Feeble Knees

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

At Last - A Diagnosis?

We may have finally discovered the root of Bug's problem.

Yesterday was a day to remember. For the Nth consecutive night, Bug woke up every two hours crying. Down at seven thirty, up at nine-thirty. Down at ten-thirty, up at twelve-thirty, etc. etc. ad infinitum. Every once in a while, just to keep me on my toes, he'd start tossing and turning an hour or less after I put him down and crawled back into my own bed. The monitor would crackle with static, then the sound of his little legs kicking the mattress, then a few little sobs that eventually wound up into one big loud WAAAAAAAHHHH!

Lying in bed I stared at the blinking red monitor lights and whimpered. I begin to really appreciate the pathos of Bill Murray's character's predicament in Groundhog Day. I can empathize, truly. Except no matter what I do, everything always ends up the same.

One of these nights Mr. F and I are just going to start playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to see who has to go get him. Or draw straws. Or perhaps bribe each other:

"Fifty bucks if you go get him this time. I'll throw in a bonus fifty PLUS a back rub if you can get him back to sleep."
"Eh, I'm not really into back rubs."
"Ok, fifty plus we get to watch your new Battlestar Galactica Season One DVDs all day Saturday."

Pause. "Deal."

Anyway. About yesterday.

By three a.m. yesterday I was terrified my milk was drying up. He wasn't nursing. He'd cry to nurse, latch on, take a few sips then pop off and start crying. Latch on, latch off, cry, Latch on, latch off, cry. Switch sides, repeat. Eventually he'd take a pacifier and doze off. Oh and have I mentioned how much he hates to burp? On the shoulder, sitting propped up, doesn't matter; he screams, he kicks, he throws himself backward and struggles against me. Then he looks to nurse again. Latch on, latch off.

Rinse. Repeat.

Sooo. This behavior kept up through the morning, after Mr. F left for work. One minute he'd seem happy and content and fine, so I'd wrongfully assume it might be a good time to try to nurse him again. Wrong. Latch on, latch off... Finally, that afternoon, completely stressed out and sure that he wasn't getting adequate intake of anything, I called his pediatrician's office. The nurse told me to pack him up and bring him in. So off we went. Me crying, him screaming.

The good news is that his poo test came out fine. No intolerance issues. So they checked his ears, his throat (rapid strep was negative), they even checked his little toes and privates to see if a strand of hair had perhaps wound itself around something, causing pain. The doctor checked him over top to bottom. Twice. All the while he turned red and screamed. The nurse was flustered. The doctor was confounded.

I was holding him in my lap as his pediatrician checked him and re-checked him. Finally she took a step back and put a hand on her chin and furrowed her brow, clearly stumped. At that very moment my baby boy stopped crying, looked right up at her and smiled. A ten-thousand watt happy Gerber® Baby smile. Followed by another one. Then a shy, coy little sideways grin up at her. Then a coo. And another smile.

"You're smiling at me," she said, incredulous. Then she made this professional medical diagnosis:

"Bug, I think you are just full of Beans!"

And so there we have it, Ladies and Gentlemen. That's my boy. Full of Beans.

He continued to coo and smile and look around her office contentedly while she explained all the things she was looking for, and how he doesn't fit any of them. His temperature was normal, he appeared well hydrated, he had gained weight (another irony - the so-called "slow-gainer" had some how managed to pack on five ounces despite having been feverish, fussy and finicky since Thursday).

She recommended a support group for parents of "children that are difficult to handle". This is when the thought struck me: "That's it, there's no way to fix him - no meds, no procedures, no gimmicks. I have to take him home like this and deal. Right now, at this moment, this is just who he is."

[I'm sure there is a spiritual application or lesson to be learned in all this, but you'll pardon me if I tell anyone who suggests such a thing at this very moment to go shove off. Apologies!]

