Annie hasn’t thrown up since Tuesday.
I hadn’t realized how much her occasional throwing up after a meal was bothering me – or how much more than occasionally it had been happening – until I had a total meltdown on the phone with my Dad. Since she was born doctors have tossed around the idea that she has reflux, but I guess her symptoms never seemed severe enough to do anything about it. But she’s pretty low on the weight:height ratio, and we’ve been working to get more calories into her each day. THAT process is most definitely work and feels a lot like force feeding: high calorie meals on a carefully planned schedule, tube feeding if she doesn’t take enough in orally….
It’s a pain. And a few times a week she throws up.
Oddly, she seems happy as a clam post barf. She toddles off to do her thing as though she didn’t just open her mouth and shoot out an entire meal that took nearly 40 minutes of entertaining a 22-month-old in a high chair to get into her. It’s enormously frustrating and, combined with the pressure to put weight on her, enough to make you want to scream. I think I have actually screamed a few times, but not at her, just inside my own head.
Finally one of her doctors suggested we try an antacid and made this comment: “it will probably help her keep the food down, but it may also help her eat more.”
Cue the guilt, because I started thinking gee, she’s probably been feeling like crap for a long time and I had no way of knowing.
My dad says I would definitely know if she felt like crap all the time, and I guess he’s right about that. But still.
So after last Tuesday’s meltdown we started her on the antacid. Within a week I feel as though a miracle has occurred. She DOES keep her food down. She DOES actually eat more. I don’t know why she eats more, she just does. She eats strawberries and grapes, pudding and cereal, soup and cottage cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches and little pretzel crackers dipped in hummus. String cheese, ice cream, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, warm bread with butter on it, french fries dipped in ranch. The major upside, I think, of being a toddler on a weight-gain diet is that you can have all the butter and ranch dressing you want.
My mental state has improved so dramatically with each passing day that I don’t think I even realized how miserable I have felt for the last few months as we struggled to pack the right number of calories into a child with a stomach the size of a golf ball.
As parents, so much of our mental wellbeing is tied up in the overall wellbeing of our children. Their everyday struggles are one thing. You hate it when they don’t make the volleyball team or tell you they cried on the playground because someone was mean to them. You’d happily take that stuff all day long so they don’t have to, but those are also important life experiences they need to become functioning adults. But throwing up every few days is definitely not an important life experience, for Anne or for me and Chad. Not only did we feel badly for her (because throwing up sucks and feels awful), but we have also felt helpless, inadequate, frustrated and ready to scream every time her doctor says, “it will be a long road.”
As my mental state has improved day by day, I can’t stop thinking about my Dad on the other end of a phone call listening to me rant about how I want to smack the doctor, how I don’t know what to do and then just crying. He may be 60 and I may be 38, but I have a pretty good idea that he felt the same way I do when Anne throws up. Helpless, frustrated on my behalf and wishing he could take the weight of the world off my shoulders so I don’t have to carry it around all the time.
He probably doesn’t realize it, but many times just hearing the calm voice of reason over the phone takes the weight off. Most of the time there’s nothing he can do, but I know that if there was he’d be right there. Anne is probably way too little to realize it, but I would gladly puke every day if it made it go away for her. (Although secretly I’m deeply relieved that I don’t actually have to do that.)
So I guess that’s what being a parent really means: sometimes you can’t do anything, but if you could you’d puke every day to make your children’s life easier.