Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Things Not Yet Behind You

 Kissing Oliver.

Snoozing with Grandma

Dear Ellie,

Despite the happy photographs up above, I wish I could say that all of your preemie issues are behind you.  As time goes on, we're reminded that there are some things you probably aren't going to outgrow.  The pain of eating is the most prominent of those reminders.  You are over 7 months adjusted now and eating is just as arduous and tedious as ever.  It wasn't as difficult--- when you were 7 or 8 pounds--- to lug you around in a sling for an hour each feeding.  But now you are over twice that size, your legs bulging out the sides of the carrier.  Now that your arms are long enough to claw at my jugular, getting that bottle to your lips involves additional feats of parental dexterity.  Each feeding, I'm constantly searching for that balance between insisting that you eat (to make sure you can keep up your growth and weight) and letting you off the hook (to make sure you don't hate eating even more).  When I insist by holding your head in a vice between my hand and chest, I'm stricken with guilt when you whine and cry and push against my chest.  When I let you off the hook, I imagine you tiny and emaciated.  There is no satisfying outcome.  For some time, we were holding out for the possibility that you'd like eating solids, but you haven't shown any more enthusiasm for them than you did 3 months ago.

Over the weekend, we met a 24 week preemie at your cousin's 1st birthday party.  He had feeding issues that only worsened as he grew older, and it left its mark.  He's now 3 years old, an adorable little boy, but he's as wispy as a feather.  I felt like if the wind blew too hard it would blow him away.  The force behind his arms and legs were so feeble: like that of a puppy.  Seeing him really plied an image to the thing I'd been fearing all along.

I always try to put things into perspective though.  In reality, you aren't like that little boy.  Not even close.  Your weight is still holding firm, you've grown quite nicely, and you have a surprising strength behind those limbs.  Because of this, the frustrating moments we do endure fizzle quickly when we watch you achieve some new physical feat.  Like what happened today.

Typically, we get one really big feed around noontime, but today, you resisted it with all of your might.  I grew frustrated at the thought that you'd lose your biggest feed of the day, and against my better judgement, pushed you too hard.  Most of the time, if I can just get the bottle into your mouth, you'll settle down after a few seconds.  Not this time.  You broke into a fountain of tears and choking cries, as though someone had stabbed you with a needle.  That was the straw that broke the back of my patience, and all I could do was set you down on your stomach in the crib and turn away to collect my wits.  When I returned just moments later, I was shocked to see that you were sitting perfectly erect.  Before then, we'd been waiting and waiting for the moment you'd sit up (with no signs of progress), and all of the sudden, there you were, sitting tall, perhaps so that I could see your pouty little face.  With that, my frustration evaporated, we tried feeding again, and 15 minutes later you had 7 ounces of milk in your belly.

We enjoyed a nice few worry free hours, then when your dinner time came, you went back to fussy and I went back to worry.


  1. Dana, I have always seen children being very cranky when fed. Is it a premie issue? Is it necessary that you forcefully feed Ellie rather than waiting for her to get hungry and feed when she is ready? I am worried whether this kind of feeding makes her despise food and feeding altogether.

    So happy to hear that she has achieved one more great feat. I am sure she will do great :)

    1. Yeah Manju, its a preemie thing. One of the biggest problem a lot of preemies have once they get home is severe reflux. Ellie's reflux isn't as bad as many other preemies, but its enough to make her associate eating with pain. Before the bottle even touches her tongue, she gets upset.

      For the first 3 months we had her home, her feeding issues weren't so bad. She ate voluntarily. Then, one day, it started getting worse. Initially, our plan was to just "let her eat when she wants to eat." We basically didn't force her. Unfortunately, this strategy lead her to lose weight, which was scary. So basically, our options were to slowly let her starve or force her in some measure to eat. Easy choice, even if it means she'll be trained to hate food later in life. Preemie choices aren't always easy.