My shoulders slumped, I stared at the wall just over Bug's head and muttered: "You know I used to be a competent person. I used to have goals. I had accomplishments. People used to think I was a smart person." My voice trailed off. Bug's pediatrician patted my back. She may have said something encouraging but I don't remember, it just kind of bounced off.

He screamed a good portion of the way home, then conked out. Then woke up screaming again. And wouldn't nurse. And screamed. I vaguely remember the phone ringing, knowing it'd be a telemarketer, and picking it up deliberately just to yell at someone:

"Hi, Mrs. Feeble? This is Cathy from..."
"Hey Cathy, GO TAKE A HIKE!!!!!" [slam down phone]

Cathy, if you're out there, I'm so, so sorry.

* * *

As I write this, he has blessedly, miraculously gone down for a nap. A long nap. Long enough for me to type away in silence, with long pauses of staring at the wall here and there. I just need to close my eyes, click the heels of my well-worn fuzzy slippers together and repeat over and over again:

He'll grow out of it.
He'll grow out of it.
He'll grow out of it...

POSTSCRIPT: I am clearly losing my mind. I actually had to sit here and try to remember the syntax of a hyperlink. I could write HTML code in my sleep prior to this, but I honestly couldn't remember whether or not it was "ref" or "href". Had to go look it up.

"This is your brain."
"This is your brain after motherhood. Any questions?"

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Party Time!

You are cordially invited to a pity party. Yours truly is both host and guest of honor.

My mother always said that it's ok to throw oneself a pity party, so long as you admit that's what you're doing. Well, that's what I'm doing these days, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm throwing an indulgent little bash for my woeful little self. Seeing as misery truly does enjoy company, I'm contemplating sendng out engraved invitations. RSVP Regrets only.

Bug is a "refluxer". I might have mentioned this in a previous post, but as I have seemed to blot most of the month of January out of my memory, I do not remember. Gastroesophageal reflux is the pits, the absolute pits. He screams in pain after eating or if he's been lying flat on his back too long. We give him baby Zantac syrup twice a day. We raised up his crib mattress on an angle. We try to keep him as upright as possible all day. He spends a lot of time in his bouncy seat (best money I ever spent) or on my shoulder.

At his four month appointment this past week, we learned he's only in the 5th percentile for weight. I just about sank through the floor. Driving home I felt so low, the lowest yet, and completely helpless. We've been nursing every two hours during the day, every two to three hours at night. He's been producing the requisite 8-10+ dirty diapers daily. But he's not putting on weight. People mistake him for younger than he is. Older women, mothers my mom's age raise an eyebrow when they ask and I tell him how much he weighs. "How old his he now?" they ask again.

Per our pediatrician's request, I dutifully brought a little sample in a bright orange plastic bag marked "Biohazard" to the lab for RBC and CBC testing. Sitting at the check-in desk, I watched the little blob of poop slide down the side of the specimen container as it rolled on its side in the biohazard bag.

When you're a mom, you end up having to do things you never imagined. Like scrape poo out of a diaper with wooden tongue depressor sticks and put it in a plastic container. Since I am not yet inured to the embarrassment of being seen in public carrying a container of poo, I stuffed it in a small blue Gap bag before I left the house.

It has been suggested by a few, even folks who read this blog, that Bug might be lactose intolerant. Well that is now the pediatrician's suspicion too. The poo should tell us. We should know something next week.

Meanwhile back at the ranch - as I was transporting the all important poo to the lab, my mother was home trying to comfort a feverish and fussy Bug. He'd had his four month vaccines the day before and spiked a fever of 101 overnight. My feelings of ineptitude reached a new crescendo at three a.m. when I realized I didn't have any infant Tylenol in the house. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I am Flunkie, the dummy mummy. Bug's grandma rode in to the rescue a few hours later with a bottle of the grape-flavored stuff. Point four milliliters and twenty minutes later, Bug calmed a bit and almost napped. Almost.

