It was the best of times, it was…the best of times! I was pregnant with my first, long-awaited, child. Any first time mother will know how terrified I felt at the prospect of being responsible for another human being, and how thrilled I was to finally become a Mother.
Mr. Charm’s due date was the 20th, and right on schedule, I began labor. False labor. Irritating labor. Prodromal labor. It started on Sunday, and I had contractions all the way through until Tuesday at my 40 week checkup appointment.
My meconium-filled water broke on the examining table, and the doctor said to get to the hospital ASAP.
My ‘plan’ to have a non-intervention, pain-med-free delivery was soon thwarted by the hospital staff. I won’t go into details here, as it is a veritable 20 page essay all on its own, but my sons delivery brought every intervention I’ve ever heard of except the C-section.
He was born with a lovely (sarcasm) purple-black hue to his skin, and didn’t breathe or make noise for several minutes after birth. Because of our traumatic delivery, the NICU team was waiting to evaluate him and thank goodness they were there! He was running a fever at birth, and they whisked him away for treatment immediately.
After my son was born, I only got to hold him once for ten minutes of the first 6 hours of his life.
Then we spent a week in the NICU. He was born a full 9 pounds, 3 ounces, but he had a fever (indicative of an infection) so he needed the full round of antibiotics, which are only administered by the NICU.
Ask me how long it took me to understand that as the reason we were in the NICU. Go on, I dare you.
See, I was seriously drugged out for the first, oh, month or so of his life. I’m sensitive to narcotics, and had a 4th degree tear from his entry into the world, so after a heavy-handed epidural they kept me on heavy narcotics for the pain. I did not understand why he was in the NICU for months.
But, we were released a week after he was born, and we brought our precious bundle home.
Within days, he had such bad nasal congestion that he was choking at night, so we turned our bedroom into a sauna with the humidifier, elevated him, used decongestants, everything and anything the doctor could suggest. Finally, he cleared up.
The Geek was able to take a full month and a half of paternity leave, so the very first time in my life that I was ever alone with a baby was when my husband went back to work and left me alone with our 5 week old.
The morning of the second day I was ever alone with a baby, I changed 3 bloody diapers in a row and thought I was going to lose. my. mind.
Of course the doctor was the first person I called (as I held my baby to my chest as though he was going to die any second)! She squeezed him in for an emergency appointment and after a quick evaluation decided he had a dairy intolerance.
“Just avoid the biggies for now,” she said. “Milk, cheese, butter, things that say they have whey or casein in them.” She wanted us back in two weeks to see if there was an improvement.
(Imagine me with a look of complete shock and dumbfoundedness on my face. How on EARTH do you live without CHEESE??)
The doctor could only tell me to read the labels. “Here’s a list of the different words that mean dairy.”
So, armed with a short list from the doctor, and complete sense of ‘oh crap’, I hit the pantry in my house like a woman possessed.
I was shocked, stunned, HORRIFIED at the number of things in my house that contained dairy. Things that were completely unrelated to dairy in any way had ingredients that were some dairy-derivative.
I gathered up the many grocery bags full of ‘poison’ food and took them to church to donate, then hit the grocery store aisle.
Do you know that grocery shopping while reading the labels on foods while comparing them to a list of hidden dairy phrases takes about three times longer than normal? I had to break it up into three different shopping trips so I could manage it.
After eventually buying in as an owner of the local natural food co-op, I found decent substitutes for most of the foods we liked to eat. Then I browsed the internet for ways to sub out dairy in recipes. My recipe book got completely revamped. (The only thing I didn’t find a good sub for was cheese. Vegan cheese tastes like feet and smells worse!)
So I went dairy free, and so did the Geek. No WAY was I making two different dishes each night!
I had also Googled “baby dairy intolerance” and learned that kids that were intolerant to dairy were also usually intolerant to soy, and that this condition had a name: MSPI. Milk/Soy Protein Intolerance. So, we went soy-free, too. Just in case.
Two weeks went by, and while there was improvement, it wasn’t enough. His stool still tested positive for blood.
