Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Third Time's a Charm...Not When it Comes to Deployment

        Not long after life got back to “normal” with all of DD’s reflux and sleeping issues, we got the news that my DH would most definitely be deploying…for a year, 9 months, who knows.  The whole past year it was always on the table so it did not come as a surprise.  I was just so busy trying to be a mom that I could not even think about a deployment.  DH had done a few TDY trips while DD was a young infant, and we survived them.  But of course, deployment is a whole other story.  The closer to the departure date we got, the more of a mess I became.  Thankfully, my daughter kept my focus on her most of the day but nights were hard.  I started to think about the reality of my husband being gone.  Yes, we had done it twice before, but this time was going to be very different because now we are parents.  Not only that but because of moving here just a few weeks before DD was born and the crazy ride of her first year of life, I did not have much of a support system.  It’s very hard to start off a deployment feeling like that.  Here’s an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote a few days before he left to give you some insight into just what I was feeling.

            10(ish) days until DH deploys for the 3rd time.  Trying to stay positive, make the most of the time, and set goals for the year apart.  I don’t want to wish away DD’s life so I’m determined she and I will make some good memories and not stop enjoying life.  I am hopeful this deployment will go faster and be slightly easier (in some ways) now that I have my sweet daughter to take care of.  There is no doubt she is a joy!  Any day now she’s going to start talking.  Likely first words are star, bird, dog.  But of course, the possibilities are endless!  Can’t wait to find out!
This time just before DH leaves is so tough.  
You want to keep some sort of a routine.
You want time to stop and speed ahead all at the same time. 
You stop yourself from saying, “This is the last _________________.” 
You take mental pictures and you try not to argue. 
You count down to the big countdown. 
You make all his favorite meals, and try to give him his “me” time when all you want to do is never leave his side. 
You begin planning care packages and menus for one. 
You try to make holiday plans before the tears overwhelm you. 
You try not to cry but also not live in denial. 
You try to keep things in perspective but fail repeatedly. 
You try to live one day at a time and think of the only way to eat an elephant…
But in the end, deployment is coming…ready or not.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Acid Reflux...1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back

         Many babies, if not all, have reflux to some extent.  However, when DD was around 5 weeks old, I noticed long bouts of crying after eating, arching her back, thrusting her tongue, and swallowing after burping.  She was not one to throw up everything she ate every time she ate.  She was more of a silent spitter, although there were times when she would seem to expel anything in her tiny stomach.
             Since I had a friend (my former battle buddy) with a daughter who was almost a year older than mine who experienced horrendous consequences as a result of GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease), I was very concerned this was happening to us.  Although, it was confusing because my DD wasn’t throwing up everything every meal as my friend’s daughter had done.  But I typed her symptoms into YouTube and saw babies acting the same way as my sweet girl.  In the comments, reflux or GERD was diagnosed. So I booked an appointment with a pediatrician and explained DD’s symptoms.  The doctor agreed it sounded like reflux and prescribed Zantac.  She also advised me to add rice cereal to the bottles to thicken the milk.

            I noticed a slight improvement over the first few weeks, but my DD continued to act uncomfortable and had slow weight gain.  She would go hours without eating anything, and I didn’t know what to do. 

            I was still dealing with the effects of not being able to breastfeed, and now I couldn’t even get my daughter to eat.  Not only that but her sleep was drastically interrupted day and night by what I could only assume was the acid in her stomach.  I found, however, that if I put her in her car seat attached to the stroller, and rocked her, I could get her to sleep.  So this is how we got her to sleep for naps for the first 8 months of her life.  These naps would often only last 30 minutes, and then it seemed she was just too uncomfortable to sleep any more.

            I was exhausted and begged God to help us.  I stopped going to Bible study because it was too hard to get DD to sleep, and I could barely function on the little sleep I got.  I prayed over and over that God would mature DD’s sphincter muscle or whatever was causing her such pain, but it seemed no relief was in sight.  I tried going off dairy, convincing myself that something was bad in my milk, but we didn’t notice a difference.

