Monday, April 25, 2016

Behind the Scenes Confessional

Yesterday was a little emotional.

My parents moved out of my childhood home on Saturday.   Everything is fine and they bought a new house that they love and that meets all their needs, but it is still hard.  I don't consider myself  a sentimental person, but I'll admit I shed a few tears realizing I won't step back into the place that holds so many, many memories.  

Then on Sunday at church, I missed almost the entire service because Macie was crying.  She and I did slip back in at the end to sing the last song with the congregation, but it's not the first week I've had to sit out and it was a little discouraging. 

I keep forgetting that I'm only three months postpartum and that the hormones and emotions are still pumping strong.  Sometimes I feel like I'm the only mom with a fussy baby (I'm not!) and that everyone else is watching me and judging my parenting decisions (they're not!). It's so easy to think I'm the only one.  I've had "easy" babies and I've had "hard" ones and there is not one thing I can do to control it!

It's easy to put on a happy face for a blog or to only share the happy photos on Facebook.  Of course. Who is going to post photos of their baby screaming in their car seat? But I think it's helpful to show that no mom has it all together, and that even if she does, babies are babies and toddlers are toddlers.  (And big kids pout and teenagers mope...)

My baby may take 4 hour naps (she does!), but she also cries every time I take her grocery shopping. What babies need are moms who loves them whether they show their best selves to the world or whether that transition is a little harder.  What moms need is to remember each child is an individual, designed by God, and that He will walk with them as they learn to navigate the hard days. 

And now, all moms unite!  Your baby is quirky and so is mine.  Here are some things about Macie (3.5 months) that may or may not be like your baby: 
  • She drools like crazy.  I have to change her 2-3 times or put up with soaked clothing, but...
  • She rarely spits up!
  • She won't take a pacifier, despite my numerous attempts since she was 2 days old.
  • Sometimes she finds her thumb or her fingers for comfort, but neither make her very happy.
  • She doesn't like to be worn in a sling or baby carrier. I've worn all five of my other children to various degrees, but never had one who resists so vehemently!
  • She loves a bath in the sink but hates getting dressed afterwards.
  • She is irritated by a wet diaper and loves a diaper change.
  • She gets forceful, almost violent, hiccups.
  • She loves gripe water and it cures her hiccups about 95% of the time.
  • She protests being strapped into her car seat, but she often falls asleep in the car once she settles.
  • She wants to nurse much more often than the suggested every 2-3 hours but then gets mad at me when she's not actually hungry.
  • She can roll from her stomach to her back and from her back to her side.
  • She prefers sleeping on her tummy.
  • She wants to nurse to sleep, but sometimes I have to walk and nurse at the same time to get her to settle down.
  • She does not like to be rocked to sleep and I can't get her to lay her head on my shoulder to sleep, but often she'll drift off if Brian holds her and bounces on the exercise ball.
  • One time, she slept in her crib from 10 pm to 7 am, but now she wakes between 2 and 3 and prefers a nursing buffet until morning.
  • She already shows signs of separation anxiety if I'm not holding her.
  • She turns into a pumpkin between 7 and 7:30 in the evening if we aren't at home. 
  • She sucks her probiotics off my finger like it's candy.
  • She is very expressive with her eyebrows.
  • She likes to lay and kick around on the floor...until she doesn't.

Macie is her own person and it's okay.  Your baby may be happier, fussier, more active, quieter, louder, more content, more insecure, sleepier, or more wakeful. Your baby may be different, but  each mom and baby was made by God and it's all okay.

And if it's an emotional day for you, too, I understand.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Our Silent Reflux Story

I'm writing to share our experience in the hope that it could help another family with similar issues.  

For the first seven weeks of Macie's life, she was a happy, content baby.  She slept well and long at night  She let anyone hold her.  In the car, she cried for only a minute or two before falling asleep.  We called her our "dream baby" because of how easily she adapted to life.

