On Immunity


The week we brought you home, there was an infestation of potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes in our house. We were covered in bites. Our house has chipping lead paint on the walls. There’s lead in the soil of this old industrial city; it attaches to dust and we track it in on our shoes. There’s lead in the water. Also in the water is all the shit we put on Midwest farm fields from here to Canada. It runs off the biggest North American watershed to the Mississippi River, the terminus of which is the source of our tap water. We at the end get all the crap. Atrazine, benzene, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, the pentadecafluorooctanoic acid that DuPont has been dumping into the Ohio River for 30 years. Yes, we filter it, but my breast milk is surely tainted and almost certainly so was the blood of your umbilical cord; by BPA, brominated flame retardants, pesticides.

Everything is connected and, try though I will to keep you safe, I can’t buffer you from your environment. Pet coke might blow off a train and into your lungs, oil might contaminate your seafood, a brain eating amoeba might make its way into your water. All those have happened here before to someone else’s child. This compromised, interconnected world is your inheritance. Your actions will affect the people around you and their actions will affect you.

I am heartened by the strength of your cry, the kick of your legs, and the passion with which you demand to be fed. You’re less fragile than I imagined you in my pregnancy, when I scoured the Environmental Working Group’s website and scrubbed your suspect car seat in the bathtub. Now that I see you, solid and real (was I expecting you to be translucent?) it’s easier for me to think you’ll be like all us other humans, not pure, surely, but resilient.


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