Emma Grace - 6.5 months

This post was written in two parts, 6 days apart. Though both are filled with emotions, you'll probably notice a change in my tone. It's long...this was written for me and maybe any of you going through something similar.

December 15, 2015

As I type this post I admiringly have had a bad day. A day when I've spent more than my fair share of time with tears in my eyes. A day when I questioned myself as a mother more times than I can count. I've tried my best to be strong these past few weeks/months but can't any longer. Today I sobbed as my best friend picked up the phone and the first words out of my mouth were "I just need a friend."

As I mentioned before, Emma Grace has bad reflux. But that doesn't really paint the full picture as many babies have "bad" reflux. She's had it since birth and for a while it wasn't an issue (once we got her medicated to reduce the pain and discomfort) but the past few months it has impacted her growth and doctors began to worry that her lack of calories absorbed (not consumed) would/will impact her development. She spits up. She projectile vomits. It dribbles out. It pours out. It wets her collars. It soaks my shirts and pants and sometimes even into my shoes. No two days are the same and as our wonderful pediatric GI told me, it's like a roller coaster with good weeks and bad. He kept hoping that as she grew her good weeks would start to overtake the bad but that hasn't been the case. We held out hope that the old wives tale that starting solids would help keep some of the milk down; it proved false (plus the solids come up too - she doesn't discriminate).

We've been visiting doctors weekly (a combo of her pediatrician and GI) for weight checks and tweaks to her diet and today I hit rock bottom.  Every week I'm convinced that she weighs more, that the solids or newly introduced afternoon formula bottle are helping. So I cried today at the GI's office. She's lost 4 ounces since last week and now weighs exactly the same as she did at 4 months old (she's 6 months now).

Neither of her older sisters had issues with their weight although Abby also suffered from bad reflux. As a parent it's very difficult to comprehend as she's the happiest baby and appears to be right on track developmentally (although lagging a bit behind her advanced sisters). She doesn't cry after she eats much less after she spits up. There's no blood in her stools. There's no physical issues that her x-rays have shown. Yet she can't gain weight. Maybe she's just meant to be small. I've said this aloud many times. The doctors would be ok with that if she was continuing to grow along a curve, but to now be only in the 3rd% for weight gets scary. We don't want her brain to be affected.

Today I met with their pediatric nutritionist who didn't sugar coat anything yet also skipped ahead without clear explanations or giving me time to process what she was saying. The short version is that I left feeling like I was letting Emma Grace down as a mother and failing as her nutritional provider.

So I called my sister and best friend, sobbing both times. Then I called my pediatrician for a second opinion.

My pediatrician understands that I have two other young children that need my love and attention and although I may feel like I need/want to, I can't devote 100% of my time to feeding Emma Grace. She also understands that I'm happy to breastfeed but that at the end of the day, I don't care how she's getting calories in just so long as she's growing again. I felt frustrated that the nutritionist didn't even ask if I wanted to embark on the trial and error of her suggestions, to make significant changes to my diet to keep nursing, to devote much of my day to producing, pumping, and feeding my milk to my baby. We have no idea if Emma Grace has a milk allergy; she shows no signs of it and other doctors she has seen don't believe she has one yet the nutritionist wants to rule it out via experimentation (understandable).

All I want is to keep my child healthy and thriving. I don't care how we get to that point, either nursing or formula. So after consulting with my pediatrician and my best friend (who happens to be a pediatric ER doctor whose own baby boy is coincidentally allergic to milk proteins), I'm going to stop nursing after tonight. Switching to formula allows us to take some of the guesswork out of what she's ingesting that may be messing up her digestion. We also then know exactly how many ounces she's taking in and what's in it, plus of course the solids that I'm giving her. Giving her formula also reduces a lot of stress that I've been feeling about all of this. As our pediatrician said, now I can place some of the worry and stress on her doctors as we work together to solve her weight gain issues.

I know some people are probably rolling their eyes either at the fact that I'm not willing to experiment  with my diet or that I'm making a big deal out of moving to formula. I guess I just feel guilty switching to formula since I can physically make milk and nurse without issue. I also have enormous guilt because as the almost sole provider of her food the past 6 months, to see her not gaining weight makes me blame myself and wonder if I'm doing something wrong or if something I'm eating is hurting her. And of course I wonder if she's not crawling yet (as her sisters were) because she actually is developmentally delayed or if she's her own person and on her own schedule that has nothing to do with anything else. Oh mommy guilt... Do I think she won't be as smart or healthy or our bonding will be impacted with the switch to formula? Not at all! I nursed Abby until she was 8 months and my supply dried up when I got pregnant again, and only nursed Ginny for 3 months when my supply also dried up - and they're both thriving!

I watch how dragging the older girls to various doctors'  appointments and having to already spend so much time focused on getting calories into Emma Grace has impacted them. We sit in silence together for 30 minutes each time she nurses so that she can focus just on eating and it pains me to have to send the big girls away, especially when I hear Ginny say to Abby "Mommy's really mean when she's feeding Emma Grace." I don't want to have to place us in solitude but the stress of making sure she eats without distraction overcomes me and I get snappy with the girls when they come in the nursery. As I cried today and then felt silly about crying over this I thought, I don't know how parents with terminally ill children and other healthy children do it all; those additional children should receive extra love, attention and spoils for being so understanding and caring despite their parents' divided attention.

I write all of this because it's cathartic for me. So if you think I'm overreacting, that's ok. I'm sure I am. But just for a minute imagine that your baby is not healthy when just a few months ago she was. Imagine taking her to the doctor every week and seeing her already low weight drop. Feeling helpless. Knowing that she can't tell you what's wrong. Knowing that every doctor you see has a different opinion on how to handle the situation. It's not the end of the world. She will grow and she will thrive. But for now, she's so tiny and it's hard. So I pray that this new formula helps her gain weight (even a little) so we can all breathe more.

