Hubby Eats

Managing Martin’s recovery has taught me more than ever about nutrition.

I love my husband, Adrian, and would like to keep him healthy.

I’m kind of a control freak.

These facts were bound to collide at some point. That’s why, except when we go out for dinner or he has a business event, I now prepare every bite of food Adrian eats.

Years ago, Adrian skipped breakfast and, during the work week, bought whatever for lunch. When he decided to manage his diet better to lose a few pounds, he still skipped breakfast but I started sending lunch to the office with him. In the beginning, I sent a sandwich of cheese, fake meat (usually processed soy), greens, and mustard or vegan mayonnaise on whole-wheat bread; two fresh fruits; and two protein snacks like nuts, or veggies and hummus, or (more) cheese and crackers.

As time went on, the bread became sprouted-seed gluten-free, the fake meat became less processed and more lentil-mushroomy, and the cheese and hummus became organic.

Then the sandwiches and fake meat disappeared altogether. Then I insisted on adding breakfast at home. Then an insulated container of lentils snuck into every lunch, to make sure Adrian had enough to tide him over even when he works late (which he usually does). Then I tried to eliminate cheese snacks. That last effort, the cheese, was unsuccessful, although I did manage to switch him to raw-milk cheese, usually purchased directly from a local farm.

As of 2016, Adrian’s weekday menu is as follows:

Breakfast. Smoothie made from plant-based protein powder, nut milk, peanut butter, and frozen berries.

Lunch and snacks. Two bento-style boxes (I use LunchBots) containing avocado (South American by origin, Adrian craves avocado daily), fruits, nuts, cheese, olives, and/or raw veggies, accompanied by a hummus cup or baggie of rice crackers and a container of lentils or legumes.

Dinner: Whatever Martin is eating. Last night, dinner was white beans with home-grown-basil pesto and arugula salad from my garden. Tonight, Samara is preparing her special lentils with onion, garlic, and carrots; Adrian never minds lentils twice in one day. Tomorrow evening, Adrian and Martin will eat fish and fermented kale. In the event Adrian, a pescatarian, cannot eat what Martin is having (say, meatballs), I make him a “hearty salad,” which comprises fresh greens, berries, nuts, and seeds, dressed with olive oil and chickpea miso.

All the food is organic, except the nut milk, because sometimes I buy a brand that is only GMO-free, and the fish, which is wild-caught. Weekends, I make a full breakfast for Adrian and Martin, and we often eat dinner at a restaurant.

Adrian is a corporate attorney at a white-shoe law firm in Manhattan. Last month a visiting friend was ribbing Adrian, asking if he is the only firm partner who brings homemade lunch every day. Adrian laughed and said he didn’t care. “I like my lunch. My lunch is tasty.”

Now, if I could only get my own diet into such good shape.

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Lunch and snacks for Adrian’s day: carrots, strawberries, TigerNut flour cookies, peaches, cheese, pistachios, avocado (coated with lemon juice), grapes, hummus.

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Lentils, heated, being loaded into an insulated container to accompany Adrian’s lunch and snacks.

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More bento boxes, with oranges, pears, avocado, cheese, cold bean salad, and olives.

Contributions

If you read yesterday’s tedious post about a Tuesday morning, you may have asked yourself why I, your blogger, was the parent doing everything. Adrian, who is not only my husband but also Martin’s father, was at home that morning. His role in the story was limited to showing up for toast and coffee, showering, and leaving later than usual in order to drive me to the train station. And goshdarn it, he got to sleep until 6:30.

Autism recovery is long and expensive. You know that. For me, the heartbreaking posts in my on-line biomed groups are the ones like, “I’m trying so hard to help my child, but my husband subverts everything I do,” or, “Before autism, we had a real marriage, but now I’m married to him only because I need the insurance,” or, “I’ve become a single parent, with limited resources. If you had to pick either organic food or supplements, which one would you buy?”

