It’s a long story, how we got from here to here in the span of 24 hours. I’ll try to sum up.
Feeding Charlie has never been easy. And by the time he was 10 weeks old, we’d seen the doctor for it more than a half dozen times, been on two different acid reflux medications and three different formulas. By the time he was 12 weeks old, each feeding was taking upwards of two hours – and he hated every minute of it. Still, no one seemed in any real hurry to solve our problem. After all, he was gaining weight, meeting his development criteria. He was happy.
I quit my job to care for him. No part time, no nothin’. We couldn’t afford the kind of caregiver that would spend two hours out of every three feeding our baby. We finally insisted on seeing a specialist, who ordered a swallow study – he was convinced Charlie didn’t have reflux, he just couldn’t swallow properly.
Within 12 hours of our visit, Charlie stopped eating altogether. The doctor on call at our pediatric gastroenterologist called the hospital emergency room and arranged for a bed. We packed up Charlie and headed to Medical City, knowing we’d come away from there with a feeding tube. The experience was, at times, nothing short of awful.
The nurse in the emergency room took an agonizing amount of time getting the tube in Charlie’s nose. I had to leave the room and go for a walk. When I returned, she was still at it. He cried for nearly four hours straight afterward. So did I. And knowing full well they were not going to let us leave the hospital the next day until I learned to put his tube in, I was miserable with anxiety. Turns out, I was a quick study and had the unpleasant task done in seconds. Seconds! After spending the Dork Lord’s first Father’s Day in the hospital, we were released.
The next day, we had the swallow study that the specialists were convinced would reveal our problem. It did not. Charlie swallows beautifully, and we were back to square one. This week, we have blood work (I’m dying inside at the thought) and a neuro-sonogram, which will rule out (hopefully) and problems with Charlie’s brain. In the meantime, our little non-eater is being fed through a tube… and his new magic, special formula runs a whopping $155 a week. Good thing I quit my job, huh?
And good thing he’s so darn cute. The cause and the cure for my stress.
One day, I hope to be able to take the time to do each of these topics justice. But since I started this a month ago, and it remains unfinished, for now, I’ll try to sum up before Sir Poopsalot wakes up and, well, poops. I’ll try to provide updates throughout but, well, babies. They wake.
Charlie is the most pleasant baby. He’s still a baby, so he’s a crazy ton of work, but lordy, did we hit the kiddo jackpot on this one. Once he starts sleeping through the night I’ll probably be even crazier about him (update: he sleeps through the night. It is magic. Better than magic. He also smiles and coos and is on the verge of out and out laughter), but even that’s hard to imagine. Also, he’s gorgeous. And has a very lovely, fuzzy head. I also hit the husband jackpot. The Dork Lord is a very, very good and very natural father. Listening to him give Charlie the play-by-play during a Mavericks game in his sing-song daddy voice gives me such amusement – and also this deep sense of happiness and peace.
Postpartum depression was the darkest, scariest thing that has ever happened to me. I stopped sleeping, couldn’t eat, and sobbed endlessly over what I was convinced was abject failure at motherhood. I believed, most ardently, that my son deserved a better mother and that I had made a very grave mistake trying to be a mother. It hit with such force and suddenness, too – quite literally overnight. For a while, Prozac made it better, until Prozac made it lot, lot worse. Then it got really scary. Because then, in the span of one afternoon, I began to feel like I was dying. I was afraid I was dying, actually. And simultaneously, I was afraid I’d have to live. I never wanted to kill myself, but I didn’t want to be alive. I only believe that distinction is important because when answering the question, “Are you afraid you might harm yourself or the baby?” my immediate and honest answer was always “Of course not.” I’m glad I never got to the place where I had to stop to consider my answer more carefully. Update: I’ve now been to the hospital twice for a severe allergic reaction to Zoloft so now we’re giving Lexapro a shot. Here goes nothin’.
Trying and failing at breastfeeding was a miserable, miserable experience. Despite the help of an expensive lactation consultant and trying every which way known to man, Charlie would not latch. He could not – his palate was simply to high and his mouth too small and as the weight slipped off him, I continued to try and fail and blame myself. It wasn’t until I was in the throes of depression and my mother came to stay to care for Charlie that he really began to thrive – on a bottle. Update: at our two-month check up yesterday, Charlie had gone from 9th percentile in weight to 39th. I think we’re doing something right. Also, he’s in the 95th percentile for length, so his daddy is fostering some pretty high hopes that our son will be a baller. He’d better have inherited his father’s coordination, is all I have to say about that.
I love being a mother. When I was deep in postpartum depression, I was overwhelmed by feelings of remorse – that I’d made a terrible mistake having a baby. Not that Charlie was the mistake; his absolute innocence and perfection made me feel like a monster, unworthy of this new job. Getting help was the best thing I could have done for all of us. The Dork Lord said at the time that medication wouldn’t make me a good mother. It would let me see I already was. He wasn’t wrong.
