Thursday, February 12, 2009

When everything stops

It has been a very long time since Jonah and I have made an update on our journey together. We have written several posts about cloth diapers, rice cereal, and homemade baby food, however when events took an unexpected turn two weeks ago, I could not find it in my heart to post any of them.

To be told that there is something wrong with her child is a mother's worst nightmare, and even if the ailment is temporary, as parents we live in the realm of "here and now" and everything seems to stop until our babies are well again. Two weeks ago, Jonah and I went to meet our new pediatrician. I suspected nothing out of the ordinary would take place; just a routine visit and an interview to make sure that she was the correct pediatrician for Jonah to see. When they weighed him, my heart sank. He weighed the same as he had on Thanksgiving. He hadn't gained any weight. I knew that he was tiny, and he was skinny, but I truly saw signs of him growing and getting nutrition. I never thought he had stopped growing.

The pediatrician recommended that we go to the hospital. She gave us a choice, but said that if we choose to work as outpatients, it could take months to get answers. With a baby who isn't gaining any weight at all, I wanted answers right away. We were admitted to the hospital Wednesday evening. Testing started immediately. Bloodwork, urine samples, chest x-rays. It was terrifying as a parent. Even worse, upon all of these feelings of fear, the hospital staff began pointing their fingers at Daryl and me. Why is he so small, they ask. That is what we came to find out. Why did it take so long for you to realize, they ask. The same reason it took pediatricians so long to realize. Jonah had been seeing a pediatrician on a regular basis, and this was the first time he had ever been recorded to stop growing. During our week long stay at the hospital I felt humiliated, judged, and inadequate as a parent.

Several aspects of our lifestyle did not fit well into the hospital regiment. Our elimination communication, for example, was seen as something from Mars. When I told the nurse that I could get a urine sample for her without using a catheter, she did not believe me. I stepped out of our room for two seconds, and when I stepped back in, she was inserting the catheter, and of course getting nothing because he had just soaked a diaper. I finally talked her into using a sample cup, but she wouldn't let me catch it. She had to be the one holding it. Of course, the delay between me saying "He's going to pee" and her getting the cup underneath him was too big of a gap, and I ended up spending most of the night getting peed on. The nurse would get impatient, put a bag over his diaper area, and give up. Finally, around three AM I convinced her to leave the cup with me. I caught a sample within a matter of minutes. It was amazing to me that once the impatience and negative energy of the nurse were taken out of the equation, Jonah and I communicated much easier, and EC was facilitated. That was the last time that we used EC, as while we were in the hospital they needed to weigh his diapers. They would not allow me to catch his urine in a cup, it had to be in a diaper- and a hospital diaper at that. No bare bums, no cloth diapers.

Our nursing was also interrupted. It was found that although Jonah nursed, he would only take two ounces of milk for every feeding. His reflux had been so painful that it caused an aversion to eating, and he took in just enough to sustain himself, but not enough to thrive. We began medicating him for the reflux, because we had been using alternative methods to control it previously. We thought our methods were working, as he was no longer spitting up, but that was far from the case. Had we medicated when he was two months old, Jonah would have been a growing, happy, baby today. This has made me sit down and really think about how the choices we make as a parent really do effect our children. It isn't something to be taken lightly, and I will definitely give things a lot more thought from now on. Because of his aversion, we had to teach Jonah to take more milk at each feeding. We also had to stretch his stomach so that it could hold more than two ounces, and train my body to make more than two ounces of milk for him. Jonah was put on a high calorie formula, and I exclusively pumped. Once I began making more milk, I was able to pump for Jonah and fortify the milk, supplementing what my body is unable to make.

This was a very humbling route to take. I have stood on my soapbox several times about formula companies and the harm they do not only to our children but to our relationships with our children. I have ranted and raved about how they sink their claws into the medical community, making mothers believe they cannot or should not use breastmilk. I have come to realize that there are purposes for formula, and sometimes its use is actually for the better for the child. I hear women say "I want to breastfeed for x number of months" but I could never say that. Instead I would say "I don't ever want my babies to have formula." It was difficult to let that go, and even more difficult to accept that because Jonah wasn't taking much milk from me, I may not be able to produce milk through his first year, let alone beyond. It was devestating for me.

We were also bombarded with questions regarding Jonah's solids' diet. I haven't been feeding him solids on a regular basis, and chose avocados as his first food over rice cereal. I did not think this was odd, as several parents I know have done so. My pediatrician stood by me on this decision, as do several books about infant nutrition. However, everyone at the hospital felt the need to question this choice, and "prescribe" rice cereal into his diet.

Last Tuesday, we were given the all-clear to finally go home. Jonah had been eating steadily, and gained a bit of weight. We are continuing to feed him a high calorie diet, but I am pumping nearly enough milk at this point that the majority of his diet is my milk, fortified. And so we begin a new chapter in our journey: pumping.

We have had to stop using EC, mainly because of the amount of time and effort that pumping is taking. I simply cannot physically do both. Hopefully once we get settled into our new routine, we will be able to pick it back up again. We have had a rough start to what looks like a long road ahead of us for pumping and bottle feeding. It is not something I ever planned would be a topic for this particular blog. It has, however become a part of both of our lives, and is becoming more and more crucial to the way we are living our lives.

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