Could there be a bright side to childhood illnesses?

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Nobody likes to be sick. Most mums hate their kid being sick even more! It can be so scary to see our little ones looking so vulnerable, even minor symptoms can get turned into major meltdowns in our minds…

Yet I come from a natural health background. I have a slightly different take on disease than many other people I know, so much so that I see many illnesses as good and helpful (even as my mind, too, can go into overdrive – I need to work to keep it in check, sometimes). And amidst it all, I always remember that Rudolf Steiner believed that childhood illnesses – if completely expressed (not repressed) – actually have a cleansing effect on the body which in turn liberates the mind. What he observed was that following a bout of illness, especially one which includes a fever, a child often experiences a developmental leap.

Now, the theory that illnesses can actually be good for us – that they are an outward sign of the body’s activation of an ’emergency cleaning protocol’, when the congestion/pollution get to overwhelming levels – is not exclusive to Steiner by any means. All naturopaths and homeopaths hold some version of this vision of health and disease. This school of thought holds that the body is always acting in our highest interest and doing its utmost to return to balance using the means it has at its disposal (including excretion through skin, lungs or colon and through fever). In this way of looking at health, it is our responsibility as stewards of our own bodies to nourish, trust and support our body in its every effort to keep us healthy – including through acute illnesses, such as those commonly experienced in childhood like measles, chickenpox and the like. Steiner’s take is interesting because he adds this childhood-developmental-leap twist. Could it be that diseases, when ex-pressed fully (that is, when all the morbidity, toxicity and waste of the body are expelled through the skin as rashes, through the bowels, through mucous, etc. with none of the symptoms being suppressed) are helping to keep not only the body but also the mind tip-top, ‘clean’ and functioning to its highest potential?

Let’s be careful here, I am not saying ‘don’t treat illness’ or anything of the sort but we can treat it in different ways. If we chose to approach imbalance by supporting the body to mobilise its defenses and handle it itself, the body responds in a different way. You can, for example, chose to build the body’s defenses, help clear elimination pathways and eat only simple, natural foods and herbs that help the healing process – as opposed to just suppressing (admitedly scary) symptoms without concern for the impact on the rest of the body in the short and long term. What I realise is that when you help the body do its work it, in turn, repays you…

The question is, now that you have heard this about illness and fevers clearing the way for developmental leaps, will you see it? I heard this theory of Steiner’s years ago and have been looking out to see if it did or did not hold true with the children I know. So far, I have got to say, I so often see a child bounding back from an illness (one that has been completely resolved, that is) with renewed energy and even with mastery over new skills – as if they had just had a month’s rest followed by a breakthrough :)  With an open mind, I ask: could it be?

And now I have the chance to witness it it with my own child. This week we have all been sick. I got the stomach bug first, followed by Nica, then NinjaDad. We all got different manifestations of it. It was not fun. But yesterday, as the fever passed, along with the other symptoms, Nica was talking up a storm, with crazy-long sentences, and even her imaginative play seemed to kick-up to a whole new level with a visit to the ‘store’ followed by a ‘picnic’ in our living room. My curiosity remains peeked. What about yours?

What has been your experience? All fear aside, once the disease (the emotional bit for us mums) is resolved naturally, without use of antibiotics or other suppressive medicines, did you see a cognitive or developmental leap occur with your child? This is purely anecdotal, of course, but stay tuned and come share your experiences…

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Disclaimer: the above represents my personal views and should not replace the advice of a qualified medical practioner. If your child is or becomes ill please take care and consult with their pediatrician, immediately. 

Take Good Care of Your Body – Louise L. Hay – Heal Your Life.


Yes, I defend my child’s right to say ‘no’

If  I only had one word, if I was laid up in bed or something, couldn’t talk, couldn’t sign and for some reason my brain could only put together one word and if I could chose that word, now, I would chose the word ‘No’. It is a very powerful word. If I were (God forbid) unable to communicate or move I am expecting other people would be making a lot of choices for me. They would probably be doing things unto me, over me, around me… making decisions that I wouldn’t make for myself. The word ‘no’ might be the only word I need. Whenever they are doing things that I can live with, things that are loving and aligned with who I am and what I want, I could comfortably continue saying nothing and letting them do what they do. But if a line were crossed into something I really didn’t want to have done to me, then I could use my word to confidently assert that !

