Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weight Matters

“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?


  1. That must have been an awful experience. Fortunately, we have a family of doctors that we can bother with for various health issues.

    In not listening to my inner voice, I was kicking myself after not taking action and then watching our son or daughter take a nasty spill when I knew they were running to fast or something. It is a lousy feeling.

  2. You can't be too hard on yourself. Every single mother has gone through this. It sucks and you won't forget it but it does make you realise you have an inner 'mommy voice'and it's a good one. Thats a really great thing (cause lets face it not all mothers have that - not everyone should breed!)

  3. Aww, that poor litle boy. ):

    When my youngest brother was born, he was real big (weighed in at 9 lbs maybe) and now, he's very small. He just turned 11 but he looks more like 7.

    I remember being at that age too and being forced to lay off snack foods and eat vegetables (I would actually have to ask permission to get into the fridge). I hated it, but now that I'm an adult, I appreciate my mom and step-father keeping me healthy.

  4. I haven't had this happened to me, but my heart goes out to your poor son. :(

  5. Oh your poor baby! That's why I never complain about anything to my doctor because I'm afraid she'll come up with a thousand reasons why I should have my blood taken or take medication. They are so into preventative measures nowadays that I think it's overkill sometimes. But no one wants to say your okay and then be sued when they are wrong.

    I'm glad you went with your istincts!

  6. @ Slamdunk, the new doctor's office on Long Island and the place we found in Cambridge have both been wonderful.

    I hate when I see my kids just before an injury, and I know it's going to happen. But if I stopped them every time I worried, they'd never play!

    @ Nicole MacDonald, I try not to be hard on myself. It's true some parents are missing their inner voices. That's worse.

    @ Amanda, there are small people in my son's class too. Usually they sprout by 8th-grade.

    My parents also instilled good food habits, and I try to do the same with my own kids. Even if they're skinny doesn't mean they should stuff themselves with garbage. Eventually it catches up.

  7. Good post and good lesson here - Always trust your instincts. I'm a huge believer in this.

  8. @ Sandy Shin, thanks for the comment. I feel bad for the parents and kids who go through that all the time for real reasons.

    @ Aubrie, now that I'm older, I should get more tests. I hate giving blood. I'm a baby.

    You're right, doctors over-test and it is because they're scared of being sued.

    @ Jaydee, we have instincts for a reason, but then our brains muck everything up!

  9. Instincts warning you is just the evidence that your unconscious mind has picked up on cues your consciousness glossed over.

    Primitive man survived by listening to those warnings. We learn by surviving, Theresa.

    You're human not a robot. You will make mistakes. You are a loving mother and an intelligent person. Don't beat yourself up over trusting folks who supposedly have been trained to know better. Roland

  10. You were definitely in a tough situation that could cast doubt on mothering, but doesn't that instinct kick in when necessary. I think we just plain old KNOW when something isn't right with our kids. When you got that hunch, you were outta there fast. That's what matters. I'm glad your son's healthy and enjoying his weight and size now!

  11. I don't have children of my own, but I'm fiercely protective of my brother and nephew, who are my 'surrogate children.' I'm also protective of the kids in my care and I have to remind myself that their parents are (usually) doing their best. Once, there was a child who was lucky to get a meal a day, or a diaper change-his mom was addicted to drugs in a bad way. Broke my heart. If you care for your kids (you obviously do) and do your best, the only other thing you can really do is pray. Others posted about docs over testing a prescribing all sorts of meds-I was given Levaquin (sp) and thought I was having a heart attack. I considered calling back, but I figured the doc knew what he was doing. Now, there are all sorts of lawsuits...and I have elevated BP for the first time in my life. I don't always listen, either...

  12. What a horrific experience. You must have been a mess afterwards.

    We've been very lucky - our kids had all kinds of the usual kid stuff when they were little, and we've made more than our fair share of hospital & doctor visits. But we've been so lucky - nothing more serious than infections, broken bones, dislocated bones... And we've had wonderful care. I'll thank our lucky stars (again) tonight.

  13. This story broke my heart. What a good reminder of how important it is to trust your gut.

  14. I'm glad there was nothing wrong with your son! My husband is very thin too. His waist is only about 28 inches. (Which makes me sadly jealous of course. You won't see me being able to borrow his jeans, that's for sure.)

