womb environment can last a lifetime. I nudge closer to Jake for protection, because that scares me a lot. He does what he does best to chase the trio away – he quotes something silly.
“You know where the word ‘woman’ comes from? It describes a man with a womb! Oh, and what about this … ‘A female is a male with feelings!’”
He chuckles heartily to himself, but this time his ploy doesn’t work. Anxiety has crept in.
“Jake, it’s not funny. I didn’t know falling pregnant is such serious stuff.”
“That, my sweetheart, is why I want us to be ready for it and not just jump in boots ‘n all. We have a responsibility to the baby we make, because it’s clear that our health and our actions determine his future to a large extent.”
He looks at me seriously and gently continues: “That, my love, is also the reason why you need to fix the holes in your emotional bucket. I can’t fix them, Zani. I can fill the bucket, but when we eventually [Have I just heard the word ‘eventually’? We’re not working according to the same timeframe here!] have a baby and you have not fixed the holes, our baby [Whoa! He said it, ‘our baby’!] will develop the same holes and we don’t want that, do we?”