If I had just one other expression, I would chose ‘Thank you’ so I could express gratitude for all the work and care these grace-filled helpers were putting into maintaining my wellbeing.

Now I wonder if being a toddler is not a little like this. So much happening to them, decisions being made for them, they are physically picked up and moved and taken (sometimes expressly against their will) to places they don’t want to go before they were ready to leave. No wonder one of their first words is ‘NO’!! No wonder it is my child and so many children’s favourite word. That word is power.

I have said already my kid is not even 18 months old yet, but what I see in her is that word is freedom. It puts her for a second on an equal pegging – ‘I get a say, too. I am not just something to be moved and plopped somewhere else. I am a person and I deserve respect and choice!’ and most often when she uses the power of this word it is not to tell me ‘no, never’ it usually just means ‘not just yet, mom’ or ‘let me think about it for a moment while I finish what I am doing, mom’ but she is not quite articulate enough to say all that yet, so I fill in the words for her by looking in her eyes, feeling into her energy as it shifts through the day, as we do our dance.

Every ‘no’ I hear, I try to listen into it. Honestly sometimes I laugh. It is still fresh enough that it is cute. In fact my daughter doesn’t actually say ‘no’ yet, she signs it. I modified the sign from ASL to be easier for her, I gave her a proper, cool finger waggle and I love when she gets that finger out. ‘No, mommy’ (waggle, waggle). ‘I don’t want to put my PJs on yet. Thank you.’ And I remember, I probably wouldn’t want to be told what to do, when to do it and how to do it all the time, either. I might still have a lot to learn about this (the ‘terrible twos’ lay still ahead of me laughing… or is that screaming and banging their fists on the floor at me?!) but for now, I let her have some ‘nos’. I let her have as many as possible.


Song for a (fifth) child: a poem to make a mother’s heart rest

Mutter und Kinder (Mother and children)

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Song for a Fifth Child, by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat- a- cake, darling and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard and there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep

[Posted on The Leaky Boob's facebook page by Tasha Purington]


Green foods for the win – how we kicked Anya’s anemia

Woooohoooo! Anya’s anemia has been resolved (for now, at least).

After 6 weeks of taking the iron prescribed by the doctor we went for another appointment at the pediatrician’s and did a finger prick hemoglobin test. Anya’s hemoglobin level was 10.8. You will remember when they first tested it , it was 10.1. ‘Normal’ is 11 to 14.

I was happy with this new reading – her iron levels were going up and were almost normal…. the doctor was not. He said the levels weren’t raising fast enough. So he sent us to do more in depth blood analysis to rule out any possible conditions belying the anemia (such as Thalassemia, for example).

We could have gone straight to do the test that day but I chose instead to delay it by another week or so, to see if an extra push at home could bring Anya’s iron levels up. I was really unhappy with the iron the doctor prescribed. It is the standard pharmaceutical one – which is basically an inorganic form of iron which is very hard for the body to utilise. On top of that they add artificial sweetners and preservatives – why??? That is the first time I put such unhealthy stuff into my baby and prescribed by a doctor, no less. I mean, I really like our pediatrician he is a nice guy and very supportive but I think, like many doctors, he is not so much into reading the minucea of drug labels – as long as the iron is in there, he is happy. The ‘details’ matter to me. This is my daughter’s health we are talking about.

Normally, I would just march down to the health food store and buy a natural equivalent. That is what we did when the doctor told us, at birth, to supplement Anya’s diet (well, her breastfeeding) with Vitamin D. We followed his advice but went and got an all natural one. Unfortunately, I asked at the pharmacy and they didn’t have an iron supplement without additives (or at least without sweetners) and neither did Wholefoods – not for babies under the age of one! The closest I could find was a kids version of Floradix which clearly contains iron (based on the list of green veg and other ingredients) but does not disclose how much and is more centered on the vitamin content of its ingredients [I am assuming this is because toxicity from iron overdose is one of the leading causes of infant death – touchy subject, really]. In any case it says not to give it to children under the age of one. That is, I am guessing, because it contains honey which can carry the botulism spore. Adults high-acid digestive system will destroy this spore but babies’ under the age of one, will not. Anyway, the upshot is that there was no off-the-shelf, all natural, easily absorbable iron I could find for a young baby.