The doctor told me to eliminate all dairy from my diet, at which time I informed her that I had taken her suggestion to the extreme, and had already eliminated all dairy from my diet. I told her that I had read up on MSPI online and had also eliminated soy from my diet.
She looked at me and said “MSPI? I never heard it called that.”
She did recommend we visit a pediatric gastroenterologist, and the nearest one was almost 4 hours away. We set up an appointment immediately.
Six weeks later, at that appointment, she asked lots of questions and was very thorough. In the end, she wanted him to have a RAST test run, so we drove over to the Children’s Hospital to have them draw blood.
A week and a half later, we got the results: Mr. Charm was allergic to EGGS.
Well, isn’t that just ducky!
Did I mention I love to bake?
So…back to the internet for recipes without egg, revamp my recipe collection again, go through the pantry again, donate more food again, spend more hours in the grocery store aisles. I was a lot faster at the changeover this time around. Practice, you know.
It took a few weeks, but suddenly Mr. Charm’s eczema cleared up, his stool looked like normal breastfed baby poop, he wasn’t as cranky, fussy and clingy, and life seemed to be doing well.
Until it wasn’t again. Suddenly he was arching his back in pain, spitting up – which he had never done, nursing almost constantly, tightening his body in pain, coughing, gagging, and whole host of other minor, easily ignored symptoms that all led my Mommy Gut to take him back to the doctor. Something was wrong.
Yup. On top of everything else, he had reflux. So, we tried Zantac. It worked for about 2 weeks, then completely stopped being effective. Then Prevacid. That worked – it was $131 per month with insurance, but it worked. So the pharmacists took pity on us and said the over the counter Prevacid was the same thing, and instructed us in how to grind it up into a liquid we could administer through a syringe.
Oh, and there was Ranitidine. So the poor baby was getting 6 syringes full of medicine daily. Reflux sux.
Meanwhile, he was growing fairly well. While born at the 90th percentile in weight and height, he had dropped to the 25th percentile in weight and stayed at the 90th percentile in height. His daddy is a tall, skinny beanpole, so we figured he was just like his daddy and thought nothing of it.
In deference to his MSPI, we delayed solid foods until 6 months old. So on Christmas Day, he had his first ever solids: pureed sweet potatos. Yum!
He seemed to like them okay, but within a week, they were only so-so. We also started rice cereal, which he didn’t like, but would eat a bit of when offered.
The rice cereal was upsetting his tummy enough that I took him to the doctor. She suggested we switch to oatmeal.
We continued working our way through solid foods: sweet potatos, pears, and bananas. The rice cereal, oatmeal, and bananas seemed to upset his tummy and make him feel icky, so we sort of slacked off on those and pressed on with other foods. He was doing nicely.
When he was diagnosed, the doctor said most babies outgrow MSPI by the time they’re 9 months old. So, at the end of March, Mama had her some cheese enchiladas, baby!! And a chocolate milkshake. And a turkey, bacon and swiss sandwich. (Please wait while I wipe the drool off my chin…okay, better now!) I loved it, but my baby did not. Mr. Charm had some instant diaper reactions to the addition of dairy, so back to dairy-free land we went. Obviously he was one of the few who didn’t outgrow it by nine months.
However, at nine months, he had dropped from the 90th percentile in height to the 60th percentile, and his weight had dropped from the 25th percentile to the 5th. Now, Mama was worried.
The doctor, on the other hand, was totally fine with it. She said it was a normal growth curve for babies. She took him off the Ranitidine and stamped him “Healthy”. Off we went.
Mr. Charm was a typical baby boy. Maybe he didn’t sleep through the night like other babies I knew of. Maybe he still wanted to nurse more than eat at times. Whatever! He was crawling, cruising, babbling, displaying a-may-zing motor skills and seemed like a perfectly fine, albeit quirky, baby!
When he was a year old, I returned to work. (Flight Attendants are allowed to take a 12 month maternity leave after the baby is born – unpaid, of course – and my 12 months were up.) I cried almost non-stop my first assignment back at work, though, in the end, it was good for both of us. We were getting a little bit too co-dependent. The biggest concern about my return to work was what on earth we were to give him instead of boobie! He couldn’t have cows milk, and I could never pump enough to get ahead. Finally we tried Nutramigen, and that seemed to work as a supplement when I wasn’t home.
