My Journey To Natural Healing
With each passing day, it seems there is more and more media coverage about the Swine Flu Pandemic. My employers have gotten in on the action too (and rightfully so as they are hospitals). I remember similar hype when SARS was rampant, followed by the avian flu scares. I’ll admit, swine flu seems to have claimed more “victims” in a shorter period of time, but I’m only going on what I hear from the very biased and slanted media. (If you can’t tell, I have some pretty strong opinions about the media as well... free speech is anything but!)
As I mentioned in Part I, Teresa inspired me to start writing some thoughts about this whole mess when we had a little conversation about the media scare. Apparently, she is not new to the natural healing world. I find more and more in common with her every time we talk! While discussing things, I had mentioned that unlike her, natural healing was not always a part of my life. I grew up in a very, very allopathic world. And in fact, my work as a registered nurse still has me dappling in western medicine quite a lot, but my feelings about it are very different than they were ten years ago.
Let’s start at the very beginning (“a very good place to start... when you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi... Do-Re-Mi”... sorry... couldn’t resist!) I will start with my birth because it was anything but natural and because as anyone knows, I have some very strong feelings about the birth world in this country.
I was born in a conventional community hospital in southern California. My mother’s experience, as she recounts it, horrifies me. I don’t think it horrifies her at all. It’s all she knew. It was just the way you had babies. She labored in the labor ward and when it was time to start pushing, she was wheeled into a delivery room. I can’t imagine being moved ANYWHERE while having the urge to push a baby! She was strapped to a table, on her back, with her legs up in stirrups. She was shaved and I was delivered. I have no idea if forceps were used, but they were quite common when I was born (the early 1970s). I was then taken from my mother to a community nursery. I never got the opportunity to stay with her, to bond with her, to have my traumatic birth eased at all. I doubt very highly that anyone handled me gently. I’d be willing to bet that the lights were bright and the noises were abundant (how could they not in a nursery filled with other babies?)
It was my mother’s intention to breast feed me. However, I was jaundiced and had to stay in the hospital for phototherapy after she was discharged and so breast feeding went out the door. Nobody bothered to talk with my mother about pumping milk. Nobody gave her any advice whatsoever. I had to stay, therefore formula was the only answer.
As a side note, when my mother talked to me about my birth story a long time ago, I remember her saying that when she had to leave me behind in the hospital, she cried. At the time, I remember thinking, “oh, how sad.” Then I had my own children and I finally “got it”. And now it makes me cry too. Having had my own babies, I can’t even fathom being separated from them when they were that little... for really no reason at all. We were never, EVER separated from our babies in the hospital. They never went to a nursery. I think my babies were weighed in the nursery but you better believe that one of us always went with them.
As I grew, I began having serious chronic ear infections. (Hmm... wonder how much the infant formula had to do with that!) It reached a point where I had to have tubes placed in my ears. My mother tells me that she remembers me screaming when anyone would even come near my ears because I was so terrified. Incidentally, I have very serious sensory overload to this day and I wonder if this is somehow related. I am very sensitive to certain loud noises and it waxes and wanes depending on my moods and other factors I have yet to identify.
I can remember the pediatric office I went to as a child. The decor was definitely very 70s! I can remember a large fish tank and small tables with child sized chairs made of a material that can only be described as orange, plastic, wicker. But most of all, I remember the nurse who sat behind the reception desk. She wore blue eye shadow, a white smock, and a white nurses cap. She was beautiful. But she also gave me shots... painful shots. And after awhile, I hated her.
Thankfully, aside from the above ear infections, I was pretty healthy. My brother, however, was not. He was born when I was 5. Within a short period of time, he got sick. I remember it all like it happened yesterday. My mother had given him a smack on his leg for touching something forbidden and she noticed some time later that the mark didn’t go away... and there were red bumps all over it. She called the pediatrician who advised her to take him to the emergency room. We went up to UCLA medical center. I remember sitting in that waiting room for what seemed like forever, watching other families come and go. There was a little girl there who had a gash on her forehead that was quite bloody and I can recall just staring at it. Someone asked her mother about it and her response was, “her brother creamed her with a shovel.”
Sometime later, my mother came out... without my brother. She was hysterical. It is forever burned on my brain. She was crying and upset and I believe it was my first memory of seeing my mother in that state. She said something about sticking needles into his back for samples and then she held her hands up to show the size of the needles and to my 5-year-old eyes, I was sure they were a foot long. Mind you, she wasn’t saying this to me, but I was there. And I never missed a thing. Then she said he’d have to stay in the hospital.
It was about this time that I began living with my grandmother so that my mother could stay with my brother in the hospital. The next several months are a blur to me. Leukemia was the buzz word in our house. I went on with school (and it was a very difficult, traumatic year in school for me... a year of which I don’t have a single positive memory). My brother came home sometimes and his bedroom looked like a hospital room. I remember mom talking about “cleaning his lines” all the time. My other memories come back when I see the handful of photographs left from this time in our lives... our dog Akita, the linoleum kitchen floor, my Tutu visiting from Hawaii, the jello water in the fridge that was not to be touched because it was the only thing my brother could stomach, the native American print on our couch, the painting of the train on our wall, the closet in my room that I escaped to when life got painful. These are my memories.
