Failure to Thrive

Are you familiar with those useless, boring, obligatory doctor visits? I always hated them and felt that they were a complete waste of time. For the most part with the previous two children the visit was basically about getting vaccinations. Since I’m not especially thrilled with the vaccination process, but go along with it anyway, doctor visits take on somewhat of a negative view. I know that the idea is that if you see a doctor when you’re well, he might actually catch something BEFORE it becomes a big deal. I know that they aren’t there to evaluate my parenting style and choices and judge me. I know that it can be valuable, but in my experience, it’s been nothing but a waste of several hours waiting in a waiting room, then stripping your child bare to measure them, more waiting in a cold office (with your now undressed baby), and then a visit with a nurse, and a quick minute or two with the doctor, and the shots.

I have to say though, Andrew’s doctor has been completely pleasant. It’s still largely about waiting around, but I can easily blame that on our modern medical system rather than the doctor himself. Dr. Davidson is a soft-spoken man and, unlike other doctors I’ve seen, not prone to overly alarmist speeches. He makes a funny face when I’ve said something I think he disagrees with, but he calmly states his counterpoint or ignores it. I like that. He has reassured me a number of times that Andrew seems to be progressing fine developmentally, but starting around the six month mark, he began to express some concern about the lack of growth for both height and weight in Andrew. Still, he reassured me that he looked completely healthy. He brought us back in for a 7 month weight check and ran some standard lead tests seeing as we lived in an older home that had verifiable amounts of lead. Andrew made some progress for his weight check and the lead test came back normal.

Which is why I understood that he was really concerned when we discussed failure-to-thrive at Andrew’s 12 month check-up. Andrew still hasn’t gained weight. What used to be a healthy 50-75% baby has now dropped to 1%. He’s energetic and healthy, not prone to diarrhea or vomiting, has a good appetite, sleeps fine, walks, and screams to communicate a point. But he’s small and that is a concern. Really, seeing his growth chart really does it. So here it is:

Of course, like any parent, they begin to do research the minute they’re out of the doctor’s office. What I found is that failure to thrive (FTT) is really a symptom, not a disease. The causes are usually obvious: you’ve got a sick baby. In Andrew’s case that doesn’t apply which means that the odds are that his FTT is caused by… me. At least, that’s what the research seems to indicate to me. Sure, there are rare issues of growth hormone disorders and other endocrinological issues. There are many things that can still be causing it, but the research says that the odds are high that some “inorganic” reasons are to blame. As in, the parents are putting their child on a diet or some other form of abuse. Now I know that I’m not abusing my child nor withholding food from him. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking that the doctor might be thinking it.

The good news is this has helped me view my parenting and habits from the outside in. You know how when you are having company come over, you suddenly see all the things that aren’t clean in your house that you’ve been living with anyway? (Please tell me that it’s not just me!) I decided to begin to track Andrew’s habits- everything from sleeping and eating, pooping and playing. Though I was almost done weaning him, I (thankfully) was able to get my milk supply going again and have been feeding him (more or less) on demand. He nurses three to five times a day and again once or twice at night. I began to weigh and measure his food intake and how he behaves after a meal. Just like using a food journal for yourself helps you to identify food patterns and weaknesses, tracking Andrew’s diet has helped me see where I’ve become lazy (from having older children) and respond accordingly.

The other good that has come of this is that I’ve had to look very carefully at what I’ve been eating. For one thing, Andrew almost always refuses food if we aren’t eating the same thing with him. The other big deal for me is that I feel judged because of my weight. I’m embarrassed by it and this leads me to feel like other people are judging me using my own yardstick. I feel like, in this case, the doctor must assume that Andrew eats nothing but junk, since clearly his mother has over-indulged regularly. Out of my deep desire to lose this weight (AGAIN!), I’m going back to my couch-to-5K workouts and then from there into a half-marathon training program (with an adjustment period to build my weekly mileage in between) Ideally, I’ll get pregnant in there somewhere (yes, we’re praying for more children), but developing good work-out habits is good for every pregnant woman. In addition, I’m planning on juicing/juice fasting to include some nutrients that I know I’m not eating enough of. I would really like to have some crazy-fast weight loss just so that I can look better and feel better right away but I know that I only have enough discipline for the minutest of changes.

I’m still praying that the doctor’s up at Children’s Hospital in Denver will find out that there’s nothing wrong with my little one, but I’m still determined to be thankful in all things. After all, Andrew was created in the image of the Father and is perfect just as he is.