December 21, 2015

I held my breath as I drove Emma Grace to the pediatrician for a weight check first thing this morning. My husband lovingly begged her to not poop before being weighed so that she would be heavier. I believed in my heart that the past 6 days had been better. Admittedly her reflux was in the "good" stage and that always helps with her weigh-ins but, like the past 2 doctor's appointments, I felt confident this time that she had gained weight.

We switched her to almost 100% formula 6 days ago. Using my mommy gut, (and then following up with the nutritionist) I started giving her 8oz bottles instead of 6oz. I figured that if she spit out 1-2 oz after she ate, it still meant that she was digesting 6+ per feeding, much better than 4 in my opinion. Emma Grace initially struggled to finish the 8oz, especially at bedtime, but has done much better with them the past few days and almost always completely finishes the bottle. So she now has 4 "super" 8oz bottles every day (made with enough powder formula for 10oz bottles - per the nutritionist).

The hypoallergenic formula the nutritionist wanted us to give Emma Grace was a nightmare, even when mixed with regular formula. She would either refuse the bottle in its entirety or drink a few ounces and then [projectile] vomit it all up. I've heard that this is a common issue, but we couldn't afford for her to stop eating. After a late-night phone consult with her GI, we stopped that formula completely and just back to the sensitive organic one I'd been using. And when that ran out yesterday, I just went ahead and used Whole Food's generic organic one which seems to be working just fine.

We had our favorite nurse this morning and as I stripped Emma Grace down to her birthday suit, she even commented that Emma Grace looked bigger this week. Thankfully the scale concurred and she had gained 1lb 3 oz! Finally over the 14lb mark! When her doctor came in, there were hugs and smiles all around. And a few happy tears from me. She was incredibly excited that the formula was working so well and that her positive weight gain on the regular milk formula indicates no milk allergy after all. We both know that the scale is a bit skewed this week because of the "good" reflux week but that's ok. She's finally up to the 13th % for weight and that's huge!

I've had a lot of time to reflect this past week. We've spent the past 2.5 months in and out of weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly) doctor's appointments for Emma Grace. I'm all about doing what's best for your baby AND you. Often breastmilk is best but in my case, it clearly wasn't allowing Emma Grace to thrive. So it no longer became what's best. And because our nutritionist is so pro-breastfeeding, I was shamed into thinking that I was a lesser mother for giving her formula. That's not fair. I love her with all my heart and that's why I'm switching her. Because hearing the words "failure to thrive" (not yet occurring but according to her likely soon) is not something you ever want to mess around with.

So I've said goodbye to nursing but hello to my thriving and healthy baby whom I love so very much. Do what's best for you, trust your own mama gut, and make sure you're also happy with what you're doing. You'll bond and your child will thrive with or without a boob/bottle!

Five on Friday!

Is it finally Friday?! My husband has been out of town since 4am Monday (and isn't coming home until late Sunday) and this solo parenting thing is no joke! I'm exhausted not only from lack of support but I don't sleep when he's gone so I'm living on coffee and diet soda this week... But Ginny has her ballet performance tomorrow night and my parents are coming to see it so I'll get some help tomorrow night at least!

~ one ~

I've never actually been to a Dry Bar before for a blowout or hair style, but I'm suddenly obsessed with their products (I get mine from Nordstrom). My hairdryer was 5 years old and dying so I gave theirs a try. Holy cow, it's so light!! I don't notice a difference in the amount of time it takes to actually dry my hair but I do know that I'm not getting an arm workout (although maybe that's not a good thing...). I didn't get this kit (I think it came out days after I purchased my dryer) but think it would make an awesome gift! Since I loved the hairdryer and don't own a curling iron, but want to start curling my hair for some body, I got one of theirs as well. It is incredibly easy to use and my curls look amazing! Plus it heats up in literally seconds! The only downside is that I majorly burned my finger when it slipped as I was doing the back of my head and I went to grab it (SO stupid) and completely burned my pinky finger. I may have screamed at the top of my lungs but thankfully no curse words as Ginny and Emma Grace were both right there!

~ two ~

Ginny's ballet teachers gave the girls in her class these little candy sleighs after class today. (I didn't take this picture but it was the same idea) Aren't they precious?!

~ three ~

Both girls' schools do cookie exchange for the teachers where the parents bake a few dozen cookies and bring them in for a cookie exchange. I love to bake so choosing a cookie was the toughest part! I basically dog-eared the entire December Southern Living magazine so I knew that I had to make one of their delicious recipes and the red velvet won for time and ease to make with kiddos! They ended up pretty but also delicious! Highly recommend this easy recipe!

~ four ~

I know I'm not alone with this one. And ours doesn't even do anything creative! I hate this damn elf... (and it was a gift from their great grandparents when Abby was a baby so I can't NOT do it...)

~ five ~

I was finishing my Christmas shopping yesterday and walked past this dress on my way out and had to try it on. Not only was it the only dress on the rack, but it was my pre-pregnancy size (thanks to my diet I'm now BELOW my pre-pregnancy weight!!!) and not a color I usually wear so I decided to try it on. Seriously fit like a glove. It was meant to be!

My oldest is in time out for a) smart talking about cleaning up, b) throwing her sister's porcelain tea set out of anger and shattering it to pieces, c) and then giving me MAJOR sass. I'm seriously annoyed with the Kindergarten "I know everything" attitude! She goes from my super sweet girl to this sassy-pants in one second and it drives me crazy. Is it bed time yet?!?! Happy wine time and weekend!