I will never forget the day “it” happened. I woke up one morning and my grandmother called me into her bedroom. She put her arms around me and said, “R. died last night.” I just remember saying, “Oh grandma!” and burying my face in her stomach and crying my eyes out. I remember the somber sadness and the funeral. And then grandpa died of a stroke some six weeks later. I remember being told about that while I was sitting at the dinner table eating peas... and I began stabbing each pea with my fork because I was so angry that my loved ones were being taken from me.
We moved to Hawaii after all of this. It was a good move for everyone. We left behind one set of memories to start up another set. I loved growing up there. I miss it terribly now that I’m Washington. My mother began working in a hospital there in 1980, shortly after we arrived. She works for the same hospital to this day. (See, I can’t get away from hospitals... they’ve been a part of my life for as far back as I can possibly remember.)
During these years, I lost all of the rest of my grandparents, my father, my mother’s sister, and various aunts, uncles, and even friends. My brother was born in 1982 and I remember he also had chronic ear infections as a baby/toddler.
When I started college, I needed a job. My mom pulled strings and got me a job working in her hospital. I was so grateful. I worked in the medical records department and got paid a whole lot more than minimum wage. I was still going to college because I had a scholarship, not because I really knew what I wanted to do with my life when I grew up. Someone I worked with mentioned nursing and I remember thinking that it was a cool idea. So I took a job working as a unit secretary on a cardiac unit. I got to know nursing first hand and decided to go to school. I graduated from nursing school in 1997 and have been working continuously in the profession ever since.
I worked in a family practice clinic for a year and then an inpatient cardiac medical unit for about six months. Then I switched hospitals and worked in a surgical cardiac unit for about 4 years. I cringe when I think about all of the horrific dietary advice I gave my patients back then... but it was what the AHA recommended. Then I moved into the Level II nursery for four years and now I work in a hospital birth center and have been there a year and a half.
During this time, I got married and had 2 children. My first birth experience was very, very traumatic and wound up in a cesarean section. I had an elective c-section with my second although I really wanted to try a VBAC.
After my babies were born, I went through a period of profound depression. I remember looking at my husband with all of his health problems and my own family history and I wondered what kind of sad legacy we were handing to our children. Were they doomed to have diabetes and heart disease like their relatives before them? It upset me greatly. And then I decided that I couldn’t just give up. I wanted to try and give them a future. And soon I realized that there was more that I could do than I ever imagined.
It all started with breastfeeding. Giving infant formula just wasn’t an option for me. I wanted them to have a fighting chance right from the start. Ethan got a little bit of formula for a couple of months when he was about 10 months old. Evan has never had any formula. He was exclusively breast fed for six months and then we introduced solids at that age. But he continued to breast feed until he self-weaned at the age of 2-1/2 years. I made all of my own baby food. Something just didn’t seem right about giving my babies food from boxes and jars. I don’t eat all my food out of boxes and jars so I didn’t think it was wise to have them eat that way either. My kids have never, ever eaten baby food from jars and they’ve never had dehydrated cereal either! I worked hard to do this and I’m so happy I did it!
I started researching organic food at about that time and I began to understand more about the importance of eating locally grown, organic food. I am still far from doing that right now. It’s expensive and I’m lazy. But I do eat some things that are organic and if I could get my act together, I’d eat more.
I also started researching homeopathics and essential oils, both of which are in use in our home today. My children have never had antibiotics... ever. (Wait, I think Ethan had a topical antibiotic for a skin rash when he was a baby... but I never used it all.) I began researching raw milk, acupuncture, and other natural remedies. I’ve incorporated several things into our lives. And while I may not be a hundred percent, I do believe that every little it helps.
And in my quest to heal from my own traumatic birth experiences, I began researching natural childbirth as well. I am very, very passionate about birth education. I just wish I worked in an area where that education made a better difference. I don’t discount the teaching that I do but I feel as though women should have this education much, much earlier than they do. I think we need a completely different approach about how we teach children about birth, puberty, menstruation, and other things of that nature.
So that is how I began my journey to a more natural approach to things. It’s a work in progress. I have slowly, over the years, tried to make changes here and there. I am not going to lie. We are still addicted to sugar in this house and it WILL be the death of us if we don’t get it in check. All of the coverage surrounding the swine flu has actually gotten me a bit excited to get out of my rut and continue researching and making changes. I believe that the human body is an amazing miracle. If we think about the things humans have survived over hundreds of years, it is apparent that humans are adaptable and really CAN heal from illness and disease. But in these last days, it’s becoming more and more difficult to allow our bodies to heal when we live in a world with so much going against us. We eat food that is processed, chemically laden, antibiotic laden, boxed, and old. Then we microwave it! And we expect to be healthy. On top of that, we put products on and in our bodies that are filled with chemicals and poisons. And we expect to be healthy. Then we load up on medications that affect the health of our kidneys and livers. And we expect to be healthy. At some point, these things become too much for our bodies. We must help ourselves first. As I said, we are FAR from perfect. But we’re making little changes, here and there and I believe it is helping. My children are very healthy. They rarely get sick aside from an occasional cold and an occasional GI upset. Neither of them has EVER had an ear infection.
Now that I’ve got my journey all written out, I’ll come back in the coming days and elaborate on more specific things. I’m very excited to do this!!
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