Natural Choices: Rachel-Iris's Story by Basia and Stuart Mair

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Reprinted from Current Magazine, Summer 1996

Our daughter Rachel-Iris was born December 26, 1993. We had prepared everything for her birth, or so we thought. After twenty hours of labour, our little girl was born, then our doctor told us that something was seriously wrong, as she pointed to her back. Rachel-Iris was immediately taken away and put in an incubator for close observation. We were later told that she was born with spina bifida, and that she would need surgery right away to close her back. We were also advised that there was a strong possibility that she may not walk. The next day Rachel-Iris was flown to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Before she left, we held her hand through the incubator, and told her we loved her and wanted her, and we watched sadly, as they took our little girl away.

Oh, how different were the first days of Rachel-Iris’s life from our dreams. Our family is vegetarian (macrobiotic), we arranged a natural birth-without any medication, we both made a decision about breastfeeding our little baby and were looking forward to it. Breastfeeing is so natural, and not an alternative, but in our situation it was considered as such. Nobody told us we could feed our daughter breastmilk, even if she is hooked up to all the machines. With persistence, we found an electric breastmilk pump in the hospital and she was fed mother’s milk through the tube, and then breastfed successfully for two years.

Rachel-Iris has been catheterized since birth. The hospital trained us to empty her bladder. We were told that it would be necessary to give her antibiotics, possibly for the rest of her life, as she would be prone to bladder and kidney infections. We were aware that antibiotic treatment weakens the immune system and can trigger a vaginal yeast infection. We also learned that antibiotics destroy not only "bad" bacteria, but also "friendly bacteria" essential for optimum health. People with recurrent urinary tract infections often harbor bacteria resistant to many antibiotics, so as a result doctors have to switch their patients from one type of antibiotic to another.

We searched for alternatives to antibiotics for some time. Eventually, we found a doctor who was also a naturopath. He told us about a method of irrigation of the bladder which helps to stop infection. We have been using this method for a year and a half, it consists of vitamin C in powder and sterilized water. Sometimes she has moderate infections, but it always clears up. Every three days we alternate, using baking soda and sterilized water substitute. This way the pH level switches from acid to alcaline and back again, the bacteria becomes confused and the bladder doesn’t become dependent on one substance or the other. It also has a chance to recuperate from the vitamin C, which, if accidentally administered in large doses, can irritate the inside of the bladder.

If any of our readers are interested in trying natural irrigation with vitamin C instead of antibiotics, we advise them to find the appropriate support, for example an openminded family doctor and naturopath-to work together.

Rachel-Iris was diagnosed not only with myelomeningocele spina bifida, but also with hydrocephalus and had a shunt put in five days after her birth. We learned that there are two important factors in order to keep the shunt working properly: good bowel movements and high-fibre diet. We see a direct connection between both. Our family puts a special effort towards the food we eat. We avoid refined products, sugar, meat and dairy products, instead we use traditional whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Our meals are homemade. Most of the time it seems to work well for Rachel-Iris’s bowel movements. If we are afraid of constipation, we give her a natural laxative, such as flax seed tea. The drink is made from crushed flax seeds, boiled with water, which works wonderfully. As we learn , we try to do the best that we can for Rachel-Iris, using both medical model and alternative.

When Rachel-Iris was born with spina bifida, spiritually, it was a very important part of our lives. We are still grieving, but with the help of parents from a support group and compassionate professionals, we are able to express our feelings. We have become more humble and appreciate life more, we believe that materialism is not as important as the well-being of others. We are happy that Rachel-Iris is part of our family. She has changed our lives, teaching us to see things, which we would not normally see.