    My only children have four legs and fur, but there were times when I'd freak myself out and rush them to the vet because something "might" be wrong. After X-rays and large vet bills (when there was really nothing wrong) I learned to use better judgment. I've also learned that Pixie is sometimes just a little faker who just wants extra pampering from Mommy! :)

  15. I know exactly what you mean by knowing better but giving the authority figures the benefit of the doubt. When my son was five he broke his leg. He was at his grandparent's house three hours away from me when it happened. I jumped in the car and got to the hospital that evening. He didn't look right to me. He was lethargic and strange. I asked the nurse and she practically patted me on the head and said, "All parents worry." I watched him get worse through the night. He was scheduled to have surgery at noon. He was more and more delirious. I kept politely asking if anything was wrong and kept getting the same answers. About 10 o'clock he had a seizure. I FREAKED. A pediatrician was called in and apparently the ortho that wrote orders for his meds put him on adult electrolytes instead of pediatric. I was a mama bear then. I demanded that as soon as he was stabilized he was transferred to Children's Hospital. At Children's I continued to be a mama bear and I'm sure the nurses were happy to see me go but that's okay because that's what we are here for!

  16. Really good reminder! Trust your gut.

    I'm sorry you had to go through such a scary experience with your "little" one. I remember taking our "little" one to the ER for a high fever. When they poked her foot to take blood it was awful!

  17. What the quacks (and I use the term advisedly) forget is percentile bands etc are based on THE WHOLE POPULATION.

    A very basic statistical understanding reveals that not everybody is or ever will be average. To derive the averages in a normal population you have plenty of people around the mean, but also plenty well away from the mean at both ends.
    My youngest is five foot nothing in height. In the Australian female population that puts her below the 2nd percentile.
    Yet, there is nothing wrong with her. She is perfectly healthy, she just had short ancestors.

    Bottom line is if they are happy and active there is more than likely nothing wrong.

  18. That must have been a terrible experience and I'm sure we've all been in situations where we trust doctors and nurses too much.
    It's taken some time, but in the last few years I've learned to trust my own instincts about my health. It sounds like your son is doing great though!

  19. Awwww your poor baby boy!!!! And poor you as mum!! I think you did what was best (hindsight is a different matter) because you weren't given a choice - but were thrust in a do or die situation.

    I guess it's always, always best to trust your maternal instinct - always!!!

    This isn't the same but I suffered a bout of shingles a few years back - it manifested itself around my eye. The doctor immediately thought the worst and I went for several painful tests at the hospital.

    By my third visit - I remember waiting at the bus stop and thinking, I can't do this, I can't - it's draining and awful and they still can't prove anything and I'm tired and I want to go home. And I did and I am ok now. The doctor was wrong in thinking the worst and I did what was expected but then stopped when my instincts told me otherwise. But if the doctor had not thought the worst and the worst did happen???

    It's a very difficult situation. But I'm glad you saw common sense and did your research and protected your son.

    Take care

  20. @ Roland, I've tried to use instinct more now. And I try not to beat myself up about it but I did make the mistake of trusting my son's kindergarten teacher, and not speaking up.

    @ Joanne, my son is more confident now. But finding pants that fit ain't easy!

    @ The Words Crafter, what a scary story. I had a problem with a medication when I was a teenager, which was probably because I was a lightweight. I'm really careful with my children's medication. I can't go by age - it has to be weight.

  21. @ Jemi, great that your kids have been relatively healthy. Mine have been too. A couple of summers ago we thought my son had lyme disease, causing a couple of blood tests, but it turned out to be a virus.

    @ Kathleen, thanks. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

    @ Surfie, that's funny about you not being able to wear your husband' jeans. Right now, my son is a few inches shorter than me, but our legs are the same length. But his jeans have to be taken in at the waist, so there's no way I can share them!

  22. @ Sarah, what a horror story. Thank goodness he was okay! I would've transferred him too. Overmedication is one of my worst fears.

    @ Sharon, it's always sad when babies need to be pricked, but if it's for a good reason then I'm less stressed about it.

    @ Olive, all my children's doctors since have been great. This one doctor was fresh out of med school and still had all those worst case scenarios on her mind, I guess.

    @ Old Kitty, you poor thing. Shingles! My father had them and he was in such pain. And by your eye must've had you freaked out.

    It was good the doctor was being proactive, but it seems like you made a good judgement call. I'm glad you're okay.

  23. Poor thing. Stories like this are why I'm scared of having children. And going to the doctor. Sounds like your mother instinct kicked right in, though.

    It makes me sad about such a young child drinking blue sugar. They will wonder some day how this person has diabetes. Sad.

  24. We all need to listen to our instincts, the 'professionals' only see a snapshot of your child in a stressed moment.

    Mother's instinct is hugely powerful and normally right.

    We are only human too, and we can only do our best.
    Thanks for sharing your touching story with us.

  25. Wow awful!!! I guess that you should always go with your gut, even if it ends up with you feeling silly if you're wrong. A mothers instincts always know best.

  26. @ Al, thanks! I'l head on over soon.

