we went shopping at Whole Foods today on our weekly grocery run.
with emma in toe, we scoured the isles for healthy, wholesome, mostly organic foods that we could all eat together during the week - keeping in mind e's food limitations (such as a dairy protein allergy), my husband's organic-only, largely fish and fresh greens-based diet requirement, and my desire to eat locally-grown, wholesome foods.
needless to say, our shopping adventure took us two hours - which is not uncommon.
when we were standing in the line to check-out, and as my husband loaded the groceries to be scanned, i indulged in my weekly ritual of reading as many of the magazines on display as i could.
this week, Whole Living caught my attention - not so much because of the pictures or the articles inside, but more because of its title.
here i was, in Whole Foods, reading Whole Living, preocuppied with preparing whole meals for my whole family.
but, what really, does any of that mean for us? or for emma?
i think i have spent the better part of my adult life striving for wholeness - wholeness of mind, body, and spirit. i was a vegetarian for over a decade and have been a pescatarian for the better part of the last 8 years. my husband, too, has gone from vegan to raw foodie to vegetarian to pescatarian over the past 17 years. And, we have both together and separately practiced yoga, exercised, traveled as much as possible to be as worldly as possible, explored our spirituality, and tried to give back to our communities in our own ways.
yet, when it comes to emma, i am a little stumped as to what whole living really means. is it the same for a typical and a special needs child? what makes her prosper and thrive? what do my choices regarding her health care, nutrition, and sleep habits mean for her future well being? are we imposing an impossible standard on her or doing too little?
emma eats what we eat, with the exception of dairy given her dairy protein intolerance. she also drinks soy milk and lots of water. she eats on BPA-free plates and drinks out of BPA-free cups. She plays with friends, goes to Gymboree, attends music class, and visits the local children's library two times a week or more. she visits local museums almost weekly and goes on a walk daily, weather and health permitting. she attends church, is read to, uses speech apps on the I-Pad, and plays with lots of toys.
she also has two to three therapy sessions a week - physical therapy, special education, occupational therapy, speech therapy, feeding therapy. and, she more often than not, has at least one doctor's appointment a week. in the last week or so, for example, she had physical therapy, occupational therapy, special education, saw her pediatrician for her annual check-up and three immunizations, went to the hospital for an EEG, saw a neurologist for an examination, and saw a pediatric opthamologist.
this is a lot, but not uncommon.
in that same time, she also abruptly stopped her twice-daily naps, quit babbling, and started trying to pull up to stand - a mixed bag of blessings and concerns.
i know most of this does not make emma unique- lots of kids, typical or not, have similarly-looking weeks and similar achievements and challenges.
for instance, i was talking with a friend recently whose youngest - typical - child has developed a number of concerning symptoms - symptoms of what she is not sure. she characterized it as a puzzle. trying to fit all of the pieces together and look at her child holistically in an attempt to discern what, in the big picture, all of those symptoms mean. she has no clear answers yet and her many doctors didn't either. perhaps a diagnosis would make the picture clearer?
yet, based on our experience, i am not sure.
i was thinking over all of this this evening sitting on our back patio, after emma went to bed, and as the sun was going down outside. i noticed our potted herbs. earlier this summer, my husband and i proudly planted basil, mint, thyme, oregano, parsley, lavendar, sage, rosemary, and dill. after my husband worked his magic with some great, organic soil and a few dozen worms, they started to grow to the now robust, bountiful herbs that we enjoy in our meals each week.
the basil, in particular, is pretty stunning. it has grown to the size of a small bush and is leaning very markedly toward the direction of the sun. what is so unique that makes it thrive this year more than any past, i wondered? the sun? the frequent rain? the worms? the special soil? our tending to it frequently? all of the above?
what will make emma thrive? does her diagnosis change the equation for us? though she needs the early intervention and we are firm believers in its importance and the importance of constant and preventative medical care, should we shield her from too much at any given time? should we space it all out? or should we chase down every possible concern that every doctor identifies in an attempt to diagnose random sypmtoms and head off any larger issues that could preclude her growth and development? what does it mean to have balance of mind, body, soul with a Down syndrome diagnosis?
i don't have answers to this.
for now, we've been focused on cultivating as constant a smile on emma's face as possible, as hearty a laugh as possible, and as much contentment as possible in her daily life. we've celebrated her daily joys and attempted to empower her to confront her current and future challenges.
is that wholeness?
i certainly hope so.