And here, at last, is something good — something very good. It’s been coming on so slowly and for so long now that it hardly registered with me, but I have been virtually pain-free for a while now… at least a fortnight, and maybe longer. I still get mild bouts every few days, particularly after a feed, but nothing like before. And the liberation — not just from the pain, but from the fear of the pain — has made an incredible difference.
To achieve it, we have been absolutely ruthless in cutting soy out of my diet. This has meant that something like 80% of foods are off limits to me, as is anything of which I can’t check the ingredients. The number of foods that soy hides in quite startling, and it has a legion of possible aliases: miso, gum arabic, carob, emulsifier, guar gum, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, lecithin, stabilizer, starch, textured vegetable protein, thickener, tofu, vegetable broth, vegetable gum, vegetable starch… Soy flour eliminates almost all breads and pastries, and there have been nearly no desserts that I can have. Sauces, toppings, and everything preprepared is suspect. Restaurants, take-aways, and any kind of eating out are completely out of the question, and that has been a real let-down for us — when life is as stressful as it has been lately, small things like going out for dinner (or even just coffee and cake) really help to lift the spirits. These days I eat almost exclusively plain meats, plain vegetables and fruits, undressed salads, and two kinds of carefully scrutinised bread. And of course, because of E2’s allergies, I have had to also cut out eggs, all nuts, and most dairy. Eating, these days, is about about filling a hole and nothing more.
But it’s been worth it — so absolutely, completely worth it! It has taken a full four months to work the build-up of soy out of my system, but the freedom from the pain is marvelous!!! Just knowing that I can go places and do things is such a relief — not having to worry that, halfway through, I am going to be wracked with stabbing pains, unable to control my face and breathing, embarrassing myself and needing desperately to curl into a ball, but having to gather the girls up instead and try to rush them away. I feel free to take the car out now, knowing I will be able to drive all the way to wherever I’m going without having to pull over for 30 minutes to let the waves of pain wash over me. And the best thing is being able to sleep at night when the baby lets me. It was such an infuriating robbery, to be lying awake in my dark bed, knowing that she was sleeping peacefully and I was wasting that precious time fighting this pointless pain. So ok, my food choices have narrowed to a sliver of what they were previously, but that matters not one jot — the price is so worth the reward.
And one wonderful side effect of this pain-imposed diet is that I have been losing weight like mad. The fat-stores that these babies heaped on my once-fit frame has been melting away and, though I don’t yet look anything like fit again, I have felt so much better in my own skin. My ‘fat’ clothes from after the second pregnancy are history and I can now wear the fat clothes left over from the pregnancy before, and I know it won’t be long before they are too big on me as well. I thought that shedding this weight was going to be a struggle, but limiting myself to only the most basic foods has really made it quite easy. Hip hip hooray!
My one great saviour in all of this has been Trader Joe’s. In stark contrast to every other supermarket in town (including the sainted Whole Foods), Trader Joe’s seems to have resisted this inexplicable compulsion to add soy to every product under its roof. Where in other shops I am putting item after item back on the shelf, in Trader Joe’s I am only putting a few back. I can eat their vegetable-and-flaxseed tortilla chips with abandon, their curried chicken soup, their Parmesan crisp breads, their pasta sauce, their tortillas, their pea soup, and their gloriously heavy honey-and-oat bread. Their prices, to my utter amazement, are better than any place in town! Unfortunately, the only Trader Joe’s is clear across on the other side of the city, but the pilgrimage is well worth it.
Last time we were there, my mother ran ahead to score as many loaves of that lovely bread as she could carry. She came back with wild eyes and a huge grin, “Look what I found!” It was a beautiful apple pie, with a golden puff-pastry crust covered in cinnamon sugar. For a moment, I didn’t get it, so used to not being able to eat any kind of dessert at all. She suddenly realised my confusion. “It has no soy!” she said in rush. I grabbed it and scoured the ingredient list in disbelief. She was right — it read exactly as you’d expect for an apple pie: apples, sugar, flour, butter… Nothing superflous or unnecessary at all. Nothing evil. No soy.
We ate apple pie after dinner for three nights running, a small sliver for M and great big slice for me. On the third night, he said, “Apple pie again?!?!?” and then in an I-told-you-so voice, “You’re gonna get fa-at!” I plonked his plate down in front of him and, holding mine in close to my chest, pushed my spoon down into the warm pastry-sweetness.
“Darling,” I said, “it’s been a long Lent.”