If parents intend to navigate the autism-recovery journey together—or even remain a loving, adult couple in the face of autism—they need to find their way to the same page, i.e., to talk openly and craft a mutually acceptable plan. In our family, by agreement, the division of labor is this:

Me:

Research treatments; schedule all doctors and therapists; plan necessary travel; monitor diet; procure and prepare special food; order and administer supplements etc.; coordinate childcare for when I’m working or otherwise unavailable; oversee detox baths and sauna use; inquire about and visit schools; keep medical and school records; serve as activity chauffeur; monitor home environment; be assumed-on-duty parent at all times except when advance arrangements are made (“Saturday afternoon from 1:00-3:00, I need to edit a brief. Can you take Martin?”).

Adrian:

Earn the money to pay for all this.

Whether this arrangement is fair depends on your viewpoint. I am the parent who had to give up my career in order to handle Martin’s recovery effectively. That being said, I am also the parent lucky and privileged enough to be able to surrender an office job and devote my hours to Martin. I am the parent who gets less sleep in order to juggle all that needs to be done, and who manages the stress of autism/ADHD. That being said, I am also the parent without office and workplace stress, with more freedom in how I organize my time. I am both the parent who has to do most of the day-to-day decision-making and the parent who gets to do most of the day-to-day decision-making. Adrian cannot cook or prepare supplements or measure detox baths; when I must travel alone, Martin’s nanny Samara stays in our home to take care of him. To take care of Martin and Adrian both, really. That being said, Adrian never begrudges my time away from home.

Moreover, whether our arrangement is fair does not matter one iota, because it is the arrangement that works for me and Adrian. The very big decisions, such as whether to undertake chelation, or where Martin should attend school, we make together. I may go so far as to prepare a presentation of alternatives, with supporting information, so that Adrian can help make an informed choice. My being the biomed parent does not negate Adrian’s being an enthusiastic and involved father. Martin is Adrian’s Mini-Me. They dress alike, go to the gym together, rock-climb together, ride bikes together. They get the more typical parent-child relationship. I get the rest of it.

Adrian likes to say that it’s to my credit, not his, that Martin is doing so well. He calls Martin my “masterpiece.”

I respond that I couldn’t manage this process without my partner.

Most Special Guest Post Ever

As you can (ahem!) probably tell, this blog doesn’t get much editing. As to most entries, I draft, read through once, add any links or photos, and post, sans quality check.

Occasionally, however, I request a second opinion before I post, because I’m writing about a friend or relative and want him/her to have the story before the world does, or in order to check whether my words will convey what I want them to. In the entry titled “For Diana,” I wrote to a fellow ASD parent who has commented thoughtfully on my blog over the past two years. The topic of “For Diana” was our disagreement about approaches to treating autism. In that instance, I asked Adrian to read the draft before I posted. I was looking for a gut-check: Was I respectful toward Diana’s position? Did I address her comments without extraneous points? Did I acknowledge my own biases? Adrian did a commendable job. He pointed out one paragraph where my words sounded “snide” (I edited that) and suggested one comment to which I could add more depth (I tried).

And then, to my surprise, he started to add his own thoughts to what I had written. Adrian listens, and responds, when I talk about Martin’s challenges, treatment, and achievements. The “big decisions”—should we try chelation? is HBOT worth the investment? where should we live? where should Martin go to school?—we make together, based on information I assemble for Adrian to review. Beyond those discussions, Adrian rarely volunteers his thoughts about autism, or recovery. Autism recovery is my department. Adrian’s departments are vacation planning, opera excursions, history lessons, and the family economy. Adrian enjoys a probative biography of Nixon; my desk is littered with articles about MTFR mutation. Indeed, if we decide to tell a friend or family member that Martin has autism (we’re guarded, in that regard), I am the one who sits the initiate down for that talk, without Adrian present.

Yet here he was, freely telling me why he thought Diana’s opinion was mistaken. His statements were original, and different, and not echoes of mine.

