Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Not as easy as it looks

I love TV.

No, seriously, man. I love TV. I get this from my dad. One of the best cards I ever gave my dad had a picture of a man's feet and a child's feet propped up on an ottoman. The front read "You. Me. TV." and the inside said something like "we always had each other." or something cheesy. Sounds dumb and maybe even insulting, but my dad loved it. Probably because we certainly had more than TV in common, but we also had that. We watched cartoons together, then later a lot of the same shows. The year that I was at home with Robbie, my dad would come over on Fridays and we'd watch "our shows," have lunch and just hang out. Occasionally one of us will discover some great new show and call the other and insist we have to watch. Then we'll compare notes. One of us will miss an episode and have to go to the other's house to watch it on their DVR.

We love TV.

Of course, now having a small child, I have far less time for TV than I used to. Now I have a few hours between Robbie's bedtime and my own. And even then, the TV is often more background noise while I do chores than something I can sit and devote full attention to. So I often have backlogs of "less important" shows (or shows that do require full attention, waiting for a time when I can manage that) piling up until the summer or the month after sweeps when the television Gods take away my shows to remind me just how much I love them.

I tell you all this to explain why I had 35 hours of unwatched episodes of Oprah on my bedroom DVR. (Yes, I do have two DVRs. Each has 2 tuners. I told you. I LOVE TV.) (Don't give me lectures about why Oprah sucks. I know she's the enemy of the infertile. Believe me, I've spent more than my fair share of time yelling at her nonsense. But her story is nothing short of amazing, and frankly, she's pretty much the only talk show host with topics that regularly interest me. So I overlook her annoying tendency to repeat anything she says that she thinks sounds smart and just listen to her guests.)

As you may have gathered by the sweltering heat and 100% humidity outside, it's now summer. So there is little new programming on these days.The last week I've been working my way through all of these episodes of Oprah. One of the episodes was "Surviving the unthinkable." Most of this hour was devoted to the story of 4 brothers who had been adopted by some piece of shit lunatic who then starved them almost to death.

The story is horrifying. I honestly don't know that I have the words to explain how awful their story was. The oldest boy was 19 and he weighed 45 pounds. I honestly don't know how he was alive. I cried through a good portion of that show. Three of the four boys are on the show. They have been adopted by what seems to be a lovely family and it was nice to see them smile.

After the show was over, I was reflecting on the woman (I refuse to call her their mother.) who starved them. I mean, there are obvious questions. "Why?" being the biggest one. Why adopt them at all? Why abuse them? Why starve them? Why not just let them go. They truly would have been better off on the streets than locked in her home. They only survived because the oldest was able to sneak out and dig food from the trash and bring it back to the younger boys. Why was she able to get away with it? Why was she only sentenced for four years for such crimes? There were a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers.

I found myself thinking of the great irony, that she would take such pains to keep these boys from eating, when a few states away, I am begging mine to eat. What I wouldn't give to have been able to feed those boys and mine, too.

Friday was not a good day here. Now, Robbie's eating has been improving. By normal standards, it still sucks. But by ours, it's great. He will take tiny bites of a hot dog or chicken nugget. You have to cut them very small and hand them to him one at a time. He carefully chews and swallows, signs for "more" and then you may give him another bite. You can't give him two or he gets upset or drops both on the floor. One at a time, please. No problem. He's still loving his cheez-its. He hit a new record tonight consuming 9 of them in about 40 minutes. That's impressive in our world.

But there are still bad days. Robbie had feeding therapy on Thursday. At the end of the session, he threw a piece of food. That's not something he does a lot of, but it does happen. Usually when he's done, he just hands you back whatever he doesn't want. But if he gets upset, he might pitch something. I wasn't present for the session (it was at daycare) so I'm assuming that she probably didn't understand his cues of being done and pitched a piece of food. She made him get up and using her hand over his, made him pick it up. By both her account and daycare's, that went very, very badly. He was hysterical. And then he didn't eat for 2 days. He wouldn't eat his afternoon snack and only picked at his dinner on Thursday night, then refused everything except goldfish crackers at daycare on Friday.