It's Sunday. The fever broke late Friday night. He finally took some naps again on Saturday. Last night he slept a four hour stretch before waking up every one and a half to two hours to nurse. But we got some sleep. As I type he is cuddled up with his dad and sleeping peacefully. My sweet little boy, it's been such a tough couple days for him - and us.

He officially turns four months old next week. Not that I want to rush him, and I feel guilty for even saying it, but boy I'll be glad when he gets a bit older, can sit up, and starts to wean...

There, I said it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

One Year Ago

Can I even really remember what life was like before Bug?

It's been over a year now since Bug came into being. We had decided it was time to try to have a family. We had no idea how long it might take, or whether or not we'd be able to. Since we were married, we've made many choices and decisions with an eye towards having kids someday. We never really entertained the idea that wouldn't be able to have any. We knew it was theoretically possible - that happens to a lot of people. And we had no way of knowing if we'd be one of them.

Months before I'd gone for physical to make sure I was in good health. I requested a test to determine whether or not I was a carrier for a genetic disease that runs in my family. If I tested positive (I did) we planned to have Mr. F tested. It was a long wait while we waited for his test results. During that time we asked oursevles many "what ifs". What if we both had the defective gene? Could we gamble with one in four odds? What if we gambled and our child lost, and was born facing a lifetime of drug therapy, maybe even lung transplants, perhaps even the possibility of not outliving his parents?

It was never a thought in my mind to have an abortion, which is why I wanted to know ahead of time whether or not we both had the disease-causing genes. My reasoning, at the time, was that if we knew there was a one in four chance any child we conceived would have this deadly disease, then I would probably opt not to have children. I didn't think I could go through it. Mr. F took a different view however, and I was blown away (and a little humbled) to learn how much more faith he had than I. He was still willing to try, no matter what, and let the chips fall where they may.

It dawned on me then that I had some trust issues with God. I didn't trust Him to see to it that our baby wasn't born with this disease. After all, my nephew was born with it. Why should I assume God would protect me and my child from this defect when my brother's family wasn't? I know He doesn't work that way.

I also didn't trust Him on the grounds that I feared He'd allow something like that into my life so that I would learn greater dependence on Him. What skewed thinking, eh? Ah, but you see I know that does happen sometimes. And I was afraid God would decide that a little humbling was just what I needed.

He was probably pretty disappointed in my line of thinking. And I'm a little ashamed to admit that's how I was thinking. But so it was.

Mr. F tested negative for the gene and we decided to give the green light to baby making. The first month I swore I was pregnant and was devastated to find that I wasn't. The devastation was really remarkable. I never thought I'd ever want a baby that much, and here I was, crying my eyes out over multiple negative test results.

The next month, January, I was convinced I wasn't pregnant. I wasn't even going to use the one last remaining test I had on hand. I was going to save it for the next month. It couldn't possibly have happened. But then strange things started happening to me, like absentmindedness and an inexplicably intense thirst. What I was sure couldn't be was in fact so.

And so Bug's been throwing me curves ever since.

Looking at him now - he just woke from a beautiful little nap - he's so much more than I ever could have anticipated a year ago. Many of my fears back then were unfounded, and I had no way to imagine the joy and incredible depth of feelings that awaited me. Some of the things I worried about then seem so silly now, like giving birth itself. I should have worried more about what came after, and my ability to cope with it.

Every day of the three hundred and sixty five since Bug came into being has brought a new discovery - about him, about myself, Mr. F, our families, God, and what we all mean to each other. I don't think like I used to, and boy oh boy I don't feel like I used to - physically or emotionally. It's almost like being spiritually reborn, in some ways. Life is dearer, more miraculous, less ordinary, less uncertain. Some choices are a no-brainer, others are harder. There are questions on top of questions and the stakes are suddenly higher.

The biggest change of all, and the biggest similarity to the experience of being reborn spiritually, is the complete recognition and awareness of the fact that my life is no longer my own, that I am not hanging out here by myself to fulfill my own wishes and wants. Only when you have a child, it becomes even more instinctive to think of some one else's greater good before your own. You don't have to work at it so much as it just happens. That is a gift of grace from God, I'm sure of it.

