“You’ve got bad eating habits if you use your cart in a 7-Eleven, okay?”
- Dennis Miller
The above picture is a reminder.
It reminds me to trust my instinct in defense of my children.
When my son was about ten months old at his monthly checkup, a new doctor noted his weight hadn’t increased at the same rate as the previous months. My child had never been big. At birth he was six pounds, ten ounces, and twenty-two inches long. A string bean. By six months babies are supposed to double their body weight. He weighed barely twelve pounds.
At around eight or nine months, my son tried to eat finger food. He’d sit proudly in his chair, attempting to shovel bits of stuff into his mouth. I’d think he’d eaten well until I lifted him to see all those bits fall off his lap and onto the seat. Feeding him baby food was no better. One jar lasted for three meals. Songs and other distractions didn’t help. The boy wasn’t hungry.
I knew his lessening reliance on milk and attempts to eat “adult” food accounted for the slowdown in weight gain. He’d dropped to -5th percentile. He was officially off the chart. I told the doctor I’d been small too.
She told me all the things the drop in weight gain (not even weight loss) could mean. She rattled off a list of diseases – each worse than the last. By the time she’d uttered “cystic fibrosis”, I panicked. She wanted me to go to the hospital down the road to have him tested.
I called my husband, who thought the doctor was overreacting. But what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t make sure? Off to the hospital I went.
The staff needed a urine sample. The meant placing a little bag lined with tape in the area and trying to get a TEN-MONTH-OLD to stay relatively still. It seemed like forever and a half before he finally got something into the cup. Then came the challenge of removing the cup without losing the “sample”. The poor boy cried from having the strong tape pull at his baby flesh.
This was nothing compared to what came next. My first clue this was a colossal mistake was when the staff members tried pawning off the task of sticking my son with a needle. When someone won/lost, and took the job, it just got worse. My son got pricked over and over. His pathetic sobs made my heart break. I finally came to my senses and refused to let them try again.
I refused to go back to the hospital.
I refused to return to the doctor’s office.
The new doctor had been hired because my favorite one in the group had retired. There was no point staying. I got recommendations with friends, made sure the next group was on my health insurance, and then interviewed. I asked how my son’s weight “issue” would be dealt with. The doctor was honest with me. He was small, so I was supposed to keep a food diary to see what and how much he ate. If he continued to slide, we’d test. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t.
I fed him the most fattening foods. He didn’t gain at a faster rate, but he didn’t gain at a slower rate either. At a year, he was eighteen-and-a-half pounds. But he was bright and fast and happy.
My son didn’t make it onto the chart until elementary school. By fourth-grade, he was no longer the smallest in the class. I mentioned in the last post he was aware of his small stature. And once, we were taking a walk, and my son spied a GNC store. He saw some gigantic jar of pills in the window. He asked what they were for. A person we were with said, “They build muscle.” It took awhile to convince my son he wasn’t less than because he wasn't ripped. At age FIVE.
Now my nearly twelve-year-old boy appreciates what about his physique makes him special. It makes him wiry and quick, which is great for weaving through players during football. He’s got great form in Taekwondo too. And just try to hit him during dodge ball…
Back to that day I let the hospital staff torture him. I was young. I was a new mother. But I knew better.
Several years back, my husband took the kids to the pool. He saw a mother feeding a tiny infant blue juice. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s water, corn syrup, flavoring, and blue dye. They sell it “4 for $1” in corner stores in the poor parts of town. I’ve spoken to students who eat fast food at least three meals per week. And they’ve admitted to having few fruits and vegetables in their homes. These are the children doctors should worry about.
Children are vulnerable. They rely on grown ups to do what’s right for them. If it doesn’t come from their parents, it should come from teachers or neighbors or doctors. There were a few times in my childhood I could've used people to advocate for me.
I snapped the picture of my exhausted baby when I got home to remind me that it was my job to protect him, even from people who are supposed to know better.
Have you ever been in a similar situation with your child or parent or even yourself? When you failed to rely on instinct, and regretted it later?