Cheerios and Quaker Oats linked to reproductive issues – God help us all in America

Even when you try to be healthy in the U.S., you are still slowly killing yourself.

CBS recently reported a study that a chemical called chlormequat has been detected in 92 percent of non-organic oat-based foods that were tested in May 2023. This includes mainstream foods that many Americans, especially young children, eat, including Quaker Oats and General Mills’ Cheerios. Chlormequat has been found in studies to damage our reproductive systems and to disrupt fetal growth in animals. The chemical is supposed to only be used on ornamental plants only, not on food crops. Yet somehow, the chemical is being used as a growth regulator for the commercial production of grains to make it easier to harvest crops.

It’s deeply unfortunate and horribly infuriating to learn of this news. We are just getting through a 10-pound package of oats that are Quaker brand. We’ve been buying Cheerios for Kaia since spring of last year since Solid Starts had said that of all the “O” cereals available that Cheerios had the highest amount of vitamin/minerals being fortified in it. Even when you are trying to do the right thing by feeding yourself and your children seemingly “healthy” foods, we are still damaging our bodies. It’s like we can’t trust anything in the food supply in this damn country. Now, I need to switch to organic-only oats and an organic version of an “O” cereal – this will obviously be more expensive, but I need to have better peace of mind around this crap. And you know what that means: if only those who can afford it can have healthy, organic, “clean” food, then we’re in a truly screwed up state of this country where the poor and less fortunate are left to suffer.

When feedback is NOT fuel

We have this theme or saying at work that “feedback is fuel.” We pride ourselves on all having tough enough skin to accept constructive feedback, but it’s also strongly encouraged to the person giving the feedback that they do it in the most helpful, kind way possible. For the most part, I think as a company overall, we do a pretty good job of it. I’ve never received any feedback during my nearly three years here that ever felt like a personal attack or an attack on my integrity, and people generally assume the best intentions here all around. I can’t say that about any other place I’ve ever worked at.

So this morning, I had to tell our nanny that I was disappointed with her notes in our baby log that we ask her to fill out daily for Kaia. In the beginning when she started working here, she was pretty thorough about it. She would record all the things we asked her to: poops, pees, naps, and times for all the above; feeds and the amounts (when she had milk as her only food), then later on, foods she ate (and rejected), any fevers or difficulties. But if you look at the progression of her daily logs, they’ve declined in quality quite drastically: while she has always been consistent about recording poops, pees, and naps, she has stopped recording daily activities, and she’s pretty much never recorded any major milestones, which I told her would be new words, behaviors, or gestures. This previous Friday, the only note for activity was “playground.” The previous days were no better.

This felt unacceptable and a bit insulting, as I knew they didn’t JUST go to the playground. Plus, she told me that Kaia had said two new words: “outside” and “jacket.” So why didn’t she write this down? On top of that, the baby bathtub, which she is supposed to be cleaning weekly, was never cleaned the previous week. I called her out on that earlier in the week, and she said she “just forgot.” Okay, but she had already used that excuse previously when this was supposed to happen on a weekly cadence. Yet she’s been happy to talk on the phone while Kaia naps without this getting done. And over the weekend, when I checked the bathtub, there was not only still grey dirt on the top edges of the tub, but there were even traces of pink mildew, which I ended up scrubbing myself.

I also spent Saturday morning vacuuming under the dining table, the couch, and around the living room rug because there were endless food remnants that literally got everywhere that the nanny somehow had missed. And it really grated on my nerves that her cleaning job could be so sloppy. Why should I be spending my Saturday morning cleaning up after my nanny? I’m paying her to do this job after my child eats!

Well, I never got to addressing the poor floor cleaning. I only addressed the baby log because as soon as I said the notes were “not good” and “needed improvement,” and that “writing ‘playground’ was not enough detail, not everything you did, and doesn’t even cover new words,” she immediately put her face in her hands and started crying. Then, she proceeded to say that I pay her to be here to take care of my child, and she takes care of my child. Yes, I do pay her to take care of my child… which also includes filling out the baby log as we discussed and agreed upon in the contract, which also includes cleaning up after my baby’s meals! I’m not sure how any of this feedback is uncalled for or out of line. I told her that no one is perfect and everyone gets feedback when they work for someone; that is LIFE (for god’s sake, it was so frustrating to even say that out loud to someone who is almost twice my age). She barely responded and just said, “okay.” And that was really it.