Why does this matter? The issue with the cheap form of iron the pharmacy’s will give you is that it is not the kind that is naturally occurring in food. The kind they give you is not easily recognised by the body as a food stuff/ nutrient and consequently is very hard to absorb, from my understanding. It causes constipation and the feces go very black – what is that doing to the poor little digestive system of my pure little baby? Naturally occurring iron is found in great concentration in foods that are absolutely not constipating like green leafy vegetables beans and avocado, for example.

So, I spoke to my dad (the natural medicines practitioner) and he suggested I give Anya a green food supplement. We went for Dr. Brock’s Power Plants. It is designed to be not only super-absorbable but also extremely alkalising to the body. This was perfect as, so far, Anya has been raised vegan (though neither of us, parents are – we just feel she is pure and should be given the chance to chose whether she wants to eat the flesh of animals who have been killed for this purpose and often raised for this, too – but that is a whole other post, really…)

We shifted to giving Anya much more of the green food supplement and pretty much phased out the pharmaceutical iron (which clearly wasn’t working that well, anyway). Then, onto the blood test about ten days later.

I have got to tell you the actual blood drawing was probably the most traumatic thing Anya has experienced since her birth. It was really horrible. It took 3 nurses to try and find a (tiny baby’s) vein and with me holding her down so she wouldn’t hand undo all their work. They had to stick a needle in her three times and it left humongous bruises. It was all rather stressful (I know much worse things can happen… but it felt like a bit of an ordeal – I am very blessed that this is our biggest challenge to date).

The results? Anya’s doctor phoned back a few days later to say she was completely in the clear. Her hemoglobin levels were now 12.5 and all other indicators were normal. What a huge relief. But wait, let’s do the math: so in six weeks of taking the pharmacy’s iron her hemoglobin level went up from 10.1 to 10.8 – that is 0.7 points. In about 10 days of taking the green food supplement it went up by 1.7. That means that in ten days it went up more than twice as much as it did in the previous six weeks.

Honestly, I haven’t researched the biology of iron absorption – perhaps it is cumulative and the horrid-iron did all the good work first and the supplement just came in at the last moment and stole all the glory… but it does not look like that. It certainly seems like it was the green supplement that did it, not least because the doctor clearly wanted it to have gone up faster in the first place and then seemed surprised it had gone up so much in that final stint. I have not had a chance to speak to him in person yet. It might be interesting to see what he has to say on the subject when we next meet.

In any case, my mother’s heart is now (temporarily at least) at rest. The doctor’s words were that ‘she no longer needs to take iron’. That is huge and a huge comfort. I can let out a big sigh and stop worrying so much about getting enough iron-rich foods in Anya’s diet, etc. I was becoming almost obsessed, focussing on a single nutrient above all others – which is clearly not good, either.

I am sooooo happy Anya is better, is responding to the natural iron and, all-in-all, as far as we know (knock on wood) healthy. Phew.

We have, of course, discontinued the iron-filings-style-pharmaceutical-concoction; we are, however, continuing to give Anya the green supplement albeit at a slightly lower dose. I can tell you her digestive system is certainly reacting a lot better now. I am taking it, too, as afterall the most likely cause of her anemia is that I am anemic too (and hence had little or no iron to pass on to her in my milk). Ironic (or symbolic, somehow) that Anya may have got sick because I am not taking good enough care of myself. If ever I needed a reminder… I need to stay well to care for my baby – both my and her health and wellbeing depend on it.

Friendly disclaimer: this article is meant only to describe my personal experience and is based on my opinion. It is not meant to replace proper, professional medical advice.