Monday, September 28, 2009

Is This Your Child?: Meeting an Inspiration

My first child was a miserable baby. He was big and healthy and full of energy. But he was miserable. He rarely slept well and always awakened with a scream, even in my arms. He banged his head on the floor, had tantrums and outbursts on a daily basis, and raged until he was red in the face. I nursed and wore him, danced and sang, soothed and distracted. But something was not right with my baby. Family members questioned our holistic choices, wondering if we hadn't set ourselves up for problems. He grew and surpassed all of his developmental goals, but in my gut in knew we were missing something. We were politely removed from music classes, whisked away from playdates, and leered at in the supermarket. And mother guilt set in.

Then, one day, I picked up "Is This Your Child?" by Doris Rapp. My world unfolded in the pages of her book. This was my child. My child was reacting to toxins and food allergies. They did not manifest themselves in hives or eczema or, thankfully, anaphylaxis, but in his mood and behavior. Things started to click and make send. Another one of her books, The Impossible Child, helps parents and teachers to "help children who have been erroneously labeled as dumb, lazy, nasty, rude, overactive, irritable, slow or impossible." Rather, many of these kids are suffering from food or chemical sensitivities. We were able to confirm multiple food allergies and sensitivities through testing, including an off-the-charts gluten intolerance for my son. A simple elimination transformed him. He is still an intense, bright, and energetic kid, but his behavior is more even and predictable. When he gets out of sorts, the first thing we do is look at what he ate or what he was exposed to. I was now armed with knowledge. And I could finally take charge, make a difference and know that it wasn't me. Thank you, Dr. Rapp, for showing me that "No, it's not your kid. And, no, it's definitely not you, mom!"

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rapp in person earlier this month. At the wise age of 80, she pursues her passion and commitment to educating parents about environmental medicine. Her latest book, "Our Toxic World - A Wake Up Call", is a must-read for every parent. The facts are there and they are alarming to say the least. We are destroying our bodies and harming our children by living in a toxic soup of chemicals. Epidemics of autism, ADHD, cancer, early puberty, obesity, and much more are right in front of us and the cause is at hand. To hear Dr. Rapp speak is to be transformed into a new level of awareness and concern for future generations. For any parent who wonders about the health of their children, I would like to introduce you to Dr. Doris Rapp. She has my deepest and most sincere gratitude for changing my life, the lives of my two children, and hopefully the lives of many children whose parents will fight to protect them and our planet!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Losing Yourself, Finding You: Motherhood and Identity

I remember a time, before kids, when people would ask "What do you do?" when we were introduced. But, as a mom, the questions have changed. When I meet someone new, the questions are "How old are your kids?" or "How do they like school?" Or, in a rare moment, "What did you do before you became a mom?"

Crossing into the world of motherhood can be filled joy and excitement, but it may also be a time of transformation and loss of identity for women. The birth of baby can lead to "nurture shock", according to The Mask of Motherhood author Susan Maushart, a "virtual frenzy of caring" placing the mother in the center of spiral of need and selflessness. During this time, "many women have reported a feeling as if they have ceased to function, or even to exist, as people in their own right."

We can lose our self-identity in motherhood and fall into a sea of guilt, self-doubt, and uncertainty, feeling as though we are no longer part of the "real" world - an image that our work-driven culture deepens even further. The devaluation of childrearing combined with an idealist image of "super mom" can make any strong, confident woman crumble in the face of motherhood.

And yet a new generation of mothers is reclaiming its choice to stay at home and is staring this identify shift squarely in the eyes. These moms are not traditionalists, but rather "they want to be home because in some quiet moment caring for their children, they have suddenly experienced the vastness, the intricacies, the delicate nature of this work," say the authors of What's a Smart Woman Like You Doing at Home?. Many of today's moms are choosing to set aside their careers or to transform them creatively to work flexible hours or part-time in order to be at home with their children. Unfortunately, we are still struggling with both the identity issues and the guilt. Women choosing to be home feel guilty for not "using" their professional skills or education, for not contributing "something important to society", for disappointing the women's movement, or for not bringing financial resources into their families.

In spite of the destabilization, identity crisis, and prospective guilt we experience through motherhood, being a parent also finds a way for us to build a stronger, more confidence sense of self. Parenthood is filled with challenges to our core values, our beliefs, and our daily activities. As our children begin to define themselves, we are forced to redefine who we are, what we believe, and what we choose to stand for. We may ignite new passions and rebuild our identities on things that matter to us, and not so much what is given importance by others. How we redefine ourselves begins to come from a place of depth, as opposed to how we earn our paychecks or what our tastes may be. Parenthood may also take you on spiritual journey - a journey about compassion, love, and understanding. Becoming a parent may enable us to review and reconnect with our past, learn to live in the present moment as our children do, or renew our inspiration or faith. Even though we appear to be caught in the midst of repetition and daily routine, personal growth in parenting can be astounding. As spiritual teacher Bhagwan Ranjeesh has said "The moment a child is born, a mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Other Drug War

Although the political lingo about the "war on drugs" seems to have subsided, there is another battle going on that doesn't get nearly as much attention: the pharmaceutical industry's antics and blatant disregard for public welfare. Recent headlines such as the record-breaking federal fines of Pfizer for their illegal drug promotion highlights the problems rampant in legal drugs or pharmaceuticals. Although pharmaceutical company media campaigns attempt to portray them as working hard to combat illness and save lives, this recent (and recurring) violation demonstrates a corruption that permeates the entire industry. According to Maggie Mahar, author of Money-Driven Medicine, pharmaceutical company spending on marketing far outstrips research and development (R&D). A 2002 Report by Families USA showed the drug companies spent only $19 billion on R&D, while "shelling out some $45 billion for marketing, advertising, and administration." When money governs industry, it's a breeze for ethics to fly out the window.

Aggressive drug marketing and advertising is a relatively new phenomenon, but it is one that you can hardly ignore if you are still breathing. Turn on the television, listen to the radio, or flip through a magazine and you will hard pressed not to see a glossy, sassy ad for the latest prescription fad. Certainly, some drugs can save lives. But peddling dangerous medications through illegal means is not something we should sit back and ignore.

Since 1997, when the FDA essentially gave pharmaceutical companies the green light to mass market their wares, direct consumer marketing skyrocketed into a multi-billion dollar industry. By the year 2005, Pfizer employed a staff of 38,000 sales representatives to market their drugs - nearly the size of three army divisions (Mahar, p.50). A large part of this effort targets medical doctors and selling them to the benefits of a particular drug. Between 1993 and 2003, the price of prescription drugs rose an average of 7.4 percent, more than the rate of inflation. Undoubtedly, the cost of this marketing army and the plethora of ads needed to be accounted for.

And the doctors are not simply pawns in this game. The physicians who participate in such practices are equally to blame. Let's remember that part of the Hippocratic Oath states: "I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect." Waving fancy vacations and massage services in the faces of our healthcare professionals is bad enough, but those electing to join in the game are equally at fault for the increasing distrust of the medical profession and reducing their credibility as professionals.

It's high time for some accountability and the Pfizer fine is a small drop in the bucket. The federal government has to stop looking the other way when it comes to the practices of drug companies. For the sake of everyone's health, we need to address the "other" drug war.