how I became the crunchy, alternative-health-loving woman I am today – part 2

(Read part 1 of my story here.)

Lyd got all her shots on schedule for her first 15 months of life.  In fact, I never thought twice about her shots, although thankfully I did realize that there was no way my baby could get Hepatitis B, so I refused those shots.  At her 12 month checkup, I wavered on the chicken pox vaccine, but in the end I allowed her pediatrician to talk me into it.  I now wish I hadn’t.

When Lyd was young, I had heard of the word “autism,” I but didn’t know a thing about it.  However, after Lyd’s birth, and thanks to the internet and parenting discussion groups that I was part of online, I had opportunities to read personal stories about people whose children had autism.  Many of those stories mentioned that their children had regressed into autistic behaviors after receiving vaccinations.  I heard about people and groups and books that questioned the efficacy and need for so many vaccinations in a child’s first two years of life.  Over time, I read some of those books, and I felt the authors raised thought-provoking issues that I hadn’t considered previously.  Furthermore, many of those books raised concerns and exposed paradigms of thinking that I had quietly thought all along, but had never actually put into words.  For example, I knew that the darn Pill had been causing my “girly problems,” but yet I believed the doctor who told me that the Pill was harmless – because isn’t that what people do in our society?  We believe what our doctors tell us, because they’re the experts.  Well, no one was an expert on my body like I was, and when I finally trusted my intuition and stopped taking the Pill, my problems went away.  Likewise, as I read stories that people shared about their family’s experiences with autism, I couldn’t dismiss those stories simply because they were personal stories, unsubstantiated by research and dismissed by doctors.  Because as far as I know, my reaction to the Pill has been unsubstantiated by research, and it was certainly dismissed by my doctor!

Don’t get me wrong: I highly respect doctors.  I am grateful for all the doctors in my life, especially Curious J’s pediatrician.  When major medical problems occur, there’s no substitute for modern medicine.  And when my little girl can’t breathe well, I am completely grateful for the medications that allow her to breathe more freely and with less effort.  With that said, I don’t think anyone would argue (least of all the doctors themselves!) that doctors today are trained to diagnose and treat symptoms, not causes.  Even researchers seem to spend more time developing effective treatments for symptoms, rather than trying to discover the cause of disease in the first place.  And because doctors today are so good at treating symptoms, I think the generalization can be made that Americans have come to believe that all of their medical problems can – and should – be solved by taking a pill.

Luckily, that attitude is starting to shift in America.  People are recongizing that the foundations of good health rest upon the foods and drinks we consume, the amount of activity we engage in, the amount of stress we carry, and the amount of sleep we get.  Americans are beginning to realize that the less chemicals we put into our body – even prescribed ones – the better.  Thanks to so many companies and stores “going green,” more emphasis than ever before is being put on eating organically raised, whole foods, and people – even researchers – are also starting to recoginze the detrimental health effects of pesticides, preservatives, bad fats, high-fructose corn syrup and other kinds of non-food items in our food.  I think this is a wonderful first step in helping people be truly healthy rather than just having people “not be sick.”  This focus on wellness is a major aspect of most alternative health methods, and it goes hand-in-hand with alternative medicine’s goal of diagnosing and treating causes of disease, rather than just symptoms.  If the right cause is discovered and treated, then the symptoms will naturally subside, rather than simply being suppressed.  I find that approach very appealing.

As part of my quest to become pregnant with my second child, my husband and I chose to spend a couple of months over the summer of 2006 where we didn’t eat wheat or sugar, and we greatly cut back on dairy products; we each lost 40 pounds.  This weight loss success made both my husband and myself even more interested in what alternative health methods had to offer.  I learned that not only was it prudent to watch what foods we put into our bodies, but to also pay attention to personal hygiene products (such as deodorants/anti-perspirants, shampoos, soaps, lotions).  I had breastfed my daughter until she was 19 months, but I learned even more reasons why breastfeeding was so vitally important to a healthy child – and a healthy mother!  And I learned more about vaccines, which caused me to stop further vaccinations for Lyd after her 15 month shots.

Baby #2 did not come into existence nearly as easily as Baby #1 had.  Since I had previously refused to take any hormone pills of any kind from a doctor, fertility drugs were not an option in which I was interested.  I knew that if I needed help getting pregnant, I would need to find that help elsewhere.  Somehow I heard of the book The Infertility Cure, obtained a copy, and devoured it eagerly.  The holistic (whole-body) approach that Chinese medicine took towards health (with good fertility being a natural result of good health) made sense to me.  So, I found an acupuncturist.  The first acu I used was … well … let’s just say she taught me about the dangers of getting too heavily into nutritional supplements.  From her, I learned to respect herbs and supplements as powerful medicines, and I learned to expect professionalism and respect from my alternative health providers, just like I do “regular” doctors.  My second acupuncturist was much better, found through personal refernces, was more professional, and more specialized in his practice, which increased my confidence in him.  I worked with him for about six months, seeing better and better results every month, until I finally became pregnant early in 2007.  I gave birth to my second daughter in September of that year.  This time, I refused all vaccinations for my newborn baby, placating my protesting pediatrician by assuring her that I was completely breastfeeding my baby, that I was not putting her in daycare, and that I wasn’t passing her around to every person in church on Sunday.  I haven’t quite refused all vaccinations for my little girl, but the shots she has received are being given on a schedule very different from what is recommended by the AAP.

(Read part 3 of my story here.)