18 months

This is what an 18-month-old cutiepie with a 110th percentile head looks like.

On Saturday, Stella demanded “more pie.” Then on Sunday, after spying the gleaming white Trophy Cupcake bakery box, she shouted “CUH-CAKES!” Today, she’s been crying out for “BAGEL!”

I’d read in The Scientist in the Crib that “around 18 months” is a time of unbelievably fast development, including a “naming explosion” wherein the child can hear a word once (used as a label for an object) andsay it with ease forevermore. I knew it was coming. I just didn’t expect Stella’s language explosion to be so intensely focused on desserts and carbs. And I’m actually quite proud of it–her love of eating is beautiful to me.

Of course sweets aren’t the only emerging area of identification and communication. She knows at least several each from the shape, color, number and letter families.  Some more reliably than others, of course. She’s all, “Seven? What the HELL is that alien scribble?” but “Two and Five? Hell yeah, I can spot ’em from across the street!” “Diamond” was the first shape she could easily say and identify, which I find funny for some reason. She’s starting to string words together, and the phrase of the day is “Buckle up!” Feeling really proud and curious, I tried to count all the words she knows, and gave up when I got to 125. She’s adding more each day. This blows me away. Now that there is so much to report on, the first thing I tell Cody when he comes home is, “Here are literally all of the things Stella said, ate, did, thought about and looked at today!” And then I don’t shut up for about 90 minutes. Dinner is always done way too late.

The way Stella views the world and her place in it is clearly different now, and you can see it in the way she plays.  The playground, two blocks away, is her domain. But she’s oh-so-boldly venturing out into previously uncharted territory.  She’s no longer content to run over the toddler bouncy bridge, go down the big slide, climb the stairs, or even to scale and descend the steep rubber mounds lurking beneath the tallest playground structure. For many months now, from the safety and comfort of the bucket swing, she’s intently observed adventurous, dirty-kneed boys and girls hiking and climbing amid the boulders and tree-root-studded dirt path that make up the strip of elevated land along the edge of the playground. She now deftly explores this rocky frontier without fear, making me nervous and proud at the same time. By the time we left today, the knees and butt of her pants had dirt ground into them. There were wood chips on her sweater and hat, and sand in her shoes. She looked like a full-fledged KID.

Today we hit the pediatrician’s office for Stella’s 18-month check-up. The weigh-in that used to fill us with dread is now just a point of curiosity, a nice bit of reassurance about her continued growth. The doctor, GOD bless him (he’s seen me at my worst), always seems so happy to see Stella. He’s just so thrilled to see her thriving after those tough early months. He “gets” how hard it once was for us, and how momentous a seemingly routine and uneventful check-up is. He seems genuinely proud of all of us, happy to show us her “beautiful” growth curves, charted electronically on his fancy tablet. Stella’s now in the 40th percentile for weight and the 90th percentile for height. Her head is still off the charts, having drifted just a touch further away from the 100th percentile, which is probably why it’s such an effective counterweight for hoisting herself onto ottomans, coffee tables and assorted off-limits areas. She’s lean. She’s tall. She’s healthy. She’s fabulous. I could not ask for more in a daughter than Stella, just as she is.

The point. Right. She’s not a baby anymore. I’ve teared up (okay, maybe even wept pitifully) about this fact numerous times, of course. Because it’s all too short. Unfairly short. As a parent, just when you get the hang of babyhood, it’s over. Just when you settle into the knowledge of  “16 months”, she turns 17 months old. Then, before you even realize that she’s outgrown all her pants, 18 months. All you can do is be glad you squeezed her all those extra times, just because you couldn’t resist, and that you read her those board books a billion times even though you really would’ve preferred to watch Ellen while eating a bar of chocolate the size of a small couch. All you can do is hold on–while letting go.

But I’m not sad. Babyhood is over, but full-fledged toddlerhood is just beginning, and if the past couple weeks are any indication, it’s going to be fun–challenging, but really funny and fun and crazy. I’m proud of  how far we’ve all come. Amazed and impressed by her new independence and communication. And in awe of her passion for dessert and dirt alike.

Nine months

Stella's a little shy in the pool--at first.

Stella's a little shy in the pool--at first.

