Friday, June 17, 2011

A Thankful Heart

Though it has been difficult to manage life with a baby who suffers from severe reflux, I have had, of late, much reason to be thankful.

My change in perspective has come gradually, over a period of several days. It actually started more than two months ago, before I even knew the cause of my son's misery. A friend shared something she'd found on a blog (I wish I could remember the name of the blog. If I do, I'll post it for you) about being thankful. That thought nestled itself down in my heart, waiting for just the right time to spring up and bring some sunshine to my life.

Last week, as it poured down rain again, I walked out to my garage through an enclosed breezeway. That simple experience reminded me of how thankful I am for my home, and especially how thankful I am for my enclosed breezeway. Since then, I've had many little thoughts of what I can be thankful for. Since most of them pertain to my experience with my son and his reflux, it seems appropriate to share them with you. It is especially appropriate since I'm sitting up with my precious little guy, who has had an especially difficult evening.

First, I'm thankful for healthy children. Though my son suffers with severe reflux and MSPI, he doesn't suffer from anything more serious. Many of the forums I've been on lately have posts from parents with children whose challenges are much greater. And, I have eight children! To have something as relatively mild as reflux as the most serious challenge we've faced is amazing. It is truly a reason to give thanks.

Second, I'm thankful to live in the 21st century. Many experts are saying old fashioned "colic" is actually reflux! Babies have suffered with this malady for all of history, yet it is only in the last few years that we've had treatment (even if just for the symptoms) or easy ways to help relieve the misery of our precious children. It is a blessing of immeasurable worth.

Third, I'm thankful to live in America. Though not a perfect country, it certainly provides more options for parents of "gerdlings" than many places I could live on this planet. To live in America is a treasure I don't take lightly.

Fourth, I'm thankful doctors are starting to recognize and treat GER/GERD in infants. I saw a doctor who didn't provide much help (and he was a specialist!), but my family doctor has been fantastic. Not only has he been great about finding a way to treat our son's reflux, he has encouraged us to take care of our needs as well, including prescribing a two hour respite period every day! I SO appreciate our doctor!!!!!

Fifth, I'm thankful for the internet. Without the resources, encouragement and support I've gained through this modern convenience, I don't know what I'd have done. I certainly wouldn't know what I know about how to help take care of my little guy. And I would feel much more alone.

In the end, I have SO much to be thankful for!! Even though it doesn't take away the misery my son faces on a daily basis, nor make up for the time I've not devoted to other areas (like my home), it does make it possible to keep going when life feels very bleak indeed. And that is even more reason to be thankful.

My prayer is that regardless of where you are at or how difficult life is right now, you can find reasons to be thankful and you believe there is Someone you can express your thankfulness to.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Reflux Moms Really Need

Over the last three months, my son has had multiple infections. First it was a serious upper respiratory infection that almost went into pneumonia. Now, he has a sinus infection that came out his ears and his eyes, literally! Apparently, if the reflux is bad enough, it can cause this kind of problem.

The doctor explained it yesterday, but I didn't completely follow what he was saying, probably because I'm exhausted from dealing with what the doctor was describing.

When we went to the pediatric G.I. doc, he said that our son wasn't sick enough to benefit from his expertise because he hadn't been plagued by multiple ear and sinus infections, or pneumonia. I think we just took him in too early. I'm not sure what the specialist could do anyway.

What I was really looking for, when I visited the specialist at the biggest hospital in our not so big city, was a plan. I didn't need a miracle cure. I didn't want surgery. And I'm incredibly thankful my son's major problem is reflux, instead of something like Hershprung's Disease or worse. But, I still needed help, something that doctor didn't give me.

So, over the month since I visited that specialist who offered me nothing, I've developed a plan of my own. It has come in fits and starts, and has been greatly aided along the way by precious friends who have shared my journey, even in the middle of the night. So, if you are a reflux mom, taking care of a precious baby who has health challenges that aren't severe enough to benefit from the expertise of a G.I. specialist, maybe what I've learned can help:

  • Carry your baby in a carrier.
My personal favorite is a Moby Wrap, but any kind of carrier will do, as long as it keeps your baby upright. Gravity helps make the reflux easier.
  • Consider caring for your baby your full-time job.
An old poem, with multiple lines, applies well here, though I only know one phrase and it says, "Babies grow up, we've learned to our sorrow, so settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep." It is very true. You won't be sorry if you spend most of your time holding this precious gift, and your house can be cleaned later. I will be the first to admit, however, that surviving between now and later, when you can clean your house, is a bit of a trick. I'm not doing so hot right now, but I keep telling myself it will get better. Regardless, my son is by far more important than anything else.
  • Nurse!
Though I've exclusively breastfed my other seven children, I've had to supplement with this little guy. And, he spits up formula MUCH worse than he does breast milk. Don't let some doctor out there tell you your baby is allergic to breast milk - it is the easiest thing for a baby to digest. Even the really expensive formula hasn't stayed down as well as breast milk. Change your diet if you have to, but don't give up on breastfeeding. It really is better for your baby.
  • Keep your baby upright for an hour after nursing or giving a bottle.
It took a LOOONNNNNGGGGG time to figure this one out, and I wouldn't have without the help of a dear friend who came over and took care of my baby boy for part of the night. But, after we started keeping our son's head elevated for an hour each time he ate, he stopped having constant trouble with congestion. I'm sure it is part of the reason he hasn't had more sinus and respiratory infections.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.
I do a terrible job with this one. After three months, I'm finally starting to ask others for help. Partly, I felt that my girls should be able to keep things going when I can't. I've decided that it isn't their responsibility, though they have been incredibly helpful. So, I'm asking others to come in and do what I can't. I'll let you know how it goes.
  • Exercise!
Caring for a fussy baby for days on end, especially after having survived the final days of pregnancy as well as labor and delivery, often contributes to postpartum depression. Daily exercise is as effective as treating it as medication, and it is much better for baby. I have found that going on walks with my son helps him sleep better than just about anything. He doesn't tolerate a swing or his car seat well, so those aren't options and the poor little guy is very tired. Walking has been a great blessing for both of us. I also just started going to Zumba classes, so I'll let you know how that works, too.

