Thursday, 5 April 2007

week 8 in pursuit (or the choices we make)

I used to be a firm adherent to the nurture over nature school but when I became a mother everything I saw and read served to shift me along the spectrum towards nature. Seeing lots of kids grow and develop in a wide array of situations has entrenched my view that children are born with most of what they will use to become the people they will mature into.

Now I'm not saying parenting doesn't matter - of course, of course it does - and how a person is exposed to the world and their experiences in it shape how their basic make-up develops. Nutrition, healthcare, stimulation and most importantly loving human relationships make all the difference in the world. But I used to see babies more like blank slates than little adults just waiting to develop enough to let us know who they were.

When Amy was a baby I resisted the great Parenting Industry which encourages parents, especially mothers, to believe that it is their actions and choices that determine their child's health, behaviour and future prospects. the credo that if you do everything right you can have perfect children. This movement seems to be led largely by the market, medical practitioners and other mothers.

All these people have vested interests in your choices. They make stuff or sell stuff or have expertise or their own choices that they are looking to validate by seeing you do what they think is best. Their advice or products or experience may well be fabulous and if you take their path you and your child may well benefit.

But children, like adults, are imperfect creatures. They have physical and behavioural imperfections which are a product of their humanity. They can't do everything well, they do bad things, they go through phases we would rather they didn't. Some of this is developmental, some of it a part of their genes or personality and as a parent I strongly resist trying to run away or deny this. More importantly I try not to take responsibility for the person they are.

Don't get me wrong. I seek and take advice. I read research and purchase products. I chase the promise of a tantrum free life, a child with perfect manners, a neat and tidy family life, perfect health. But I start each of these transaction always trying to be mindful that there are no answers, there is no perfection. Every child, every mother, every family is different. Above all I want to respect my children as people and stay strong in the confidence I have in myself as a mother.

There were times that D thought I was downright rude to doctors, and it's true I was. But after an encounter with a doctor who dealt with my concerns by telling me I had unrealistic expectations of my daughter's wellness, just hours before we were in hospital and she nearly died, I decided I'd rather be rude than doubt the things I knew to be true. I was Amy's voice and advocate when she was unable to negotiate the world on her own.

But I am not always sure I can pick the line between the things you endure and try to accept and the things you need to do something about. You know the expression - grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. I do OK on serenity and courage, but the wisdom thing is a tough nut to crack.

I remember driving home one night from the hospital after a visit with Amy's specialist when she was very small. We had left with a decision to make about treating her for a physical problem. When we stopped at the traffic lights D slumped forward on the steering wheel and said I've never had to make a really important decision before. Because the thing was that no matter which path we chose, it carried risks and down sides. There was no answer, only percentages. And no matter what happened it would be because of our choice.

By nature I'm a decisive person, I'd rather make a choice, move on and clean up the mess if I got it wrong. I do my research, but not endlessly and I don't procrastinate looking for a perfect solution. But when your child is involved it is hard not to spend at least a little time worrying about the choices you make. Of not feeling like you absolutely have to get every decision right.

So at week 8 I am revisiting an issue I had with Amy - reflux. I witnessed the family history of chronic vomiting and reflux with my nieces, and when Amy was a babe I resisted suggestions she should be medicated. Some babies are just chuckers was what I firmly believed. It didn't seem to worry her too much and a churning washing machine seemed a reasonable price to pay for keeping her medication free.

With Wil the onset of reflux has been much more obvious, and more obviously associated with pain. And the chucking and churning washing machine seem a much bigger burden this time around. Plus since Amy's birth I too have been medicated to reflux and it has made a big difference to me.

But there's no such thing as a free lunch, and the first line non-prescription medicine is proving such a pain to administer that I am beginning to wonder if I didn't get it right the first time. This is by no means a miracle cure. Sure he vomits less (though he still vomits more than his fair share), and I think he cries from pain less (though it's hard to be sure), but to administer it I need to express breast milk because he won't take water, mix it with a very gelling powder in sterile conditions and get it into him with a teaspoon, syringe or bottle. Pretty much every time he vomits up the drug because he doesn't understand about swallowing anything but bosom feeds. The bottle seems the most effective method, but it takes about 30 mins to get 20mls into him (drip drip drip) - plus I now have to deal with bottles and sterilising and storage of breastmilk. I am supposed to do this six times a day, and each box of the drug has 15 doses for $10.

Of course the sensible thing to do now is to try a better drug. One that has a smaller amount to get into him and less frequently. But that means getting a script, so a visit to the doctor, some stern and no doubt conflicting advice from all quarters (yes, I've tried the chiropractor, sitting upright, feeding for shorter periods more frequently, elevated sleeping...), no doubt more potential side effects and lots of opportunities for me to doubt myself and my choices. I'll press ahead because I still think I owe Wil the chance to be as free of pain as he can be, but gee I wish it was going to be easier.

I'm not in a ditch over this. Yet. Don't worry about me, I'm still coping and only writing this much detail in the interests of keeping it real and not papering over the rough spots. As us bloggers are so often accused of doing.

But week 8 is proving to be the end of the newborn honeymoon. Those happy hormones are drifting off, the sleep deprivation is beginning to kick in and along with the reflux and the end of Wil being mostly asleep during the day I am remembering all over again how quickly the routine of baby care and the little things can add up until you realise there's an elephant sitting on top of you.

In brighter news the book that was the subject of my last post made an appearance in our newspaper yesterday, bizarrely in the home supplement, and my projects were actually mentioned as a highlight!

And I'm also off for a few days at the beach tomorrow. I'll be back next week and will hopefully get those giveaways off.

Happy Easter.


nikkishell said...

Hia, is there any way you could give him the medication while you are breastfeeding? I had to give Esme something and used a syringe in the corner of her mouth while she was sucking. You could maybe use a tube attached to the syringe and slide it into the corner of him mouth and gradually squeeze it in while he feeds.
Just a thought.
I hope you're well.

tracie said...

hello there
I had to do this with my youngest son Jude. He had silent reflux and was only picked up after I finally took him to Karitane (a sleep centre) in Sydney. I was lucky in that he didn't vomit it back up but it was a pain to administer before every feed. But it helped. Reading this post made me remember those long months. Thinking of you.

Kate said...

I am glad the reflux didn't seem to hurt the girls, but their seemed to be so much vomit all the time and I used to worry they weren't growing as it all used to come back up.
I hope it doesn't last long and you are getting sleep.

Krista said...

wow, you sound like a warrior to me.
I so enjoyed your insight in this post regarding how NOT to buy into the hype and how imperfect our perfect little children are. perfect to me, but yes, imperfect little people all the same. it's so easy to forget that all of us quirky adults started out exactly the same way - and that our children don't belong to us, nor do we control them, but they are small PEOPLE with free will and all that and all we can really do is set a good example, keep them from killing themselves, try to find a vegetable or two they actually like, and hope for the best with the rest :)
you are an awesome mama and I just know you're doing all you can every minute of every day to help your kids be happy.
happy easter and good luck with the reflux solution - I think nikki had a great suggestion?


YOU ARE RAD! ...What a swell mama you are. kisses to you from a little family in Brooklyn. xoxoxo amy lou

filambulle said...

Wow thoses first weeks are always so intense. I hope that nikki's suggestion will be a winner for you. And send my best thoughts in direction, all the way from switzerland!

whizzme said...

brave you for posting how it actually is, because yes I do think that blog's are so often just the high's. I really feel for your dilemma, and I believe that it continues forever with our parenting - especially if you do have 'beliefs' that don't always gel with the mainstream. but I am a big believer of your gut feeling, and I am sure it will help you here, as it obviously has before. best of luck.