The week Brian went back to work after his winter break, Macie got a bad cold. What seemed normal at first progressed into something more serious and we needed to take her to the ER for labored breathing.  She was diagnosed with RSV on March 7.  There was a lingering cough and congestion for days so saline and a nasal aspirator became part of our daily routine.  Macie started waking often at night and not settling easily.  She cried much of the day, plus resisted naps and nursing.  At first we thought the congestion was irritating her and disrupting her sleep.  Then I thought maybe my supply was low and she was not getting enough to eat.  

By the end of March, the cough was gone and she began sleeping more soundly again, both at night and during nap time, but after only a day or two of clear breathing, the stuffy nose came back.  It was especially noisy in the morning.  We feared she was getting another cold, but no other symptoms developed.  We also considered allergies.  Regardless of the cause, something was making Macie cry for hours of every day.  We feared  it was our new version of normal.  I've parented a high-needs baby before, but his cries were different.  Nothing comforted Macie.  The kids couldn't hold her anymore and it was intimidating to take her out because we never knew when she would begin crying loudly and inconsolably.  I held it together okay in the daytime, but each evening I was zapped.  I had more than one sobbing break-down of my own. 

One day while she was sleeping, I started googling her symptoms-- hours of crying, stuffy nose, frequent hiccups-- and realized she was exhibiting signs of silent reflux.  Babies with this type of reflux rarely spit up because the stomach acid only comes partly up the esophagus before going back down.  Though it can occur from birth, it often does not begin until the baby is closer to eight weeks old. I felt as though a light went on.  The difficulties we'd been experiencing over the past weeks were all related...and there were ways to treat it!  We didn't have a high-needs baby or a colicky baby.  We had a reflux baby.

I made Macie a doctor's appointment for the next day.  As is typical with babies, Macie showed her happy, cheerful self to the doctor, but the doctor listened to my concerns and asked lots of questions.  She agreed that Macie was suffering from silent reflux and laid out our options.  She said we could try an elimination diet to see if something I ate was triggering the reflux or we could begin medication.  Considering we had been dealing with a crying, miserable baby for close to a month and we were all desperate for relief, I chose the medication. The doctor counseled me to be aware of the foods I was eating and to pay close attention to anything that seemed to exacerbate the symptoms.  

That evening I gave Macie her first dose of ranitidine (generic Zantac).  Ranitidine is an acid reducer and begins working within an hour, but can take up to three weeks to fully take affect depending how much damage has already been done to the esophagus.  We noticed a change in her temperament the first night!  She was visibly relaxed and nursed to sleep without a fight for the first time in weeks.  Over the next few days, she smiled more and interacted with the older kids.  They were able to start holding her again.  We had to be vigilant about her medication, though. Ranitidine has a very short half-life and Macie would grow irritable when it was near time for her next dose.

About a week after starting the medicine, Macie had another fussy day.  All babies have bad days so I didn't worry, but when we starting having whole strings of bad days, I felt a sense of dread. I read online that ranitidine dosage is sensitive to weight changes.  Since babies grow rapidly, I wondered if she already needed to up her dosage.  

I began researching natural ways to treat reflux and bookmarked this article about natural treatment.  

On Sunday, April 10, we were at a birthday party and I noticed Macie was happy and bubbly all day.  It was a strong contrast to her mood on the preceding days so I took a minute to write down everything I had eaten the day before (Saturday).  I noticed that, quite by accident, I had consumed very little dairy.  However, on Sunday at the party, I ate cheese and ice cream, plus we had pizza for dinner later in the evening. I waited and sure enough, on Monday, we had one of our worst days yet.  It gave me pause.  

Everything I read online said that if dairy was a suspected trigger for a baby's acid reflux, it needed to be totally eliminated from the mom's diet for two weeks.  That was how long it would take for the proteins to leave the body-- and therefore the breastmilk.  I cut dairy from my diet and noticed a reduction in symptoms in 24 hours.  Most noticeably, she only cried when she was sleepy or had a wet diaper, not all day long! For me it followed this formula.  Eat dairy and have a cranky baby the next day.  Avoid dairy and have a happy baby.  