Not sure how to end this post. Bug keeps pulling my attention from it, else it would have been posted much earlier today. Just needed to mark the time past and remind myself how far we've come, and how fast the weeks and months flew. Wonder what things will be like a year from now?

I can't even guess.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Formula for Disaster

Friday. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Not long after my last post last Friday, my mother and father arrived on the scene to take control of the situation and order me to bed. This is what happens when grandparents live less than ten minutes away from their grandchildren.

Being as wasted as I was from sleep deprivation, I was really glad to see them come up the walk. Until I saw my mother toting a case of ready-to-use formula. I stiffened.

"Now don't kill me," she started, prepared for a pitched battle if it came to that. "But for crying out loud, you have got to get some sleep and I don't see how you're going to get any so long as you're the only food source."

The problem was, I was so beaten down at that point anyway, I was almost ready to throw in the towel and let her pour the stuff into Bug with a funnel. Nearly defeated, I reluctantly left him in their care and slowly climbed the stairs to go to bed at about one in the afternoon.

But my mind kept spinning. I still hadn't reached the pediatrician office yet to tell them everything that was going on - the lack of sleeping, the screaming, spitting, etc. I also wanted to let them know that I'd had his prescription for Zantac syrup filled. I didn't really think it was gastroesophageal reflux (what did I know?) but at that point I was willing to try anything. I'd do the Macarena down Main street in my birthday suit waving a chicken if I thought that'd calm him and help him (and us) sleep. I'd tried the nurses' line that morning and got the answering machine. Alone in the bedroom I decided to try them one more time. This time I got the nurse.

After telling her that all his gassy/colicky symptoms were persisting & that I'd decided to try the Zantac, I mentioned that my mother had brought us some formula.

"Oh no!" the nurse exclaimed. "If he's having all these gas and colicky symptoms with breastmilk, don't even think of trying formula. It'll make everything WORSE."

The thought of what could possibly worse than what we'd been living through for the past two weeks just about split my already frayed nerves to the root. "Really?" I gulped.

"Oh absolutely. You do NOT want to give him formula if he's already having problems on the breastmilk."

From downstairs I could hear poor little Bug wailing in distress. I wondered how much I really did trust my mother not to sneak some formula into him "just to see how he does with it" while I was sleeping. I threw back the bedcovers, jumped out of bed and headed for the stairs.

"Ah, Mum, I ah talked to the Pediatrician's office nurse..."

Mum was not very happy, but to her credit, she took the advice from the nurse without complaint, but I could feel her frustration about to boil over. For once I understood that it really was only because she truly was worried about me and my ability to hold up under all the stress. Before becoming a mother, this sort of intervention from her always resulted in a huge blowout between the two of us. Feeling (s)mothered and controlled, I'd dig in my heels and turn down her attempts to help me in various ways. These days I'm resisting her less and appreciating her more.

It's not that I've lost my grip on reality. She is perhaps a little more overprotective than the average mother. No one who knows her would dispute that. But I've softened my stance when it comes to letting her (s)mother me. Fact is, I could use it these days. I welcome it. I need it. Because being someone's mom is so darn hard some days, and I'm still new at this job. She's been a mother of five children for thirty plus years now. How hard has that been? How hard is it to stand by and watch your child struggle with something on her own while you feel powerless to help?

The crisis was averted. Bug did not get any formula that day. When he got home from work that night, Mr. F took the stuff and brought it down to the basement, making it a little less readily accessible, just in case. I went to a local pharmacy to rent a hospital-grade breast pump in the hopes that I might be able to stockpile some milk so others (like my Mum) can feed Bug for me while I get some rest. This seemed to appease my poor worried Mum, which made both of us feel better.

