The last month and a half has been one filled with change, worry, relief, and growth. I’ve been stretched in a lot of different ways since Abigail’s two month check up and it’s been hard, emotional, and, somehow, good. I generally don’t like change. I’m very much a person who likes to know what I can expect and spends entirely too much time thinking about all of the what ifs. Sometimes I overthink everything to the point where I don’t act because I’ve overwhelmed myself in the preliminary phases. It’s not really a great quality to have.
At Abigail’s two month checkup, the doctor was very complimentary of her general health, developmental milestones and incredible neck strength. But, Abigail was still jaundiced. She heard a heart murmur. And the rate at which she had gained weight since her last appointment had actually slowed down instead of increased. Keep in mind, Stephen generally tries to come to all appointments for the kids, thanks to a relatively flexible job that allows him to work remotely. This day, however, he had a meeting he had to attend and wasn’t able to be there. So between telling Jonathan to stop trying to show the doctor and nurse all of his “pro skills” like jumping jacks and balancing, I’m being told, alone, that something could be wrong with my baby and we should have her evaluated by a cardiologist. The combination of the heart murmur and slow weight gain could be evidence of a bigger issue. I felt a bit clobbered by all of this information at one time and not being able to talk it over with my best friend. Added to that was her regularly scheduled immunizations, which are no fun for baby and parent alike, and a LONG heel prick to get a vial of blood to test her bilirubin levels and I left feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.
We make small babies. Both of our kiddos were under 7 pounds at birth, and both have had a hard time gaining weight. With Jonathan, they sent us home from the hospital with the direction to nurse, pump, and then supplement with formula depending on how well steps one and two went. It was exhausting, and many tears were shed in the wee hours of the morning as I scoured YouTube for videos on different breastfeeding methods while he screamed. I was thrilled when Abigail seemed to take to nursing much better. But then, this. A new round of feeling like a failure as a mother. I’m good at cooking the babies, but apparently not so good at feeding them once they’re out. I met with a lactation consultant just after the appointment to see if there was some help to be found there. They were extremely kind, but couldn’t pinpoint a reason why she wasn’t getting as much milk as she needed to gain weight. My supply seems to be fine, her latch was fine. But instead of the 3-4oz she should be getting at her age, she only took in 2oz while we were there. Maybe she’s just an inefficient nurser, or maybe there’s an issue with her heart. Cue more worry. Stephen and I decided that we would start supplementing with formula to try to bulk her up.
At BSF a couple weeks ago, Jennifer said this: “Fear is a natural response when our idols come crashing down.”
And it’s so true. When my idol of being this perfect mom, who can handle everything on her own, came crashing down, here came the fear and anxiety. The “your baby isn’t gaining weight at the right rate” talk sounded an awful lot like “you’re a failure as a mom, you can’t even support your own kids, even though feeding them is like a full time job to you.”
But guys, it’s just NOT true. All it meant was that I needed a little help. I’m a type 2 on the enneagram – The Helper – and I’m not the kind of person who asks for help. I love helping others, but accepting help is hard for me.
In stepped my amazing husband, who grabbed the free formula samples we had received in the mail (thanks Similac!) and put Abigail on a strict feeding schedule mixing breast milk and formula. When his phone alarm would go off, he’d go get a bottle ready and as long as I had some pumped milk available, he’d feed her. You know what happened? She started gaining weight. She just needed some extra calories and to not get so cozy nursing that she’d fall asleep. During this time the doctor called and let us know that her jaundice was from breast milk and not from a liver issue. Relief. Her jaundice is all but gone now that we’re supplementing, too.
Next up was our cardiologist appointment at Children’s Hospital. Having to see a specialist at Children’s is scary. In the anxious mind, it translates to “there’s something that a normal pediatrician can’t handle wrong with your child.” First the nurses did an EKG to chart her murmur so the doctor could evaluate it before he came in to talk to us. When he came in, he listened with his stethoscope and told us that he definitely heard it, and it was louder than he would suspect an “innocent” murmur to be. He set us up to do an echocardiogram. 15-20 minutes of getting your heart ultrasounded (that’s not a word, but we’re going with it) is a long time for a little baby so the heartbreaking torture of holding her down crying while they got all the right angles was about all I could handle that day. The tests did reveal that she has a mild pulmonary valve stenosis (narrowing of the valve from the heart to the lungs) – it makes a swooshing noise when the blood goes through it which is what the doctors heard. The prognosis is really good – it’ll most likely either stay the same or get better as she gets older and won’t affect her quality of life. We’ll check back in a year and her pediatrician will keep an eye on it but it sounds like these things very rarely get worse. The relief adrenaline is REAL. Once we knew she was going to be just fine, we grabbed the most comfort-y of fast food comfort foods (Del Taco chili fries) and went home extremely thankful. I decided to take a reset day (my first ever on Macroholics, which I still totally love by the way, read more about it here) and we spent the evening with Mike, Marcie and Rebekah, eating delicious food and a cookie the size of my child while watching West Wing.