  • Get support.
I am just beginning to explore some of the online support groups available and it has been wonderful. Even though I spent maybe an hour all together, I found MANY other parents who understand my challenges and who have survived, or at least feel my pain. It gave me hope, and I think more than any thing else, what I've needed is hope.

Ultimately, what parents of reflux babies (or "gerdlings" as some call them) need is hope; hope that their babies won't cry forever, hope that the pain will get better, hope that they will make it through the challenges, hope that there will be a life beyond the chaos and sleep deprivation of right now. I'm beginning to find glimmers of hope. By God's grace, you will to.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13

Obviously, this is not a daily blog, mostly because I don't have enough time to get on the computer and post every day. And, it is a pain to type one-handed. Once again, I'm awake in the middle of the night with a miserable baby. I think the poor little guy has a cold, which is making it harder to keep him from being too congested to nurse, even if I keep his head elevated after nursing.

Right now, Daddy is holding his son in the rocker with the humidifier going. The purpose is, of course, to give me a break so I can get some sleep. Unfortunately, sleep is slow in coming.

I am a deeply spiritual person, so prayer and meditation are very important to me. Much time, of late, has been spent in prayer. And though the last three months have probably been the most difficult of my life, on more than one occasion God has whispered in my heart reminders of His care and provision for me.

Just tonight, after laying my son in the strong arms of his daddy, I peered out the window and was filled with a tremendous sense of thankfulness; we have a warm house to keep our children protected from the elements, a swing set (and multiple other yard toys) to entertain them outside, we live in a safe neighborhood with great neighbors, and I have a husband to help care for a precious little baby boy in the middle of night, a blessing I haven't always enjoyed.

God's gentle reminder of His love and care has had a tremendous impact on my mood and attitude. I'm exhausted and have been battling a migraine (triggered by lack of sleep) for two days. Yet focusing on my blessings instead of complaining has filled my heart with joy. It is a profound gift. And, I'm suddenly feeling pleasantly sleepy.

If you are reading this as you care for a precious baby suffering from reflux, I encourage you to begin pondering what you have to be thankful for. It may be difficult at first, but don't give up. Not only am I confident you can put together a substantial list, but I am sure you will feel better after you do.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Another day in the life...

Well, it has been a few days since I posted. I'm again waiting for my little guy to have an hour upright after eating before we go to bed. But, this time I know it will help. It has made a tremendous difference in how congested he gets through the night. It has not, however, made my night life any easier. A couple of times I've been so exhausted I forgot and went right back to sleep without getting him up. Each time I forget, we're both sorry.

On the positive side, the wedge I ordered should be here soon and I'm excited to see how it will work. I really believe my son will be a much happier little guy if he can get some quality sleep even when he isn't being held upright in someone's arms.

We're trying pro-biotics to see if that will help the reflux, but haven't seen any significant change yet. It can take a few days, from my understanding, and since we're only on day two, I'm not ready to give it up yet. Even if it doesn't solve the reflux issue, it is still good for his digestion.

Well, my hour of waiting is over and I'm heading to bed. If you are reading this because you are up with a miserable little one suffering from reflux, hang in there. It will get better, even if only because you figure out how to manage things. It is a difficult journey, I know, but one worth persevering through. Don't give up.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Night Life

It is almost 2 am, and I'm awake in hopes that sitting up with my son will help at least one of us sleep better. We have been navigating the challenging and exhausting journey of infant reflux. It is a journey I wish no one had to take, but one that I'm finding is actually quite common. One source says as many as one in five infants suffer with gastroesophageal reflux.

If you've read my profile, you know I have eight children. Nighttime parenting and fussy babies are not new. Coping with reflux to this degree is. I am having to make some major changes to my well-practiced methods, starting with the family bed. Babies with reflux don't do well laying down after feeding. It can cause problems for babies, like ear infections, sinus infections, congestion, difficulty breathing, and just plain misery.

Refluxing babies don't sleep well, so mama and baby both suffer from sleep deprivation. For babies who are already fussy, it just makes life harder. For their mamas, it can next to impossible. I've told my family that I'm working the "night shift" so I will be sleeping during the day. And, we're all learning a whole new level of flexibility.

The most helpful website I've found has been It has been, quite literally, a life line in this crazy ocean of spit up, tears, and agony. If you are struggling to meet the needs of a baby with reflux, or GER/GERD, do yourself a favor and check out this website. You will be greatly blessed.

My son is sleeping peacefully in my arms, breathing easily with no signs of the distress that has interrupted our sleep so many times. It has been an hour since he ate, and I'm going back to bed. If you are reading this as you deal with a reflux baby, I hope you are encouraged and don't feel alone. Check out the Pollywog site. You'll be glad you did. And hang in there. This will get better; I'm sure it will!