A Miniature Baby

Well, despite using a 6’5″ donor and being 5’7″ myself, I somehow birthed a miniature human. She is now 8 months old, and she just weighed in at 11 lb, 2 oz. She’s 25.5″, which is at least ON the growth charts, but only about the 12th percentile for height. Her weight is so far beneath the bottom of the growth charts that it could be estimated as -10%ile, if that even existed. That’s “negative tenth” percentile…

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As I’ve written, she came about 5 weeks early, but she was a healthy 6 lb, 6 oz when born. She was not really very interested in eating, so we worked on breastfeeding and bottles in the NICU while she got fortified breast milk through a feeding tube until they deemed her big enough to go home. At home, we breastfed and continued to use some bottles, but she really prefers milk straight from the tap.

For the first six months, our pediatrician took a wait-and-see approach, which was fine with us. I know that the baby had some reflux, and at it’s peak (3-4 months?) she would vomit once or even twice a day, but she would usually recover the milk by re-eating from me. Luckily I have a prolific supply, otherwise those huge throw-ups would have been heartbreaking.

The reflux largely subsided by around 6 months, and we started introducing solids. She has a VERY sensitive gag reflex, so we lost some more food from vomit, but we persevered through trying all kinds of methods of eating (her holding larger items like apple slices, her feeding herself things like peanut butter with a spoon, us using a finger to deliver liquidy sauces, her sucking on the tips of food pouches, us using a spoon to shovel purees, etc.). The most success we’ve had is through spoon/purees, so we’re going with that for now. She has a great palate – she’ll eat almost anything…pesto, mexican food, indian food, fruits, tomato sauce, smoothies, yogurt, etc. (as long as it’s smooth and semi-liquid). She WANTS to eat bigger and chunkier things, but she can’t foresee the guaranteed gag and puke when she tries.

Once we started introducing foods (and I returned to work 100%, up from 75%), her growth seemed to slow even a little bit more. We went in for an 8-month appointment, because we knew weight was not picking up. At this point, the doctor decided we needed additional testing. She ordered blood work and a urine sample. Luckily, we avoided the catheter because the World’s Tiniest Baby has pretty much potty trained herself at 8 months, so all I had to do was catch the pee. I’ll write more about the whole using the toilet thing later. The blood draw was the WORST…holding her down while two nurses attempted to find her tiny vein and she screamed at me to help her.

So far, half the tests have come back normal…no signs of scary things like cystic fibrosis, celiac, liver disease, diabetes, etc. We’re waiting on the other half, but the pediatrician with whom I spoke yesterday (because our normal doctor was not in the office to relay results) seemed equally perplexed. She ordered a fecal sample, so I brought that in this morning. Her only guess was the baby isn’t absorbing something as well as she should (protein? fat?). The only other alternatives are that she’s simply not getting enough calories, or she has an insanely fast metabolism.

As far as calories, she admittedly refuses the bottle of freshly-pumped milk a lot of the time (though this has improved in the last month or so), but she reverse-cycles, meaning she eats a LOT from me when I get home at 3:00 and often eats through the night. She has started getting a few calories from food, but not really enough to matter.

In good news, her head is above 50th percentile, which just makes her look silly. One of our nicknames is “Starving Martian” because she has the skinniest, longest body with a giant head. In other good news, she’s very smart, developmentally average for an adjusted 7-month-old, and very happy. She sits with great confidence, plays with her toys, has excellent fine motor skills, talks and sings (without real words), and has started “scooching” forward in a method similar to crawling with her belly on the ground. She has also had a grand total of one short cold in her entire first 8 months.

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I don’t know…on one hand it’s bizarre to have what could be one of the smallest healthy babies on record. On the other hand, I really don’t feel very worried about it. Oddly, I’m more anxious about doctors knowing and believing that we are truly feeding her as much as we can possibly convince her to eat and we’ve tried nearly every method of increasing calories, including adding my own pumped milk fat to my own milk to make it richer. (We’ve also tried adding organic formula powder to my milk…doesn’t seem to make a difference).

The pediatrician referred us to a nutritionist (because she was grasping for any possible idea) and happily obliged when I suggested an occupational therapy referral to figure out how to get her chewing/swallowing in a more functional way. If the nutritionist suggests anything other than using breast milk as the foundation of the baby’s diet, I don’t think I’ll really entertain her.

One other bit of data we have is that I donate my extra milk to an adopted baby boy who was also preemie, and he’s a normal, healthy weight.

So, we press onward and wait for more test results. I’m pretty sick of people saying “oooh, a brand new baby!” whenever we’re in public, but I don’t really mind that she’s still so tiny that I can easily and comfortably carry and snuggle her all the time, haha.

