The Flint Series: Shanise’s Family

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

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I would have never imagined waking up to news reporting that the city my husband and I had been raising our two little boys – ages four and six – in for the last eight years was facing a crisis. The rumors were true. The city of Flint, Michigan’s water source was contaminated with hazardous levels of lead. For the past year, we would notice the city draining fire hydrants that spilled brownish water into the streets. Not to mention the notices we received from the news to boil water before use. It never occurred to us that our water was dangerously contaminated.In February of 2015, I purchased a Pelican water shower filter after reports starting surfacing of contamination. I also began preparing our meals with gallon spring water that I would purchase from the local grocery store, as well as showering myself, bathing my two boys, brushing our teeth, and washing my hair through the shower filter I purchased. By December of 2015, I began noticing that our shower filter was spraying brownish water out of the system. I began wondering if this water problem was too much for our filter to handle.

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In January 2016, the news reports and warnings sent by the city confirmed that we should not be consuming the water. Reports were so confusing – first saying it would be OK to shower and bathe, clean dishes and clothes with the water. Other reports said that it was not OK. In January, I also confirmed my pregnancy and things really began to change. I was still showering, washing my hair, and brushing my teeth with the water. After finding out I was pregnant I immediately stopped doing all of these because I just wasn’t sure if it would be safe for me and baby. Before the delivery of water began, my husband and I purchased our own cases of bottled water. I used that water to cook, wash up my two boys and myself, as well brush our teeth, and even wash our hands with it. At this time I even decided to stop washing our clothes in the water. Once we started receiving reports of children highly contaminated with lead and of the damages that it could cause in children and pregnant women, it weighed heavy on my mind. I decided to take every precaution necessary.

I would travel 45 miles away from Flint to Lansing, Michigan, my hometown, and wash clothes, and shower on the weekends at my parents’ home. Throughout the week I would wash myself, and the boys with about three 16.9 ounce bottles of water warmed in a big bowl in the microwave. Empty bottles of water piled up everywhere in the house kitchen, bathroom, anywhere water is needed to complete a sanitary task. Everyday I have to reprogram my children about not using tap water, how to wash hands and brush teeth with bottled water. The inconveniences didn’t end there: no longer able to use our dishwasher all dishes had to be washed and dried by hand taking at least one case of bottled water to complete. Now added to my already long list of grocery items we would now need to purchase paper plates, paper bowls, plastic forks, spoons, and knifes in order to keep water usage down.

Through all of this we still receive a bill from the water company.

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

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