Saturday, June 30, 2007
Worrying Makes Me A Mom
I worried about Hollis constantly when he was an infant.

There were problems with the pregnancy from the beginning and we honestly didn't think we'd make it beyond the first trimester. My progesterone was way too low, the fetus measured too small for its gestational age, my hormones were so messed up I got a false positive on the AFP and had to go through an amniocentesis to rule out Down Syndrome.

Only when we got the amnio results back did we truly let ourselves think that we might actually be having a baby. We'd been disappointed too many times before. Still, I can't say I was all that surprised when other problems arose. First came the insulin dependent gestational diabetes. That resulted in four shots a day, constant monitoring of my blood sugar, a special diet, and two biophysical profiles and non-stress tests every week. I practically lived in the radiology department of the hospital.

We thought that might be the end of the problems. I mean what else could possibly go wrong? Well, a prematurely deteriorating placenta, of course. It happens gradually throughout every normal pregnancy, but mine was going way to fast. Then came the oligohydramnios and the Intrauterine Growth Retardation. My little guy stopped growing. He miraculously made it to 37 weeks and then was delivered by emergency c-section.

All of Hollis's problems in utero may explain the problems he had later on. Hollis had severe reflux. It took us awhile to figure out what was going on. I mean, all babies spit up, right? And lots of babies are fussy and colicky, right? When our pediatrician suggested reflux, we kind of hemmed and hawed at her offer of medication. Then the power puking started. Every single meal came up. Almost all of it. Every time. And Hollis started arching away from me when I fed him. Breast or bottle, it didn't matter. He screamed while eating and after eating and when he was hungry, which was all the time because of the puking.

Hollis started taking Zantac. It didn't work.

Our pediatrician suggested a milk protein intolerance. We tried some soy formula. It didn't work.

Hollis stopped eating.

We had to carefully monitor and record exactly how much my little guy drank and peed and pooped. After a horrible day when Hollis was 2 months old and had only taken in 2 ounces of fluid the entire day, we made an emergency trip to the on-call doctor at our pediatrician's office. He had me feed Hollis in front of him. Hollis ate one ounce of formula & then refused to continue, screaming his little head off. The asshat doctor then suggested that the baby sensed I was "uptight" and I was causing his problems. He told us "babies don't refuse to eat. They just don't." So therefore it must be something I was doing wrong.

Right, genius. Babies never refuse to eat.

I immediately took matters into my own hands, calling every pediatric gastroenterologist within 100 miles to get the earliest appointment possible. Tests were run, formula was changed, medications were added. Nothing worked. Every day was a fight to get just enough fluid into my baby to keep him from losing weight or at least keep him hydrated. By this time, even the sight of my breast or a bottle caused frantic screaming and thrashing. Hollis was 4 months old.

When Hollis began to drop on the growth chart (he was only in the 3rd percentile when he was born) and was regularly refusing more than 6 ounces of formula a day, he was hospitalized. His pediatric gastroenterologist wanted to run more exhaustive tests on him and have him evaluated for a feeding tube. A feeding tube. For my 4 month old baby.

Holding Hollis down while they put in his IV and took blood was the worst thing ever. The next time the technician came by to get more blood I made my husband stay and I went for a 15 minute walk, shaking the entire time. But I didn't leave the hospital for a week. I slept in the chair beside Hollis's crib, snuck showers in his bathroom, and had T bring me clothes. I wasn't leaving my baby there alone.

Hollis had every test known to man. I can't even remember them all, but the one that scared me the most was the head ultrasound. Why? Because his head size wasn't even on the growth chart, he was considered slightly microcephalic. The doctors didn't have many answers for us beyond a severe feeding aversion caused by reflux. (Well, there was another scary problem, but I don't want to go into it here.) The doctors told us it's a lesser known complication of reflux and not rare by any stretch of the imagination. (So much for the genius doctor who told us that babies never refuse to eat.) Hollis's doctors put him on a special amino acid based formula that had to be ordered through a medical supply company, at an outrageous price, and it still didn't help.

Hollis just didn't eat.

We had weight checks every week. If Hollis's weight dropped too low, a feeding tube would be inserted. We worked with a speech pathologist specializing in feeding disorders in infants, including food aversions. It didn't help. We latched on to the hope the GI gave us that Hollis might do fine once he switched to more solids. His digestive system was more mature and he might not associate solids with that white liquid that made him feel so bad. Once Hollis started solids, we would start seeing a pediatric nutritionist to help maximize his caloric intake.

We were lucky. Hollis loved food. We were actually forced to accelerate his intake of solid foods, going against conventional wisdom, because once Hollis discovered solids he refused formula completely. He weaned himself at 8 months and REFUSED to drink anything even resembling formula again. But he was eating.

At 12 months, I spent more than a month teaching him to drink milk again. We started with his beloved apple juice (maximizing calories, you know) and added a tiny bit of milk, increasing the amount each day until he was drinking milk. It worked.

By 14 months Hollis had stopped throwing up completely and by 16 months he was off of his medications. My little guy's horrible nightmare was over.

So what does all of this have to do with what makes me a mom? I'm a mother because I worried the whole time.

I'm going to have to say "we" worried because my husband was an equal player. He's a good dad because he worried about Hollis and he worried about me. But we never gave up. It simply wasn't an option. We didn't take the easy route and have a feeding tube inserted. (Of course, you can bet it would have happened if my little guy had needed it.) We kept trying, and tried some more. We did everything we could to make sure that Hollis ate and gained weight. And somehow we didn't make his entire life or our entire lives about Hollis and food.

Looking back on Hollis's first year, I wonder if I have some inkling of how the mother of a child with an eating disorder feels. Anorexia and bulimia in a teenager may create a far different parent-child dynamic, but I think some of it is the same. I felt helpless and no matter what I did, I could not force my child to eat. And once he ate, I couldn't make him keep it down. And, of course, there's the worry.

Still, I think I've blocked a lot of the fear and frustration from that first year out of my mind. It's easier to remember how sweet Hollis was and how he was always happy and smiley, unless he was eating. I realize that many parents face far worse with their children. Our problems with Hollis pale by comparison. But still, I think nothing makes you understand that you are a MOTHER more than worrying about your child.


This is part of the "What Makes You a Mother?" Blog Blast by the Parent Bloggers Network and Light Iris. Head over and check it out. If you'd like to participate, you can find the information here.

Parent Bloggers Network - Light Iris Blog Blast

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Anonymous Redneck Mommy said...

Sounds like that first year was a miserable fight to get food into Hollis. I understand that fear. Bug had reflux so severe he had to have surgery. Add to the fact that he was completely unable to swallow liquids or was a nightmare. I used to look at his feeding tube and thank God. What would we have done 30 years ago? He would have starved to death, simply because he couldn't eat...not because he didn't want to. (What an asshat pediatrician by the way!!)

Thanks for sharing Hollis and your story with us. I'm so happy things worked out for you in the end.

(By the way...had to giggle over Hollis's head being microcephalic...Bug's was off the chart too but in the other direction...macrocephalic, it measured an inch larger than mine!!)

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