“We’re gonna need a bigger bottle.”

I said that this afternoon, when Stella finished a bottle and was sucking on the empty nipple. We were flying so high. (I apologize in advance for a less than sparkling post. I’m very tired and a bit grumpy, and lack the patience required for halfway decent writing, something I really care about and aspire to provide.)

This weekend. Stella took bottle after bottle–sometimes not finishing completely, but close enough. We weren’t even using the tube, except during the night feedings.

But then, a few hours ago, she pulled out her tube, even ripping the tape off of her cheek, leaving behind a pink patch. The feeding after that was a little rocky. She took 88 mls, still quite good, but during the feeding that followed, she was barely sucking and only took 20. To feed her, I still lightly swaddle her to keep her calm and stand up, with her in my right arm. After weeks of practice, I know how to use my hip to support a lot of her weight. But I often get a terrible pain in the pit of my stomach while feeding her. I don’t know if I’m developing an ulcer or it’s simply a matter of still having an unhealthy amount of hope and emotion and fear hinged on each feeding such that it affects me physically.

I’d let my hopes and expectations get so high that this setback (the 20-ml feeding) felt like a crushing blow. I jumped to the worst case scenario and wondered if the tube coming out was some kind of disastrous last straw that irritated her throat and erased her seemingly new and positive attitude toward eating. Cody urged me to step back and see it as the tiny blip it was. I’m actually embarrassed for getting so upset about it, given how incredibly well she is doing overall. Clearly, I still haven’t come to peace with the tube’s presence, as much as I try to accept it as the helpful and temporary tool it is. Then again, emotional raggedness and impatience comes with sleep deprivation and stress. I know that I need to be gentle and patient with Stella as she progresses at her own pace. And it just dawned on me that I need to treat myself the same way.

We just put the tube back in and as usual she was upset for a couple minutes, but settled down quickly. I can’t help but hope that this is the last tube. That we’ve put it back in for the last time. It’s quite possible. She has come so far. But we can’t rush this. She is where she is with feeding, and to fight that or be at odds with it is ridiculous and helps no one.

We took a walk in the snow tonight to show Stella some of the more dazzling Christmas light displays in our neighborhood, from decked out palm trees to a grand, electricity-hogging envisioning of Santa’s workshop. She was mesmerized.

During our stroll, we came across a sweet, sociable adolescent boy playing alone in the snow. His excited energy was in stark contrast to the tranquility of the dark, quiet, snow-filled streets. He encouraged us to make snow angels, informed us of the week’s weather forecast (more snow on Christmas eve? Awesome!), and told us how much fun he was having. I wanted to kidnap/adopt him. I’m not sure why, but as we went on our way, he wished us, “Good luck!” He had no idea how perfect a farewell that was.

Stella’s four-month shots made her a bit crankier than usual for a day or two. But, in the middle of a diaper change, she had her first bout of real laughter on Saturday and we captured some of it on video. Enjoy!

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