Babysitting Offers

I am sure that in my past pre-parenting life I did this too. I’m sure I casually offered to every friend with children that I would be happy to watch their baby if they and their spouse wanted to get out for a date. It’s a sincere and thoughtful offer. I appreciate the positive sentiment. I honestly have two internal reactions that I won’t share anywhere but here. Inside I think, “Thank you for your offer, but…”

  1. my sensitive daughter would be TRAUMATIZED if I left her with someone other than her other mom, her nanny, or her grandma (or maybe my best friend). While your offer is kind, she would scream the entire time I was away and wonder who in the hell you are. Lately, I’ve had a surplus of casual “dog park friends” offering to babysit. I’ve never been to their homes, they have never held our baby, and I have no idea what their infant experience is. Being on the parenting side of things, it strikes me as absurd that anyone would consider this scenario.
  2. I do not want more time away from my daughter. I am away from her for about 40 hours each week while I work. That is plenty. I cherish and relish every moment we have together, and I co-sleep in part because I want more time and contact with her when I’m home.

I am pretty sick and tired of people asking if my wife and I have gone on a date alone together. (BTW, we did once, and I basically spent the whole time wondering why we hadn’t just brought the baby). I am REALLY tired of people acting like I need to get out! go to a movie! have fun! Blech. I get out to work, go to coffee shops, take long walks and hikes with baby and dogs, have at least two social engagements each weekend, and go out to dinner with my wife (and baby) at least once or twice a week. I don’t need to go out without the baby, so quit implying there is something wrong with taking her (nearly) everywhere I go.* Truly, if I felt like I needed some time away from her, I would happily make arrangements and take it. I don’t know why people seem to think I secretly want or need to take that time and am somehow denying myself the pleasure. It makes me wonder whether they needed more time away from their kid(s) (which is totally fine!) and so they assume I do too or whether I have some sort of separation anxiety and in a healthy world I should WANT more time for myself.

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Who would want more time away from this little peach? (Also, smoothie, not murder)

*I am not referring to events or activities NOT suitable for a baby, like formal weddings, loud concerts, etc.

Parenting and Pets

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With my brother’s dog on a road trip home from Oregon!

My wife and I often say that the hardest part of parenting is our pets. I’m not sure if this is unique to us, so I thought I’d put it out there and see how other people feel.

Let me start by saying that we are animal people. We have two dogs, but we both love all dogs and most other animals. Our dogs have always been included in every aspect of our lives, from hikes to trips to just lounging on the sofa. We have always bought them nice, comfy beds, toys, collars, and other accessories.image2(5).JPG

When we initially brought home the baby, our younger dog was positive we had brought her a prairie dog with its very own cage for our bedroom (crib). She was THRILLED and we panicked a little, researching high-priced, specialized trainers to help the dog understand she couldn’t eat the baby. It took her about 48 hours to realize it was a human, and then she kind of kept her distance. The older dog experienced a LOT of stress. He would hide in the closet when she cried, and he really started to keep to himself. I know he could sense my stress hormones with being a new parent, and this stressed him out too.

Cut to six months later and the baby loves the dogs and the dogs love the baby. They are at that really cute phase of sniffing her and she giggles when their whiskers tickle her or she reaches for them to touch their fur and they think she is scratching them. She lights up when one of them walks in the room. It’s cute.

Here’s the problem…as much as I love them both, the dogs have been driving me CRAZY for the last seven months. They have an uncanny ability to shake their heads and jingle their collars within 15 seconds of the baby falling asleep at least twice a day. The older one has really increased his bunny-chasing dreams, meaning he wakes us all up running and barking in his sleep in the middle of the night. The younger one steals pacifiers and delights in chewing the tip off and then tossing it around the house with glee. They also, both, for some reason now STAND exactly where I need to walk in the house, ALL. THE. TIME. Lastly, and this one isn’t really fair, but walking them has become SUCH a burden. I walk them morning and night between 20 and 60 minutes (sometimes even longer), and I usually have the baby strapped to me in the Lillebaby. In concept, it’s not such a big deal, but every afternoon it feels like such a chore. I used to enjoy the dog walk, but now I just daydream of strolling along with a sleeping baby and no dog insisting on sniffing EVERY BLADE OF GRASS or while the other dog is yanking and pulling toward the squirrel she saw cross the road 3,000 feet ahead of her. Alternatively, put the baby in the stroller and walk the dogs? No. The stroller wheels might touch their legs, because they persistently try to walk in front of the stroller on their leashes, and they jump 3 feet in the air like you’re clearly trying to murder them.

Maybe it’s just that we’re more tired, so we have less patience. Maybe the reduced attention is making them act out. Maybe I’ve just become bitchier with parenting. I feel terrible about it. I know that they are impacted, and they are coping in their own way, but sometimes they make me want to pull my hair out! I truly spend a LOT of time trying to remain calm, patient, and understanding with the dogs, because none of this change is their fault. I’m hopeful that this phase will pass and they will magically blend back into our daily routine and not feel like an additional burden on top of parenting a young child.