“You should write that down for my blog,” I said when Adrian finished. “Really. It would mean a lot to add your voice to Martin’s story as it evolves. Otherwise it’s always just me, speaking for both of us.”

“Maybe,” Adrian said. “I guess I could think about it.”

We left the topic at that. I didn’t want to push Adrian. In addition to his autism reluctance, Adrian doesn’t enjoy writing in English, other than technical finance and legal documents. English is not Adrian’s first language, or even his second, and despite his thorough fluency (better grammar than most native speakers, I tell him!), he’s never seemed to gain full confidence.

A month passed. And then almost another month. And then Adrian sent me an email with no re: line and no content other than an attachment titled “martin.docx.”

Here is what he wrote:

I am Martin’s father. My wife, Maria, asked me to write a note for her blog on Martin. The request was made in response to a reader advocating that our approach to Martin’s autism is not worth pursuing. The commentator argued, thoughtfully and politely, that trying to recover a child from autism is tantamount to wanting to “change” the child, while in fact the child was just fine but different. Being “different” would not merit trying to change the child, and could at some point be perceived by the child as a rejection of what he or she is. “I don’t want to return my son to full neurotypicality because I don’t see him as having been in a certain place and then having regressed or changed,” wrote the commentator. “I don’t understand how the language and idea of ‘cure’ and ‘recovery’ is consistent with teaching our kids to love and accept themselves as they are.

The commentator is not alone. Many people in the unwilling community bound by autism argue that there is nothing that requires addressing or treating autism. An autistic person is perfectly healthy and happy, just not neurotypical. It is up to us to accept autistic persons as they are.

Maria and I have a very different attitude towards autism.

To me, autism is a deeply uncomfortable topic. To my wife, it is a topic in which she has simply become an expert. I view autism as a topic that occupies too much space in our lives. Maria sees it more like an important, unavoidable part of our lives. I have been shaken by the existence of autism in our family. She has decided to confront it.

But we both share a commitment to doing everything we reasonably can to bring our son back to neurotypicality.

From my standpoint, this is not about accepting or rejecting one’s child. This has little to do with my personal relationship with my child. This is about the responsibility of a parent to prepare his or her child to live in the actual world.

One of the most critical things a parent has to do is to raise a human being who can, to the greatest extent possible, fend for himself in the real world. My job as a father is not only to love and nurture my child—and, as a result, to be accepting of him—but to prepare him for the world in which he will have to live. Martin will have to live in a world that I will not always be able to shape in a way that works best for him. I may or may not be able to help him and be there for him along the way, and there will certainly be a time when I am no longer going to be able to be there for him at all.

If autism does one thing, it makes a parent realize the thousands of social cues and communication skills that create a successful social interaction.

Martin, for example, insists on yelling “Go away!” to any person who wants to assist him if he happens to be dealing with something by himself. Even among expert professionals (like his teachers), a curt, impolite “Go away!” triggers a shock reaction. Martin is still prone to asking inappropriate questions (“Is that your husband?”, “What year were you born?”, “When did you get into your mommy’s belly?”) of any person he just happens to meet.

But it is not only this kind of obvious behavior that needs to be addressed; it is the more subtle rules of social interaction and communication that make people successful. Understanding, especially what is not being communicated verbally. Listening, to the nuanced messages that adults use all the time. Acting with emotional intelligence. Differencing when one is being attacked or mocked from when one is just being made fun of. Properly interacting with people in positions of superiority or inferiority, and with peers. All of these are the gifts of neurotypicality and of a good and loving education.

Looking at Martin, I see a child who is entitled to be raised in a way that maximizes his ability to navigate the world. That is my responsibility.

There you have it, readers. Adrian is real. He speaks. And you and I, together, have just learned more about his position on recovering Martin than I’ve known in four years—one more way in which keeping this blog has blessed my life.

Adrian messing around, with his niece and Martin on the back.

Adrian messing around, with his niece and Martin on the back.