“Whatever happens, we are in this together”, was how Rob couched it. And when I heard that I knew something bad was coming. I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so dreadful though. As the next line left his lips, my heart plummeted into my stomach.
We’d had a challenging couple of months, parenting our newborn, Gabriel. Whilst the birth had been amazing (read about it here), feeding hadn’t gone how I’d imagined. I’d had poor milk supply, meaning I couldn’t provide all he wanted. He’d had a tongue tie that had needed 2 operations and some traumatic post-operative procedures to correct. And between us we’d had latch problems, poor milk transfer and thrush.
I was exhausted. I’d hardly slept, was really run down and hadn’t spent time with my beautiful boy. For most of the previous few weeks I’d been attached to a breast pump, expressing milk…which due to a quirk of my health issues, was taking me 10 hours a day. I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I knew I couldn’t continue like that and that the top-up milk we were using for Gabriel would have to become a larger part of his diet if I was to stay in one piece.
The one thing I felt blessed around was the fact that we had found the home-made baby milk formula that is part of the Weston Price nutritional system, something that had transformed our own health over the previous few years. I was so relieved to be able to give my little one a food made of whole, un-processed, real ingredients, with a nutritional profile the same as breast milk. I knew I’d be giving him the next best thing, that it would help him develop and build his immunity. And he looked so healthy on it.
So hearing the news Rob brought me hit me hard. He’d been on the phone to a paediatrician who knew about the milk we were feeding Gabriel. She’d argued with him about what we were doing, saying that we were being negligent and that therefore she must report us to social services. She had no choice.
My response was immediate and hysterical: Social services?! They take children away…
We’d got to this point by telling the truth about the feed we were using. And right then it seemed like it had been the worst decision we’d ever made. We’d told the health visitor, who’d acted like it wasn’t a problem, but then told the GP, who brought us in and suggested we might see a paediatrician. That very afternoon, unknown to Rob and I the hospital was contacted – hence the call from the very shocked paediatrician.
I can’t express in words what I felt when contemplating what the consequences of our truthfulness might be.
This little one, so loved, so cherished, taken away from us because we wanted to give him the best possible nourishment.
I felt so many emotions. At the top was the most overwhelming fear, followed by disbelief, anger and frustration.
Wild thoughts ran through my head – could we leave the country?
Rob and I have built our lives on living consciously, in integrity. I spent most of my childhood afraid to speak my truth, hiding behind my 20 stone girth, and I felt the consequences of that. Since meeting Rob I’d learned slowly, that speaking the truth is possible and preferable. It’s a holistic way of making things right, of finding peace and it’s plenty preferable to trying to get everyone to like you (my previous strategy).
We made a choice about our child’s food as informed, caring, conscious, intelligent parents. It was a choice based on our own overwhelmingly positive experience with the tenets of the Weston Price system and based on values and beliefs we hold so strongly – that whole, natural, unprocessed food is what we are meant to eat and gives us the most amazing health, healing and immunity.
We couldn’t lie now. Rob had made such a convincing case for it over the phone that he’d shocked the paediatrician…and when we looked deep inside of ourselves we knew this was the best thing for Gabriel.
But how could we not lie when the potential consequences had been laid out?
That night I stayed awake, veering between writhing in agony over the situation and sitting in prayer – calling on the presence that had miraculously guided me to a place where I could restore my fertility naturally, and looked after my unborn son in my womb.
Help me, help us, help him.
We had been told to bring Gabriel in to the hospital the following day – he must be checked and have blood tests done. Whilst I was looking into my little ones eyes and savouring every precious moment I had with him, Rob was researching, playing to his strengths. Who else had used the formula, what had happened, how did social services work, what were the risks? The internet searches and telephone calls made it clear that everyone but one Mum using this formula in the UK (and there are plenty of people using it) had lied to medical authorities and many hundreds more were lying in the USA.
Just before we left for the hospital we went for a walk with our little one in the sling. We held hands. Looking out over the beautiful rolling hills, at my request, we bravely verbalised what our ideal outcome of this situation was.
We wanted to tell the truth, we wanted the consultants to understand why we were choosing this and realise that we had our little boy’s best interests at heart, we wanted all the tests done on Gabriel to come back fine, we wanted the doctors to allow us to continue to feed Gabriel this milk and leave us alone to get on with our lives. We wanted medicine to know people were choosing this formula for their children and we wanted to create a path where people weren’t scared of coming forward stating this was their choice, where everyone else who held our beliefs didn’t feel they had to lie.
We held those visions strong in our thoughts as we closed our eyes for a moment and held each other – our little one snuggled up in between us.
I kept thinking of our ideal outcome all the way to the hospital – we had that, along with Rob’s hours of research and amazing ability to debate and discuss with such clarity, intelligence and level-headedness, and our own conviction that we were 100% doing the right thing for Gabriel.
And then every moment took on the sort of significance they do when you know that in a few hours everything could be different. We’d know by the time the next evening came, by the time I sat in this car again…and with each footstep I felt as if I was stepping towards something that would shape our destiny as a family.
There followed, in Tunbridge Wells hospital, the most challenging, amazing, terrifying, emotional hospital visit I have ever made.
Gabriel was weighed, measured, prodded, poked, checked, looked at and into. I stayed with him, soothing his tears as the doctor took two goes at inserting a needle into his hand to take his blood. I held him to me as Rob eloquently discussed the whys, hows and wherefores of our choices with the paediatrician. I couldn’t believe how amazing he was. The doctor listened and responded and so did Rob – both being open enough to have some empathy for each others perspectives.
The paediatrician had, since her phone call with Rob, spoken to her boss, the most senior consultant paediatrician at the hospital and he’d let a tiny shaft of light into the situation. A man with many years in paediatrics, his grasp of infant nutrition moved beyond the corporate world of formula alternatives and his knowledge of immunity and traditional methods of feeding babies when a Mother’s milk was not available stretched beyond the leafy Kent suburbs.
And as I listened, and looked down at my obviously bursting with health little boy, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, a small miracle was going to happen here. Maybe we were going to get our ideal outcome? The thing that we had both said was what we wanted.
Gabriel passed the physical examinations – he was officially as healthy as I already knew he was. And we were told that, providing the blood test results were normal and he remained healthy, although the hospital did not agree with what we were doing, they would be willing to accept it.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was what we wanted.
Was this really happening?
Was the threat of him being taken away dissolving?
Could we go back to ‘normal’ parenting issues?
…suddenly lack of sleep, deciphering bowel movements and understanding what tears mean didn’t seem so hard.
In that moment, I knew deep down that my little one would be healthy on this feed…so this was the license for us to carry on doing what we believe in, having been truthful, having acted bravely in integrity.
Thanks to Anna at Arnica who was a great support and thank you to Dr Kent and Dr Day at Tunbridge Wells Hospital for stepping out of the mould that the health visitor and previous doctors would have me believe medical staff are cut in.
Thanks to Weston Price Foundation for this amazing formula and thanks to my beloved, Rob.
When you act in integrity miracles happen.