First of all, fun history teacher fact. People were bottle feeding their children four thousand years ago! Of course, at the time there weren’t many bottle options. Today, there are 4000 options. I am easily overwhelmed with that many choices–you should see me in the dish soap aisle at Publix–so you should be very impressed that I was able to decide on five bottles to try. So, voila, my two cents on five brands of baby bottles. For each one, I will mention the price (important) and the number of pieces you have to wash between each feeding (even more important).
I am working on a “my two cents” post on baby bottles, and it has reminded me of a moment from our time in the NICU not even two months ago.
Looking back that week, most of it seems a blur of exhaustion and tears. This moment, though, stands out sharply in my memory. I was feeding Jacob. It must have been the first or second day, because the bottle was still new to me and the pain of being unable to breastfeed was still raw. The bottle felt like a wall between us. The nurse came in and saw me quietly crying as I fed him. Understanding immediately the reason for my tears, she took Jacob’s tiny hand and gently guided it to my pinky finger. He grasped on tightly. “There are still ways,” she said, “to connect with him.”
Jacob’s pediatric surgeon recommended that we purchase MyButtonBuddies to protect the skin around his Mic-Key button and keep it from rocking too much while he does tummy time. Before, I was using IV gauze, which didn’t stay on and had to be replaced several times a day. MyButtonBuddies are so much better. They come in fun prints. They fit perfectly around the button. And they’re washable, which is right up my alley as a cloth diapering mom (more on that later). I did take several pictures with him looking less miserable, but I think the expression on his face here is hilarious. If he wanted me to use the one with the lion instead of the dinosaurs, he could have just asked. Really, he was angry because we were about two and a half minutes past his regularly scheduled second dinner.
Every day, I mix up Jacob’s formula according to the recipe provided by Erika, his metabolic dietician and guardian angel. It is Erika that maintains Jacob’s delicate balance of enough protein for growth and not enough to hurt him. Although Jacob’s medical progress is supervised by Dr. S, Erika is the one who I email or call on nearly a daily basis with questions about Jacob’s various needs. In Jacob’s two months of life, she has probably adjusted his formula recipe at least five times to account for his growth and answered, oh, about 4,733 of my questions. (I exaggerate, but not by much.) I also can tell that she genuinely cares about him. We are so lucky to have her on our team.
Erika’s recipes are carefully calculated mixtures of two different infant formulas, Pro-Phree and Cyclinex-1, both made by Abbott Nutrition, added to my breast milk and water. I have already discussed in detail my experiences as an exclusive pumper, so we won’t revisit that here.
Pro-Phree is described on Abbott’s website as a “protein free energy module” (doesn’t that sound appetizing?). Basically it provides calories and some vitamins but no protein, hence the name. Cyclinex-1 makes up the bulk of his formula. It is specially designed for children with urea cycle disorders. It does not contain the non-essential amino acids, that is, the ones that our bodies are capable of producing. Since Jacob can only have a limited amount of protein, this formula allows him to get a higher concentration of the essential amino acids that he cannot make on his own.
Each day, I measure his formula and arginine medication on a gram scale and my breast milk in 80 mL test-tube-like vials. It’s like Breaking Bad in my kitchen.
He gets more breast milk than is shown in the picture, but you get the idea. His recipe is taped to the wall and all of his ingredients are ready to go. I mix it all together in a big jug and then measure it out for each feeding. It’s very scientific, and not how I once pictured feeding my baby. But we do get plenty of cuddles even with the bottle, so it all works out okay.
I am now known in the St. Petersburg WIC office as Cyclinex and Prophree girl. I think the wonderful ladies who work there are used to having to counsel women on what and how to feed their babies, so they got a kick out of me marching in there and telling them exactly what Jacob needs, down to the gram.
When Jacob gets older and starts on solids, it will be a whole new world for me, and I imagine a much more complicated one. But for now, I’ll be the one in the kitchen measuring out various white powders.
I spent a total of 12 minutes in the dentist’s chair the other day. The hygienist insisted that I have a “full mouth debridement,” which I quickly learned is dentist-speak for “miniature light saber slashing its way through your mouth accompanied by an unbearably high-pitched squeal that will make nails on the chalkboard sound like Mozart.” Of the 12 minutes that I sat in the chair, 11 1/2 were waiting for the numbing agent to kick in, and a full 30 seconds was the hygienist working on a single tooth. In that time, I managed twice to flinch so dramatically in pain that she looked at me condescendingly and informed me that I would have to come back another day when the doctor could give me something stronger to make me sit still.
Obediently, I followed her back to the waiting room and then had the audacity to ask if the light saber, ahem, debridement, was truly necessary or just a punishment for having gone two years without a cleaning. (I didn’t word it quite that way, but that was my message.) She looked down her nose at me, which was impressive because she was seated and I was standing, blinked, and, speaking slowly to be sure I understood, informed me that I had Very Inflamed Gums due to (pause for dramatic effect) Tartar Buildup and CLEARLY, since I was in so much pain, I really needed the light saber treatment. “Maybe,” she said, “if you follow the proper cleaning regimen after we do the debridement, you can go back to a healthy mouth cleaning.”
I am not going back. Yes, I am terrified of the pain. It really was bad. But, more importantly, becoming a mother has empowered me to demand respect. My body made a person and is now making food to nourish that person. God help me if I’m going to just let you at my body (yes, even if it’s just my teeth) willy-nilly with your light saber without at least treating me with respect and giving me some options.
Here are a few other things that motherhood has taught me so far:
Poop isn’t so bad when it belongs to your newborn baby. I hear this rapidly changes once they start solids.
It’s best not to wear your mom shoes when going out on the oh-so-rare date with your husband. Pull out the heels, or at least the wedges. (Not for him, of course… for yourself. Nothing makes you feel human again like putting on what you wore before the pregnancy, and let’s be honest, you’re probably still more comfortable in your maternity clothes.)
And, most importantly:
You really, truly, don’t understand what it is to be a parent until you become one. For a few hours when we were first called to the hospital with Jacob, I thought that we might lose our baby. And in that moment, I was willing to tear out my heart with my bare hands if it would save him. Then I understood. The love of a parent for her child is irrational and all-encompassing in a way I could never have imagined until I held my baby boy for the first time. So thank you, Maman and Dad, for loving me like I love Jacob.
After we left the hospital with Jacob, I had a long list of state and federal agencies to contact about providing support for Jacob’s various needs. Unfortunately, we failed to qualify for many of the benefits because we have too many assets. That is, we had both saved up about a year’s salary in retirement accounts and we have more than one car. Apparently, the government expects you to spend all of your retirement savings and sell your second car before you can access any social security disability funds. But I digress.
One of the programs that we did qualify for on the basis of Jacob’s diagnosis is called Early Steps. This program provides in-home support to parents of children at risk for developmental delays. The first step in enrolling in the program is for your child to undergo an evaluation to determine where he is developmentally. This is hard to do with a six week old baby, but there are some tests they can do to get a fairly good sense of where he is. Despite our positive outlook, Justin and I were nervous. We have no way of knowing whether his early ammonia levels were high enough to cause damage.
The evaluators, two lovely women with backgrounds in nursing and dietetics, spent about fifteen minutes with baby boy. Afterwords, they looked at us and said, if it weren’t for Jacob’s diagnosis, he wouldn’t qualify for this program. Apparently he passed all of his tests and is developmentally on track for a six-week-old. We are going to be seeing a teacher once a month to learn ways to support his continued development, and I am so grateful that this program exists for my sweet froggy and other children with special needs.
We are not out of the woods. Far from it. But we can see the sunshine through the treetops, and that is enough for now.