It was a low point. My daughter was 14 months old and eating 3 foods I knew were safe for her - avocado, coconut, and pastured lamb. I was still producing her main food source, breast milk clear of all food proteins that her body couldn't break down. Every day I ate the same 10 foods, each prepared meticulously in my home kitchen. The slightest slip up in what I ate resulted in a range of reactions in her from hives and profuse vomiting to congestion, hourly waking (no sleep for parents!), diarrhea, and total misery. I had bouts of wanting to chew through my arm. Or jump out of a window. But somehow I hung on.
There was a growing fear in the pit of my stomach about how long I would be able to continue providing what she needed through breastfeeding. I was running on fumes and I had no backup plan. We were seeing zero improvement in her gut development as every food she tried resulted in a dead end of painful reactions. I felt stuck. Thankfully she was growing despite serious obstacles, and she looked like any other chubby breastfed baby. As long as I continued in the land of extreme elimination dieting she was free of major food reactions, and was a happy growing toddler. It was like holding onto the raft in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. In my heart I knew that I was carrying her, and that this healthy looking baby was completely dependent on my capacity to push forward.
After searching the depths of my soul and Google, I sought out a GAPS diet practitioner for support. When she suggested I eliminate all starches from my diet to promote a healthy balance in my daughter's gut bacteria I felt my heart drop. I was only eating 2 starches, but I feared this was a new depth I could not sustain. It worked. For the first time in her life she slept 6 hours in a row. She relaxed. She began to have healthy stools. This. Was. Incredible.
Two months later I was down to 95 pounds. As I considered that my tank was nearly empty waves of grief began to wash over me. It was time to consider a change. I had a husband and a five year old that needed me too, and I was beginning to fear for my health. As the scales tipped toward weaning I processed feelings from despair to terror, determined to not be overwhelmed by them. Inside I harbored a quiet fear that if I stopped nursing her I was leaving my daughter behind. This was a secret I kept to myself knowing that to say it out loud made it seem real, and that terrified me. As a therapist I believe that naming a thought or feeling can free us from its grasp. In this case the opposite felt true. In my world, to stop producing her special milk meant that I was abandoning her to a future of uncertainty.
I now understand that I had to go through it like this. At the time I operated out of survival instinct and often had no language to explain to family or friends why I was making the choices I made. My heart told me for her this was the only way - she needed a lifeline and I was it. I knew my day for a burger and fries would come, and until then I could suspend any thoughts and urges that didn't fit into the daily requirements of providing for her. This is the part that astonishes me. I am a terrible masochist. Martyrdom has never appealed to me. Above almost anything else I crave and cherish a balanced life. And yet the love for this child of mine was enough. I stuck it out until we had a nutrient-dense alternative in lamb broth. Unsure that she would take to it, but knowing it was all we had to offer, we began brewing buckets of pastured lamb in our kitchen to prepare for weaning her from breast milk to meat stock.
And my day came. I will never forget that Sunday at my local farmer's market when I had completely run out of all of my safe foods at home that morning, and was shopping alone for lamb bones on an empty stomach. I was literally starving. I sensed the end to nursing this child was near, but suddenly there I was, ravenous, depleted and surrounded by food that if I touched it, would make my milk poisonous to my baby. Transitioning her to a more sustainable plan was inevitable. So I bought the gourmet ice cream sandwich. Tears poured from my eyes at the first bite as waves of heartbreak and relief simultaneously flooded over me.
Motherhood has gifted me the role of protector (twice). My daughter's vulnerability was mine too for a time, and I feel strangely grateful for that experience now. While I still pour loads of energy into meeting her nutritional needs, my primary job as her mama now is to ensure she experiences herself as a healthy, whole person. As we sit around the dinner table eating plates of food that look like hers, my almost two year old girl shovels lamb burgers into her mouth and giggles, like a normal happy kid.
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