            I went back to the pediatrician who graciously referred us to a pediatric gastroenterologist and a feeding clinic.  I called both immediately but neither could see us for 2 months.  It was a long wait!  I did not have much faith that a feeding clinic could help us but I figured the GI could do something.  In the meantime, they switched my daughter to Nexium where I again saw a small improvement.

            The feeding clinic appointment happened first, and I was pleasantly surprised by the suggestions and feedback I received.  It was a gift from God!   They encouraged me that I was a good mom and was taking excellent care of my daughter, even though I broke down in tears, feeling as though I failed at every turn.  The words of this pediatrician, orthopedic therapist, speech therapist, and nutritionist did bolster my confidence.  I began implementing their suggestions right away.  They said if within two weeks, I saw no improvement, to call back and they would begin seeing us weekly.

            Well, 2 weeks later, I thought there was some improvement.  There was.  Some.  I was beginning to find out, we were in a cycle. Things would improve just enough that I’d regain hope and think we’d found a solution only to be slapped in the face a month later with the realization that things were still not as they should be.  DD hated the bottle and it was a challenge just to get her to take 3 ounces!

            The next appointment was with the GI who suggested it could be an allergy.  He told me I could go on an elimination diet (since I was still pumping) or try a hypoallergenic formula.  All the emotions of my failure to breastfeed came rushing back.  I was adamant that I didn’t want to give DD formula.  If I couldn’t breastfeed, at least I could give her breast milk.  I had given up dairy months prior, and it was tough.  I wasn’t sure I could do a complete elimination diet.  Of course, I could do anything for my daughter, but would it really help?  It would take weeks to find out.  I began researching and begging God for wisdom and discernment.  Again, I needed to lay aside what I wanted and do what was best for my daughter.

            God began dealing with me and exposing yet again my performance-based attitudes and judgmental tendencies (ok, they were more than tendencies, but I was trying to give myself grace).  Not a day went by that I didn’t collapse in tears, overcome by failure.  The Lord was gracious to me in the midst of all this and put wise family and friends around me.  I eventually decided to try the hypoallergenic formula so I could sustain my energy level to take care of my sweet girl in the only way I knew how.

            Every time I gave her formula, I wanted to cry.  In my heart I just felt it wasn’t right, but if this was going to help her, I’d do anything.  Of course, she hated the taste so I had to puree banana to add to it.  It seemed to work, but the cycle continued.  For the first few days, improvement seemed evident.  But after about 2 weeks, we were back to square one.  So the GI told us to try another formula.  Again, slight improvement, and then back to all the previous symptoms.  We tried five different formulas, all with the same results.  It was definitely not an allergy.  Back to breast milk we went.

            Thankfully, as DD got older, we were able to introduce more and more solids.  She was hooked!  A much bigger fan of the spoon than the bottle, and I praised God!

Trying "solids" for the first time
            Through all the formula changes, we began going to the feeding clinic weekly.  We had an amazing therapist who, every week, provided encouragement and new suggestions.  She helped not just with feeding but with sleeping, separation anxiety, development, and socialization.  I have no doubt that the Lord strategically placed her in our lives.  We would not have been able to get through that time without her!

            Another blessing from the Lord during this time was my former battle buddy who was faithful to call and text with me whenever I had questions about this reflux journey we seemed to be on.  Although our girls differed in some of their symptoms, much of their behaviors were identical.  I remember texting this friend numerous times to ask how I could get my daughter to sleep better, what strategy to try when introducing solids but still trying to get her to drink milk, and whether we should try a hypoallergenic formula, request an endoscopy, etc.  She will probably never know how much she helped me during that time.  Her understanding and experience provided comfort when nothing else seemed to help.  The Lord is so faithful, in the midst of hard times, to provide us with glimpses of hope, and to ultimately bring us out of that difficult season.