We are so thankful that she’s back on track and at her weight check just after the cardiology appointment she had gained enough to go back to the regular well-baby schedule instead of weight checks every two weeks. We’re going to continue to mix breastmilk & formula, as it has worked so well for her.
In the early part of Abigail’s life, around 6 weeks old, she had this amazing week where she’d fall asleep nursing and then would let me transfer her into her swing to sleep. It was a glorious week, in which I actually worked out, kept the house clean, and had one-on-one time with Jonathan. During that time, I was struck with the idea that I could homeschool Jonathan for preschool. I spent hours researching, building the framework of a curriculum, and getting supplies from Amazon & Target. Like I said, it was an amazing WEEK. The next week she decided that she hates naps, like her brother before her, and will only sleep on my person or if she falls asleep in the car. I kept hoping it would get better, and it has to some extent because now she’ll sleep on me in the Moby Wrap, which at least frees me to move around. But during that time I saw my expectation of homeschooling Jonathan effectively fly out the window.
Enter idol crashing part two. Again, when my idol of being this perfect mom, who can handle everything on her own, came crashing down, here came the fear and anxiety. I was failing my son. I couldn’t provide everything that he needed academically on my own. Honestly, I couldn’t provide everything that he needed socially on my own because he’s the world’s biggest extrovert and leaving the house one day a week for BSF with two children is about as much as I can handle. I was anxious and sad that I wasn’t able to balance the very different needs of my children.
So, I prayed a lot about it and I knew God was urging me toward putting him in preschool. But I also knew preschool costs money and without me working, it’s an added expense that I should be able to save us by being home. I don’t ask for help. But God knew I needed it, and Stephen came home from work one day and suggested that we put Jonathan in preschool. God opened the door for me, through Stephen, knowing I’m too proud to ask for help. Stephen brought up the excellent points that our son is too social for his introverted mother and would love having other kids to play with. He’d learn a lot, not only academically, but also about how to interact with other people in a classroom setting. He’d get to play on the playground 3 times per week. I did some research and checked out a school that is 4 minutes from our house. On the tour, he walked right in and joined the class. I could have left him in this place he’d never been with these people he had never met and I don’t think he would have even realized I was gone. I signed him up and he started 3 days later.
Jonathan going to preschool and Abigail napping on me in the Moby has opened the door for me to return to work at Engrain. Because it’s all computer work from home, I can get a few hours in while he’s at school that will cover the cost of preschool and then give us some extra money to use as we need it.
All of this has been a hard, emotional, mom-guilt filled lesson in giving myself grace. It’s pretty easy to extend grace to others, but giving it to myself is something that I struggle with in so many ways. I want to be able to do it all myself and to be everything to everyone, but I’m human, and I can’t. I hate saying no to helping people, but I’ve had to make myself turn down opportunities to serve others in order to serve myself. We’re only a week into this preschool journey, but a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Jonathan loves it so far. He thinks he’s so big, like Slade, because Slade is his standard for all things grown up and cool. We’re a month-ish into supplementing Abigail with formula, and it all seems so much easier now. She’s gaining weight, and I don’t feel like I’m just treading water anymore.
As always, BSF lessons hit at just the right time. We’re currently studying Joshua, and so much of his story is hitting home in this season. Trusting and knowing God is with us. Knowing that He goes before us, walks alongside us, and always has our back. Praying expectantly.
All this change has been good, and needed. But I had to let go of my preconceived notions of what makes me a good mom and give myself some grace. Raising kids takes a village, and sometimes that village looks like the lovely people at Similac who send samples and coupons and the people at preschool who teach and love on your kid.