So, Stella has been outside the womb for just about as long as she was in it. This seems like a big milestone to me and my uterus.

Stells (that’s not a typo–it’s one of our nicknames for her) celebrated her nine-month birthday on Sunday. The occasion was marked with a Waterbabies class (with a stop at Bellevue’s Downtown Park beforehand), and a walk to Gasworks Park. The next day, we went in to Dr. N’s office for her nine-month check-up. Ah, yes. Time for those dreaded percentiles.

Cody and I let out a sigh of relief and our shoulders dropped about six inches upon seeing the number on the scale: 19 pounds, 2 ounces. We knew that if she wound up at 19 pounds or so, she’d be at or above the 50th percentile for weight. I know, I know. It doesn’t even matter. One look at Stella tells you how happy and healthy she is. But we’ve got a nasty, lingering case of feeding aversion/tube-induced PTSD  and are grateful for any extra reassurance.

After the measurements were taken, the doctor came in, shook our hands and started tapping away on his touchscreen. He’d plugged in Stella’s stats in order to show us her growth curves, charted electronically.

“Look at this beautiful curve, ” he said, highlighting the fact that Stella’s weight was right between the 50th and 75th percentiles, just as it had been at her six-month check-up. He continued, with a bit of sing-songy positivity in his voice (which I loved), “And this curve looks great…” We saw that, for length/height, she was in the 75th percentile, just like last time. We were flying high.

Then, pointing to a dot, adrift above the highest percentile curve, he noted, “And this is how smart your baby is.” He was kidding, of course, but her head size was clearly “off the charts,” as they say. Last time, it’d been on the highest curve. Her head circumference has risen by a few percentiles between each check-up apparently. It’s not uncommon, really, and not a concern. Unless it keeps going, of course. In which case learning to walk will be a lot more challenging.

In short, Stella is thriving. Her doctor told us to feed her solids three times a day (I’d limited it to two, fearing that she might not take enough from the bottle otherwise), and to stop tracking how much formula she takes outside of that. He also suggested changing her formula to the normal 20-calorie-per-ounce concentration, which we have done. At one point, in the wake of all this, I stuttered, worriedly, with what I’m sure was a look of concern and confusion, “Um, so, like, h-how much f-formula does she NEED now?” The doctor kindly told us that we’d worried enough, and that we could stop now. Worry had become like air to us. So we are pretty much adapting to life on a new planet.

He also pointed out that, in a way, we are allowing Stella to wean herself off of the Ranitidine by not upping the dose as she grows. It reminded me of the progress she’s made int hese last three months. She’d been on two reflux medications until a couple months ago. We’ve lowered the amount of Simply Thick we put in her bottles, with the goal of soon weaning her off of that, too. She is back to the “normal” caloric density for formula–just like I’d predicted (boldy, it felt at the time) in her early tube-free days.

And that brings me to my point. So often, these days, when I look at Stella’s impossibly beautiful, beaming face, I can’t help but cry. Especially when she laughs. I remember, somewhere in the dark, dark days of December, bawling at most commercials. Our situation and those post-partum hormones were brutal–even bland Sleep Country USA ads opened deep, previously forgotten psychic wounds, apparently. But there was something especially gripping about the “Peace on Earth” spot for Pampers. Those soft, gorgeous baby faces! Those cherubic, chubby cheeks! Yes, those cheeks. Those cheeks, free from evidence of medical intervention. Those perfect baby lips, moving as if the baby is nursing in her dreams. They tormented me. Because to Stella, eating was a nightmare, not a dream, and our view of her angel face was obscured by two kinds of tape and a long yellow tube. Those babies were chubby and sleeping in a sprawled out fashion–not being force-fed while sleeping swaddled and strapped into a giant foam wedge. That commercial just seemed cruel to me at the time.

I go into her room and look at Stella every night before I go to sleep–despite that fact that by doing so I risk letting our super creaky floor wake her up. I have to do it. How could I miss out on the most beautiful sight imaginable? It is a triumph, a joy and a reminder to be grateful. I just watched the Pampers commercial again. And I have to say, Stella would fit right in with that bunch of sleeping angels–those arrogant bastards.

Wrong again. Then right.

There have been so many times during our seven months with Stella when we thought we had everything figured out, only to discover that we were completely wrong.

