The Railroad, the Weight of the World: Meat in ASD Recovery

In last week’s post titled “Guilt,” I described a chain of events surrounding Martin’s birth: Pitocin, epidurally administered drugs, stuck baby, C-section, NICU. I alluded also to my regret over having allowed the doctors to induce labor, which I believe triggered that chain.

With several years’ hindsight, I feel that I was railroaded into allowing the induced labor. (And I did allow it; I own my decision.) I was 42 weeks pregnant. From my perspective, Martin being two weeks late raised no red flags. Thirty-five years earlier, I myself spent an extra few weeks in the womb, and my instinct now said Martin was not ready to be born. But my doctor asserted, and a second doctor confirmed, that letting the pregnancy continue could only endanger Martin, with no potential upside. Plus, my doctor said, by inducing labor we could schedule the birth, for her once-weekly hospital duty.

It should not require explanation that a woman 42 weeks pregnant, who is being told that she’s risking her baby’s health, is vulnerable. I was vulnerable, and I made a decision that I believed, even at the time, to be wrong.

The mother of a young child with autism, who believes that recovery is possible and is struggling to effect that recovery, also is vulnerable. I am vulnerable, again.

And I am being faced with a choice I wish I did not have to make.

I’m a vegan. Until February, so was Martin. I’ve posted here about some of the tough decisions Adrian and I have made for Martin, regarding animal products in his diet. Since we radicalized his diet, he has started consuming fish oil, honey, ghee, and eggs (at the moment, duck and quail eggs).

Now I am being advised that, given his particular gut and digestion issues, eating meat might benefit Martin. Meat! Cows and pigs and chickens and—whatever other animals people eat, I suppose. I haven’t touched meat in more than 22 years. By this time the whole idea just strikes me as strange. I don’t want to do it, to feed flesh to Martin. At the same time, Adrian and I decided when we started this journey that we will do anything in our power to recover our son. Anything. (“If Martin needs to drink the blood of the Dalai Lama to get better,” I told Adrian one night, “we’re catching the next flight to India, knife in hand.”) Which means that if cows and pigs and chickens may help Martin, I can’t rule them out.

Let me be clear about this: I am not being railroaded into feeding Martin meat. The Track Two recovery team we work with is not the same as the doctors at Martin’s birth. These professionals take time, consider our family’s ethics and preferences, and facilitate our decisions, instead of strong-arming us into their decisions. No one has even framed the meat issue except with respect. Nevertheless, my own vulnerability when it comes to Martin’s recovery leads me to feel attacked. Feeding him meat means compromising a long-held stance. Denying him meat means bypassing a possible avenue to recovery.

Or does it? We’ve made no decision yet. Adrian and I are still investigating, asking questions. If a vegan diet is generally healthiest, what is it about Martin’s body that might make meat a better choice for him? Would it lead to more complete recovery, or faster recovery, or just easier recovery? (I suspect that most parents recovering their children don’t spend hours each week balancing proteins, as I do with Martin’s gluten- and soy- and casein– and meat- and most-other-things-free diet. Chicken breast every dinner would be a heckuva lot easier.) How much meat are we talking about, and what kinds? For how long? How would we know if it’s helping?

I hope to commit to a path soon, one way or the other. I’m way too worked up over this issue.

In the event we do decide to feed Martin meat, please don’t bother combing the blog for meat-based ASD recovery recipes. I’ve been a vegetarian all my adult life, which means I’ve never cooked animal flesh. Seriously, I have no idea how. When we added eggs to Martin’s diet, I had to ask a friend how to hard-boil one. Goodness only knows what will happen if I end up with a hunk of cow parts in my hands.

Back on the topic of Martin’s birth: By the end of the events that began with induced labor, even as I was being stitched up from the C-section, I had wits enough to comprehend that this was not the entry into the world my son needed.

When the doctors announced that, based on my fever and despite Martin’s Apgar score of 9, they were removing him to the NICU, I mustered my strength and called from the operating table, “No, no, that’s not necessary. He’s fine. Adrian, get him back!”

Adrian confronted the doctors, said we did not want our son taken away.

Their reply was as knee-jerk as it was decisive: In the event we refused to surrender Martin for the treatment they believed best, the Administration for Children’s Services would be contacted.

And my son was gone.

Which, I suppose, is another reason still why this blog is anonymous. I’d like to avoid any more authority figures ready to impose their will on my family.

On the other hand, deciding for myself can feel like the weight of the world.

10 thoughts on “The Railroad, the Weight of the World: Meat in ASD Recovery

  1. This fascinating. I felt strong-armed into being induced as well. It was strange because the night before when my water broke my doctor was completely cavalier and said I could come to her office in the morning. But when I checked into the hospital they hooked me up to pitocin in seconds. I suppose I must have signed something (?) but it did not feel like a choice. I hadn’t wanted to do an epidural but after 9 hours I did. Like everyone reports–a completely different labor than the one I’d pictured (although I didn’t have a birth plan and in fact never have any kind of plan for anything).
    I can understand the conflict about meat. It sounds like such a hard decision. I’ve been a vegetarian since age 6 and don’t know how I’d face the situation you are in. Thanks for sharing this story (I’m going to go back and read other entries now).

    • We did have a birth plan. We had a doula and had discussed everything in advance—how long I would labor at home, techniques for managing without the epidural, leaving the umbilical cord attached. From our pregnancy classes, I felt prepared. I was aware of C-section rates and doctors’ tendency to want to induce. I felt certain none of it would happen to me. Today I have a hard time believing how all that the flew out the window when I heard the words, “You’re putting the baby at risk.” Indeed, I’m ashamed at how quickly I let myself be swayed. That’s what Martin’s cranio-sacral therapist says I’ve got to get past….

  2. It takes strength and courage to challenge and re-examine one’s beliefs, whether it’s religion, ethics, social mores…or diet. I applaud your thoughtfulness in making this decision and hope you can find the best answer for your family.

  3. Wow. I can see how that would make it even harder — having deviated from a plan. But I hope you can get past being ashamed about that. “Big Imposing Hospital” as you put it is so persuasive. We’re taught to believe doctors know best. Possibly putting one’s child at risk is just the worst thing you can threaten someone with. (awkward phrasing)

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