Because pregnancy is a time for clichés, I thought I might want the oft-joked-about combo “pickles and ice cream” when I was expecting a baby. But pregnancy “cravings,” at least as I experienced them, were not cute. Throughout the first trimester, and half of the second, I was possessed by nausea, so I lived on fruit and cereal products. On a good day, I ate like a stereotypical toddler: Annie’s mac ’n’ cheese, Goldfish crackers, juice. Further along, no longer nauseated but unremittingly hungry, it almost didn’t matter what I ate, so long as I was eating. I coasted through the last trimester carrying a snack tray in one hand and a smoothie cup in the other. I’d keep a fig bar by the bed so that if I woke up in the night, I wouldn’t have to get up to feed the beast.
My “cravings” weren’t whimsical: They dominated my life.
I wasn’t alone in wanting such a broad array of random foods while pregnant. In a typical thread on the pregnancy forum WhatToExpect, women respectively reported craving green olives, French fries, chicken, sour gummy worms, Mexican food, watermelon, and “water and salad” while they were pregnant. (That last lady must be pretty proud of herself.) In a 2014 review of the existing literature on the origins of pregnancy cravings, psychologists Natalia C. Orloff and Julia M. Hormes did a much more scientific survey of online postings than mine. They found that women reported cravings for “sweets, calorically dense savory carbohydrates like pizza or chips, animal proteins, and fruits,” with the first trimester typically being the time to want savory foods; the second trimester, sweet; and the third trimester, salty. Considering this diversity of experience, I wondered how American culture came up with “pickles and ice cream” as the most iconic pregnant snack.