By Friday night, he was very hungry. You could definitely tell. He was extremely cranky. I'd worked a day shift (a coworker traded me shifts 4 of 5 days last week) so I was making dinner and David was mowing the lawn when Robbie lost it. He wanted to go outside and when I wouldn't take him, he melted down. Now, he's 2, so tantrums are not an uncommon event at all. For the most part, you ignore them and he's over it in about 30 seconds. But this was clearly different. It wasn't just that he was angry. He was inconsolable. I couldn't get him calmed down at all. I gave him a cracker hoping he'd realize that he could eat something and he'd feel better, but he was too upset to even try. I tried to hold him but he was flailing and then I realized his diaper needed changing, so I took him to his room to be changed. At this point I was starting to get overwhelmed, too. It hit me that all of this is because he just wouldn't eat. And if he would eat, he would feel better and I would feel better and we wouldn't have all this sorry and fussing and bad therapy sessions and trying to get daycare to know when to push and when not to and trouble finding a new daycare and all of it. IF HE WOULD JUST EAT.

And then I was angry, too. Angry with Robbie. I even said "WHY WON'T YOU JUST EAT?" as I was changing his diaper. He just continued crying. When he was cleaned up, I put him to his feet and told him to go play. He cried and looked at me like he didn't understand. He was crying and I wasn't fixing it. I washed up and calmly fixed a cup of milk. Maybe if I could get him to drink something, it would sate his hunger enough to get him to stop crying.

I sat down and pulled him into my lap and offered him a sip. He paused enough to take the drink (surprising me) but when he got a taste of it in his mouth, he was hysterical again. I don't know if he thought it was going to be water or what, exactly, but he definitely didn't want the milk.

At this point I was resolved to just sit. If he wanted my lap, he could have it, but I had nothing else to give. The solution was to eat or drink and he wouldn't do it. I thought about tubing him but something inside me said no. No. The solution to fix how poorly he was feeling was not to cry until Mommy tubed him. The solution when your stomach is empty is to EAT SOMETHING. I was still angry.

At this point, my husband came in and looked confused and worried. I explained that he was so hungry that he was hysterical, but he wouldn't eat. David asked if he should make a chicken nugget. I said he was welcome to try. So he did. In the mean time I got Robbie up and put him in his high chair. Robbie get quiet for the first time in about 40 minutes. I cut up the warmed nugget and offered him a piece.

He ate. I handed him one piece at a time for a while until David took over and I was able to resume cooking our dinner. All in all, he ate half of a small chicken nugget and a few crumbs of cheese. But it was enough to make him feel better. The rest of the weekend, he ate fairly well by Robbie standards.

I don't know if he learned anything on Friday. I relearned that sometimes I'm not as strong or patient as I should be as a mother. It's not a lesson I wanted to relearn, but it's the brutal truth of living with a child who will not eat. Sometimes it's harder than others. Sometimes you're so frustrated and angry that you honestly give up. Maybe it's giving up for 40 minutes of a meltdown, maybe it's giving up for a week or a month or a year and just relying on the tube. Sometimes it's easier not to feed them because the fighting is just so hard.

And then I started thinking about that woman again. I thought about how hard it was on Friday to not feed my kid. He's screaming and crying and starving and everything in my being said to just put it in the tube. He's hungry, feed him.

You know those boys had to scream and cry. On Friday I could hear Robbie's stomach growling and I swear, it made my soul growl, too. This woman had to see and hear those boys starving and yet she locked the refrigerator to keep them out of it. That's some kind of twisted dedication there. I'm here to tell you, starving your child is harder than it looks.

I don't have any witty wrap up, or clever closing. It was just one of those moments in life where I found myself standing still and marveling at the twisted nature of humans. When I was infertile, I marveled at the ease with which crackheads & meth addicts seemed to conceive and birth children while I could point out dozens of emotionally & financially stable families who'd love to take in one of those babies or make one of their own. This weekend, the meth-head mother was this lowlife who spent such effort starving her child out of spite while I implored mine to eat.

