Why I won’t be spending Thanksgiving with my husband’s family

why I stay away from environmental chemicals, Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Some things are more important than pumpkin pie, or sitting at the same table with Bachan

Thanksgiving with my husband’s family is always spent with Bachan, his Grandmother, who is now 96 years old. (Bachan is Japanese for Grandma.) His family is very loyal and nobody misses being with her on this holiday and Christmas, except for good reason.

Bachan and I have a special affinity for each other.  When she learned Eric and I were getting married, she is reported to have said “Oh good. I always hoped you’d marry her!”  We hadn’t even dated, so this was significant approval!  Since having children, I’ve felt that the one small joy I could bring her was to share my children and a nutritious home cooked meal with her whenever possible.  We did that regularly for many years and it was a significant joy for us as well. Even today, when she’s not quite sure who my husband is, she remembers me.  She’s a blessing and inspiration and I love her very much.

Last year, she moved to a 24 hour nursing care facility. When we couldn’t wheel her outside for visits, due to cold, rainy Pacific Northwest weather, we visited with her inside.  It wasn’t long until I realized that spending time inside seemed to overwhelm my body’s detoxification pathways.  My neck would become stiff and painful, thirst and hunger increased, brain fog seemed to roll in and my energy was zapped.  And I didn’t recover quickly once our visit was finished. My daughter also experiences some of these symptoms to a lesser degree. Because it was still important to us to visit her, we’d come as a family, I would greet her and when I began to feel these symptoms, I left and waited in the car or went for a walk. I usually lasted less than 20 minutes inside with her.

Now what, you might ask, could be overwhelming my detoxification pathways?

One clue was one of the personal care products I found in her room one day. The perineum wash contained a variety of parabens, fragrance and other ingredients I don’t remember.  It was alarming to me how a product like this could be chosen to wash a sensitive area for a resident who needed the best and most gentle care possible (and who needed every miniscule drop of hormone her body could produce).  Of course, this one product was not the full answer to my question.

But multiply this by all the cleaning and personal care products used in every aspect of care in this facility and we begin to understand that this care facility was oozing with VOCs and other chemicals that are generally considered to be Endocrine Disruptors.  In fact, I can feel the heaviness of these as soon as I walk in.

What exactly are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)? The National Institute of Health says it like this. Essentially they are chemicals that disrupt life by disrupting cellular communication. They interrupt the messaging that our hormones are responsible for. And even the smallest dose you can imagine can have significant impact on life. If you want to geek out on it a little, read Theo Colborn’s book Our Stolen Future.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals from cleaning and personal care products create a dangerous environment for me

Bachan’s family now shares Thanksgiving together at this nursing facility. So the main reason I do not join the family for Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve, is not about how it makes me feel that day (though that is reason enough). Nor is it because it’s not socially acceptable to exit Thanksgiving dinner to sit in a cold car (pregnant) before dinner is even served. It’s because the EDCs found there wreak hormone havoc and I need all the hormone strength I can get.

I’ve spent years, tears and tens of thousands of dollars overcoming the effects of autoimmunity related to my thyroid.  Hashimoto Thyroiditis majorly affects the endocrine system – which of course majorly affects me and my family. Pain, fatigue, memory, mood, metabolism, women’s health, you name it, thyroid hormones are central to life. My history speaks of my need to treasure what thyroid function I do have. Steeping myself in a facility full of detectable EDCs is not a wise choice for me.

This Thanksgiving, I am also pregnant.  As you may know, pregnancy is all about hormones, the body’s chemical messengers communicating the right things at the right time so that a healthy baby develops.  Not only do environmental toxins get delivered to the fetus by way of the umbilical cord, they can harm the fetus. So in addition to nourishing myself fully and getting the rest I need, it’s also important for me to stay away from places that emit chemicals that can be damaging to my unborn child. 

Knowing how EDCs can affect the human body and experiencing this in a variety of ways still isn’t the whole picture. 

At the core of the healing I experienced from pain, fatigue, anxiety, food allergies, (etc.) was learning to love myself deeply.  And I’m deeply thankful for healing. Honoring myself by refusing to place myself in dangerous situations brings life to me.  It’s not just fluff, or being selfish.  When I value myself enough to make tough choices like I am for Thanksgiving, it gives the message to all of my cells and everything in between, that my life matters – therefore let’s keep going with all the metabolic things that sustain a vital, energetic life!

Honoring myself, also honors my husband and children who have walked through this with me, not without their own marks.  But the one thing that has become increasingly important to me is the example I set for my daughters.  When I love myself, especially when the choice is followed by sacrifice, they learn that they too have immense value.  I trust that my courage and clarity will inspire these precious girls to a lifetime of courage and wholeness.

…I think this would please Bachan.

I will continue to honor her with special visits, just not on holidays like Thanksgiving.

Thankfully, at my suggestion, that one product in Bachan’s room has been replaced with a safer alternative that the medical staff likes even better. My daughter often joins me in the car when the chemicals start to noticeably affect her as well. And it’s not just Thanksgiving (or Christmas Eve) with Bachan that I refuse to expose myself to. When the off-gassing of chemicals from people around me at church begin to give me that nagging pain in my neck, I sit in the lobby where the air is much clearer. 

There are other times as well that require sacrifice, but I don’t regret it one bit.  It’s the culture in which I live that ignores the danger of these chemicals. What it says about me is that I’m in tune with what my body needs and have the courage to truly value myself as the beautiful masterpiece I’m created to be.

I believe that one day soon, we’ll all be able to do the things we love without exposing ourselves to harmful chemicals emitted from cleaning and personal care products. If you’d like to be part of this revolution, please take a look at the services I offer at LightenUp Simply. Reducing toxins at home is the perfect way to get started! www.LightenUpSimply.com

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