Back when she was refusing to eat and not gaining much weight, before her two months with the tube, we were, at one point, convinced that the issue was her poor latch. Then it was my low milk supply. We were way off, and it would take us a while to realize that Stella’s latch was indeed okay–she just didn’t want to take in milk and acted accordingly, which led to my low milk supply and not the other way around. Then we were certain that THRUSH explained why she didn’t want to eat. Nope–the doctor took one look and shot that down. Then it was lactose intolerance that was the cause of all our trials and tribulations. Wrong again! Her lab tests pointed in another direction (cow’s milk protein intolerance–whatever that means).

One night last week, Stella woke up AT LEAST a dozen times and screamed her head off upon opening her eyes. She shook her head from side to side. She was furious and clearly in pain.  Holding her, bringing her to our bed–all the usual no-fail tactics–did little to nothing to soothe her. She was incredibly fussy with the bottle (our nightmare revisited). But we thought she’d just fought off a bug of some kind, so after some quick online research, the answer seemed obvious: Stella had an ear infection.

Nope.

The next day, a pediatrician told us with 100% certainty, after peering into Stella’s adorable ears, that there was nothing resembling an ear infection. She also felt around Stella’s tummy, applying pressure in an attempt to find intestinal discomfort. There was none. There was no source of pain that could be identified, except for her second tooth coming in, just to the left of the one, in the front on the bottom, that came in a couple weeks ago. The last time a tooth erupted, sure, there was fussiness around eating but not endless bouts of screaming and almost completely sleepless nights. We were baffled. Again.

And to make matters worse, at her appointment, she weighed in a full two ounces less than the previous day’s doctor’s visit (she’d been acting like a rag doll and was clearly sick, then we thought she fought it off, then she stayed up all night screaming, then we thought she was okay for a day, then she developed a horrendous cough). Which put her one month weight gain at a mere 4 ounces and just about sent me off the edge. With the doctor’s help, we came up with a game plan to get her some additional calories. I’ll be mixing in rice cereal with all her spoon fed meals–though I don’t think she’ll ever take as much rice cereal as they want her to because she simply doesn’t like it. We have all but removed the fruit in her bottles, as it may have a laxative effect (especially the prunes) and take up the space of the more nutritionally important formula. (Though in hindsight, that plan seems futile–a sweet sort of futility made up of good parental intentions. Stella will eat what she wants to eat, when she wants to eat. And there is so incredibly little I can do about it.)

Just when we thought everything was going so well.

But then, earlier this week, she ate 30% more than she is “supposed to.” And now, she’s back to not wanting to eat, because she appears to be teething (she chews on the nipple, doesn’t want to suck, yadda yadda.) I guess that’s just the way babies are. Last week, Cody was feeding Stella, and despite how much I love her (so much that it makes me crazy sometimes), I just wanted to leave. I didn’t want to hear the crying. I didn’t want to worry myself sick. I didn”t want to wrestle with the mystery of  “what is wrong now.” I just wanted her to be okay. To be healthy and happy. How can such a simple wish be so heavy?

Well, today I’m in a different place. Cody just fed her. She took about 100, far below her usual. But I don’t feel the need to avoid the situation. I am not as worried. Something has changed. Maybe because for the few days preceding this teething strike, she ate like a champ. She ate like you read about. She ate like eating was hip and she was a hipster. She ate like it was the only thing worth doing. So, if for a few days she doesn’t eat as much, how can I really worry? She is doing what she needs to do. I trust her. She is not the baby that used to scream her head off when she saw the bottle. Nowadays, if she doesn’t want to eat, she chews on the bottle. The bottle is her buddy, not her enemy. Her new tooth isn’t a buddy at the moment, but that’s okay. She is a baby, doing normal baby things. I am a new-ish mom. Experiencing normal new mom things. We are “normal.” (As normal as there is, anyway.) There is no tube. There is no feeding aversion. We are so blessed. And to worry this time in our lives away would be criminal.

Seriously. She is so cute I can’t stand it. I am so mindblowingly lucky. And gratitude now outweighs worry. By far. What a difference a few months make.

With that, I’m dragging Cody and Stella to Molly Moon’s. After all the emotional progress I’ve made, a sundae is in order. Make it snappy. And don’t you dare skimp on the whipped cream.

