PTSD is a weird, weird thing. We work on it quite a bit in therapy and it really has helped a lot. I have coping mechanisms. Sometimes I can see things coming and prepare myself. When Charlotte was taken to the NICU, I knew that going down there to see her was going to be hard. It was still worse than I expected, but at least I knew it was coming. When it sneaks up on me, though, it's even worse.
When I saw Charlotte in the isolette in the NICU, I started sobbing. Her amazing nurse was right there saying over and over again "It's not the same, Trish. It's not the same. It's not. She's big, she's healthy, she just needs to be watched a little bit. It's not the same." Of course, I knew all of that in my head. But seeing another one of my babies in that isolette hit me square in the stomach. It wasn't an experience I wanted to relive to be sure, but we got through it. It really wasn't the same.
Charlotte hates bottles. Don't get me wrong, she LOVES to eat. She's about 13 pounds now. At her 4 month check-up last week (Yes. FOUR MONTHS.) she was 12lb 11oz. She was about 40% on the weight chart for her ACTUAL age. Since she was actually less than 3 months adjusted, that's pretty big. She also scored out closer to 4 months for her developmental age (she's sleeping well at night and during the day, cooing, laughing, close to rolling over, etc.) so she's doing great. She's big and strong and healthy. But she HATES fake nipples. She has never taken a pacifier. She started out taking bottles well, but then I got thrush.
When you have thrush (thank you antibiotics) you have to boil everything every day. If you pump, you have to boil your pump parts, the bottles, the nipples, the pacifiers etc. Thrush is a nasty beast that is hard to kill. Since I had plenty going on at that point, I just didn't bother pumping and bottle feeding during the 3ish weeks it took to diagnose and finally get rid of it. And that's all it took. No more fake nipples for her.
Now when you try to offer her a bottle, she screams like she's being killed. She's an extremely good-natured baby. She does not like to be left alone at all (she's too young for separation anxiety, but I swear she has it.) but so long as you keep her company, she's happy 99% of the time. But do NOT put a bottle in her mouth. A pacifier doesn't make her angry, she just spits it out. But if milk is coming out of that fake nipple, it's catastrophic. She sobs her poor little heart out. Tears down her face, eyes all red, screaming herself hoarse.
We've tried a ton of different bottles and nipples. David's tried, his mom has tried, my grandma has tried, I've tried. I've been with her, I've left the house. We've swaddled, we've skin-to-skinned. Dark room and lots of noise. Nothing really matters.
Tonight I tried yet another new bottle. This is the Breast Flow bottles from First Years. They definitely are different than other bottles. The nipples are shallower and the flow works a different way. At first she seemed a little happier. She didn't gag on them, at least. (I think the shallower nipples made her less angry.) But it didn't last long. She worked herself right up into hysterics again.
David tried until I could see how frustrated again. He brought her to me and asked that I swaddle her up because he just couldn't fight her hands any more.
And that was when it hit me. The look on David's face was just like when we tried to get Robbie to eat and he wouldn't. My stomach twisted into knots. I took her, swaddled her and offered her the bottle. She cried and I just gave her my breast right away. She calmed down immediately. She nursed for just a few minutes and then passed out. I think all the fighting and crying just exhausted her.
A half an hour later, she woke up hungry again. I tried to offer her the bottle again with the same result. Finally I just got her ready for bed and let her nurse. She nursed longer than she has in months. I think she was afraid if she unlatched, someone would try to force that plastic nipple on her again.
It's exhausting and frustrating. I do have to go back to work in July, so she HAS to learn to take milk somehow. I have a decent freezer stash built up (about 100 oz) which was my original concern, but now I'm afraid she won't ever take it.
After she finally went to sleep, I sat in the silence for a long time. All I could think about was how much Robbie cried when we tried to feed him. What if I'm traumatizing Charlotte, too? What if she comes to hate food, too? What if she doesn't get enough? What if my supply tanks? What if something happens to me? What if what if...
It took a few minutes to realize it was PTSD running away with my mind. I've already talked to her pediatrician about it, and she's not too concerned. She thinks that if she truly refuses, we can get by with solids while I have to be away from her. I had planned on trying baby-lead-weaning, but if I need to go to cereal and purees to keep her going, I can. But I'd really like her to take a bottle occasionally.
In the mean time, I'm trying my PTSD exercises. I'm trying to use what I learned with Robbie to not make her hate bottles any more than she already does. We'll keep offering, but not forcing. Just because Robbie would prefer to starve than eat doesn't mean Charlotte will. I will just keep telling myself over and over again "it's not the same, Trish. It's not the same."