    @ Tiffany, those stories are few and far between. Don't be afraid of kids because of that. I can give you a list of why you should be afraid if you'd like.

    @ Brigid, I agree! When my son was six-months-old he screamed at the top of his lungs for a long time. I called the doctor's office, and the secretary tried to put me off, as if I were a nervous mother. I insisted on coming in. My baby had a double-ear infection. Should have left the practice then.

    @ Jen, instinct is good to follow in more areas than just motherhood, I think.

  27. Yikes. Scary. As a teacher, I always try to celebrate the uniqueness (yes, I teach my kindergartners the word 'unique' they should know it...) of each child. Being the tallest and shortest in my class is something special and let those kids know it all the time. I LOVE my super duper tall kids and super duper tiny ones too - they need to know how awesome and unique they truly are.

  28. Great story Theresa. Poor baby! They made Max see a nutritionist for a year also b/c he wasn't gaining wait. Still short, but he's fine. And you're right about the how the drs should be more interested in the blue juice consumption!

  29. @ Halpey, I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I wish you were my son's kindergarten teacher.

    @ Anonymous, I wonder how many doctors talk about nutrition with their patients. I'm sure not enough because of time constraints.

    That blue juice puts in empty calories in the place of much needed fat for babies. Scary.

  30. I'm not a mum so I can't really say... there have been times when I haven't eaten properly though, and I've got ill because of it. So yes, listen to your instinct and what what your tummy tells you (within reason, of course).

  31. Talli, I agree. Children normally know how to listen to their bodies (provided they don't have a diet of junk), but lose it when they're older. I know I did.

  32. I am so touched by you story, Theresa. I suffer from seisures as an adult. As a child my mother took me to the doctor over and over but the medical care they had 25 years ago was only something that she could afford-which wasn't very good.
    Doctors said I was a child that was simply a "deep thinker" (I used to freeze up and remain catatonic for hours). I am glad she documented everything and didn't give up.

  33. I'm so sorry that you and your son had to go through this. Experts do not know everything.

    Instincts are there for a reason. I know I've been hurt by not following mine all the time.

  34. I'm glad your son's found his confidence in sport now. (Do they play soccer at his school? It sounds as if he could be an amazing winger...)

  35. @ Barbra, deep thinker? How terrible. Good for your mom for trusting her instinct.

    @ Medeia, this isn't the only time I ignored my instincts and regretted it. Live and learn.

    Hampshireflyer, he did soccer for two years but wasn't that into it. He also did baseball for a couple of years but didn't want to continue. When he was really little, he took gymnastics, which he excelled at. But he wanted to stop when he began kindergarten. Now it's piano, Taekwondo, and then football at recess.

  36. Unfortunately, doctors don't get much training in nutrition. There are people out there much more qualified than your doctor to assist with that. All a doctor can do is search for a medical reason for a problem, and that's not always helpful.

  37. @ Vagabond Teacher, it's too bad they don't get much training in nutrition because they have the kids and parents in their offices. Doctors could make a difference.

  38. You are so right about these cheap sugar/fructose related drinks that are masked as healthy. It's too bad that for some kids that's all they get with few fresh fruits and vegetables.

  39. Hi Theresa... there is a very important message in this blog post for all of us, especially mothers. We must take back responsiblity for our own and our children;s health. For too long (esp her in Ireland) we have treated doctors like Gods and followed their advice to the letter. Thank God you didn't. We have had a spate of stories in the media recently about women in early stages of pregnancy who were told at a scan that their baby had died and were booked into the hospital for a d&c. Many of these women felt instinctively that they were still pregnant despite bleeding etc. And they were right and have the healthy babies to prove it now.

    Our instinct is very strong and should always make us double check or get a second opinion.

    thanks for such a thought provoking post

  40. @ Paul C, so many students come with a variety of health and learning issues. Much of it stems from diet, I'm sure.

    @ Barbara, the culture used to be never question people in authority, sometimes with disastrous results. It's hard to know when they're helping or the advice may be wrong.

    Scary story you shared.

  41. I once had a whole round of vaccines redone.

    I needed a shot (can't remember which one) before I could start school so my mother told my father to take me. I had gone to this facility before but since we had moved and then moved back they didn't have records of all my shots. My father told them to go ahead because he trusted them when they said I needed them.

    My mother freaked out when we got home and I had like five band-aids instead of one. Luckily, getting two vaccines doesn't hurt you.

  42. @ Brooke, a whole round of extra shots? Awful. My husband kept having MMR shots over again when he was around college age. They kept losing his records and he needed to register for classes, so he let the school nurse vaccinate him at least three times.

    Yes, luckily they don't hurt you.