Some crazy things have been happening these last two weeks. I'm officially in my second trimester (huzzah!) and I'm back to feeling pretty human.
I can't believe that Noah will be turning one in just a few weeks! My first year of being a mother has been everything I wanted and more. Noah has taught me so much about myself, and I am endlessly grateful to be his mom. This post will be mostly about him--and I'm afraid it's not going to be very sunny and happy. I'll probably sound like a doom-and-gloom monster, but I promise to put a bit of sunshine in at the end that will make things seem a little better.
We finally got Noah in to see an ENT two weeks ago, and scheduled his ear tube surgery for this Friday. I felt so relieved when we got it on the calendar. He's been through 7 ear infections so far (yikes, right?), and I know the fluid is blocking his hearing and inhibiting his balance. Since January, each time he wakes up in the middle of the night and cries, or tugs his ear, or is fussier than normal, my automatic thought has always been, "He might have another ear infection, I'd better take him to the doctor." It will be so nice not to have to worry about that, at least for a few years. I've been really looking forward to see if any dramatic improvements in his speech or his walking (he's soooo close!) occur. But the closer we get to the surgery, the more mixed my feelings become. I can't help thinking of him being alone in a room full of strange doctors, and feeling worried that he'll cry and be afraid. And, even though this is the most commonly performed surgery for children, and the risks are very low, my mind sometimes goes to that scary place of "what ifs." What if he has some freak reaction to the drugs they give him? What if something goes wrong and he loses his hearing completely? I'm going to stop myself right there, before I start bawling....
Mostly, though, I still have the positive feelings about the surgery that I did before. I'm sure everything will be fine, and Noah will be happy as a clam by Sunday.
On another medical side of Noah's life, we had his blood tested for allergies. He first saw an allergist in November, because he had a nasty skin rash that we thought might be caused by a food allergy (it turned out to be nothing but a skin rash that went away with hydrocortisone cream). We did a simple skin test at the allergist's office, and peanuts was the only thing he reacted to. Knowing that skin tests were only 50% accurate, and having grown up with a brother allergic to peanut butter, I really wasn't worried about it. He asked that we come back in about 6 months and have a blood test done, to confirm the peanut allergy.
Fast forward two months later. I tried feeding him yogurt a few times, and he started getting red patches and small hives where it had touched his skin. Though the patches went away an hour after touching the yogurt, we thought it was likely that he was allergic. A similar thing happened when I fed him scrambled eggs. No eggs, cheese, yogurt, or milk has touched him since then. Our pediatrician comforted us with the knowledge that most babies outgrow these allergies quickly.
Last week we had our follow-up appointment with the allergist, as well as his blood test. We tested for eggs, milk, peanuts, and soy. As luck would have it, all but the soy came back positive. The eggs were a "definitely yes" allergy, and the milk and peanuts were in the "high grey zone," meaning that he will probably grow out of it. I had quite a melt-down after the nurse called with the test results. Since Noah's switched from eating purees to finger foods, he's become quite picky. Right now, his diet consists of canned peaches, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, bananas, homemade pancakes with fruit and veggie purees hidden in them, deli meat, and graham crackers. Even though we offer him other foods quite often, he'll usually refuse anything but the foods mentioned above--and sometimes he'll refuse even those! His weight gain has completely stopped since he hit six months, though he is growing taller all the time. At 16 pounds and 28-ish inches, he is one long, skinny baby. How do you put fat on a baby if the only foods he'll eat with even a trace of fat is deli meat??? I try to use olive oil whenever I can, but those occasions don't arise that often. Though the test results didn't really change his current diet because we were already avoiding those foods anyway, it killed any hope that I had of adding those foods back in so that he can have more variety, as well as fattier foods.