Lucky seven. (Months, that is.)

Stella's got what they call "stage presence."

Stella's got what they call "stage presence."

On St. Patrick’s Day, Stella turned seven months old. I’m pretty sure that means she can get a driver’s permit. And maybe even a part-time job. At the very least, she can sit up for long periods of time before the weight of her large head pulls her over. She can tickle the ivories like you wouldn’t believe. And when sitting in her crib, she can pull herself up to a kneeling position–the gateway to standing.

That evening, as my amazing corned beef simmered in a broth of beer and spices, Stella’s piano showed up on our doorstep. The house smelled like Ireland, and dreams, which was somehow extremely appropriate. We opened the box–an event that was very, very exciting judging by Stella’s even-wider-eyed-than-usual expression as I sliced the tape with my trusty blade–and out the baby piano came in all its shiny red glory. I placed it on the rug, plopped Stella in front of it, and she banged those keys as hard as she could while smiling as wide as she could. Then she promptly forgot all about it and tried to eat the accompanying manual and play-by-color sheet music. Paper is Stella’s #1 passion for now. But music is a close second. After I tucked away the paper goods, she resumed her performance with incredible enthusiasm, intermittently grabbing the top and, impressively, pulling the entire piano toward her. You could see the wheels turning in her head; “Maybe if I try hard enough, I can get the top of this delicious piano into my mouth… mmmmm, piano…..”

Stella’s Little Mozart Piano is really like a musical friend than a toy. Right now, she simply sits on the floor in front of it, and it’s the perfect height. But the piano can be raised up by attaching the base that comes with it, allowing the child to stand or sit on the accompanying shiny red bench and play, making it “the piano that grows with your child.” I think it’s brilliant. Stella absolutely loves it. We really should be saving money rather than spending it, but this was worth the splurge. A long-term investment in FUN.

Yesterday, Stella was not herself. She was cranky and tired in the morning, and grew steadily more so as the hours passed. I realized that she had spent more time sleeping than awake, she was a rag doll, crying unless I held her. And instead of squirming and pushing away from me to look at her surroundings, she curled up into me, resting her head on my chest. Stella was sick for the first time. She had a slight fever and threw up a couple times that evening. But today, she is back to her old self. She dropped that bug like a bad habit! Cody took her to the doctor this morning, and her fever was gone. She checked out fine. And really, seven months was an excellent run!

HOWEVER. Her doctor’s visit entailed a standard weigh-in. Sigh. If she hadn’t fallen ill, I wouldn’t know that she’s only gained about 6 ounces in a whole month. Now I’m anxious and confused. I’m trying to cope, but my attempting to remain calm in the face of this worry is like an alcoholic trying to stay sober in a bar. About a week ago, we switched Stella’s formula from a 24-calorie-per-ounce concentration to the standard 20-calorie-per-ounce ratio. Granted, this means that for most of the month, she was on high-caloric formula, so perhaps we can’t blame the new lower concentration. Since the switch, I’ve been keeping track of her intake and it’s been high–between 30 and 32 ounces per day. Right on track! And this is in addition the face that Stella is mastering the art of spoon feeding. At first, far more food wound up on the floor, high chair tray and her bib and clothing than in her mouth. WAY MORE. But now, she’s swallowing way more food than ends up on her and various kitchen surfaces. On Tuesday, she even finished a whole container of peas in one sitting. Just another reason I’ve been saying “Bravo!” to Stella.

Top o' the mornin' to ya.

Top o' the mornin' to ya.

So, in regards to her minimal weight gain, I am completely baffled. I emailed her occupational therapist to get her thoughts, and perhaps some reassurance. Stella’s doctor didn’t express any concern over her weight, so my worry is “proactive” as usual. I’ll probably schedule an eight-month weight check in order to ease my mind. In the meantime, I’m trying to focus on Stella’s behavior and demeanor instead of her weight. Certainly not the fact that she still fits in some 3-month size clothing. She seems happy and healthy–with the exception of that 24-hour bug–and that’s what counts.

When we’re not playing the piano, eating, napping, or out for a walk, we’re trading fake coughs. I’ll fake a cough. And she’ll fake one back. And then we laugh. It’s good fun, though probably setting her up for hypochondria. Or an acting career.

