I Didn’t Realize What Was Going On Until I Saw Him in the Pictures
They say a picture says a thousand words, but what happens when those words elicit a real emergency? It can happen anytime, when you least expect it, and that’s exactly what happened to me.
It was late June 2017, my first child was seven months old and our pride and joy. Nothing in my world measured up to my son back then. I was a stay at home mother and had just found out I was 8 weeks pregnant with number two. We were scared and surprised, but definitely excited and hoping for our baby girl.
I know a lot of women love being pregnant and love the glow and the attention that comes with it, and I wish so bad that I was one of them. But being pregnant for me translates to face-in-the-toilet days and hospital stays. I get severe Hyperemesis Gravidarum whenever I’m pregnant, so it was suddenly so hard to care for my son constantly as I did before. But every morning that I felt the least bit okay, I’d spend it snuggling my little buddy and taking pictures of his adorable, goober smile.
How could you not, with a face like that?
As I was scrolling through the days’ innocent collection of selfies, they all seemed relatively in line with the norm; except one. One photo was at just the right angle that it caught my attention and had me frantically scrolling back through the other photos of the day in disbelief.
I looked at my child sitting next to me and realized he was insanely skinny, very sick-looking but he had no symptoms or anything. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Earlier that week, my son had been hungrier than usual and constantly wanted to nurse, but it never seemed to be enough. So I tried to supplement with formula and baby food but he had never had a bottle or baby food before that. So he wouldn’t touch anything except breast milk.
It became clear that he was extremely malnourished, so I called our new, good friends and they drove my son and I to the closest hospital late that night and even stayed with me overnight once he was admitted.
During the drive, it was difficult not to feel like a failure of a mother. How could I not notice sooner that my only son, my pride and joy, was slowly starving? And how could I not notice my milk had dried up? I didn’t even know that could happen if you get pregnant while nursing. I beat myself up for the hour and a half drive from our tiny southern Alabama town to the hospital in Mobile.
The doctors and nurses were incredibly sweet and helpful, though, and they helped me exhaust every avenue during our week stay at the hospital. Over the first few days that he was admitted, they tried multiple bottles and various formulas until we found one combination that my son would take.
Once he took to a formula and vessel, we had a few more uneventful days of observation before we were discharged. Everything was great after that, he slowly gained the weight the doctors had hoped that he would and he continued to grow into the normal, healthy, energetic toddler that he is today.
One thing that never changed though, was the guilt that I felt. I kept myself up at night wondering how in the world I didn’t notice it earlier. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t possibly keep blaming myself. I am with him all day, everyday. When you’re around someone that much, you don’t notice the changes until further down the road. It’s the same when we gain weight. Because changes like these are gradual, we may not realize its happening until our clothes get too tight and we realize what happened.
But others notice these changes because they see us less frequently, so why didn’t anyone tell me my son was losing weight and looking sickly? Well, we had just moved out of Florida where all our friends and family were, into a small town in Alabama only a month and half prior, so no one who knew what he looked like before had been around after the move. My husband and I were the only two people who could possibly have a chance of noticing these changes, despite seeing our son everyday.
Thank God I took so many pictures that day.
I shared this story in an online mom group shortly after this ordeal and as it turns out, I am not the only one this has happened to, and I’m not the only one who struggled to forgive myself for not noticing and helping my child sooner. After finding out a lot of moms who get pregnant while breastfeeding don’t exactly notice the changes, I knew this story was meant to be shared. I hope this can help comfort and reassure any mom frantically reading this going “that’s me!” that it’s most definitely NOT your fault and you will get through this they way you always do; by doing the best you can for your child.
As always, you’ve got this, Momma.
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