How my son’s cleft lip helped me embrace Real Food

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I want to get a bit more personal today. I want to talk about how clean eating habits have helped me overcome one of the most difficult periods of my life.

We faced a myriad of problems when I was pregnant with my second son. At the 20 week ultrasound, the doctors discovered a cleft lip. Other specialists were called in and other abnormalities were found. I was heart-broken.

We still didn’t know the full extend of my son’s health problems. Many tests were done and we were told to wait for results. In the end, that took around three weeks total. I felt like a wreck during those three weeks. I hardly ever slept and was in no condition to look after my older son. We sent him away to live with his grandma for a while because I didn’t want him to see me like this. I knew he would just ask questions and I did what I could to avoid answering them. I tried to take my mind off the pregnancy with other things. I started yoga – it helped albeit not that much because my stress levels were simply off the charts. I watched dumb movies on TV and read addictive books that would hopefully transport me to another world in which I didn’t have to face my problems.

Fortunately, none of our worst fears came true. We still had some issues to figure out but the most important thing was we knew our son would be able to live a happy life if there were no unforeseen complications. The first thing that had to be taken care after I gave birth was the cleft lip. At two months old, a wonderful team of doctors performed surgery to fix the unilateral cleft lip. They did the same to fix the palate eight months later. There were no complications for which I am forever grateful.

But ever since I was first left waiting on the test results during the pregnancy, I had that thought in the back of my mind: “what can I do to help?”. I am not a doctor, I often had no idea what was going on to be honest. But because my son was growing in my body, I felt like I need to start working on making myself as healthy as possible. For his sake. My son’s health drove me to become committed to eating clean.

I was already familiar with some principles of eating for health since I had been reading on Nourishing Traditions from ever before I had become pregnant with my second son. I knew some things but I was nowhere near the level I am currently at. I had no idea what raw milk was and how fermented cod liver oil supplements worked. But I read and read various research papers that would prove what I think I knew inherently already: that the traditional diet of our ancestors is the healthiest one and it would benefit us all if we were to go back to it.

After those three dreadful weeks of waiting, I spent most of my time in the kitchen. I experimented with new recipes to see what works for me and what doesn’t. I contacted some local farmers to buy grass-fed dairy products. I joined a co-op that provided (and still does) me with all kinds of GMO and pesticides-free fruit and vegetables. I learned how to ferment foods and how to make sprouted flour on my own.

Doing all of that not only made me feel better but it also kept me from worrying too much about what other potential health problems lay in my son’s future. I truly believe that if it weren’t for my “obsession” (a healthy obsession) with nutrition, I would spiral into a pit of hopelessness and self-despair.

I continue to do the same although I had much less free time. For the first year of my son’s life, I feel like all I did was cook, pump breast milk, watch over my kids, and go to physical therapy for torticollis.

But what really solidified my commitment was not my improved well-being. It was the smile on my second son’s face as he eats his soaked oatmeal with raw milk for breakfast or reaches for an apple instead of a candy bar. I am no doctor but I know that I am doing everything I can to help him overcome his health issues. And even if it takes me a bit more time than if I were to rely on store-bought products, I have no regrets. That smile of his makes it worth it for me.

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