Some days it just taxes my soul. Of course, there are better days, and I cling to them. There are days where he eats 9 crackers in 40 minutes, or days when he acquiesces to eating chocolate for the first time. Or days that he gets so excited about drinking some water that he soaks himself, me and our bed, and is so pleased with his cup that he won't give it up for a refill so we just give him another. Those are the days that make deposits into my soul bank. Thank God for those days.

And of course, thank God for TV, too. Sometimes it's the stories of atrocities done to helpless New Jersey boys that make me count my blessings and realize maybe I'm not doing so bad after all. And sometimes it's a comedian who lets me know I'm not alone.

I couldn't find anything about Louis C.K. having a failure to thrive kid, but he sure has the parenting woes nailed.  (language not safe for work.)



caitsmom said...

Here's to making those "deposits in our soul banks." That's what gets us through the next challenge. Love the pics of your boy---so sweet. Eat on young Robbie!

Stacie said...

Oh, Trish. This was an awesome post. You are doing a great job as Robbie's mom. You really are!

Searching said...

I love, love, LOVE the sippy cup pic! How amazing is that! Do you think he would like a copy on the fridge to look at? Maybe send a subliminal message- look how happy you are drinking and w/TWO sippy cups! Uber huge moment, Trish!

You know, you ARE strong and insanely patient. That's what you were doing when you didn't give in to the tube. Sure, you were angry and exhausted and worn out, but you didn't take the easy route, the one that would instantly make you both feel better. You went to another place in your mind and just stood your ground. That is TOUGH. I am sooooo proud of you! Even if it wasn't a permanent lesson or one that will require reinforcement, he still learned something. Somewhere in his brain it was sparked that he felt upset and this strange unhappy feeling (severe hunger), and that when he ate the feeling started to go away. Happy contentedness came back. So somewhere that is stored in his memory. I think this was a MASSIVE victory!

I'm pretty proud of the wee one, too. :) You are both making progress, slowly but surely. Excellent work!!!

Hope you tell the therapist how much he was set back after that session. He's 2. Does she REALLY expect that forcing him to pick up food would do anything but spark a tantrum in a "normal" kid, and that perhaps in a food-phobic child it would be traumatizing?? Hope she got the message to never do that again!!!

S said...

He looks so cute (and big) in the pictures!! I'm sorry you had a stressful day and had to "relearn" a Mommy lesson. Don't feel bad...I relearn them all the time!!

I also DVR Oprah (among other programs!!!) and watch in my alone time (which means the 30 minutes in bed at nite before I go to sleep!!). I saw this Oprah a few weeks ago. Awful...just awful. What a monster.

Now...the therapist. I mean, what is she thinking??? Crazy nut!

Me said...

Um, that Oprah story is AWFUL!!!

ggop said...

Thank you for reminding me to count my blessings. My heart goes out to those 4 abused boys. I think I can't face Oprah's shows for reasons like the show you linked to. It just depresses me.

Tracy said...


That Oprah story is awful.

You don't have to be perfect, Trish. You're an awesome mommy and Robbie is blessed.

Azaera said...

*hugs* you are doing a great job, and Skyler pitches those fits too about different things. And when you said they did the hand over hand method with Robbie I felt kind of sick. It's a method they use a lot with children who are blind or visually impaired, and it really invades their space. It takes away your control. Skyler hates it if you try to do that with him, so I can understand why Robbie got so mad.

Elizabeth said...

The pics are wonderful, I've missed reading and you still make me stop and think and remember to be thankful. You're an awesome Mom Trish!

Amy said...

This really was an awesome post, and you truly are INCREDIBLY patient. And I am also a huge fan of the sippy cup pic. :)

Kathy said...

Wow, I am sooooo proud of you! Even if it wasn't a permanent lesson or one that will require reinforcement, he still learned something. Somewhere in his brain it was sparked that he felt upset and this strange unhappy feeling (severe hunger), and that when he ate the feeling started to go away. Happy contentedness came back. thanx.