            Finally, when DD was about 10 months old, eating table food and sleeping better, we began to relax.  The Lord was slowly bringing us out of this craziness, and life started to regain its groove.  There was no doubt this was the most challenging season I had ever endured (beyond Ranger School, beyond deployments).  I constantly felt like I was just barely keeping my head above water.  Yet through it all, the Lord never left me.  He was faithful even when I was not.  All the setbacks, all the pain and turmoil, would serve a purpose.  I’m still not sure what that purpose is, but I am confident that the Lord who redeems my soul will also redeem my failures and disappointments.

            Joy comes in the morning…

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tiny newborns have big opinions

         Once home with our newborn daughter, we were eager to show her all her new things.  Of course, for about the first 3 weeks of her life, she was content to sleep, not interested in much else, not even driven by hunger.  We continued trying to breastfeed, visiting a lactation consultant weekly for 6 weeks.  I was desperate to make this work.  Plenty of friends had told me it wasn’t easy and not for the faint of heart, but I was determined.  Unfortunately, as Dear Daughter (henceforth, DD) began losing weight, the lactation consultant recommended we try a bottle (despite my protestations) in order for her to get enough calories to be awake and alert enough to breastfeed.

Doing what she did best
            As soon as we gave her the bottle, she gulped the expressed milk.  We couldn’t believe it!  I continued offering her the breast and trying all the different strategies, but it became clear after a month or so that she only wanted the bottle.  I couldn’t believe such a tiny baby could be so opinionated.  She didn’t want to have to work for her food, nor did she want to be swaddled or held cradled in your arms.  She wanted to be upright and free to use her arms and legs.  She did not want a pacifier, and she hated the car.  All these things I could accept, but it was very hard to believe she didn’t want to breastfeed.  It felt like she didn’t want me.   Breastfeeding was supposed to be natural, how God created us.  Was there something wrong with me?  With all the lactation help I was receiving, they encouraged me that nothing was wrong anatomically.  Yes, DD had a high arch, but with all these different strategies we were trying, something should’ve worked.  The only explanation they could give me was that some babies just prefer the bottle.  They kept saying it wasn’t my fault.

            But I couldn’t hear that.  I kept thinking if I just tried a little harder, used a different method, or begged God, it would work.  I felt rejected by my own daughter and a flat-out failure.  I can’t even begin to describe the emotional wreck I became during those first few months.  I could not comprehend why giving up on breastfeeding was such a huge issue for me.  It was just this deep-seeded feeling that this is how I would take care of my daughter, but she wouldn’t let me.  It didn’t seem right.  It didn’t seem fair.  God had given me an overabundance of milk, to the point where I had to pump every 2 hours.  When I didn’t, I got mastitis.  So I continued pumping, knowing that at least I could still give my sweet girl breast milk, just not with the usual method of delivery.  So I pumped and I pumped for 10 straight months, freezing what she did not eat.  After about 8 weeks, I stopped offering the breast and just gave the expressed milk in a bottle, feeling like the very first test as a mom, I had failed.  Where I was going to go from here?
Cuddle bug
            My quiet times became more infrequent and less meaningful.  I was exhausted emotionally and physically.  Yet God never left me.  He used those months, those gut-wrenching emotions, to show me I still had perfectionist tendencies buried deep inside.  I thought I had moved past a performance-based life, but my reactions to this breastfeeding setback clearly showed otherwise.  The Lord used my sweet, cuddly 8 week old to teach me things I hadn’t been able to learn in my 27 years.  In the first few months of her life, He taught me that it was no longer all about me and what I wanted.  It was about what was best for her, no matter how painful or confusing or exhausting it was for me.

            That’s what He does for us as our Parent.  He does what is best for us.  And yes, we have BIG opinions, especially about how He intervenes in our lives, but He sees the big picture.  He knows that in the grand scheme of things, whether I breastfed or bottle-fed didn’t matter.   What did matter is that I surrendered myself and my child to Him (my expectations, my fears, my rights), and allowed myself to be teachable.  God used this to turn my world upside down and show me how much He loves me, as my Parent.  That’s one life lesson I hope to never forget!