Why this is a post I never thought I’d write

Why this is a post I never thought I'd write  - Keeper of the Home

*It’s rather coincidental, yet so perfectly aligned, that I would feel led to write this post the same week that Jessica’s thoughtful post on such a similar topic went up. I think the message is coming through loud and clear… “grace, always grace”, for all our weaknesses and imperfections and frailty and unanswered questions.*

I feel grateful I brought a sweater. The air conditioning chills my feet, bare skin exposed in flip flops. Distracted, I page through a House & Home magazine, once in a while glancing up at the video of too-happy teens demonstrating how to floss their perfectly straight pearly whites. 

Meanwhile, my seven year old son sits in a big black chair, under sedation, without me, while a children’s oral specialist fixes, fills and yanks out far too many of his teeth. 
 
It’s bad. I mean, really bad. 
 
This is a post I never expected to write, but as I sit here, waiting, waiting, waiting, it’s running through my mind and needs to get out. Writing has become a form of therapy over the years, and today feels no different. 
 
He’d begun to complain about tooth pain for several weeks before we got him in to see a dentist, though we couldn’t see anything clearly for ourselves. But he needed a check up anyways, and we didn’t want him to be in pain, so one rainy spring afternoon, I bundled the kids up, and we went to a dentist I’d located in our new town. After looking at this teeth and taking a couple of x-rays, the dentist called me in. I took a deep breath and followed the hygienist down the hall. 
 
“There’s a lot of decay,” he said, rather unsympathetically. “He needs some major work done, too much for me to do. He’ll need to see a specialist, someone who can sedate him and do the work all at once, so he doesn’t remember. So he isn’t traumatized. After that, he’ll need a lot of orthodontic work, sooner than later, because there’s no room for his adult teeth and if you don’t get it taken care of now, his teeth will be really bad. Kids are mean these days. You don’t want him to be made fun of, do you?”
 
I sucked in my breath, taken aback. I had no idea. Oh, I knew his mouth was crowded. I know that he deals with more health challenges than the rest of the family and it was starting to show in his teeth. I expected at least one or two cavities, where he’d been complaining of the pain. 
 
But a mouthful at his age? Seeing a specialist to be sedated? To the tune of thousands of dollars? I was stunned, and struggled to contain the hot tears filling up my eyes, not wanting to show the dentist how his careless words had shaken me. 
 
Weeks later, we get in for the appointment with the specialist. A soft spoken Asian-Canadian woman, who takes her team members on dental missions trips to Nicaragua and has decorated her office like Around the World in 80 Days, sits down with me and gently explains the situation. It is as bad as the first dentist said. He needs extensive work. There are about 10 cavities, many of them need stainless steel caps, and some teeth are near the point of root canal or extraction. 
 
Why this is a post I never thought I'd write  - Keeper of the Home
 
He won’t feel the pain, she says, nor will he remember much of the experience. She’s sweet, carefully detailing the work to be done, how she’ll do it. I feel safe with him in her care. We’ll save up the money. We’ll get him what he needs to end his suffering, and learn how to prevent it from happening again. 
 
But that doesn’t take away the frustration, the guilt, and even the shame I feel. 
 
How can my child, the one whom I nursed for so long, whom I fed gluten and dairy free when he had food sensitivities, whom I’ve tried to keep from processed and refined foods to the very best of my ability, whom I’ve given spoonfuls of cod liver oil and sought out outrageously priced raw milk for, still have all these dental problems? 
 
My brain hurts as I think through all the possibilities of how it could have happened.
 
Was it the fact that while pregnant with him, my husband was diagnosed with cancer? We went through many difficult months of surgery, chemo, and then recovery during my last trimester of pregnancy and while he was very young. I was stressed to the max, not gaining enough weight towards the end. He was a small baby. I struggled with my milk supply several times. 
 
Or maybe it was the times when we made compromises in our diet, when we didn’t have cod liver oil regularly, when we occasionally gave in and bought ice cream cones for a special treat.
 
We do our best, but we don’t let food rules our lives. Excellence, but not perfection, is our goal. I’ve always tried so hard to feed my kids to the best of my ability, but suddenly it doesn’t feel like enough.
 