The first few days I was afraid to hope.  Maybe it was coincidence, maybe wishful thinking, or maybe my imagination.  The kids started commenting on it, though.  They noticed how Macie was happy again.  They noticed how I was able to get in the shower before 9 am  instead of hanging out in the PJs until the middle of the afternoon. 

Macie's congestion cleared up, too.  Six days after cutting dairy, the congestion was mild enough to clear on its own in the morning without needing to irrigate and suction.  Nine days after eliminating dairy, she woke up with a clear nose.  The hiccups are better, too.  She still gets them, but only every few days.

Two surprising things came from cutting dairy from my diet.  One: the ranitidine became unnecessary almost overnight.  Where once we were counting the minutes until the next dose, now I would sometimes forget to give it to her right away.  (Cutting the medicine cold turkey can cause an acid rebound..)  And two: her pooping became more regular.  She had been going every four to five days and then having blow-out poops.  Her tummy wasn't hard and it is normal for some breastfed babies to wait days between pooping, but as the milk proteins left her body, she began pooping four to five times per day again.  (The color and consistency were gold and seedy so this was not diarrhea.)

Cutting dairy from my diet has not been as difficult as I expected.  I've never been a milk drinker, but I do miss cheese and I have a feeling that, foregoing ice cream this summer will be tough.  It can be tricky planning meals for my family, too, but there are so many good foods and flavors that don't involve dairy.  It simply takes new thinking. (I also discovered early that she and I can tolerate small bits of chocolate.  Better yet, Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate is made without milk.  The milk chocolate, obviously, but also the dark chocolate, do contain milk.)

I"ve added probiotic supplements both to my diet and to hers, to aid in gut health and healing. I bought mine over the counter at Target.  I specially ordered Macie's from Amazon.  It is a multi-species probiotic in powdered form, made specially for infants that contains 10 billion CFUs. I wet my finger so that the powder will stick and let her suck it off.  She loves it!

Today, Macie had a follow-up with her pediatrician. The doctor was pleased that she has gained weight. Reflux babies often lose weight either from excessive spitting up or because they resist eating when they associate it with pain.  In fact, Macie weighs a little over eleven pounds now-- only the ninth percentile for babies her age, but up from the third percentile where she hovered for awhile. The best thing is that she can use the medicine on a needs-only basis.

There were many days that the kids and I prayed for Macie  and asked the Lord to either make her well or give us patience and the wisdom to comfort her.  We are so thankful for Macie's health!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Old-school Blogging

Remember when blogs used to be nothing more than glorified family journals? I'm returning to some old-school blogging today with a look at our comings and goings of the past few weeks. (If you follow my blog page on Facebook, you've seen some of the highlights.)

Macie struggled with weight gain during her first six weeks.  She was tiny when she was born-- 6 pounds, 11.5 ounces-- much smaller than either of my other five kids at birth. She also lost some weight in the hospital which is normal.   Those things in themselves were not an issue, but by 16 days old, she was still under birth weight. Her pediatrician was concerned that either she was not getting enough calories per day (perhaps because she tended to sleep long, long stretches at night) or that there was an underlying condition preventing her from absorbing nutrients.  My mother's intuition told me that everything was fine and that she was simply a slow gainer, but for close to a month, we drove back and forth for weight checks.  By the end of February, her weight settled into a stable track, still only in the 3rd-5th percentile but consistent.

In early March, she caught a cold.  It moved into her chest and brought a nasty cough.  Aside from making her want to sleep and eat more often, it seemed like a normal cold, but on the fourth day, she had some trouble breathing.  She starting gagging on mucous and we noticed the skin around her ribs pulling in as she inhaled (intercostal retractions).  Late that night she developed a high-pitched wheeze so we took her to the ER.  She was diagnosed with RSV and given a breathing treatment in the hospital.  We brought home an baby inhaler and spacer with instructions to use it as needed and to take her to her pediatrician the next day.  (We found out later that her oxygen levels were too low and that she should have stayed in the hospital.) We got home at 3 in the morning and she was still very sick so I dozed upright while holding her because I was afraid to lay her down and miss hearing if she was in distress.  By the next afternoon, her oxygen levels returned to normal and she passed the peak of her illness.  (Textbook RSV is worst on the fourth day of illness.)

