Well, little Marin is ten days old today. Kelli and I have had a chance to settle into a new routine, and have learned to cope with a tiny dose of sleep deprivation. The past week-plus has also given us time to sit back and think about Marin’s future diet. She hasn’t been tested for Celiac Disease yet (she’s on a 100% breastmilk diet for the time being anyway, so what’s the hurry?). But it’s something we think about.
It’s often cited that Celiac Disease affects approximately 1 in every 133 Americans (the rate of prevalence is different for other countries). But Celiac Disease has a hereditary component. The National Institutes of Health have found out all sorts of interesting connections. For example, the longer a baby breastfeeds, the later in life CD symptoms are likely to onset. (I wonder if this explains why my symptoms spiked in severity around age 27.) For another, persons with CD also have a tendency to demonstrate other genetically-transmitted diseases, including thyroid and Addison’s (both of which are in my family…hmm). But most importantly, for first-degree relatives of someone with CD – a parent, child, or sibling – the probability of also having the disease is heightened, to 1 in 22.
In the weeks and months leading up to Marin’s arrival, we gave a lot of thought to that stat – 1 in 22. In particular, we hoped that our baby wouldn’t be saddled with CD, restricted to a lifelong gluten-free diet. It wasn’t the diet that we worried about for her, but rather all the social interactions of children with their friends. Kelli and I both have fond memories of pizza parties, birthday cakes, cupcakes at school. All of those activities would be radically different for a child with CD – you’d either become a bystander, watching from the sidelines, or you’d be a participant, albeit in an altered way with a “special” treat set aside that you could eat. I hesitate to use the word “outcast” (that’s much too harsh a term) but we didn’t want our little one wondering why she was different and couldn’t eat the same things her friends did.
With the passage of time, I’ve had a chance to give the subject further thought, and I no longer lament it the way I once did. Whether she’s diagnosed or not, she’ll grow up in a loving, gluten-free household. Her diet will be healthy – by gluten or gluten-free standards. And I know she’ll find, as I have, loving friends who take the time to understand CD and make accomodations to cook gluten-free food so that all can enjoy the meals set before us.
Food is a social thing. It’s an inclusive activity meant to bring family and friends together. When we have friends who are gluten-free, or vegetarian, or vegan, or lactose intolerant, I think we instinctually want to cook to meet those needs. To make sure everyone has an equally welcome place at the table. Marin, I’m confident, will find her place at the table, CD or not. Her future friends and family will make sure of that.
My husband was diagnosed as a baby because he was failure to thrive. As much as he would prefer to not be on a restricted diet he also sees the benefits. Some of his siblings are more recently diagnosed with CD. He watches them “give up” their favorite foods and search for new ones. It is great to have a supportive and understanding family.