Also at one year old, we visited a pediatric allergist. She determined he still had his egg allergy, but it wasn’t severe enough to worry about. Just keep avoiding it, and come back in a year for retesting.
A few months after that, I got pregnant with his little brother. The change in my milk was apparently pretty strong, because he stopped wanting to nurse as much. Still, at 15 months old, he was nursing 5 times daily even after the drop.
When he was 18 months old, I got sick. Being preggo, they could only give me Sudafed and Mucinex, though the Geek was given codeine. No fair! The drugs barely made a dent in my illness, but they apparently dried up my milk, because when I awoke from the fog that was a two and a half week long illness, I realized Mr. Charm wasn’t nursing anymore. I couldn’t remember the last time I nursed my baby! I cried.
So, he was on Nutramigen full time after that. His weight was slowly climbing, he was still fairly tall, he was hitting milestones early or right on target, and we were physically relaxing, thinking the worst of his medical issues were behind us. Thank God!
In April it dawned on us that we hadn’t trialed him on dairy since the previous year, and most babies that don’t outgrow dairy intolerance by 9 months do so by 18 months – so said our doctor. So, we gave him a grilled cheese sandwich. He nibbled at it, and mostly wanted to eat my fries. We tried him on a pepperoni calzone. He ate a few bites of the edges (mostly dough). And three days later, like clockwork: icky poop.
So, no dairy, still. No biggie!
Mr. Charm was growing into a flirt, a high energy wild child, a precocious, confident, awesome little boy. We were so excited to be having another amazing baby just like him.
I was understandably scared to give birth again, but I found a new doctor and a new hospital and hoped and prayed for a better go-round this time. Funnily enough, so many of the same things happened the second time that happened the first time, but somehow it was all better.
I had the Pitocin, which I didn’t want. But this time, it wasn’t as intense and didn’t hurt as bad. I had the epidural, but this time it was the way an epidural was supposed to be – not like the first time, where I could feel nothing below my neck and was shaking and vomiting the whole time. I was allowed to walk, sit on the birthing ball, move a bit, drink water, eat popsicles, and it was a wonderful experience. Instead of 4 days of labor, I gave birth after 40 hours. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
We waited for the baby with great excitement. We like to be surprised, so we find out whether ‘boy or girl’ when they first come out into the world. So we were excited to find out we had another boy! Yay! A little brother to play with Mr. Charm! (I’d have been thrilled if it was a girl, too, though.)
This time, the Geek and I brought our baby home the day after he was born, he wasn’t sick, I wasn’t on narcotics, and it felt like our stressful medical issues were finally behind us and our family was on hunky-dory easy street.
Until the baby, who I now call Mr. Happy, was 5 weeks old, and decided to show us just how much like his big brother he really is. Yup, you guessed it – bloody diapers.
So, off to the doctor we went. Only this time, I was already dairy free (I’d read that most MSPI siblings have it, too), and mostly soy-free (only when we eat fast food, which is rarely). So she ordered a complete Top 8 Allergen elimination diet for me. Bummer.
Back to reading labels, scouring the internet for recipes, revamping the cookbook…thank God I’d gotten really good at this allergy-friendly cooking thing or I would have been so overwhelmed! As it was, all I thought was “Gee, cooking without wheat is going to suck.” (We really love my dairy and egg-free homemade honey wheat bread.) But, I would do anything for my babies, so allergy free we went. (Yes, the Geek, too. He’s really awesome like that.)
The week after the elimination diet had been inflicted on us, I took Mr. Charm back for his two year allergy checkup. Turns out, his egg allergy got worse and is now severe enough to warrant an Epi-pen.
Fan-freakin-tastic. So we got the crash course, learned how to use it, got the forms to hand out to caretakers outlining what to do if…and thought our problems were pretty minor and totally under control.
Until I woke up the next morning…