I understand why some people are just anti having a nanny. It’s hard having someone that personal to you and your child and your home. There are real feelings to consider literally every single day, and there are also frustrating feelings to consider… like when they don’t think they deserve any negative or constructive feedback at all. In previous times of giving her feedback, she has refused to look me in the eye, she barely responds or says anything, and then she proceeds to avoid me the rest of the day. It’s so exhausting. And it really is completely mystifying to me that she’s so unprepared to receive such basic feedback. It’s not like I told her she tried to kill my child or put her in danger.

Hand foot mouth disease, seriously?

Chris convinced me to go make an appointment for urgent care, so I saw a doctor this afternoon. Their assistant gave me rapid tests for both COVID and strep, both of which came back negative. I had noticed my throat getting worse this morning, so I took a look at my throat to see if I could see anything. It was absolutely hideous: I had small white blobs lining the back of my throat and tonsils. It hurt even worse today to eat or drink. Even drinking liquids that were more than warm hurt too much. 

After examining me, and looking thoroughly over my hands and feet, the doctor concluded, much to my shock, that I had caught hand foot mouth disease (HFMD). I didn’t even realize that I was also developing tiny red lesions all over my fingertips, but she caught them. It’s a viral illness, so I’d just have to let it run its course. But it was super painful and miserable. I always thought that having Kaia at home with a nanny would prevent her from getting it. But since she was exposed to other kids at the playroom, one of which is in daycare, I guess it was inevitable she’d get it at some point and pass it to me. I finally realized that the tiny red dots around her mouth were actually HFM. At least she didn’t have it too bad, as it lasted about three days and was mostly just a fever for her. Unfortunately, I have not been so lucky. 

The beginning of getting sick, yet again

On Tuesday night, I went to sleep with a little congestion and the beginning of a sore throat. I figured it was probably just a little cold, so I didn’t think much about it. But on Wednesday morning, I woke up with a worse sore throat, plus body pains everywhere. I tried to let it go, as I thought maybe it was just my more strenuous workout from the previous day. But as the morning progressed, I just felt worse and worse. The body aches became nearly unbearable,  and a splitting headache ensued. I ended up taking the rest of the day off as well as today, as I just had no energy to even sit up. I couldn’t even read an article or keep focus on anything and felt terrible. 

Today, my throat has been getting worse and worse. It’s even started to feel painful when I try to swallow any food, especially anything that isn’t soft. Is this strep throat? I had no idea what was going on or how serious this was. 

Email lists and pushing consumers to buy, buy, buy

Around November or December of every year, my gift purchasing spikes given that Christmas and a slew of birthdays of those close to me are around the corner. Plus, Black Friday/Cyber Monday is a great time to buy since most companies will be having their biggest sales of the year. The annoying thing that happens? When you buy a bunch of products from whatever company, they think it’s okay to start inundating you pretty much every single day after that initial purchase that you should keep buying constantly. And the emails just don’t stop unless you fully unsubscribe or limit email outreaches from them to once a week or once a month! From my perspective, I am thinking.. seriously? I literally JUST bought from you yesterday. Why are you pushing me to buy yet again, every single day from here on out?! Is that even a realistic expectation? How much do you genuinely think a single person can purchase, and for whom?? These companies really need to get their ducks in a row and realize that they shouldn’t be so freaking aggressive about their email marketing, especially to people who have just purchased for the very first time, and it may be prudent of them to tone it down a bit and pull back on this incessant outreach.

Decompressing after family visit and scrutinizing my brother’s nose

I think that by today, my body has fully adjusted to being back in New York on Eastern time. I always adjust right away, but with the baby sleeping on me plus the red-eye, this last flight was a real doozy for me. But more so, I think I am still mentally decompressing from my visit to my family. I was chatting with my therapist today, and she said that I need to work on a plan for myself where I can enter the family visit like it’s just any other day, and leave the family visit without any need to decompress. I told her that I thought that would be nearly impossible. Everything there is such a trigger for me — the hoarding, the clutter, the mess everywhere, the excessive amount of food that I know will inevitably rot or get thrown away; the dilapidation; the weedy backyard; even my brother’s old belongings that still sit around in the bedroom.

