Tube-free Stella: Days 9, 10 and 11

On a roll.

On a roll.

Stella is doing well. She is teething, however, which is throwing us all for a drool-covered loop. I can feel the bumps, the beginnings of teeth, in her gums. She cries with a bit more intensity and more often, gnaws on Sophie like she’s made of candy, and while she is still her usual energetic self, she seems to get cranky and tired more frequently.

Wednesday, Day 9, was fine. She ate seven times, we think, which is great. However, I began to feel worry rise up again for some reason. And a bit of anger. I figured it was because the reality of Stella losing weight was sinking in, and even though I’d been warned about it, the knowledge made me uneasy. Then I discovered another possible explanation. I realize that this is far too much information, but my period is back after a 15-month hiatus. Ouch. I have PMS. Stella is teething. There you go. Fun times for the Johnson family.

Thursday, Day 10, was better. Stella set a new record for the amount she took from the bottle, about 675 (not that we are keeping exact track–I swear we are not!). Cody made a big discovery. If you offer her the bottle an hour after she eats, she’ll usually take more. We clearly need to offer her the bottle more often–any time she is fussy. To at least give her the opportunity to take more. If she says no, that’s fine.

Today, Day 11, has been a ridiculous rollercoaster of emotions. Stella set yet another record for bottle intake–more than 700 mls! And the day ain’t over yet. However, we had an appointment with her pediatrician today, and let’s just say it was a “lowlight.” (It was for me, anyway–Cody didn’t think it was as horrible.) We were so happy to see that she gained one ounce since last Friday, because we’d been told by two expert sources that babies can lose a bit of weight when weaning. But my heart dropped when I saw that her doctor seemed concerned and eager to get her gaining more right away.

I really like Stella’s doctor. He’s pretty easygoing and I know he only wants what he believes is best for Stella’s health and development, but I have to say that today’s appointment really, really brought me down. As we told him, she’s been eating more and more. Making lots of progress. I told him, as I had before, that it was explained to us that she could lose a little weight then turn it around in three to four weeks as she adjusts. He just smiled and said nothing in response to this. My interpretation of that silence, besides the super awkwardness, was that he is clearly not in agreement. Clearly, he doesn’t have the faith in Stella that we do. In her ability to know what she needs. Her ability to pull through this and eat like a mo fo. I had this unshakable feeling that she was doing so well, but after today’s appointment my old nemesis worry had his hands pressed down on my chest and I had to stop and take more than a few deep breaths to shake him off.

To his credit, her doctor is very collaborative with us. After seeing her weight, he asked, “So what should we do?” I immediately answered, “Give her another week.” I thought it was obvious: give her more time and she’ll start gaining more weight. He had quite another opinion. (Remember, while on the tube and in general, he wanted her to gain an ounce a day.) After looking her over, he recommended that Stella try 30-calorie-per-ounce formula, a jump up from her 24-calorie-per-ounce formula. (Typically, breastmilk and formula have 20 calories per ounce.) Thankfully, he only suggested it as something to consider–he didn’t present it as any kind of mandate. I said that I’d like to hold off on any changes for at least the next week because I believe Stella can do this on her own.

After the appointment, I grew more and more upset about it. It didn’t make sense to me, right as her intake is climbing, to give her such a dense formula that could throw her off and discourage continued increase in her volume of intake. We need to let her learn how to eat more, to want to take in more calories, instead of sneaking them into her. On the other hand, I suppose it’s good to know that this calorie increase is an option that we can turn to if need be, rather than the tube. But deep down in my heart, soul, gallbladder and knee caps, I don’t think such measures are or will ever be necessary. I believe that she can do this. That she will, very soon, eat enough to drive perfectly acceptable, even exceptional!, growth. That she will even be able to transition to the standard 20-calorie-per-ounce formula concentration. Mark my words.

After Stella’s appointment, I spoke with her occupational therapist, and was definitely uplifted. She believes that Stella can do this, and that her progress is great. However, I did detect perhaps some doubt. Perhaps? I’m not sure. She says letting Stella go one more week makes sense. I wanted to hear more flexibility. More rock-solid belief.  “One more week” feels like a lot of pressure! Too much pressure. Too little time. It’s not fair to Stella, who has come so far. Besides, the Austrian doctor said that Stella should have up to four weeks without the tube before her weight stabilizes and starts to go up. I think that Stella should be granted four weeks by all parties involved, because, well, 1.) it seems only right to give her plenty of time to adjust to such a major change in biorhythms before pushing unnatural interventions upon her, 2.) At the five-month mark, she is in the 50th percentile for weight and height which is exactly where she was at birth, and 3.) most importantly, she is showing progress and we need to let her continue it. Luckily, the thing is this: I am her advocate and guardian. I AM STELLA’S MOTHER. So guess what? Stella will be given four weeks to show she can do this, even if I have to get second, third and fourth opinions–whatever it takes.

It makes me angry to think that interventions  like tubes are pushed on babies like Stella just because they aren’t gaining weight on a robot-like trajectory. Because they are not given the time to adjust and find their own rhythm. It reminds me of how interventions are pushed on women during their babies’ births, as if women don’t have millions of years of knowledge about birth built right into their bodies. I am guessing that there are babies out there who have become completely reliant on NG or even G tubes, their quality of life greatly diminished, only because they were never given the chance to prove that they could do it on their own. Never given the time to allow their little bodies to adapt. Yes, some babies and children absolutely need them for survival. But I get the strong feeling that there are also many who have them but do not truly need them. The thought infuriates me, and there is no way in hell Stella will be joining their ranks. Not on my watch. Especially not with this red-alert level of PMS. Watch out, naysayers. Duck and cover, non-believers. You’re about to get served.

P.S.  I can’t wait to say, “I told you so.”

P.P.S. I am so fired up that it took superhuman restraint to not riddle this post with curse words.

P.P.P.S. Screw it. Stella will turn this around within four weeks of the tube coming out and anyone who doesn’t believe that can kiss my ass. Stella can do this. Any other idea on the subject is bullshit. The end.


  1. Grandma Karen · January 17, 2009

    Teething!? Most everyone knows how painful wisdom teeth can be coming in and Stella is most likely feeling the pain of her first tooth.
    Love the Japanese proverb posted later.
    I support you on this 100% and more.

  2. Auntie Corinne · January 17, 2009

    Right on sister! Stella will do this! You are amazing, love and miss you guys!

  3. Pingback: Nine months « The Life and Times of Stella Johnson
  4. Jenny · January 22, 2010

    YES YES YES!!! Man, i love reading this, knowing what happened…. Fuck that noise.

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