Parenting in Flint: Darcel’s Story

This post is part of the Parenting in Flint series featuring the experiences of pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting through the Flint Water Crisis. 

Parenting in Flint Series

My name is Darcel Phinisee-Clack. I am a life-long resident of Flint, MI. It was a wonderful day when I found that I was expecting on December 31, 2013. My husband and I had been trying for 2 years and at age 38, I was ready to complete our family. We were drinking, washing, cleaning, and cooking with our faucet water at the time. However, my husband had asked me to start buying more bottled water. He had heard at a friend’s house that there was an issue with the water – a “boil water” notice was announced on our local news station. We did not have local television access in our home at the time.

So that week, we bought bottled. After a few months of water reports that oscillated between safe and undrinkable, he decided that we wouldn’t drink the tap water any longer. However, we still bathed, washed, cleaned and cooked using Flint water. Little did we know, that poison was leaking into the water system and our bodies. We began to have mild to severe discomfort in our skin causing major itching, redness, breakouts, and regions of scaliness – affecting intimacy between my husband and me. My 8 year old has eczema and it has begun to darken and dry during this water crisis.

Zoe was born on August 19, 2014. My decision to breastfeed was made before conception, so I had already attended nursing support groups, appointments with nutritionists, obtained information on how to return to work and had everything in order. I was super-excited because I had to stop at 6 months old with my oldest son. However, I had no idea that I could be poisoning my newborn. I struggled to increase my milk supply: pumping & eating pounds of oatmeal…drinking mom’s milk tea. I worked so hard, but my little lady was so happy nursing, I had to give her my all. I enjoyed every minute of that bond. Unfortunately, those memories are tainted by the possibility that I could have affected her development or growth giving her lead.

Our concerns were still minor at the time. It wasn’t until the urgent announcements to stop using the water that we began to pay attention. Reports started surfacing of the over-chemicalization causing skin problems for many citizens. Eventually we starting hearing the truth. Our government had allowed us to be poisoned for months without warning us! I began to look back at my nursing experience with guilt – always desiring to nurse to feel more connected to my baby, and the wonder of how God equipped this body to best nourish my child – but now I may have damaged her irreversibly. Well, not me, but RICK SNYDER our governor. However, I cannot help but feel badly.

Having no idea what percentage of lead comes thru breastmilk, let alone how much is coming through our tap, I feel so helpless as a mom. I have had a water pipe burst in my home, leaving us practically homeless, because I refuse to allow my now 18-month old to play where lead water has settled in.

As a community member, I ache for the children here. So many have drastic effects from the lead already, with a lifetime of effects to come. Who will save us?

To read more from the Parenting in Flint Series, click here.

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