Blog for Choice: Trust Women

Just a few days ago, I attended my last doula class of the 10-week course through a local doula business called Birth Rhythms here in Saskatoon. It has been in this course that I have learned so much about women and pregnancy. It has never been so clear to me that women have lost trust in themselves to make decisions for them and their bodies.

In the choice to have or not continue with a pregnancy, a woman must go through a process no matter what the circumstances. If a woman decides not to continue with her pregnancy, she and society needs to trust that she is doing the right thing for her. If the pregnancy is continued, the trust is even more compromised. It seems as though the medical system does not trust women’s bodies and it compromises women’s abilities to trust their bodies as well.

As a doula and a woman, I trust women to make the right choice for her no matter what the circumstance.

Coffee: my analysis of our caffeinated society

When I was in high school, my relationship with coffee was used as a way of filling my time. “Let’s go for coffee” sounded so grown-up and helped pass the time as a teenager when time was to be wasted. When I was a child, I loved the taste of coffee, but my mom wouldn’t let us have coffee. “It will stunt your growth!” she would say. Grandma used to let me sneek a cup here and there. At 4’11”, a lot of good not drinking coffee did me!

As a university student, I just didn’t bother to drink coffee. This was before Tim Hortons had taken over the campus and I really couldn’t be bothered to drink it. After all, I was a natural morning person – I didn’t need it! As my peers becamse caffeine-addicted, I avoided the whole situation. It seemed unnecessary for me and an extra cost, which student loans didn’t cover and I definitely didn’t need it. Also, it took more time to make it and my time was as precious then as it is now.

One day a friend of mine showed up to an event on campus and I was shocked. She looked like crap! I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she was doing a cleanse of some sort and was in caffeine withdrawl. I had no idea such a thing existed! Sure enough, it did. So when my mom called me a couple of years after that and was telling me about how she had developed a terrible headache since she had started a cleanse that she was doing. I asked her if she had cut out coffee and she said that she had. I told her she was in withdrawl. Yes, this is what addicition feels like – headaches, shakiness, inability to concentrate, nausea, and more. As a health-conscious person, I knew that I never wanted to start something that could make me feel that crummy!

Now that I work as a “professional,” I notice that everyone around me drinks coffee. I am generally a person that doesn’t go along with things just to make my life easier, but the pressure that I feel to drink coffee is heavier than ever before and my absense from it all makes me even more of an outcast. After all,”81% of Canadians drink coffee occasionally and over 63% of Canadians over the age of 18 drink coffee on a daily basis making coffee the #1 beverage choice of adult Canadians.” At best, I am in the 27% minority of adult Canadians, but am actually in the 19% of Canadians that never drink coffee.

My reasons for not drinking coffee are really quite simple: caffeine makes me kind of crazy. I remember going out with a friend and drinking coffee at a shop… by the end of our time there, I wasn’t making sense, I couldn’t keep track of what I was saying, and I was generally jabbering on about nothing. Afterward, I could hardly remember the conversation. It was worse than having a few beer at the local pub! It was that moment that I made a concerted effort to avoid caffeine, mostly in the form of coffee.

It was at this point in my life that I had also accumulated a political edge. Thanks to organizations like Oxfam, I learned about the terrible coffee industry that had taken over the greedy Western world. According to Oxfam, often less than 10% of what consumers pay for a cup of java actually reaches the farmer who grows the beans. Granted, this isn’t a lot less than the Saskatchewan grain farmer that grows wheat for bread. However, there are about 15 million small farmers that must sell their crops to mid-level traders for a tiny price. Is it a coincidence that the biggest coffee producing countries are also the poorest? Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Guatemala, Mexico, Ethiopia, Uganada, and the Ivory Coast make up the top 10 coffee-producing countries. Big companies like Kraft, Procter and Gamble, and Nestle control over 60% of the total green coffee bean volume, accoridng to Responsible Shopper.

Coffee is a “cash crop” for these countries and farmers. A lot of the people who farm the coffee crops don’t actually own their land, which raises another issue of supporting that undemocratic system. The owners and farmers of the land are encouraged to grow coffee instead of food crops, thus increasing their income, but not feeding their families or the people of their country. Cash crops are dependent on market prices, which are always volatile. The coffee market is dependent on the farmers working for an unsustainable wage by growing an unsustainable crop. Even when Fair Trade coffee is available, I still cannot justify supporting an industry and “encourages” farmers to grow a cash crop as opposed to a food crop.

In addition to the “politics” of coffee, heavy caffeine use has been shown to have detrimental effects on the physical and psychological health of people. I mean, can anything that can cause withdrawal symptoms similar to hard drugs be good for you? There are many studies about how caffeine is not good for people. Not to mention how drinking coffee generally means that you consume less of other good-for-you beverages like water or juice. Our society, however, does not promote a healthy lifestyle. The fast-paced nature of our society and urbanization has increased sleep deprivation. From my observation, needing a “perk-up” in the morning and again in the afternoon is a big reason why people drink coffee – habit and socialization are probably not far behind. However, with 74% of Americans not getting enough sleep each night, it’s no wonder people need coffee to function in this pressure-filled society!

I try very hard not to judge people for drinking their cups of coffee everyday, but I have a hard time with the pressure that goes along with it. I have to admit that I tend not to talk about it at all, unless probed as to “why [I] don’t drink coffee.” In all honesty, nothing wakes me up better than a brisk walk or a swim in the pool or a run. It has never been more clear to me as it is now that I am in the minority as a non-coffee-drinker. I always think about what I put in my body, to the point of borderline obsessive, and am very concerned for my health on a daily basis. As a pro-active person, I  actually do what is best for me [most of the time], that I know of, and try to reduce my unhealthy behaviors. And while I “never say never” anymore, I won’t lie and say that I will “never” drink coffee, but I am pretty certain that I won’t be consuming it on a daily or even semi-regular basis. There are a lot better ways to wake up in the morning,  starting with getting enough sleep the night before and regular daily exercise!