I often ponder the human relationship with food. Our omnivorous diet is astounding when you think about it. We eat pretty much everything out there, and each culture scorns the dietary choices of other tribes. (“You eat horse? Eeeew!” “You eat pork? Barf.” etc.) Who was the first person to have a crack at a lobster or a chili pepper, and think, huh, not bad! Life would be a lot easier as a koala, munching away on eucalypt leaves and never having to stand with the fridge door ajar going, hmmmm, now what do I feel like eating?
Everyday, we in the West are presented with a bewildering variety of colourfully packaged and mostly synthetic foods from which to choose, and the industry of modern food production is destroying the environment. The choices we make have ripple-effects far beyond our own families, forcing us to analyze everything we put into our bodies. A large part (ha) of the population is ballooning bigger than ever before, while many others choose not to eat at all, in a bid to satisfy some deluded standard of beauty.
Obviously, I’ve given the topic a lot of thought, and I’ve tried my best to provide Gavin, over the course of his short life, with only the most natural and best-quality foods. We don’t generally eat meat, he’s never eaten fast food, and everything he eats is screened for unwanted ingredients. I mean, I don’t necessarily want him to be the nerdy kid whose mum won’t let him eat at McDonald’s, I’ve just wanted him to have the best start.
It has been pure heartbreak, over the last two months, that Gavin hasn’t been able to eat at all. Since his surgery, Gavin has had dysphagia. When we first established that he couldn’t swallow, I was completely desperate, I couldn’t imagine how he could possibly get better if he couldn’t eat. And those first couple of weeks, we were establishing what type of formula he could tolerate through his NG tube, and he vomited constantly. Up until now, Gavin had had exactly two servings of formula in his whole life. Now it’s the only thing keeping him alive, and his weight fluctuates from one week to the next.
With the extreme adaptability of toddlers, he’s accepted that that’s what he’s eating now and wants to help prepare his feeds. He still shows interest in food, and has taken to feeding Mama when I’m hungry. For quite awhile, I didn’t eat at all in front of him because I felt terribly guilty, and every comment he made about food or cooking brought me to tears. I find myself shrugging my shoulders now about the foods that I eat myself, with a sort of why-bother mentality. Grocery shopping is difficult, I walk around, tearful, with the cart, having no idea what to buy anymore as all the foods I always bought for him are now off limits.
Gavin has always been quite the chef. At 10 months he wanted to help stir the pots on the stove and was whipping up recipes in his kitchen at just over a year, helping himself to ingredients from the pantry cupboard. We even took a cooking course for toddlers together and he loved breaking eggs and grating cheese. He still loves to cook and help in the kitchen, and I’m hoping that this won’t change, and will keep up his interest in food. Some children develop what they call oral aversion, which means they refuse to eat once this issue resolves, and may take a long, long time to get back to normal.
We are still very hopeful about Gavin’s swallow issues. A couple of weeks ago, he couldn’t even swallow his own secretions, and would constantly have to spit into a tissue. He’s gradually stopped doing this, and his voice sounds stronger and clearer. This now means that we can try again soon to assess his swallow and see if he can tolerate some textures. Just thinking about it fills me with hope and deep anxiety. We’ll have to go back to the beginning, but I taught him to eat once and I can do it again, although I’d thought my days of purees were behind me.
Food and eating is an intrinsic part of human connection, we sit down and eat together and talk about our days. We rave about amazing meals years after the fact. We tell everyone who’ll listen about That Gelato Place in Italy.
Beanie won’t be eating birthday cake for his second birthday. But I’m hoping, ever hopeful, that he’ll be eating something.