At six months, a weight is lifted.

Welcome to the ERP (Experience Rice cereal Project).

Welcome to the ERP (Experience Rice cereal Project).

Stella has been weighed dozens and dozens and dozens of times during her six months here on earth. More times than the average Orange County housewife–nevermind the average baby. Many more times than a parent can reasonably expect to endure while maintaining his or her sanity. For close to three months, we went to the pediatrician’s office weekly for official weigh-ins. She was weighed every three hours during our four-day stay at Children’s Hospital in November. I’ve weighed her at home, before and after nursing her, on a fancy rented scale that I turned to out of desperation in the the time before the tube when I was trying to figure out how much milk she was getting from me and what the hek was bothering her so much. Lately, every few days, I’ve popped her onto the cheap baby scale I bought when the tube came out. I suppose, technically, she was also weighed before birth, when I stepped on the scale at the start of each prenatal check-up.

At this rate, Stella and I will wind up with a majorly problematic focus on her weight for years to come. (“Stella, what did I tell you? Put down the broccoli and have a cupcake!”) And a weight obsession of any kind is just about the LAST THING I want for my precious girl.

So, it is with much relief and joy-bulation that I announce the good news: Stella Weigh-In Mania (SWIM) is officially over. Today, at Stella’s six-month “well child” check-up, after a full six weeks without the NG tube, she proved that we don’t need to worry anymore. No more weekly weight checks. Our only future appointment is for her nine-month “well child” visit. Hallelujah!

Things are looking up.

Things are looking up.

Needless to say, the appointment went VERY WELL. There was no stand-off between me and Dr. Numrych, as I’d feared might happen if the scale didn’t tip in our favor. She gained more weight than we expected. She’s growing longer (taller?) at a quick clip. And her head is more gigantic than ever. The subject matter at today’s check-up didn’t involve tubes or high-density formulas or other craziness aimed at helping her gain weight. It was refreshingly normal. Topics of discussion revolved around spoon feeding and baby-proofing. Here are her stats, including the dreaded percentiles:

  • 16 pounds, 8.5 ounces (between 50th  and 75th %)
  • 26.5 inches long (75th %)
  • 45.3 cm head circumference (+97th %)

After all we’ve been through, these numbers are worth celebrating. Even the god damned percentiles. Though, I hope that I can think about percentiles as often as I think about, say, checking my car’s oil (every couple of years–sorry, dad, I’ll get on that).

Necessary but not cause for celebration were Stella’s shots. And there were many. She handled FOUR SHOTS (plus an oral rota virus vaccine) like a champ. One was an optional flu shot. Scores of people in my “circles” have been dropped like bad habits by the flu. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have allowed her to receive so many shots at once. Right after the nurse gave her the three standard shots, Cody realized that they’d forgotten the flu shot. So they had to go tromp through the halls to retrieve it, then come back and inject her again, after she’d calmed down (with the help of a pacifier) from the initial three. Well, oddly enough, when stuck for the fourth time, she didn’t cry. In fact, I am not even sure she noticed the shot at all. Perhaps her chubby little thighs were in shock.

All dressed up in her Wednesday best.

All dressed up in her Wednesday best.

I think Cody and I were in shock upon seeing the number on that scale. We’re always a bit quiet and tense right before a weigh-in. In that moment, I cease breathing and put all emotions on hold. Because it always feels like there’s so much riding on it. Upon entering the doctor’s office, I am mute and/or annoyed until I see or hear that number. Cody and I practically did chest bumps and high fives when we heard “sixteen p0unds eight and a half ounces” announced with appropriate enthusiasm by the nurse. I honestly wanted to bust out with a rendition of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise”–something Cody and I do quite well. “Black is back, all in, we’re gonna win, check it out, yeah y’all c’mon, here we go again, turn it up! Bring the noise!” I think Stella would’ve enjoyed it. Maybe next time.

A freakout. A rant. And endless gratitude.

Don't worry, it's just prunes.

Don't worry, it's just prunes.

Early this afternoon, Stella got upset and took only 100 mls from the bottle. It was really weird. All my fears and worries came rushing back.