Was it my fault? Could I have prevented this? 
 
His siblings don’t have perfect teeth, but nothing like this. Maybe a pin-prick cavity, or some mild crowding. This is different. 
 
I’m frustrated, bewildered. Why him? Is it genetic? Did I do something wrong? Do I even know anything about healthy living? Is he paying for all the years when I was still so unhealthy in my teens and early twenties?
 
Trying to push away the thoughts that torment me, I ask the dentist if she’s ever heard of teeth being remineralized. She says yes, she believes that sometimes it can happen. I start to cry, this time out of relief. Finally, a dentist that doesn’t think I’m crazy.
 
I tell her what I’ve read about, ask her if we can try. She gives me her blessing, sells me a special toothpaste for remineralization and tells me to do whatever I think best with diet and supplements. 
 
While we wait months for his appointment, a far-off date on the calendar, we work hard. 
 
No grains, or at the very least, gluten-free if we’re stuck for options. No sugar. Double doses of cod liver oil and butter oil. A calcium and magnesium supplement. Swishing and swallowing Black Walnut tincture. Extra careful brushing and flossing, followed by remineralization paste before bed every night. Plenty of raw milk.
 
He’s so diligent. If I forget, he reminds me, sweet boy that he is. But I rarely forget. I’m determined. I know we can’t reverse it all, some of it is just too far gone. But I have hope that I can make a difference. 
 
Today he dutifully skipped breakfast, and his big sister and I sat with him, watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in a small room while the sedation medicine began to take effect. They took him away 20 minutes later, to begin the work and x-ray once again, just to be sure nothing had changed. 
 
I was hopeful. Oh, was I ever hopeful. Dr. Tsang had promised me that if anything had improved or was looking better than before, we’d leave it and just watch it, trusting that continued diligence with his teeth and diet and supplements might be able to reverse the small cavities altogether. 
 
That’s not what happened, though. 
 
As she began her painstaking work on Caden’s mouth, her assistant took me into a room, explained that all the cavities remained, and they hadn’t gotten smaller. The two baby teeth that were in need of possible root canals had deteriorated, the roots already begun to die. They needed to be pulled out. And once again, I choked down my tears as I tried to make a last minute decision whether we should have spacers put into those places or not (we did). 
 
I feel like I’ve failed. I’m discouraged and sad for my son. 
 
In every parent’s life, there comes a moment when you realize you can’t protect your children from everything. Just as we each walk through our own storms, standing battered by the pouring rain, and must gather up our courage in the midst of the darkness and the lightning crashes and the fear of the hard things we’re facing, so must our children. We can’t shelter them from it all. 
 
I can’t undo the fact that Caden may struggle with weak teeth the rest of his life, or have to undergo painful or complicated dental work and orthodontics. I know it frightens him, and later today, he’ll feel miserable as he comes out from under the sedation. His teeth will probably ache for days, with the new fillings and the pulled teeth and the unfamiliar spacers pushing against the teeth that remain. 
 
Why this is a post I never thought I'd write  - Keeper of the Home
 
We’ll continue to make the best choices we can with his diet, keep him low grain and even lower sugar, ensure he’s fastidious in his oral care, make sure he’s getting sufficient vitamins and minerals through diet and supplements, take him in for regular check ups. 
 
I’ll confess that today, right now, I feel doubtful that any of this makes a difference. 
 
And I know, deep down, that it does. I know that some people, for all sorts of reasons, are more susceptible than others. Perhaps if we’d discovered the problems sooner, or had longer to try to fix them, we could have made a difference. I don’t really know. And for now, I’m choosing to be okay with that.
 
What I do know is that I can’t go back and change those months of pregnancy or nursing, and that I was doing the best that I could during a turbulent time in our lives. I know that God’s grace is sufficient, for my struggles and for all that my son will endure as a result of his teeth. 
 
This is one of those posts where I don’t have any answers. I wish I did, but I don’t. I simply want to be honest about our experience. 
 
