As you may recall from Friday’s post, Penelope was experiencing some gastrointestinal problems, and I debated about whether or not to take her to the doctor, ultimately deciding to wait it out, as she seemed fairly well otherwise. Apparently, my writing about it was too much of a temptation for fate, because a few hours after that post went up, she was no longer appearing fairly well.
My first clue that something was wrong came when she projectile-vomited the contents of her stomach all over me. (Oh yeah, I guess I should have put another disclaimer here, stating that this post is going to be pretty gross, too. Oops). The vomit itself contained another clue: It was super-hot, and I instantly knew that she had a fever. I’m not sure if it’s really disgusting or really impressive that I can discern a fever based how warm vomit is to the touch. And of course this happened while Mark was hosting close to a dozen of his colleagues in our backyard.
As the vomit continued to explode out of her, I prayed that everyone would just stay outside. I held Penelope close to me, trying to comfort her as she struggled. Eventually, the eruption ceased, and I stood very still with her in my arms, hardly daring to breathe in case it triggered another bout of vomiting. Puddles of puke surrounded us on the floor, and it continued to drip off of me. Once I was certain it was safe to move, I grabbed a nearby towel and used it to mop up some of the mess with my feet. I was then faced with the task of cleaning us both up. Normally, I would just immediately strip off my vomit-soaked clothes and find something else to wear once I had her cleaned up, but running around the house half-naked while Mark’s friends were over was NOT an option, so I had to endure the sensation of wearing damp, smelly clothes for awhile longer. Instead, I stripped Penelope down, wiped her up, and changed her diaper (which was of course filled with runny, green, stinky poop), and started running her a bath. I ran upstairs and changed. It would have been preferable to shower at this point, but with Penelope feverish and screaming, it was just not going to happen, so I settled for fresh clothing (I paid the price for this later, when the five-year-old daughter of one Mark’s coworkers informed me of how stinky I was).
I gave Penelope some Tylenol and put her in a nice, lukewarm bath. She did not appreciate my tender, loving care. She was positively howling. One of Mark’s friends came into the house to get a drink and I’m sure he questioned what I was doing to her. She was seriously pissed off. When she was finally clean and dry and had received sufficient cuddling, she calmed down. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that she was happy, but at least she wasn’t screaming. As the minutes ticked by, though, she became more and more irritable, so shortly after 6pm, I set about putting her down for the night.
She sort of settled in her crib, but she would wake up frequently, necessitating cuddles and music and shushing to get her back to sleep. This was very unlike her- usually, once she is down for the night, I don’t hear a peep from her til morning. She had more runny poops that had to be changed. And soon it was time for her 8pm feed.
I thought that if I started the feed when she was asleep, she would sleep right through, there would be no vomiting, and she would get the nutrition and fluids that she needed, especially after the massive vomiting episode that afternoon. Alas, it was not to be. Every time I started the feeding pump and the formula was going through, she would wake up and start to cry. I tried holding her to see if that would soothe her. It didn’t. So I turned off the feed, and rocked her, and cuddled her, and changed another explosive poopy diaper, and walked with her until she settled down again. When she was finally back to sleep, I tried starting the feed again. As soon as the milk started going through, she woke up again, crying. Clearly, she did not want to eat.
This is the problem with enteral feeding- there’s no opportunity for self-regulation. Usually, when a baby or child isn’t feeling well, they will refuse to eat, and you get them to take what clear fluids you can get into them, and once they’re feeling better, they will resume their usual diet. For Penelope, all of that regulation is up to me. I have to decide what to give her, how much to give, how fast, when to give it, and when to stop. In a situation like this, it feels like an incredible amount of pressure.
I stopped the feed again, and picked up my sweet baby. I held her in the darkened room, trying to calm her down. It was very difficult, because I did not feel calm. In that moment, I felt completely alone and overwhelmed. Tears silently streamed down my face as I contemplated my options. What if holding the feed resulted in her becoming dehydrated and that triggers a seizure? Or what if I continue the feed, and she vomits and aspirates and chokes or contracts aspiration pneumonia? I was terrified of making the wrong choice. I was tired of dealing with bodily fluids and feeding pumps and scrubbing poop out of adorable little baby clothes. I was exhausted and lost.
In my arms, Penelope had finally fallen asleep. I gently put her back down in her crib. I tiptoed out of her room and went to living room, where I collapsed on the couch. I took a few deep breaths and composed myself. Needing a distraction, I opened up the Facebook app on my phone to see what else was going on in the social media world. I had several notifications- people who had liked or commented on the post I had written that day. Seeing that calmed me down immensely. I was not alone. My sister texted me to see how Penelope was doing. I was not alone.
That show of support gave me the confidence and strength to make it through this hurdle. I held the remainder of the feed- and it was the right decision. She slept peacefully through the night. She was quite lethargic on Saturday morning, but I was able to get her formula into her without her vomiting and as the day went on, she became more and more like her usual self. And on Sunday, with her being happy, playful, and vomit-free once again, I was able to go to movie at the Toronto International Film Festival, while Mark stayed home with the girls- another reminder that I am not alone. I have a husband to help shoulder to responsibility of parenting and decision-making.
I am still dealing with that horrible, runny, greenish poop, so if that continues this week, I will take her to get seen about that. Thank you to everyone who reads, comments, likes, and shares my posts. It provides me with a crucial reminder that I am not alone on this journey, and this was one of those times where I really needed to remember that.