This year marks my third Mother’s Day, and my whole world has changed since my son Joshua was born. This Mother’s Day is special to me because I’m also pregnant with my second child!
When I think about the legacy that I want to leave for my children, I envision a clean and safe Earth. Air that is clear, fresh and beckons them outdoors. Water that sparkles and calls them to swim and splash. Soil that is free from dangerous contaminants and drives them to dig holes and grow gardens. Tall trees to climb, berries to pick, frogs to catch and bird that sing. Simple things, really. I want my children to inherit my love for the outdoors.
Becoming a mother has changed all facets of my life, including my environmental activism. I used to care about environmental protection because I enjoy spending time in nature and I wanted to preserve it for future generations. For 29 years, those “future generations” were theoretical, but that all changed when my son was born. I suddenly had a real-life, 9 lb. 8 oz. member of that future generation right in my own two arms, a reminder every day to care for our planet.
It can be overwhelming to think about the long road to sustainability: the best way to prevent future problems and clean up the ones that are already here. It’s much more difficult for me to move toward sustainability (or avoid backsliding) now that I have a child and another on the way, but my convictions are stronger. There’s no time for complacency, no time for stalling or saying I’ll get to it tomorrow. Mothers know how quickly time passes us by, how fast our children grow up.
I try to make the healthiest decisions possible for myself and my child, opting for extended breastfeeding and home-cooked meals, watching for recalls of toys or other baby gear, avoiding known or suspected dangerous chemicals in baby products and looking at safety ratings for car seats. I choose items based on health and safety factors over convenience or cost, whenever it’s realistically possible for our lifestyle. But the reality is that I don’t have control over the most basic needs of my children: they air they breathe and the water they drink. The most vulnerable groups for the harmful effects of pollutants are children, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women.
As a pregnant, breastfeeding mother of a toddler, I consider us to represent all of those risk factors, and so my attention is focused on the safety of our air and water. I need to drink plenty of water to make sure that I’m able to grow a baby and produce enough milk for my toddler in addition to getting enough water for my own body to function without becoming dehydrated. I have peace of mind knowing that our tap water is safe because had recently had it tested, and so that’s what we drink. In order to grow a baby, my body has an increased requirement for oxygen, which results in feeling an increase in shortness of breath in early pregnancy. Every time I feel my breathing increase I think about all that extra oxygen going to my baby, but I also worry about what else is in the air that I’m breathing. Are there particulates like smoke, VOC’s from paint? Is there carbon monoxide, ozone, smog? Is there mercury? Is this air safe for me, my developing baby and my toddler? Unlike my water, I can’t fill my stainless steel bottle with safe air and take it with me on the go.
I’m dependent on our government to legislate and enforce clean air standards. Since they represent me, I expect them to protect me and my family. I am optimistic that my efforts along with those of many other individuals, grassroots movements and large-scale organizations can and will give my children the future I imagine for them. I may not achieve all of my goals, but Joshua and his younger brother or sister will know that I fought for his future.