Before I put Kaia to bed last night, I was staring at the photo of Ed and me on my bedside table, scrutinizing his nose against mine and trying to figure out if we had the same nose… because if we do have the same nose, then that means Kaia also has Ed’s nose. But the more I stared at it, the more I realized that Ed’s nose was more like our dad’s, whereas mine was more like our mom’s. But Ed and I do share the same eyes. Kaia’s eyes seem to morph, and while sometimes they look like mine, other times they look ambiguous. I then tried to remember his voice, and for a split second I failed, and this deep feeling emptiness came over me. And then out of nowhere, I heard it again. I tried to remember his laugh and could not hear it, though. This is what time does. It’s been over nine years since he’s died, and now I suddenly cannot remember the sound of his laugh. That just felt so heartbreaking to me. Everything seems to fade away over time.

Triggering books

Years ago, I read Khaled Hosseini’s book The Kite Runner and found it to be one of the most engaging stories I had read to date. His prose would quickly draw you in, and you really felt like you were immersed in the lives of his characters. I also learned a bit about living in Afghanistan and Afghani culture in general, which I had known little to nothing about. I always wanted to read his follow-up book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, but other books ended up taking priority in my book queue. I finally thought about this book the other day, so I checked on NYPL via the Libby app and found that it was available for loan, so I had it sent electronically to my Kindle.

Well, similar to The Kite Runner, this book drew me in right away.. as in, right on the first page. I read about 20 percent of the book until I realized I had to stop. The book is basically a mother-daughter story that depicts in gory detail how little rights women had in the 1970s and the Taliban takeover, which made women’s’ lives even worse than they already were.

The start of the story goes like this: a housekeeper for a very wealthy businessman, who has three wives and many children with those wives, gets pregnant by the businessman. He lies and says that the housekeeper pushed herself on him and he had no choice; we all know that’s bullshit. The housekeeper gets pregnant and keeps the baby. But everyone in town knows that the father of the child is this businessman. So the businessman spends every Thursday afternoon just outside of town with the kid as she grows up. When she’s 15, she asks him to take her to the cinema in town that he owns. He reluctantly agrees, but he never shows up. Her mother warns her that if she goes into town looking for him, she will kill herself. The girl ignores her mom. She goes into town looking for him and sleeps outside his mansion, waiting for him to show up. The servants say he is out of town when she tries to run into the courtyard, and she sees that he is actually there all along and allowed her to sleep on the streets.

She eventually goes back home… to find out her mom was true to her word: she hung herself by the tree outside their home.

And that’s when I had to stop. I can’t read this kind of story anymore. To see men get away with their abuses, mistreating women, women putting down other women (the wives were jealous and didn’t want to have anything to do with the housekeeper, or even the girl after her other died), and knowing that Afghanistan is still being run by the Tailban today makes me sick. That’s on top of the fact that women’s rights are eroding right here in the U.S. is too much to handle. I used to be able to read books that were this heavy and remove myself from them, but now, I can’t any longer. Today, living in the U.S. feels like a dystopia. Plus, I’m a mother now myself, and I feel like I’ve become way more sensitive to everything as a result of this.

So I returned the book electronically and checked out a Japanese thriller in its place. Hopefully, that will be more fun.

The friend who went MIA

A friend I made a few years ago while walking at the AFSP Out of the Darkness annual walk has been going through some rough times. Earlier this year, she had some conflicts at work, which eventually led to her getting fired in February. It sounded like there may have been some legal action taking place, but she said that due to the nature of the litigation, she wasn’t able to share what was going on, so I never asked any questions and didn’t want to pry. It really wasn’t my place anyway, but I told her if she ever wanted to talk, I’d be open. Since I found out, I’ve only seen her twice. The last time was for a lunch to celebrate her belated birthday, and that was while I was still on maternity leave. Since then, I haven’t seen her a single time. I know she is struggling and that interviewing isn’t going well. We were supposed to meet up for a coffee/tea break and walk in early June, but just a couple hours before we were scheduled to meet, she cancelled on me without giving any reason. I told her she should take time to herself, but that I was here for her if she needed.

Well, last week, I realized it had been over a month since I last texted her. So I messaged her and didn’t get a response. I dropped a few additional texts, and still nothing. I tried calling five times, and each time, I was sent directly to voice mail. I left one voice message. Then, I went to her Facebook page and saw that it was down.