And in the meanwhile we started giving Bug the Zantac. Seeing how quickly it made him feel better, I feel horrible for not having filled the prescription sooner. He doesn't seem to be holding it against me, so far.

Being a mom is tough. Tough duty indeed.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Losing it!

He was fantastic yesterday. After pulling off a wonderful, just-in-time sleep-through-the-night trick, my boy was an absolute gem all day. He smiled, he laughed, he napped. Things were going so great I didn't even mind it when he spit up all down my back and then peed on my front. Hey, what's a little liquid between friends, right? I didn't realize it was a portent of things to come.

I don't even know what the timeline was, I'm too wrecked. I do know we slept from 9:45 to 11:30 p.m. It gets fuzzy after that. Mr. F and I finally went back to bed at 3. About five minutes later (?) Bug was crying again, after we'd tag-teamed trying to get him back to sleep for over an hour. An hour's worth of effort for about ten minutes of sleep = not a good return on the investment.

I got up again and tried everything in the book - the fan in the bathroom usually works, this time it didn't . Walked and burped, walked and burped, walked and burped. Nada. Mylicon drops. Didn't help. Orajel (yes, he appears to be teething. ALREADY) kind of helped, but not much. Finally gave up and nursed again, about an hour and a half since his last nursing (I think). It's amazing how all this becomes a blur and you find you're not even sure what happened when anymore.

At some point I made an attempt to put him down that seemed to work. This may have been around 4:30, but I'm not sure. I crawled back into bed. Sixty seconds passed. The baby monitor clicked with static and then the unmistakable cry.


Up again, tried to walk him, burp him, rub his back, rub his tummy, rock in the rocker, nada. Nursed again. He fell asleep. Put him down. He immediately woke up and fussed again. I put him on my shoulder and rocked. And rocked. And rocked. I stood to put him in the crib and found myself unsteady on my feet. As soon as he hit the mattress the little arms began to flail. Desperate, I took a blanket and swaddled him in it tightly, hoping to calm the little waving hands. This kind of helped, but he struggled against it and sleep. Sleep seemed to win. Kind of.

The clock glowed 6:30 am when I tried to go back to bed again. The sky was starting to get light. Mr. F heard me come in and groaned in sympathy. Took everything in me to turn on the baby monitor again. I didn't want to. I wanted to chuck it out the window. But I dutifuly clicked it on. Silence.

Then again. Static. The sound of little legs and arms rustling in the blanket. A wimper, a cry.

I couldn't get up. I couldn't do it. I turned the volume down on the monitor and stuffed my face in the pillow.

Mr. F got up and held him at bay until 8:30 so I could get some sleep. He'll be late for work today as a result. I would feel bad about that except that I don't.

This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass....

Thursday, January 12, 2006


At two a.m. my eyes flew open. Silence. I resisted the urge to go check on Bug. That lasted about twenty minutes.

By the glow of the night light I could see him sleeping peacefully, his little chest rising and falling so slightly with each breath. The little fidgety hands were relaxed and still.

Still asleep.


I tip-toed back to bed, hardly daring to breathe for fear of waking him up. I pulled the covers up and wondered if he'd start crying in five, ten or twenty minutes. Probably wasn't worth it to go back to bed at this point.

4:00 a.m. Four??

Mentally I ticked off the number of hours since we finally got him to go to sleep at ten thirty. I re-checked my math on my fingers. Wow. Should I go check? It was getting hard for me to sleep now, seeing as he hadn't nursed in six hours now, and I was getting uncomfortably full.

I closed my eyes.

4:45 a.m.

I bounded out of bed at the sound of the first little cry. Still groggy, his head turned this way and that as if to shake off the sleep. "Hey buddy," I purred. His eyes went wide and wandered around the room before settling on my face, whereupon he broke into a big wide happy grin.

hullo mama!

Hello baby. I love you too...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


I must be a total wimp. Motherhood is kicking my butt.

