There are portraits of perfection everywhere you look online today. Blogs, Facebook, Instagram, every social media site out there is littered with photos of smiling, happy families, adorable pets, and delicious meals. It makes it seem like everyone is leading such perfect lives. You don’t really know the story of that photo- how it took 43 takes to get everyone in that happy family shot to smile, or that the cute dog playing at the beach was a wet, sandy, stinky mess when the owner took him home. Those photos are nice, and I love to look at them, but they’re not always real. And I think that a dose of reality injected into all that perfection is needed. So today I am presenting a behind-the-scenes look at a photo of a happy moment with my two girls.
Literally two minutes after I posted this on Friday, Penelope pulled out her tube, and what followed was a rather hellish afternoon. That little monkey has had enough of the NG tube, and she is relentless in trying to pull it out. Last weekend, Mark and I were heading out for our first date night in a YEAR, and ten minutes before we are due to leave, she pulls out the damn tube. Luckily, my lovely friend, Alyssa, who agreed to watch Penelope for the evening (Charlotte was with her grandparents), is a nurse, and so she was unfazed by this and the two of us got the tube replaced without too much hassle. Friday, though, was another story.
Mark happened to be home with us when the tube came out, which I felt was rather good luck, as he would be able to help get it back in promptly, so she wouldn’t have to miss a feed. I got everything ready, and wrapped Penelope up and the two of us got into position to put a new tube in. The tube went in smoothly, and the guide wire came out easily, so I thought it likely that it was in the right spot, and so I taped it up. MISTAKE. To check that the tube is in the correct spot, you inject some air through the tube with a syringe, while listening with a stethoscope placed over her abdomen. If it’s in the right place, you will hear a “pop.” When I checked the placement, I couldn’t hear the pop, and there was a lot of resistance when I was trying to inject the air through the tube. This was not a good sign. She was crying a lot, so at first I hoped that perhaps I just couldn’t hear the pop over the crying. Deep down, though, I knew it wasn’t right (getting better at trusting my instincts). She eventually calmed down enough so that I could listen again, and still no pop. Unfortunately, Mark had to get back to work, and so I was on my own to try to figure it out.
I called Penelope’s nurse and left her a message explaining the situation. Now, this was the only tube I had on hand, so I needed to make it work. If I’d had another one, I could have just pulled this one out and replaced it. She called me back right away, and assessed the situation with me. I tried a few different things with her guidance to see if I could get placed correctly- pulling it out a bit and pushing it back in, retaping it, etc- all to no avail. The tube was going to have to come out.
By now, Penelope was hysterical. If you have ever changed a baby’s diaper while they are screaming at you, which they often do, you know what a nerve-wracking experience that can be. Now imagine dealing with that level of furious screaming (which had been continuous for close to an hour at this point), but instead of changing a diaper, you had to insert a feeding tube through your baby’s nose, down their esophagus, and into their stomach. This is what I was facing for the second time that day. And I was alone, except for the voice of her nurse on the end of my phone.
Since I didn’t have another tube on hand, I had to re-insert the guide wire, something I wasn’t crazy about doing, but there wasn’t exactly a viable alternative. The only way to get a fresh NG tube would have been to take her to the hospital, and potentially wait hours for the tube to be placed and X-rays to be done to confirm placement. She would have missed at least one feed if I went that route, and I would have had an extremely cranky baby on my hands. So I thought that reinserting the guide wire and trying again was worth a shot.
I got the wire sterilized and reinserted it. I wrapped Penelope up tight. I then took a deep breath, banishing all my fears and anxieties to a distant place, and using one arm to keep her head in place, I inserted the tube. It went in easily, and I checked the placement- I heard the pop loud and clear. Thank effing God.
The reason this is all so stressful to me is that there is a risk of injury to Penelope every time the tube has to be inserted. If it went into her lungs instead of her esophagus, it could cause some serious damage. And that is something that can happen easily enough. Even experienced nurses and physicians can injure a patient when inserting an NG tube, and it’s really hard to think that I could be the one to cause such an injury to my baby.
Once the tube was in properly, it took Penelope a long time to calm down. It was tough afternoon. In between trying to deal with the tube issue and trying to soothe my angry baby, I had to care for Charlotte, too. Luckily, she is a great kid, and was fairly understanding of my needing to be with Penelope (minus the meltdown when I told her she couldn’t ride her scooter down the hallway outside Penelope’s room), but I don’t want her to feel neglected. She was able to amuse herself with her colouring, and of course with Peppa Pig videos on the iPad. So it was fine, but it’s not the best way for us to spend the afternoon.
At the end of the day, we all survived. I was proud of myself for dealing with all that stress on my own. I am also proud of Penelope for figuring out how to pull out that tube- as much as it is a pain in the ass for me to replace it, it’s a milestone for her. And when I think of how that afternoon started- Charlotte being so affectionate and loving to her sister, and I take a picture to document it, and then moments later it has all fallen apart- it strikes me that is just exactly how parenting is, how life is. One moment, you are basking in happiness, and the next, you want to run away, screaming, from the situation in which you find yourself. And then you just have to grit your teeth, and get through it. Sometimes, you can even find some good stuff that went along with the bad, like this:
If she hadn’t pulled out that tube, I wouldn’t have seen that beautiful face. How’s that for a silver lining?