Granted, she took around 180 before and after that. But what a scare. I was so upset, I yelled at Cody like a maniac. He was holding her because he wanted to try feeding her again, after I told him what had happened and how she didn’t seem to want to eat and was getting fussy about it, but all she did was cry and cry so finally I screamed from the other room, “JUST GIVE HER THE PACIFIER!!!” The idea of trying to feed her when she clearly did not want to sent up an army of angry red flags. Forcing it never works–it makes her want to eat less. Not that he was really forcing it, but he was nearing that old territory in my mind and I could not handle it.

It will take a while for me to really accept that she will not always take what I expect and that this is okay.

In the background, I am feeling nervous about her six-month “well child” visit with her pediatrician. He hasn’t seemed to have fully understood how well she is doing. How huge it was for her to start enjoying eating and to not only not lose weight but to start to gain a decent amount after just three weeks without the tube. I mean, it doesn’t really matter what he thinks. And there is no chance of Stella the Tube Girl II showing in theaters–ever. That sequel will never be made. But still. The last couple of times I’ve left his office feeling pretty crestfallen. Like the feeling of letdown when you go on a great first date, then have a terrible second date. You just feel so deflated. The neurotic me (well, maybe that just is me) is afraid that if Stella doesn’t gain an insane amount of weight, he’ll act all concerned and I’ll get all riled up and strongly disagree with him and stand my ground but then secretly, after we leave, I will worry about everything he said and fall apart and it will be unpleasant for all.

So I weighed her today. It was totally unnecessary and probably counter-productive. But I just had to. She weighed in at 15 pounds, 14.5 ounces. So by our count, she’s gained about 8 ounces in ten days. It’s great! Of course, I hear the doctor’s voice in the background saying how he likes to see an ounce a day. But from what I understand, around this age, the rate of gain slows down naturally. And really, she’s happy and healthy and clearly gaining an appropriate amount of weight so who cares!

She’s a week away from her 6-month birthday and when she hits 16 pounds, and clearly she will surpass it by several ounces, she will be above the 50th percentile curve, I think. She was in the 50th when she was born. I will remind the good doctor of this if need be. Have I told you how much I hate percentiles? They drive me nuts. I think that unless a baby is in trouble, no parent should even know the percentile. What’s the point? There are chubba-butt babies that are completely off the charts and their parents know they are big babies. There are babies that are petite–I have a feeling their parents know they are small having looked at them every moment of every day–and very content in the 3rd percentile. And the vast majority of these babies, all over the spectrum, are healthy. So what’s with the percentile obsession? The growth percentile calculator on BabyCenter says, “See how your child’s growth compares.” So there we go, comparing our babies with their peers right out of the womb based on some number that, for the most part, means nothing. I doubt my parents knew what height/weight percentile my sisters and I were in. And I KNOW they didn’t chart our head circumferences! They just knew we were eating, pooping, sleeping and, overall, happy and healthy. That was enough! And it should be for today’s parents. Rant over.

Yesterday’s occupational therapy appointment went very well. Stella ate beforehand, so Robin didn’t get to see how fabulously she eats, but we were able to discuss her amazing progress, affirm the whole journey, and get some questions answered. We got some great tips on how to encourage her to get more comfortable on her tummy and with rolling and sitting up. We learned that we should definitely proceed with spoon feeding full steam ahead and not worry about it adversely affecting bottle feeding. We have some other decisions to make–like when to switch to 20-calorie-per-ounce formula and whether we want to see if the baby food in the bottle really is making it more appealing or if it was just coincidence. I think Cody and I are reticent to switch anything up just yet, but we probably will at least switch her to 20-calorie-per-ounce concentration, as it is the standard for breast milk and formula and may better allow Stella to regulate her intake.

I gave Robin a “thank you” card and photo to remember Stella by–one in which she is clutching a bottle the way Gollum held the ring. I remember our first meeting with her well. We were so thrilled to be there. To finally be getting the help we needed, from the best of the best. (Robin is a renowned feeding specialist.) I’d been trying so hard to get Stella to eat for at least a month at that point and I was falling apart. No one had been able to figure out what was wrong, and they didn’t see the daily struggle and didn’t have the sense of urgency that was needed to move things forward. I felt so alone and hopeless and worn down. During that appointment Robin said with such confidence, “I’m going to see you through this.” And she did. As I reminded her in the card, she listened to me cry and rant. She calmed me down, educated me and backed me up. I am forever grateful.