I don't know how they did it, back in the day, when there was no electricity, which means there were no dishwashers or clothes dryers or over-the-stove fans that make lots of loud white noise that puts babies like mine to sleep when they're screaming.

I don't know how they did it when there were no little wind-up musical mobiles to distract clingy babies like mine long enough so mom could go to the bathroom.

How did mothers survive before gas drops like Mylicon were invented?

What did they do in lieu of battery-powered bouncy seats?

Even with all these things and a host of soft, noisy and light-up baby toys, I'm coming to my wits end a lot these days. Bug is growing. I am particularly proud of the fact that he put on a pound and one ounce in two weeks - but that came at a price, specifically in the form of a profound lack of sleep and personal space for me. A few weeks ago he was sleeping these great five to six hour stretches at night. Now he's back to being awake and hungry every two to three hours. This has been going on for about a week and a half, maybe two? I can't remember.

Attempting to toughen up, I remind myself there'll be plenty time for sleeping later on. Like baseball players say when they get into the playoffs and then the World Series and keep pushing their physical limits far into October: "I'll sleep in November."

Yesterday I tried adopting that as a sort of mantra to get me through the day. It started off well enough, but when I attempted to actually leave the house with Bug packed snug in his carrier, he went into a complete meltdown. Had to take him out, bring him back in the house, walk around, turn on all the electrical appliances that make that loud continuous droning noise he likes, take extra clothing off him and finally just give up and let him nurse again - about forty five minutes after his last feeding. Then I just gave up on going out. I finally retrieved my purse, diaper bag and other items from the car around five thirty.

It's the inconsistency that kills you. If he did the same thing all the time, be it scream for an hour from four to five, or keep me awake all night, or what have you, I could deal with it. I can deal with what I can expect. It's the total randomness and never really knowing what to expect each day that's really starting to wear on me.

Sometimes we can go out and he's a jewel. Sometimes we go out and he starts bawling five minutes down the street and I end up turning around and going home. Sometimes he naps during the day (like now). Sometimes he abjectly refuses to nap. Sometimes he responds well to my attempts to enforce a schedule. Sometimes he's just a bit of a mess all day and we have to throw any attempt at scheduling out the window. I just can't figure this kid out, and it has me feeling kind of beat.

My Mom is convinced it's because he's not taking formula. Yesterday she finally admitted she's been pressuring (ok, my word, not hers) suggesting I switch to formula because she wants to be able to mind him for me. She feels powerless to help, and she's frustrated. That's nice, but it's still not a good enough reason to switch. This hurts her feelings, and then I have two upset people to deal with - Bug and my mom. Not helpful!

Last night was bad, as in back to week four kind of bad. He wouldn't latch on right, wouldn't stay latched on right, yet was still hungry and wouldn't go back to sleep. It was becoming painful again, trying to feed him. I sat there and just cried. And cried. And cried. I couldn't even get up and give him a bottle of breast milk because he's been demanding so much, there's not been much left to pump - not that he's allowed me much time to have my hands free to do that.

My mother says he's not a typical baby - that I shouldn't think this is the norm for babies. I don't know what to think. I don't quite trust her, since she's been waging a guerrilla campaign to get me to give up breastfeeding. This could just be another one of her gimmicks. "He's not like a normal baby, he's so clingy and demanding. Ergo, you shouldn't feel bad about giving up breastfeeding. See, it's not you, it's him..."

I think I have trust issues.

Don't know why it took me so long to finally do this but last night as I sat there puddled in my tears I finally prayed for help. That sounds ridiculous even as I type it. "What took you so long?" I don't know. But I did pray and asked God to help me some how, in whatever way was most helpful, though I'm not even sure what that is anymore.

Interestingly enough, for the first time in recorded history, Bug fell asleep this morning after nursing on just one side. He went down in the crib without waking up and just slept for an hour and a half. An HOUR AND A HALF. I'm stunned.


Dunno. I don't have time to ponder it. He's waking up now....