When I was nursing Lyra I developed allergies to dust, cats, and pollen. It wasn’t fun, but soon after she stopped nursing the allergies went away.
Something similar has happened with Pandra. I’m not sure exactly when, but I started to notice that dairy products were bothering my digestive system. I also suspected that the dairy proteins were affecting Pandra’s digestion — she would get bad gas and be uncomfortable any time I ate a lot of dairy. I am the cheese girl, so I naturally ignored it and pretended that nothing was happening. I spent quite some time in denial before I decided to entertain the thought that maybe — just maybe — eating dairy was a problem for me and for my nursing baby. I finally decided to try reducing the amount of dairy I ate.
That’s when I discovered just how much dairy I included in my life. I cut it out of my diet for a week and realized that I felt physically better overall. No more uncomfortable to painful gassy episodes, no more bloating, and I just felt better than I had.
I wasn’t very good at cutting myself off from dairy. I constantly forgot — putting milk in my tea, ordering a latte with regular milk, and even buying myself ham and cheese croissants. It was beyond hard to stop eating cheese, especially. I felt like I had to relearn how to grocery shop, how to cook, and how to snack and eat dinner. Cheese was truly an integral part of my diet. So many things I was used to eating were no longer an option.
So I had to make an effort to cook things that didn’t require dairy. And, strangely, my cooking skills improved. I started making other foods for meals that I hadn’t tried before. I relied more heavily on my favourite Asian ingredients. I included a lot more vegetables. Something had to fill the void that dairy had left behind, and somehow that turned into me being better at cooking. I got myself a new knife that can actually cut food, and it was heavenly.
And then my body shape started changing. I was nursing and recovering from having a baby, which was making a difference, but that was nothing next to eliminating dairy from my diet. I’ve reached the point now where none of my pre-pregnancy pants fit me properly anymore because they’re all too big. This is not a problem I ever expected to have; losing weight has never been a priority for me. But lose weight I have, and my body shape keeps on changing over time.
I miss cheese, chocolate, and butter, though. Oh, how I miss them sometimes. I sometimes stand in the dairy aisle at the grocery store and gaze longingly at the extra old cheddar and the artisan cheese selection. I make macaroni and cheese for Lyra at lunch sometimes, and it almost hurts me not to taste it. I miss making homemade mac & cheese, and topping my pasta with cheese, and eating cheese snacks. I miss milk chocolate bars, and milk in my tea, and cream cheese on a bagel, and butter croissants. But after the first two months, it got easier. These days I’m used to not eating dairy products, and while I have twinges of missing them, they aren’t part of my daily life anymore. Every so often I cheat a little, and both Pandra and I pay a bit for it, but it really isn’t as often as I though.
Adam complained over Christmas that people kept bringing us desserts and chocolates that I refused to eat due to the dairy content, so he was gaining weight. To be honest, I was surprised that my willpower won out over my intense desire to eat everything I was given, but even a few pieces of chocolate throw me off right now, so I do my best to avoid everything.
I am sad to not be able to eat my all-time favourite foods, but not as sad as I expected. It’s just this thing I do now, and life goes on. I feel healthier — for all I know I’ve been sensitive to lactose for a while, and nursing just intensified the problem. I can have dairy products in the house and not even think twice about it now — the temptation is minor at best. And I usually remember when I’m out at coffee shops and restaurants that there is cheese or butter in way more things than is obvious.
When Pandra is done nursing, will I still be lactose intolerant? I have no idea. I hope the answer is no, but if it’s yes then at least I know I can handle it far better than I ever imagined I could.
Now I guess I need to consider going out to buy some new pants that fit me. Or maybe I should wait and see how the learn-to-run clinic I’ve been doing goes?