After I posted that emotional and conjectural essay way back when, my mom wrote me a very interesting and heartfelt response. I hesitated to post it (obviously, since it’s been QUITE a while — a year, in fact), because the whole blame-your-mother-for-your-problems thing doesn’t seem like a mature or productive way of going about blogging, or thinking, or life. But it’s stuck with me, and I think it bears repeating to the world (which she did give me permission to do). And it’s not really about guilt, or blame, just about understanding. Which is the point of doing this whole blogging thing. So here goes …
You should know that for the first few years of our marriage, probably until after you were born even, we ate a very “vegetarian-derivative” diet, with lots of beans and rice and corn (the “Recipes for a Small Planet” type of menu) a lot of the time. When we were in college, we had very little money and ate very cheaply. Often, the only time we ate well was when one of our sets of parents came through (the city where they lived) and took us out to eat. So it is quite likely, that, if your nutrition hypotheses are correct, that my body was NOT a well-nourished vessel for a baby to develop. All of which confirms your ideas as stated in the blog. It probably wasn’t until you were old enough to specifically demand “red meat” that we included meat in our meals nearly every day rather than only several times a week.
(So, in case you didn’t catch that last bit, when I was very little (actually I think maybe up to highschool?), I was a HUGE fan of steak. And apparently I “demanded” it!)
I really appreciated that my mom wrote this to me. It was an important thing to learn — or maybe relearn, because I kind of knew some of it, but I really hadn’t made all those connections yet.
And since she sent me this email, I’ve thought a lot about this information. And about my brothers. I have three of them — one ten years younger than me, two (twins) twelve years younger. Because of my “demands” during those 10-12 years for meat at every meal, my mom ate a lot of meat, and actually a fair amount of liver. I remember growing up that liver was one of her favorite treats (an affinity that I shared with her until one holiday turkey went horribly, disgustingly bad — after having to get prescription medication to stop vomiting from food poisoning I was turned completely off from liver until just very, very recently).
Now, one of the things that we WAPF-ers tend to use as a gauge of optimal childhood nutrition is jaw development. In the early 20th century, Weston A Price found that the jaw development of populations which had not been exposed to processed foods resulted in wide lower faces, wide palettes, and jaw bones that supported the full range of teeth to come in completely uncrowded and straight. The jaw development of individuals with the same genetic make-up as those populations but who had been eating a diet of modern Western processed foods was dramatically different, with smaller jaw bones, thinner lower faces, and crowded, twisted, and misplaced teeth.
Ok, so back to me and my issues.
I have an exceptionally small jaw. When I go to the dentist, and she needs to use a spacer to hold my mouth open (which she definitely needs!), she doesn’t use the adult one — she doesn’t use the kids one — the only one that fits properly in my mouth is the BABY-sized spacer. It’s a small, small mouth.
I had braces as a teenager. I had a palette spacer (man was that ever painful), and a retainer afterwards that I wore for a while, but got out of the habit, and then my teeth turned a bit on their own back to their pre-braces position. Needless to say, I had my wisdom teeth all removed, I think when I was 19. There was no way there was going to be room in my mouth for them. And, the lower part of my face is far from wide — I have a face shape that is between diamond- and heart-shaped.
My brothers: Not a single one of them needed braces (I don’t think! I hope I’m not sticking my foot in my mouth here). Even the two that were born just two years after the other didn’t (I know that’s true, I just can’t remember if the older one had some sort of orthodontics), despite such close spacing of babies (Price found that many traditional societies deliberately spaced children 3 to 4 years apart in order to ensure proper parental nutritional reserves), and despite the fact that there were two babies soaking up maternal nutrients the second time around. I don’t think they had their wisdom teeth out either (although I could be mistaken with this, since that would have been long after I left home and I might not remember that particular phone conversation).
In fact, looking just at photos, it appears that it’s not the oldest one, but rather one of the twins who has by far the most fully-developed jaw of all three of them. It’s an impressive, jutting jaw, a very prominent feature of his face. The interesting thing is, he’s an identical twin. And he and his twin have pretty much lived the same nutritional life, and as far as I could remember, there aren’t any significantly different health experiences in their lives (except that his twin didn’t have a life-threatening case of West Nile Virus as a teenager). The only difference I can conjecture is that in the womb, he was Baby A, his twin was Baby B. He was always on top, he was always bigger, he was taking up more of what our mom was giving them than his brother.
So, does maternal diet matter? I think, in my experience, it probably did. Does preparing one’s body for pregnancy with nutrient-dense animal products matter? I think it definitely does. There’s no could’ve, should’ve, would’ve here — I’ve got the body I’ve got, there’s no changing that. My brothers came from the same maternal body, and have very similar genetics — but they’ve got a very different skeletal base upon which their bodies are built. I do strongly believe that maternal nutrition played an important part in this outcome.
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