And that reminds me of all of the incredible people who helped us weather the storm…

Barbara Hescock, my mother, who stayed with us for almost three whole weeks and spent Thanksgiving cooking for three, two of them severely depressed, in our crappy kitchen instead of her new wonderful one with a crowd of eager company as she’d planned long before… she arrived during our stay at Children’s and got me through the worst days of my life, helped me rise to the challenge of dealing with the difficulties of the tube while feeding me (everything made from SCRATCH–even tomato sauce–with so much love) so I didn’t disappear just as she so graciously did during Stella’s first weeks–she was the hands behind my hands, just what every new mom truly needs–and who even tolerated me snapping at her a couple times without holding it against me

Robin Glass, MS, OTR, IBCLC, occupational therapist, who, as I just mentioned, was our rock and provider of wisdom, sanity and hope!

Devorah Steinecker, MD, cranial osteopath who treated Stella about a dozen times and helped to greatly decrease Stella’s reflux and aversion, who was 100% confident that Stella would get better and became one of our biggest supporters when we removed the tube, a time when we really needed positive voices around us

Sarah Tyack, RN, lactation consultant with whom I met several times who helped identify Stella’s reflux, a major breakthrough, and who saw me at my worst and instead of judging me, connected me with the help I needed to cope and the help Stella needed to recover

Janet Whalley, RN, co-author of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide and lactation consultant that I met with several times who became a mentor and person to call when I got worried, who was always so understanding and concerned about us and provided any and all ideas and information she had

Ann Keppler, RN, co-author of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide and very well known in Seattle for her mindblowingly helpful First Weeks seminars, she sent me the most amazingly supportive and helpful email in response to my random, frantic email to her

Judy Herrigel, RN, founder of First Weeks and longtime lactaction consultant to whom I reached and talked to about Stella’s issues and who expressed much compassion and understanding

Dr. Trish Raymer, one of Seattle’s VERY BEST family practitioners–my doctor and was Stella’s doctor until we switched to Numrych who had instant access to all of Stella’s lab results, appointment info, etc. at Children’s Hospital which made our lives easier–who got Stella in to see Robin and who admitted us to Children’s when she saw that we needed urgent help, and who was always so delighted to see Stella that it warmed my heart even on my soul’s coldest days

Dr. Thomas Numrych, Stella’s current pediatrician, who returns my emails and calls and spent a lot of time talking to me during our toughest days… I have been complaining about him a bit,sure, but I think he’s a good person and good doctor

Dr. Marguerite Dunitz-Scheer, director of the tube weaning clinic in Graz, Austria who always knew that Stella could do this and who helped convince me to let go of at least some of my fear

Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, a breastfeeding expert—whom I’d heard talk about postpartum depression and breastfeeding issues in a podcast and emailed out of the blue–who talked to me for quite a while on the phone trying to troubleshoot our issues and provide encouragement

Dr. Jessica Bloom, cousin who just so happens to be a pediatrician, who talked me down from ledges and watched Stella for a whole day (after all, if you can’t let a relative who is a pediatrician watch your child, then you are hopeless!), when I was really low and about to starve to death from anxiety

Barbara Reilly, a wonderful, funny, compassionate friend who provided much needed food on multiple occasions and insisted on watching Stella, allowing us to get dressed up and go out for five whole hours!

Susie Estok, a fellow writer and kick-ass friend who watched Stella while I got my hair cut then spent the day with us, making me feel a lot less lonely and lot more hopeful

Maureen Devine, a friend and co-worker with the most amazing heart who stepped up to provide nourishment and support

Rocio Carballo, a mom who was in the same boat with the same fears who contacted me through the blog… we were able to relate and helped pick each other up when we were down and I’m so happy to say that her precious Diego is also tube-free and eating like a champ!

