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How to thrive during pregnancy and other lessons from Alicia Silverstone's new parenting book

Austin American-Statesman (TX) - 4/18/2014

April 18--One of the first things you learn when you're pregnant is that everyone wants to have a say in how to be a parent.

And the second, and perhaps more important, lesson? You don't have to listen.

Sifting through mountains of information about every step of the childbearing, birth and parenting process can take its toll on new moms and dads, but it's worth it for every nugget of gold you find.

Parents will find a lot of gems in Alicia Silverstone's new book, "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning," the second book from the actress best known for her 1990s teen comedy, "Clueless."

Silverstone will be in Austin for a book talk and signing Saturday.

The guide is packed with advice Silverstone has gleaned during the past four years of going through the experience herself and consulting others, and though few parents will agree with everything she recommends, there are plenty of excellent pieces of advice for parents-to-be to ponder.

Perhaps the most enlightening, especially for first-time moms who have only heard horror stories from every neighbor, co-worker or Facebook friend who has had a baby, is that each part of the baby-having experience doesn't have to be so horrible.

"I saw some women in my life having such amazing, beautiful, blissful experiences with pregnancy, birth and motherhood, and that was so inspiring to me," she said via email earlier this week. "It was in stark contrast to what we've come to accept as normal: having a hard time with fertility, suffering through pregnancies full of ailments, suffering through less-than-ideal deliveries ... It became clear that there was another path that could be more lovely and enjoyable."

Those positive experiences are what led Silverstone, who runs the website thekindlife.com, to write a book about making gentler, healthier choices to help you get through conception to toddlerhood with as few complications as possible.

From Silverstone's perspective, that means an animal-free diet, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, babywearing and all the other "naturally" inclined choices of many parents these days.

With the help of some surprisingly serious science and expert input from registered doctors and nutritionists and longtime midwives, Silverstone makes compelling cases for almost all of her recommendations.

She does skirt the vaccination question, telling readers it's too "significant" a decision to "rely on the status quo" but stopping short of telling them to avoid shots altogether, and with the recent spike of infant deaths in Travis County due to co-sleeping, more caution in the chapter about where baby can and should sleep should have been given.

Being pregnant is accepting the duality of life. That you are giving up a certain amount of control over what is happening to you but also learning how to take charge in your life and with your body in ways you never contemplated.

Silverstone argues that mothers have even more control than they thought they did, especially if they take their habits, lifestyle and diet more seriously. "It all starts with getting yourself as healthy as you can possibly be so that you can enjoy your pregnancy more and build a better foundation for your little one," she says. "The good habits you start there will make the rest of the journey that much smoother, too."

That feeling of empowerment will help you navigate the inevitable challenges that will arise, even if you follow Silverstone (or anyone's) advice.

"Will there be less sleep and some bumps along the road? Certainly. But choosing a kind path is what's going to get you through and make it all delicious and lovely so that you can savor every moment with your little love," she says with the kind of optimism that permeates her writing.

However, as Silverstone's son, Bear, is on the verge of turning 3, she's not afraid to admit that there have been feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger or even fear during the past few years. "But you need to honor and recognize those feelings and know that it will pass," she says.

Silverstone, whose new movie, "Angels in Stardust," came out in February, is writing her next book, "The Kind Diet Cookbook." She says it's important for moms to have a "Mama Tribe," a group of women whom they look up to and from whom they can seek advice. Think about the women whom you admired for the way they handled pregnancy, birth or raising children, especially when things didn't go according to Plan A. Identify what it is that you admire about how they handled the situation or even ask them about how they found strength or a positive attitude to deal with the changes in their body or environment.

"This will help you hone in on what kind of mama you want to be."

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Chocolate-Dunked Coconut Delights

These tasty bites are naughtier than a gentler treat, but they beat the pants off a pint of Haagen Dazs! And they're particularly great for company -- whip up a batch for a fancy tea party with girlfriends or for family coming over to rub your belly.

You'll notice that the recipe calls for whole wheat or white spelt flour. Whole wheat is the kinder option, but spelt makes for a lighter pastry. For vegan chocolate chips, SunSpire makes a great healthy version that's sweetened with grains. If you can't find them, ask your grocer to carry them.

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. room temperature coconut oil, divided (plus more for greasing pan)

1 cup shredded dried coconut

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white spelt flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract

1/4 cup mashed banana (optional)

1 tsp. coconut extract (optional)

1/4 cup vegan dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with a little of the coconut oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the dried coconut, flour and baking powder and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the syrup, vanilla, 1/4 cup coconut oil, and the banana and coconut extract, if using. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and gently stir to combine.

Using a small ice-cream scooper or large spoon, make bite-size balls of batter and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Rest a heatproof bowl on top of a medium-size pot of water (or use a double-boiler, if you have one). Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the chocolate chips and the 1 teaspoon coconut oil to the bowl and stir until the chocolate melts and you get a thicky, glossy sauce.

After the cookies have cooled, dip them in the sauce and arrange them on a plate. Give them a couple of minutes so the sauce hardens, then serve. Do your best not to eat them all at once! Makes 12.

-- From "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning" by Alicia Silverstone (Rodale, $23.99)

Alicia Silverstone and "The Kind Mama" book-signing

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Cost: Free, but must purchase a book at BookPeople to get it signed.

Information:bookpeople.com, 512-472-5050

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(c)2014 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

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