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On Anthroposophical Medicine and Western Medicine

When I  became a  mom, I vowed to keep my child chemical-free.  I had severe asthma when I was little and was used to taking so much medication. My health problems today are a result of years of steroids and other chemicals. I’m sure of it. So, I swore I would not do that to my son.

 

He developed asthma when he was 4 years old, yet I managed to care for him without giving him steroids. But we both suffered. In the end I burned out–really burned out. I still feel it today. When he had attacks, I never slept. So I became exhausted and irritable. I panicked when he wasn’t breathing and so became angry when he would not nebulize as told. And I often wondered if it wasn’t better to just give him the drugs and make him feel comfortable and cared for, instead of hanging on to the idea of keeping him chemical-free but have him suffer because I could only do so much. And worse, have him feel my anger, exhaustion and helplessness when he is ill!  But his doctor then said no steroids. Period. And of course I trusted her judgment. But then we became so dependent on her and when he had bad attacks, we would sometimes be at her place at ungodly hours while she administered natural injections and did special massages. Though I appreciated very much how she would go out of her way to try and heal him this way, it was really taking a toll on me and my relationship with my son.

 

Then he had a really bad attack and was hospitalized and at that point I said, enough. I had to give him the chemicals. And though a lot of people still shook their heads at me when I said the word “steroids”, somehow I felt my children and I could breathe better because there was help and support at last. For the first time, we could all sleep without interruption. What a luxury!  I also felt — and still do — that an important aspect of healing is the ability to manage one’s illness without having to be totally dependent on anyone for care all the time.  

 

It is very overwhelming to be on this path and have your children be very ill. I generally don’t like hospitals because they often do more harm than good, but I have learned that we have to just be open and know that there is a place and time for them.  And this is the same attitude I have adopted towards allopathic medicine. I still do not give antibiotics unless absolutely necessary–and that time has not come for my younger son in all his seven years, despite a bout of pneumonia.  But for the asthma, I have learned to bend and give inhaled bronchodilators and steroids when necessary. And believe me, you know when it is necessary and it is nerve-wracking. I still make sure I do not give them more than they need and their doctor helps me manage that, but I have grown thankful rather than afraid of Western medicine. We just have to use them with care and respect but recognize that they have their rightful place in healing illness in the world today.

 

Being a Waldorf mom means being alone in the midst of overwhelming choices. Since we’re always taking the long view–our child’s biography in its entirety–these choices are often heart and gut-wrenching, and never, ever easy. I learned the hard way that you can’t work yourself to the bone doing it all the RIGHT way. My health suffers today because I went too far trying to do it all the natural way–the foot baths, compresses, medicines, therapies–one on top of the other all the time.

 

There is no absolute right way. Antibiotics may not be right this time, but they might be next time. Steroids are generally not a great thing to take and the word still causes my gut to contract, but when your child is unable to breathe, they are a godsend. Context is everything and we all have to learn to think that and stop feeling guilty that we’ve given our child something “bad” and to learn how to forgive ourselves when we’ve not mothered according to our own standards.

 

Most of all we have to learn to think for ourselves and see what works for our family. Being a good mother means a lot of things.  Just because you gave your child allopathic drugs doesn’t mean you are bad. Also never take your doctor’s word for it without thinking through whatever he recommends first. See how your child responds to whatever is prescribed. Pay attention to your instincts. Did the doctor prescribe too much? Did they make sense?  Are the therapies realistic?  Do you feel unable to cope? Doctors should also realize that supporting the mother in her health is very important for her children to be healthy. If they burden her with too many tasks and medication, it is not helpful for anyone.

 

In the end, it is a path that teaches us to think, discern and find balance.  It is not about right and wrong but what you feel is really healthy for your child and your family in general. Anthroposophical medicine and Western medicine should complement each other.  There is space for both to work together.  

9 Comments

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  1. Joy / Jun 26 2008 5:40 pm

    Hi Panj. Finally leaving a comment. Thanks for that article. And thanks for the times you’ve been supportive when my children were sick.

    Who knows this context but YOU and YOU ALONE! Think i’ve also learned the hard way in Parenting. My standards hit the roof when I met the Waldorf Way! I drove myself and my children to tears too many times. So, OHMM…. hakuna matata… chill…. Keep cool. Everything is alright…..Love to you and your boys

  2. panjeetapales / Jun 26 2008 8:54 pm

    Hey Joy,

    You said it, hakuna matata is a great change from please, please, please God and the angels, please grant me the strength !!! But, hey, it has certainly made me totally commiserate with moms like you who are on the same path, right? My pleasure to help lighten the load however I can.

    Everything is great. Love to you, your boys and that little angel who tried to walk past me in school this morning. He he. Not a chance. I got a kiss anyway.

  3. Susana Calalay / Jul 10 2008 6:03 pm

    Mothering is instinctive. Trust your instincts, you will never go wrong. Learn to use what is available at the moment.

    Do not feel guilty in the fear that you may have made a mistake. So long as in your heart of hearts you know you tried your best for your child.

    If a decision will entail having to go against a certain path of choice, who cares- everything we learn is a guide-the choices are left to us.

  4. panjeetapales / Jul 10 2008 6:15 pm

    Hi Susan,

    Exactly. I brought the children to a doctor today who said, “There are so many new things about medicine and health that are cropping up in the world. It is the physician’s job to learn about them, synthesize and apply what is relevant to the patient”. I really appreciated that. Thanks for your words of wisdom!

  5. solraya / Dec 7 2008 4:15 pm

    Best to medicate only when necessary 🙂

    I was also allergic to anything and everything as a kid. It pains you to see you children with skin or respiratory attacks. I remember about 20yrs ago, their pedia said that we better try a different route. Let us bombard them with vitamins to make them healthy instead of always giving them allergy medication. Worked…and they outgrew their attacks.

    Instinct will guide you, mom.

    • panjeetapales / Dec 7 2008 8:19 pm

      Funny. I am at that stage of bombarding them with vitamins. I find them a bit much but I see some improvement. Fingers crossed!!

  6. Marie / Jan 1 2009 12:34 am

    For everything, there is a purpose.

    As I go through my doctor-hopping, I find some treatments work, some don’t. You are right — no treatment is absolutely right.

    Everyone is unique. And so are our reactions to medicines and situations.

  7. jaybee / Jul 13 2009 2:22 pm

    Hi! I am a mom to a ten month old baby, I am also trying to go the natural, holistic way, the problem is the pedia we go to is so far from our place (bulacan to makati) whenever there is an urgent need to contact her especially on weekends, we cannot reach her and so i am forced to go to traditional pedias
    who prescribe antibiotics so quickly, i am sometimes doubting am I doing the right thing?

    • panjeetapales / Jul 13 2009 3:25 pm

      Hi Jaybee,

      Perhaps the alternative could be that you learn about basic care from your regular pedia (is she a holistic practitioner?) so that you can take care of your child for regular childhood illnesses like colds and coughs and fevers. These don’t require antibiotics– most of the time. My 8 year old has not had a drop of antibiotics, compared to his 11-year-old brother who has had them–though probably still not as often as other kids their age.

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