Weaning poses another problem. Up until now, Noah has been 100% breastfed (not counting when the stupid NICU nurses made us supplement Noah with formula the day after he was born...but that's another story). But with baby #2 causing changes all over my body, it is becoming increasingly painful to nurse, and it seems like my milk supply is getting lower and lower. Most families have no problem switching to formula, but I can't bring myself to do that. Please don't think that I'm judging parents who give their babies formula--it's a choice that families make based on their own personal needs, and that's great. My siblings and I were fed formula, and we are all healthy and happy. But I looked at the ingredients on the soy-based formula the other day, and it almost made me sick. The first two ingredients in every single brand are corn syrup solids and sugar. I can't bring myself to give that to my baby after giving him healthy, wholesome, no-sugar-added breastmilk for nearly a year. I feel like he deserves something better. So I started searching for alternatives. My pediatrician originally suggested soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk. However, I am not very satisfied with their nutritional value. I know that these work for a lot of healthy kids who are allergic to dairy, but I don't think they will work for Noah just now. He needs something with lots of good fat. I've read some good things about coconut milk and raw goat's milk. We are going to try both of those and see what works better for Noah. I feel fairly optimistic about these options.
Are you bored of reading about food problems yet? Well, there's one more. And this is what has been really stressing me out lately. When Noah was younger, he was very much a "happy spitter." He'd spit up like a geyser all day long, and it didn't bother him whatsoever. We started feeding him solid foods at around 4 months. After a while, we noticed that he coughed frequently while eating. Sometimes, after a few coughs, he would throw up everything he'd just eaten. At first I was worried, but then he would always go back to normal, just like he did when he was spitting up breastmilk. In fact, he would be so normal that he would expect his next bite of food to come just as quickly as if he had not thrown up at all. Since it wasn't inhibiting his appetite, and he was so utterly undisturbed by it, I decided that he must have a sensitive gag reflex or something, and stopped worrying about it. Once or twice a week he would chuck up his meal, and life went on as normal.
A few weeks ago, however, I became concerned that it was happening more than usual. After vomiting his food three times in as many days, I called the pediatrician. Since it seemed like he was spitting up pureed foods more often than finger foods, she advised me to switch more completely to finger foods and see what happens. That was three weeks ago. Since then, the number of times he throws up in an average week have gone up, and it's started happening at different times. Up until now, Noah would only throw up while he was actually eating. It would usually happen if he ate a piece of food that was too big, or if he tried to swallow it too soon and wanted to cough it out--hence my gag-reflex supposition. For the last week, however, he's also been spitting up well after a meal is over. On Monday he vomited twice while eating breakfast and once while playing. After lunch on Tuesday, he spit up a little bit three or four times, and then lost all of his lunch. And when I got him up this morning, I found a bunch of his dinner in his crib. Nice. (Sorry if this is TMI for you guys, but this is some pretty worrisome stuff for me). When an underweight baby is chucking up a third of what you give him on an almost daily basis, something is definitely wrong.
Between the approaching ear surgery and the allergies and the weaning and the vomiting, I've been at the end of my rope lately. I finally had a complete meltdown last night, and my sweet husband comforted me and held me and told me it would be all right. He's really good at being optimistic like that. And, in the end, I know it will be. We will wean Noah onto a healthy alternative milk, we'll find what's wrong with his stomach, the ear surgery will be successful, he'll outgrow his dairy allergy in a few years or so, and we will continue living life happily.
I told you I would share a bit of happiness with you at the end of my post, and here it is. Noah woke up early this morning, and I brought him into my room to play on my bed. After nursing, he sat up and got ready to explore like he usually does. Looking over my shoulder, he pointed and started saying "nananana!" This is what he usually says when he sees food that he wants. I looked around and saw an apple I put on my nightstand, in case I got hungry before going to sleep last night. I picked up the apple and bit into it, eating the skin so that he could taste the white flesh underneath and scrape off little bits with his teeth. After all the food-related stress wracking my brain lately, it was nice to just sit on my bed and quietly share an apple with my baby. We enjoyed every bite. :)