A feeling of worry came over me. I immediately Googled her to see if I could find out anything but didn’t. It’s hard for me not to be concerned, especially after we met at a suicide prevention walk, and I know she’s had addiction problems in the past. And to make things worse, this week is the anniversary of Ed’s passing. So suicide and mental health are very much top of mind for me in particular this week.

The best case scenario here is that she’s just not ready to talk and is just shutting everyone out temporarily. I could accept that and give her space. The worst case scenario, which I hope isn’t true, is that she’s done something to herself. I can’t shake thinking about it.

Nanny’s first day and endless tears

Our nanny arrived ten minutes early this morning for her first day of work. It was also our baby’s first day being in a new routine and not taking a nap immediately after her first morning feed. I wasn’t sure how the day would go, but I had a feeling it would include some fussiness and crying. Our baby has occasionally gotten upset when being held with strangers as of late, and unfortunately, this morning was no different. In fact, it was even worse: as soon as our nanny picked her up, she immediately started crying and screaming nonstop. Before she had arrived, our baby was completely fine, smiling and babbling and happy. I was wondering how long it would last. Well, other than her nap time, all morning she screamed and cried. She even screamed and cried through her 10am feed and didn’t even finish the bottle. That’s fresh breast milk I pump that morning; she ALWAYS finishes that bottle. I was so devastated and struggled to concentrate on work in the morning. Being in the next room attempting to work while your baby daughter is screaming bloody murder in the next room is…. pretty futile and miserable. I lasted maybe 30-40 minutes before I caved in and got out of the second bedroom to hold and comfort her. I eventually had to go outside to get some air, and our handyman friend ran into me and comforted me while I cried outside, feeling a lot of mom guilt and wondering when the hell this was going to get easier. I normally don’t get too phased hearing the sound of my baby cry, but hearing the wailing and screaming nonstop was driving me crazy and making me wonder if having a nanny was a good idea after all. I mean, don’t I want to be with my baby during the day? It doesn’t seem to matter what choice you make; there’s guilt all around when you’re a mom.

I told a colleague this during a call this morning. I was trying to focus on what he was sharing with me, but I also told him that in the next room was my screaming 21-week old baby, struggling to get along with the new nanny. He sent me an email later telling me that he really felt for me: when his now toddler went to daycare the very first day, he said it was likely the hardest day of his and his wife’s lives. For the first two weeks, it was a huge struggle and pain to get ready in the morning, get out the door, and do drop off. Pickups were miserable because his son was angry at them both for leaving him with strangers. But after two weeks, the kid adjusted, and now he loves his teachers and friends and looks forward to daycare. He told me to take it a day at a time, and that we’d all get used to this new normal, including my daughter.

These are the emotional ups and downs of having a child in real time, and it really, really sucks.

To hold our little ones a little tighter

This morning, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across a post in the one IVF support groups that I stayed in. The person posting said that she had gone through a couple of egg retrievals and just one embryo transfer. That embryo transfer resulted in her getting pregnant and giving birth at 38 weeks. But… the baby was stillborn. There was no explanation for it. She had a smooth and straightforward pregnancy. There were zero signs of any dangers. Even during labor, everything looked normal, or so they said. She said that she was currently in therapy to process all of this, but she wanted to start thinking about next steps after her body healed.

She was debating whether she should move forward with the second frozen embryo or do another retrieval to bank more eggs. My heart ached when I read this post. It almost felt like she was someone I knew personally when I read this story. I felt so horrible and couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. Just the mere thought of having to go through multiple IVF cycles and then being nearly at the finish line… with no baby to bring home just hurt so much. I kept on looking at my own baby. And all day today, I cuddled a little bit more with her, I kissed her a little more, and I held her a little bit tighter. I tell her every single day before bed how grateful I am to have her. She is my most incredible gift in life. There is not a moment when I don’t remember this. I always remember these sad stories and think…. That easily could have been me. But it wasn’t. I was blessed with a successful IVF experience and a healthy baby girl. Not everyone is so lucky and fortunate.

Each year in this country, about 24,000 babies are stillborn. This number has been consistent every year for over 20 years now, yet little additional research and study is being done to solve for this. Yet somehow, SIDS deaths get far more research money and attention even though the number of deaths resulting from SIDS is about 2,000 per year — that’s one TWELFTH of the babies affected by still birth. I don’t understand why not more is being done to prevent stillbirths. I just can’t even begin to fathom the pain of that loss… of taking an empty car seat home from the hospital.