For #feedingtubeawarenessweek, I thought I’d re-share the New York Times Magazine story that started this chapter of my career (and led to the first chapter of my book). I wrote around and around food, diets, wellness, and body image for a decade before Violet was born. I thought I understood how to have a healthy relationship with food. It was just a matter of finding the right experts, I figured. Of knowing all of the information, of finding the right diet, or the right plan so that food would make sense.
So when I got pregnant, I was sure all I had to do to feed my baby perfectly was find the best lactation consultant and read all the books. There would be a plan and I would follow it.
Then my baby stopped eating. Nobody saw it coming. And nobody knew when or how she would eat again. We had no plan. No experts. Just two clueless first time parents and a feeding tube, that clogged and beeped and broke at 4am.
But we also had Violet. And, so slowly, we learned that if we followed her cues, if we trusted her to know her body, she would eat when she was ready. And in the meantime, that feeding tube—for all its flaws—kept her alive, well-nourished and growing.
Feeding tubes are traumatizing to live with. In our ableist culture, they mark a child as other and less able. And they are, far too often, held over parents’ heads as a threat, or placed without a clear understanding of their side effects, much less a plan to get a child back to oral eating. All of that happened to us, so it’s only in retrospect that I appreciate how Violet’s tube also sustained her as she learned to trust her hunger and fullness cues again.
And it wasn’t until Violet’s feeding tube pushed me outside the normal paradigm of food and feeding, that I could see the larger story I needed to tell, about how diet culture disconnects us from those same eating instincts. That there is no one right way to eat. And our bodies already know that.
Read “When Your Baby Won’t Eat” in the New York Times Magazine, here.