This post is personal and stirs up painful emotions for me. But it’s been on my heart to try to talk about since I started this blog. It’s a topic gap I’ve seen in our food world, and I think that it’s important to address. But it’s such a tender topic that I’ve been hesitant to. My hope is that sharing some of my thoughts on this topic makes the blogging world a safer place for those who have experienced loss in the form of miscarriages, stillborn infants, and for parents of children with birth defects.
Does our diet make a difference?
In the health food genre, inspired so much by the work of Dr. Weston A Price, there is a wonderful, thrilling focus on the fact that we can help rebuild our own health, and the health of our children. There is a beautiful hope that we can better care for our bodies during and before pregnancy to give our children healthier lives. I appreciate the work and research so much that shows us that preconception diets and what’s eaten during pregnancy does indeed have a lasting effect on our children. It’s both sobering and hopeful.
But it can also create an atmosphere of false assurances. I’ve noticed that there is a thought process often expressed that if we just eat pure enough, cancer, health issues, birth defects and miscarriages will never ever land on us. It’s almost like a demi-god for some of us – if we serve the god of health enough by feeding ourselves the purest and best diet of all, then we will receive back perfect health.
Unfortunately, all of this can create a very judgmental attitude towards those experiencing any type of health crisis. This is especially painful when this attitude is displayed towards those dealing with the loss or illness of children. It’s a natural tendency as parents to blame ourselves for anything that happens to our children, and this can be exacerbated when a community views any health problem or premature death suspiciously.
“What did they do wrong?” everyone wonders.
Some of you know that we lost our dear first daughter, Faith Felicity, at the age of (almost) two months. She was born with a rare birth defect that necessitated immediate life-saving surgeries or a heart transplant. She was a fighter through and through, and we had wonderful albeit stressful weeks with her, bonding with her and enjoying her incredibly delightful personality, before a quick decline led to a surgery that went wrong and she passed away. It was heartbreaking on so many levels, and she is constantly missed.
Our heartbreak started when we first discovered her heart defect through an ultrasound. That shock and heartbreak were brought back to me when I read Danielle’s post about recently finding out that the daughter she is carrying has a rare genetic disorder with dire consequences. I can relate so much to what she is going through – everything from being told you have an option to abort and refusing that option, to the emotions experienced, to putting our trust in God during the midst of great suffering and pain.
After we had found out about our daughter’s condition, I was asked by others – before she was born and after – whether her birth defect is linked to any nutritional deficiency. That question burned and hurt, because it seemed to be a question of whether or not I was to blame for her birth defect. It was a question I had asked myself already. (We were told emphatically that it was not linked to any deficiency, though who knows if someday they will find out it is.) But I think that one of the reasons this question is asked is because other mothers were looking for some clear reason connected to our situation that they could then hopefully avoid through simple supplementation and food. No one wants to think that they also could go through such heartbreak.
Doing our best and wise expectations
We mothers are “mother bears” and I find that most are like me, and we would do almost anything to ensure the well being of our children. Dr. Price’s work and more recent research has impressed me with the impact diet can make on future generations and I am so thankful for it.
But let’s be realistic and thoughtful about our expectations as well. As a friend to many in the community of food purists, I know that while so many of us have an improved quality of life, better health for our children, and many other benefits, even so loss through miscarriage, birth defects, stillborn children, cancer, and other childhood sicknesses are not unknown.
There are so many reasons we could point to if we wanted – there are studies showing that toxins now bombard us, and unborn babies are exposed from day 1 to these toxins. Genetic mutations, EMFs, and who knows what else can be factors in the health of our children – in utero, and out. We know we don’t live in a perfect world, and that pain and loss have always been with us. We know that a select few birth defects are linked to nutritional issues (that could be blamed on poor food quality in third world countries, poor absorption of nutrients despite an excellent diet, and a myriad of other facts unrelated to the will of the mother to attempt a healthy diet). We know that there is a lot that we simply don’t know.
We live in a dangerous, imperfect, fallen world.
There is a tendency to either fall into one of two camps – both unbalanced. Either you become a food purist and try to overcome every evil by controlling your diet perfectly, or you throw up your hands and say nothing makes a difference for anything, so why try.
I’m trying to find a balance. I believe that a good diet is crucial to our health, and the health of our children. This isn’t the post to share all of the research, but there is a lot out there to support the idea that we can help our children have better health through giving them a well balanced, nourishing diet. And yet, we can’t control all the factors of this world; we live in a toxic world, and our parents, our government, as well as the neighbor spraying chemicals all over their yard could have made decisions that affect our well being.
I know that I can’t hold back all of the pain and suffering of the world from us by the food I serve. But I do know that the momma bear in me will work at doing the best I can, imperfect world and all, for a better, if not perfect, future for our children.
Advice for showing love
A word of advice from someone who has been there – when a friend finds out something is wrong with her baby or has a miscarriage. Don’t shame them with questions about what they did wrong, or ask them why it happened. It’s very rare for us to know the answers to those questions, and such questions are insensitive. Instead, ask how you can help, and come alongside to carry their sorrow in any way you can. Friends did that for me in many lovely ways, whether it was offering fervent prayers on our behalf, bringing me nourishing food at the hospital, or raising and giving money to help support us during our dark hour. I will never forget their support. While faced with unimaginable sorrow in the loss of our child, I saw a beautiful picture of love in our community of friends, and in the love that I shared with the daughter I said goodbye to.
It’s a goodbye I believe not to be forever, and I look forward to meeting her again when all such sorrow and pain is erased.
Until then, we carry on, accepting what we can’t change and working hard to change what we can.