The first few weeks of holding your tiny, perfect bundle in your arms is so incredible. That little person you’ve worked so hard for looks up at you and relies on you for everything. You would do anything for them and they are the centre of your universe.
One of the biggest and hardest adjustments after having a child is instantly going from being able to consume a large amount of protein (thanks baby) to your own everyday tolerance. With my son, I went from 38 grams of protein a day back to 15 grams of protein. That is a huge adjustment, and whilst it should be easy as you’ve probably been on the lower amount most of your life, it is hard. You now know the taste of a vegetarian pizza. You now know the taste of cheese. You now know the taste of real garlic bread. These are the foods that still tempt me regularly today. And it’s not like the PKU alternatives are bad, its just that those foods taste so good.
With your wonderful addition comes a new mouth to feed, more demand for your time and much less sleep. An incredible time that can trigger complacency! “Oh! it’s ok, I’ll just have hot chips, so I can catch up on sleep.” You have so much more to do now and making sure every need is met is your highest importance, but your own PKU needs can slip under the radar. Now, not every PKU person struggles with this and it may take a few months after the birth of your child to start, but everyone struggles with their metabolic diet in their lives. It is absolutely critical to remember, that wonderful creation in your arms, needs you for everything, and having your phenylalanine (phe) levels in the correct range will lead to a clearer mind, more energy, and better control of your emotions.
The key to maintaining a PKU diet and being a mother is preparation, some selfish thinking (yes, I know it doesn’t sound right), and relying on “your village”.
Preparation is the key to maintaining a low protein diet. Take some time every week to properly plan food for the week. For me it meant going back to the days of counting everything again for a while, to readjust to my protein allowance. In those tired and busy times, you will thank yourself for taking the time to do this. Set aside some time in the week to pre-cut the veg, cook the food that can be frozen and reheated, and bake some of the PKU foods.
It seems so against what we are told as mothers, but you need to be a little bit selfish. Take the time every day to prepare and cook yourself some low protein food. It is so fundamental to eating healthily, consuming the right amount of protein and having a clear mind. So, whilst it seems selfish, it has huge benefits for your family. It is easier to deal with a teething baby when your phe levels are right. It is easier to deal with the sleep deprivation when your phe levels are right AND, it is easier to support and love your whole family, in a time of huge change, when your phe levels are right.
I’m sure everyone has heard the cliché ‘It takes a village to raise family’. This could not be any truer for people with PKU. Although our “villages” may differ, with the inclusion of a dietitian, metabolic doctor and the protein substitute we buy from a chemist, we still have the same basic needs of any mum for the first time. Our family and friends are there to love and support us, and by now, they should know that comes with some different foods. Don’t ever forget, you’ve got the support of the metabolic community behind you, and many mothers who’ve walked the path before you. Without them, I know I would have struggled even more. They get it. The PKU diet after birth is way more challenging than you would’ve expected it to be.
It is not always easy, and there are definitely days you will fail. But, it is all worth it to keep waking up to your family, the children you worked so hard to create and have the energy and clear mind to do what’s needed.
You’ve got this mumma’s!