Stella took a step back today. But I keep telling myself that it’s okay. That it’s to be expected. Just part of the process. And her total bottle intake today, on a decidedly so-so day, is higher than what we saw on an average day just a few weeks ago.

Of course, we can’t help but feel let down and look eagerly toward her next upswing.

At her first feeding, the nipple clogged four times (the thickener is likely to blame). She wanted to eat, but only had so much patience. The fact that she went back to the bottle three times in one feeding (after three nipple changes)  is encouraging. In the afternoon, I think her reflux was a major factor. I heard the telltale gurgles and gulping several times during the feeding, but she still managed to take 80 mls, which isn’t bad at all. This evening, after a very, very long nap, she “should” have been quite hungry but was fussy and only took 50 mls. We decided to skip the pump and try again with the bottle an hour later, at which time she took another 55, somewhat begrudgingly. After that, we had to give a bunch by pump as she’d fallen behind in terms of her caloric intake for the day.

It’s so perplexing to us how she can go from taking 135 mls in one feeding yesterday, to taking just 50 in one feeding today. While the overall trend is upward, it still feels like she’s all over the place, and the highs and lows are emotionally exhausting. I wanted to hurl the bottle across the room with all my might again this evening, but I didn’t. I guess I deserve a lame-ass pat on the back for that bit of restraint. *Overly dramatic sigh.*

Underneath all the pep talks and tears and thrown bottles and every other reaction and coping mechanism under our family’s sun is big fat ugly old FEAR. In just a couple of weeks, she’ll have had the NG tube for two whole calendar months. There’s a little voice inside my head, a tiny neurotic bastard, who keeps asking undermining questions and making incredibly stupid statements such as,”Shouldn’t she be further along by now?” “Wow, she really doesn’t want to eat this morning. We’re screwed.” “What if she never takes enough by bottle and has to have one of those surgically inserted tubes that goes right into your stomach?” “Is the NG tube making her reflux and swallowing worse and will it eventually ruin everything?” “That feeding didn’t go well at all–maybe she’s finally had it!”

The truth is that when I really stop and think about her feeding issue, I get very, very scared. So afraid that, at times, I can barely stand it. It’s physically uncomfortable. It takes the form of that deep pain in the pit of my stomach during some feedings and a stubbornly low appetite, which is so not me.

When I was pregnant with Stella, fear completely overtook me on more than one occasion. I worried that something I’d eaten or applied to my skin would hurt her. I also fell down our icy front steps one morning and proceeded to bawl my eyes out during a meeting at work. Yup. The shred of a thought of an inkling of a possibility of harm coming to her (combined with all the hormones) was too much to handle. Too many times, I became very concerned because I had not felt her kick in what felt like a reasonable time. But I swear to you that whenever I became really, really worried about not having felt her move, I would tell Cody about it, and at that very moment she would dance on my kidneys. It was absolutely uncanny. With her incredibly timely kicks, she was telling me to chill the hell out. I got the feeling that she could sense my worry and wanted to ease it.

In a way, she does the same thing these days. Just when we’re feeling sickenly worried and downright discouraged about her eating, she’ll go and polish off an entire bottle. And voila! All hope is renewed and there is light and justice and peace in the world. Birds and angels sing, rainbows appear, and for at least a little while, I am neither scared nor worried. I am free of all that heaviness, and we dance lightly around the house like the silly fools we are.

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