It’s important to remember that sometimes, we can do all the things that seem to be right, make the best choices we know how to make, and still not be able to fix the problem.
 
We have to come to terms with that, and realize that our hope is not in our healthy choices. They’re important, yes. But they aren’t a guarantee, or a way to escape sickness or hardship all together. Thank God that He is bigger than all of these things. 
 
I’d love to hear your stories, of challenge you’ve faced and how you approached them. Of times when you did the right things, and still didn’t get the results that you hoped for. Of how you’re moving forward with hope in situations that frustrate and discourage you. 
 
Let’s come around each other in the comments. We live in a broken world, with imperfect bodies, and there are no perfect solutions. Sometimes we don’t need suggestions or ideas or answers. We just need support and community and to encourage one another that we’re all doing the very best we can, and it is enough. I want to make sure that the comments remain positive and affirming, so please keep your tone encouraging. I trust that you will. Thank you for joining us here. It’s an honor to be a part of this community.
Love Stephanie

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About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. This information to just say NO has arrived in such a timely manner. My life is under lots of stress now. My 91 year old mother has refused some medical treatment because she is so very ready to move on to her next chapter. I have 5 sisters and each one wants to be the control person. Last evening I choose to take a step back today and do something with my husband who is feeling neglected thru this issue with my mother.. Your message has just verified to me that it is okay to say no and take a step back. Thank you for taking the time to share this important message.

  2. Meredith says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. We are in the middle of something very similar right now. I feel like we’ve done everything “right” yet still my son has severe tooth decay. Its so hard to swallow.

  3. Oh Stephanie, I think we all have at least one story like this in our mommy experience. :) Here’s one of mine. Several years ago my one-year-old got a fever. I wasn’t giving Tylenol at that time in my parenting because I wanted the fever to “do it’s thing” and burn off whatever needed burning off naturally. She ended up having a seizure because the fever got too high, and in the ER we found out she had Scarlet Fever. Shortly after that I got very sick with a high fever, and of course, I took Tylenol for myself to get relief. I felt horribly guilty for the fact that my daughter had a seizure that could have been prevented – and for my not giving my children the relief they needed through medication. Mothers are only doing the best they can, and of course they will make mistakes, not know things, and miss other things. We are not God. I think your message of grace is extremely important. Grace for ourselves – and grace for others. Thank you for being courageous and sharing this story with us. I hope you are grasping that grace for yourself and finding peace as you move forward.

    • Oh, and when it comes to teeth, there is often nothing you can do to prevent things. Our youngest son gets a tarter build up on his teeth within 6-8 weeks. He has to go in regularly to get it scraped off. It doesn’t matter how often we brush or what we brush with. The dentist said he will have this issue his whole life. He doesn’t drink sweet things, never drinks at bedtime (other than water), and rarely eats sugary things.

  4. Really, really appreciate your honesty. Sometimes there’s a lot of pride wrapped up in doing this stuff the “right” way because we put so much darn effort into it and have to go against the grain. Most of my family thinks I’m crazy for the small things I do: making sunscreen for vacation, choosing to avoid processed foods as much as we can (which is probably not even as much as most people reading your blog), dropping more money on some baby products because they are safer, etc. But I try desperately not to push our decisions on others or sound like I’m 100% right all the time when they ask questions, simply because of things like your current situation… I know folks who live perfectly and make all the right choices and end up having a heart attack or cancer or one of the many other things I so desperately want to avoid. So, I just do my best (keeping in mind that the goal is a full life, not a perfect life) and ask God to work out the rest of it.

    Seriously thanks for your honesty. I know this was probably a crappy post to type up and that this situation’s got to be so disheartening for you, but I’m guessing that you have prevented even worse dental results for him. If he was in another home, eating fast food and chugging Mountain Dew, I’m sure it’d be 50x worse. You’ve done right by him for sure. :)

  5. (((hugs!!!))) I so so sympathize. My own teeth have rapidly gone downhilll since my second child was born and my health crashed (mostly related to severe stress and chemical exposure right before her pregnancy) and though I’ve been doing *all the things* it seems like so little progress has been made. I did, finally, seem to see some improvement in my teeth when I bumped up my FCLO+BO dosage really really high. Over a tablespoon a day! In addition to GAPS and all the dairy, supplements, etc.

