Didn’t You Know That NOTHING IS SAFE?!

So, I’m sitting around yesterday, basking in the glow of an amazing facial and relaxing after some great yoga while doing a little copywriting to make some extra money, munching on a peach, when this pops up on my Facebook feed:


Because, you know, my garden-variety anxiety isn’t enough.

So, since I’ve talked about anxiety and the ways I’m dealing with it and working through it, was I able to keep my cool? Continue on with a level head and call my doctor calmly and rationally to find out if this was worth working myself up into an all-out frenzy over?

No. I did not. I spit out the peach I was eating – which was, by the way, purchased from Trader Joe’s, as is almost all of our produce – and completely lost my mind.

I called Tim into the room, already shaky and crying. He carefully reviewed the news report that was linked and we determined that, yes, we had purchased those particular plums, peaches, and nectarines from Trader Joe’s almost every week this summer and, yes, I had eaten at least one of those fruits (if not more, because fruit is a serious craving of mine; who would have thought that I should have just stuck to ice cream and pickles?) every day for the last two months.

Clearly, that didn’t help.

Since I was not at all rational, I made Tim call the doctor. In fact, I made Tim call the doctor three times. Apparently, we were around the 25th caller about this issue that hour. Unfortunately, there was no prize.

After those three tearful (my tears, not Tim’s) and panicked (my panic, not Tim’s) calls to my doctor, I learned a great deal about listeria, if anyone is interested. My doctors did not seem worried, even though listeria can, like, KILL YOU AND YOUR UNBORN CHILD, and said if I experience flu-like symptoms to come in immediately but, otherwise, not to spend time panicked about it. (Yea. Right.)

The good news, according to my medical professionals and the very kind people at Trader Joe’s, whom we (Tim) also called in a panic (rational, calm manner):

1) This is a precautionary recall after testing, not because anyone has been infected.
2) We’re now well outside the window they cast for the packing dates (which was likely larger than necessary in the interest of safety), so I’d very likely know by now if I was infected.
3) Listeria is very treatable if you don’t let it go too long thinking it’s the flu and, if it is treated, your baby will probably not be affected.
4) Symptoms of listeria include flu-like symptoms, especially diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues, and can progress to a headache, stiff neck, dizziness, and confusion if left go too long. This is not to be confused with the killer headache I had Monday evening. That was probably due to not drinking enough water in this heat, which is an entirely different – yet still dangerous – issue.
5) Despite what the internet says (because the internet is a pack of LIES), you’ll know it if you have it. People who “didn’t know” they were infected, thought they had the flu. So if you think you have the flu but ate some of this produce, go to the doctor. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
6) Wash your produce with running tap water and dry it with a clean paper towel before you eat it. This is what the CDC recommends for pregnant women (and everyone, really, but especially for pregnant women).

For me, now that I can breathe again, the moral of the story is that, truly, nothing is safe. To anyone who asks, I talk a lot of talk about not worrying about hot dogs and deli meat and a sip of wine here and there, but I’m all talk. In reality, you will most often find me firmly placed in the better-safe-than-sorry camp. I obsess over my nutrition (which, incidentally, isn’t a pregnancy thing; I was like this before I got knocked up), and I make the healthiest choices for me which, it should surprise no one, often includes eating fresh produce.

Even though it is unnecessary (says my doctor) to avoid things like deli meat and domestic soft cheeses, I do. Because what if? Even though I’ve been CRAVING a turkey bacon sandwich from Panera for two weeks and can think of nothing else, I refused to eat it. Because what if? So, instead, I eat a variety of fruits to give my growing fetus and me the nutrients we need even if, as I’m gnawing on the fruit, I’m dreaming about the salty goodness of turkey and bacon on carby bread. Apparently, the joke’s on me.

However, it is a little liberating to know that nothing is truly safe, which sounds weird but stick with me. Pregnant women are encouraged to live in terror of the entire world for the entirety of the gestational period: Don’t do this. Don’t eat that. Don’t sit there. Don’t reach your arms over your head. Don’t lift more than a grocery bag at a time. DON’T DO ANYTHING BUT LAY DOWN AND EAT OVER-PROCESSED FOODS THAT ARE COOKED TO OBLIVION.

Has that really ever worked for anyone? No. It has not. Because that isn’t healthy either. We need to be active and use our muscles and eat a variety of foods to ensure that we – and our unborn children – are healthy.

While some things are more dangerous than others, there is nothing without risks. Even doing as one of my friends suggested (in jest… I hope) and peeling every single produce item I eat (can you imagine peeling a plum?) has risks of some kind of contamination (plus, all the good nutrients are in the skins!). Risk is unavoidable. The best we can do is be healthy and be aware. Now I know what to look out for should listeriosis strike, and I know what to do if it does. And I know that, since I’m a conscientious adult with a lot of knowledge and good medical care, the odds are most definitely in my (and my baby’s) favor.

Just don’t hold me to this the next time one of my favorite foods is recalled and I am pregnant.

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