With less than three weeks until the Wee Dictator is due, we’re in a bit of a state of turmoil at our house. A dozen unexplained bug bites over a few nights in the last couple weeks turned into a panicked call to the exterminator and one freaked out mama-to-be.
You cannot bring a baby home to a house with bugs! Those people end up on the news! And not in one of those feel good stories they run after bits about gang violence and terrorism, either.
My first inclination was that we had fleas. Our feral cats have become indoor/outdoor cats over the course of the winter (they’re not dumb) and they love to sleep on our bed (see: not dumb). Although they’re flea-treated, I thought fine, maybe I miscalculated their last dosage. Maybe they could *possibly* have brought something inside. Seemed logical.
My ultimate fear was bed bugs. Horror of horrors! Neither of us travels, though, and there’s nothing new in the house that could have transported them. I mean, that doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility, but the pest control man seemed utterly befuddled, having found zero evidence of any kind of biting pest, flea, bedbug or otherwise. Our stark white mattress is, well, stark white. Same with the bedding. An in-depth investigation yielded only more nothing. Nothing but frustration. The exterminator left without having exterminated anything or rescuing me in any sort of way, except for providing a set of instructions for some proactive measures we could take. And boy, did we take ‘em. I’m having none of this risk taking. I’ve washed every bit of everything in hot water, the Dork Lord has sprayed the room, the mattress has been covered, bug boards laid and blah blah blah.
It’s ultimately a lot of stress that I didn’t need. I think the worst part for me is that I’ve worked so stinking hard to make everything as perfect as possible for Charlie’s arrival and then…this. This thing I cannot control. And if you know me at all, you know that I’m not so good with things I cannot control. They are my nemeses. My Khaaaaaan!
I haven’t cried yet, but let’s not rule it out.
Also, now I just itch all the time. Out of pure suggestion. Meanwhile, the only thing our sticky bug traps have caught is an unfortunate dust bunny. And Midge once. But that was funny.
By way of a Hal update: He’s doing remarkably well. He still seems completely unaware that there is anything wrong with him. His appetite is up and his weight has returned to normal. He sleeps a lot, but, you know, he’s a cat. And that’s sorta their modus operandi. Having grown accustomed to his daily medication routines, Hal even voluntarily jumps up on the counter while I glove up (being pregnant, I’m not allowed to touch any of his meds). I’m guessing that his willingness has little something to do with the treat he gets after. Like his mama, he’s compelled by food. Outside of his daily meds, it’s very easy to pretend there’s nothing wrong with him. So I do.
And a word or several on Charlie: Kid’s head down, ready to go. I’ve asked him to be born a few days early on the 16th (it’s a full moon, after all, and babies love to be born on full moons), and I’ve decided that whether or not he complies will tell me everything I need to know his personality. Come on, Charlie. Do this for mommy. She wants to roll over in bed without her whole skeleton hurting. I’ve also asked him to have a reasonably sized head. Please, oh, please.
Thank you most sincerely for all your good thoughts and well wishes with regard to Hal and Charlie. So far, so good! And uh, if you’d like to direct some of that positivity at the bug situation, well, I would not object.
The discovery was entirely accidental. I’d taken Hal in on Monday for hairball issues and his ‘senior’ cat follow-up. He’s 10 now, and I’ve been telling myself that’s middle age, no matter what the vet says. Anyway, it was accidental. Happenstance. They happened to have a difficult time getting a urine sample, so they happened to use an ultrasound to guide the procedure and the clinic’s feline internal medicine specialist just happened to be walking through the room when they did.
“Back up,” she said. “Right there in the intestines.”
We came in with hairballs and left with lymphoma — or very likely lymphoma. I declined the through-and-through biopsy for 100% confirmation. It would have required him to be put under and have pieces of his intestines cut out, a trauma that neither of us needed. And for what? I would not be putting him through chemotherapy. He wouldn’t understand and the time it would buy would only be for me and my guilt. Although in the last several days I’ve agonized over that decision plenty.
Without the biopsy, there’s no real prognosis. No window of time. Though my research has turned up a sorry statistic that cats treated on prednisone alone (the route we’ve taken, to make him comfortable) live an average of 45-60 days, I tell myself we have longer; he doesn’t act sick.
Hal and I met when he was five months old in the front window of the SPCA on the Upper East Side. When I had nobody, I had him. Sometimes I am so heartsick, I think I might retch because the hurt just runs so deep. Forty-five to sixty days. Charlie is due in 55 days. You see why I pretend it’s not true. Inaccurate. A stat I can stubborn my way out of, like I usually do. Dying kittens? Pfft! We can beat that. We’ll stay up all night! For days! But cancer? Cancer sees me coming and is not at all impressed with my tenacity. Being awake, being at work feels like a punishment, when all I want to do is curl up with him on the couch and maybe watch some Pretty Little Liars reruns and pretend that this is just not happening.