Dr. Stephanie Farrell, an engineer and professor that I don’t know at all and emailed out of the blue about her experiences with tube weaning her own daughter and who sent me the most supportive, wonderful reply

Trish Norton, a mom (to whom I was connected through Robin Glass) who went through very similar struggles with her daughter Libby and who took time to talk to me, a complete stranger, honestly and openly about her experiences and how she got through it, making me feel so much more normal and less crazy and alone

I will always think of these people with such fondness and gratitude. When Stella was not gaining weight, before we had any idea of what was bothering her, that growth percentile curve felt like a cliff. We were careening around a narrow corner and about to fall into a deep, dark abyss when one by one, Team Stella stepped into our lives, and gently but firmly pulled us away from the edge.

Yes, these people are Team Stella, forever!

Thank you.

Tube-free Stella: Day 8

Stella finished four bottles today! I believe it was her best day, in terms of how much she ate, since the tube came out.

I weighed her today and it appears she’s lost three ounces since Friday, and weight loss isn’t something a new mom likes to see, but I am truly not worried. Her eating is improving and I have no doubt that she will get to where she needs to be, and soon. Actually, she is where she needs to be right now. It’s a period of transition. She is not used to feeling so much hunger, or driving her own intake. Stella is doing a fantastic job adjusting to a whole new paradigm!

Stella is four months old.

Love at first sight.

Love at first sight. (Four days old.)

On Wednesday, December 17th, Stella turned four months old.

It’s absolutely stunning to think that she’s only been here for four months. How is it even possible to love a virtual stranger so deeply in so little time? How can your world change so drastically in a matter of mere weeks? How can so much drama, change, growth and wonderfulness unfold in just one third of one year?

Today, we went to Dr. Numrych’s office for her four-month “well child” check-up. Stella continues to amaze. Sure, she’s had some setbacks with eating due to her reflux and dairy intolerance, but developmentally, she’s right on track. She’s supporting her own weight when you stand her up and help her balance. She’s grasping and pulling things to her. She recognizes her parents from across the room (you can tell by the big smile). She babbles and laughs often–her signature sound is what Cody calls “motorboat noises” while I see it as a cross between cooing and purring. Basically, all of this and a few other skills make her one fabulous four-month-old.

Of course, at these check-ups, you get the line-up of baby stats. So here goes. She now weighs 14 pounds and 6 ounces, which puts her in the 75th percentile for chubbiness. She is 24.5 inches long or tall, depending on how you look at it, which places her squarely in the middle at the 50th percentile. Her head circumference of 43 centimeters means that her noggin is in the 90th percentile, which should come as no surprise. Cody and I have giant heads.

Big heads run in the family.

Big heads run in the family. (Two weeks old.)

A couple summers ago, I headed to a nearby bicycle shop on a simple, safety-conscious quest to buy a helmet. To my embarrassment and salesperson’s awkwardness, the largest women’s helmet was way too small. My head looked like an orange with a mushroom cap sitting on top of it, so I had to head to the men’s section. Cody just bought a one-size-fits-all wool cap from our favorite coffee shop, Fuel, and it doesn’t cover his ears, so it’s practically useless in this cold winter weather and just serves to squeeze the top of his head while emphasizing his cheeks. It kind of reminds me of when we put Stella’s Red Sox cap on for the first time–we really had to squeeze it on. In a most adorable fashion, the hat accentuated her chubby cheeks and left an indentation on her forehead. (Later, I stretched it out and it fit just fine, but it took some doing.)

I woke up at midnight, 3am and 6am to feed Stella last night–I did it one extra time because we’d fallen behind yesterday. Each feeding takes 40 minutes to complete. We woke up at 8am. So some quick math should tell you how braindead I am right now. But even in the midst of sleep deprivation delirium I can tell you that despite all the challenges, fear and exhaustion of the past four months,  I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Not even a blissful eight-hour stretch sleep on a magic mattress made of soft, billowy clouds.

Stella celebrates her four month birthday.

Stella celebrates her four month birthday.

This blog is supposed to be about Stella, but I can’t help but reflect on how the past four months have affected me. I’ve become expontentially stronger and a lot more vulnerable at the same time. I’ve cried and laughed more in these four months than in the rest of my 31 years combined. I’m more tired than ever, but also more alive. I’ve lost my mind while becoming more responsible. I’m a different person, but more fully myself. It’s insane. Insanely difficult! Yet it’s truly been the best time of my life. Stella has brought me more joy than I ever could’ve imagined. And we’re just getting started.

The question I keep asking Cody is, “How did we get so lucky?”