From the moment I first heard my son’s heart beat I knew that I had been given the world’s biggest blessing. I had this undeniable bond with him before he even grew the size of a lilikoi and the love I felt was almost overwhelming, like my heart could burst at any moment. I knew that I was put on this earth to love and protect this little boy and I will do anything to do just that. Sadly I was soon to learn that I was not able to protect my son from the environment I was living in.
At 17 weeks gestation we were given news that would change our lives forever. During our ultrasound our doctor informed us that our baby had developed a rare birth defect called Gastroschisis. He would be born with a congenital defect characterized by a defect in the anterior abdominal wall through which the abdominal contents freely protrude.
This past February my son Arrow was born inside out. His small intestines and testicle was outside of his body through a hole where his belly button should have been. He spent his first three months in an Arizonan NICU (we had to move from Kauai to Arizona where medical facilities were better equipped) having six surgeries and multiple procedures. We didn’t get to hold him in our arms until he was three weeks old and he did not get to eat until he was three months old. He was given nutrition through an IV for the first three months and developed an oral aversion from being traumatized by multiple throat tubes. He was poked by needles multiple times a day and was opiate dependent for several weeks. After 3 long months he was sent home with a g-tube where he is given nutrition strait into his stomach through a feeding tube.
We are beyond blessed to be home as a family and couldn’t be happier that our son is doing well but, we can’t help but to think of the future generation. This birth defect is no longer rare on the islands. There are several cases popping up in Hawaii including our close neighbor who gave birth this month! Gastroschisis has been linked by scientific researchers to pesticide spraying, specifically a chemical called Atrazine made by a company called SYNGENTA (which is ironically made in Switzerland, a country that has banned all use of this chemical). The chemical companies continue to dump one thousand pounds of toxins on Kauai fields every day, seven thousand pounds per week, and 30,000 pounds per month. This is the same company who also sprays GMO crops on Maui, Molokai and Oahu.
Throughout my pregnancy I was working on a ranch where the owner had told us that the water had been tested for chemicals and was unsafe to drink. Although it remains correlation for now, I want to make sure that other mothers know that these pesticides are dangerous and have been linked to birth defects. We are being exposed by the water we drink and the air we breathe. And although I know that pesticide spraying isn’t the ‘only’ cause for gastroschisis, I do believe in my heart that it is the reason for it becoming more prevalent here in Kauai. Stress hormones can cause immunosuppression and retarded growth and development and are stimulated by pesticides. The more pesticides you are exposed to the greater the stress hormone released and the greater effects you see. The pesticides itself are toxic and can wreck havoc on your endocrine system and indirectly cause defects on your baby. It is too late for my son Arrow, but it is not too late for future mothers and their babies. I feel it is my duty to spread my story and hope that we can join together and vote for the GMO moratorium which will test for sure whether the combination of chemicals that they are spraying and ultimately contaminating our water, air, land, and our bodies, are negatively impacting our health. My story is just one example and sadly will not be the last until it can be stopped.
Image Credit: Madison Strecker