    I’ve also been becoming more aware of the incredible damage of environmental pollutants and radiation issues, which some of us get more exposure to based on where we live and play and more. Some of these one time exposures can cause damage for years afterwards.

    All that said – you can only do what you can do, and leave the rest to God. Coming to terms with the harsh realities we face is a part of healing as well. Even as it causes us to grieve the world we thought we had. Blessings to you and your son!

  6. Stephanie says:

    You have no idea how glad I am that I am not alone. I have been going through the exacted same thing with my youngest daughter. The guilt, the overwhelming sadness, helplessness. Everytime she wants me to look at her teeth my heart jumps. She has had 3 crowns (2 have fallen out) teeth pulled and fillings.

  7. Kathryn says:

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your heart, and sharing the difficulties of parenting along with the joys. I guess it’s just hard wired into us to want so desperately for everything to be “just right” with our kids–and to feel defeated when it’s not. I am praying right now for strength for you to keep persevering–it’s truly amazing how God brings things full circle and brings Romans 8:28 to pass in our lives–”all things”! You are obviously such a strong woman and a wonderful, caring and devoted mom and I know the day will come when your kids will rise up and call you blessed for all you have poured into them.

  8. Oh, Stefanie, this makes me so sad for you and your sweet little boy! I always had weak/bad teeth, but my parents didn’t take care of our teeth, so I thought that was it and I swore that my boys would limit sugar, brush twice a day, floss, etc. so that they wouldn’t have to deal with all the pains of bad teeth like I have.

    It turns out, though, that sometimes there is nothing you can do :( Both of my boys have inherited my weak teeth, and both have had several cavities, with my youngest even having to have the metal caps on a couple back ones. And when we first went to the dentist, my boys were on a state-supplemented insurance, so the first dentist we went to made all kinds of assumptions and judgments toward us.

    It’s so interesting because since then I’ve read some other people who experienced great compassion from their dentists in these situations, but when you’re “poor” (i.e. on state-supplemented insurance), people often automatically assume you just don’t take care of your kids and that’s why they have cavities. That condemnation hurt deeply in the midst of that situation, because I was already deeply hurting with the knowledge of my boys’ poor tooth health.

    It is NOT your fault! You’ve done everything that you could.

  9. Peace, sister. You are doing your best before the Lord. None of us can prevent all hardship and illness in our children. We cannot control all things, only God can do that. Blessings, and keep on!

  10. I could have written the same story, but thankfully my children’s decay hasn’t been as bad. I’ve beaten myself up for years and years feeling like I’m not doing something right and not understanding why my children have all these health issues and decay when I try so hard to feed them healthy, whole foods and eliminate allergens, and give them raw milk and CLO, and make sure they get rest and exercise, etc. etc. etc. I feel like every time tell anyone that my children are struggling with health issues, they believe it is because I am doing something wrong. Everyone has a different solution. If I would just do this or that… And some people believe I am causing my children’s health issues because I feed them so healthy! Hearing your story, hearing that someone who does the same things is also having issues and doesn’t have perfectly healthy children is freeing to me. Thank you!

  11. First, let me reassure you, you’re a good mom. No, I don’t know you personally, but from what you have described and your passion for doing what is best for your family, I’m pretty sure that’s the case. You are their mom, their caregiver and nurturer, you are not God. Receive the grace that is there for all of it — what you did or didn’t do, well meaning or otherwise — His grace is sufficient.

    Healing with food is not an exact science and there are factors we just don’t know. I am three months post-op from having an insulinoma (an insulin producing tumor) removed from my pancreas. I eat a healthy whole food diet, low in grains and sugar, no other health issues and no one knows why or how they occur. But it did. I went through a similar moment or string of moments like you did — how can this happen? I’m healthy. I take care of myself. I eat whole organic, pastured, grass-fed, sprouted, and supplement — what gives?! There are some questions we just don’t have answers to, some are worth continuing to ask, some we let go of the implications and move forward with what we know. Specialists, doctors, nutritionists, homeopathic practitioners are all a great resource and help immensely when we are at the limit of what we can do for ourselves. Keep up the good fight and remember, healing with food works, it just doesn’t always work perfectly and we don’t live perfectly. There’s grace for that too.
    More than anything, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this and that your son has had to go through it. I pray peace and rest for you for the long haul.