The problem was that Macie continued to fuss and cry for much of every day.  At first we thought it was irritation from the lingering congestion.  Then I thought maybe I had supply issues and she wasn't getting enough to eat.  Hiccups terribly upset her and she got them multiple times a day.  She stopped sleeping well at night and struggled to settle down for naps.  The kids couldn't hold her anymore without her crying.  I had a few sobbing breakdowns, wondering what had happened to my happy baby.  I'll devote another post to the details, but the short story is that she was diagnosed with silent reflux two weeks ago and after the very first dose of medication, her temperament changed back into our cheerful, smiley baby.  Since then, it's been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but we're working toward a solution.  I suspect I need to eliminate dairy from my diet. 

In the midst of all the tumult, Brian started back to work for his fourteenth year of landscaping and cutting grass.  It was a tremendous blessing to have him home for the first seven weeks of Macie's life as we adapted as a family of eight, but now it was time to begin a new normal and a new schedule. Spring is Brian's busiest time of year, even more so than summer which means he sometimes works past dinner.  I'm very blessed to have children old enough to help in the kitchen or hold a baby while I cook.

I taught the kids to clean their bathroom when Macie was born.  They had taken over the daily freshen-up cleaning routine months before, but I turned over the weekly deep-clean, too.  It's been a game changer, though I've had to lay aside my perfectionist standards and accept good enough.

We bought a new-to-us vehicle.  It seats eight so we can all ride together again.  No more taking two vehicles everywhere we go!  It's bigger and higher off the ground than our minivan, but I can drive it with ease now and I'm started to get more comfortable parking.

The kids beloved gym glass is mid-way through its spring semester.  Maddie continues to attend her book club.  The theme this year is world geography and the specific theme this month is South and Central America.  The other kids love when she attends because it means the rest of us go to McDonald's for ice cream sundaes or cookies. (I'm not a fan of McDonald's food so this is a big treat for them!) Maddie, Owen, Ben, and Alaine are part of a children's choir at church that practices weekly. I even got to participate in an one-time adult choir at church that  sang a song on Easter Sunday. Owen's piano lessons have been on hold since Macie was born, but he still plays semi-regularly and he has taught Ben and Alaine to play "Jesus Loves Me."

School continues on, but we are all looking forward to summer break which should begin in mid-May.  I'm not pinning down a date yet, but I have one in mind.  I've never been a history lover, but I'm enjoying our study this semester, using this book about Abraham Lincoln. Ben finished his math book last week and Owen will finish his on Thursday.  Gavin will complete science by the end of the month.  He loved his study of marine creatures this year, using this book.  He compiled a notebook of sketches and information throughout the year and entered them in a local science fair in March.

We had a friendly family March Madness competition.  We all filled out brackets and kept track of who had the most wins.  A milkshake was the promised treat for the winner.  On the first day, Gavin said, "I want to get a mint Oreo milkshake from Cook Out."  Owen said, " If you win," and Gavin replied, "Oh, I will win."  And he did! Even Alaine who knows nothing about basketball came in only one point behind Brian.

And life continues. 

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain. 
 In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him. 
 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

Psalm 127

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Hands of Time

I began blogging in April of 2008--  eight years ago this month!!  

When I mentioned on my blog's Facebook page last week that next year I'll have one kid in high school, Heather, a long-time blog reader and friend. said she still thought of Gavin and Maddie as chubby-cheeked babies.

Honestly, sometimes I do, too. When I began blogging, Gavin was 5, Maddie was 3, and Owen was 20 months.  Only three of our six kids had been born! 

But children grow and I look at them now and wonder when it happened.

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