  12. Thank you for this story. We have been struggling will a similar issue. Your story inspires me to have courage. My almost two-year-old is due to go in for oral surgery in October. What started as a spot on her front tooth has rapidly decade to the point she has some pain. Our dentist referred us to a specialist though I will say your specialist sounds more compassionate than ours. I was basically told it was because she nursed so long. But, I don’t know how that could be as she was such a late teether, she did not even get her first tooth until 11 months. None of my other children have had this problem and they nursed as long or longer than her. Neither here nor there I guess. The fact of the matter is that in 3 short months she will need to be sedated and the work done. It breaks my heart that she has to go through this. But, I am finding as you are that even when we think we are doing everything we can, we are still not in control. And for now I am trying to be thankful for the doctors and dentist who can help, and praying that they and we will have the wisdom in how best to treat her and move forward.

  13. Oh Stephanie; mommyguilt is a chronic condition of being a mom! I would like to tell you it’s less of a struggle when they are grown! But I can’t. One thing I do know is that you are right; there is grace, always grace. Grace for shame, Grace for our expectations that are far too high and grace to know that we have very little control over the outcome! My eldest, now 30, once sent me an article about giving up mommy guilt cuz he was tired of hearing about it!! It sounds like you and your family have been through lots. And the awesome thing is that our kids our covered with Grace as well. It’s a broken world and they will struggle. But may they all know His Grace. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. Like you said we live in a broken world; but covered by Grace.

  14. My little girl had a diaper rash for the past week or so, we use cloth diapers, Eat healthy, take our supplements, and I had tried every natural and over the counter remedy I could find, but nothing changed. I finally took her in Friday and found out it was a severe staph infection. I felt like the worst mom ever….thank you for this post. It was just what I needed to be reminded of today.

    Blessings,
    Sara

  15. I’m tearing up as I read this because I feel the same way. My son struggled with a runny nose for several years until we finally identified food allergies (eggs and soy). He mouth breathes still and although I think most of the sleep apnea is gone, he still startles himself awake if he is upright in a car seat. I feel like the causes of these issues lie in a weakened immune system and vaccines. I knew very little about REAL health when I was pregnant – ate lots of fruit, but few veggies, cheap meat, little fats and lots of grains and processed crap. I took antibiotics for a sinus infection and had a c-section. And I believe that the vaccines we did (even on a delayed/selective schedule) contributed to his allergies. We are going to a new ENT Tuesday to see if he recommends we do anything about the adenoids and tonsils which I think are still enlarged despite removal of the allergens and a WAPF/Paleo diet.
    However, I do see one good thing. I realize this child has a more sensitive system and I fear that had these allergies not stopped up that continued vaccination could have left my boy with serious neurological problems. So I thank God that he is the sweetest, snuggliest, happiest, extroverted and funniest boy imaginable. I thank him that I am dealing with bad breathing and not something more serious. And I am thankful that I have shared my experiences with others and helped them to question too. God will bring good out of this, even if some of that good is having to swallow my pride and get the surgery I resisted before.

  16. Oh, friend! Somehow I missed this earlier in the week! You are NOT a failure! I repeat: You are NOT a failure! Of all people–You, my dear, are not!!

    You are right: We live in a fallen world. We can do everything “right,” and life can still go all wrong. I’ve been there. Different circumstances, but those same feelings nonetheless.

    As far as health is concerned, I remember feeling this way when Mags spent much of her first two years sick, and we finally had to get tubes put in her ears. I felt like this when we discovered that Emma Brooke has a benign tumor (that they said could have turned cancerous if it had continued to grow).

    You are a wonderful, wonderful mama! Caden is so very blessed to be in your care!

    Much love. <3

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