amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about


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Difficulty eating, not picky eater.

“Oh, they’re a picky eater? Well, you’ve just got to be strict with them”

“Don’t spoil them”

“Let them go hungry. They will soon give in”

“When they see other kids eat, they’ll eat”

Some of the wonderful and pointless advice I have received over the years. And if you have a child who has difficulty with eating, then you’ll understand me when I say that there are two camps on the topic of kids and eating.

Camp 1

My kid had no problems and I think that’s because I’m a good parent. Do what I did and you won’t have a problem.

Or

My kid eats but I want them to eat more healthily. They ate the carrots yesterday but today they threw them on the floor. Oh my god, my kid has an eating problem!

We talk about this a lot and give advice to others whenever we can.

Camp 2

It’s nuts. Eating is something that all animals do naturally, without event thinking about it. But my kid has real issues with food and the process of eating. So how the heck do you teach an activity that is instinctive? Yeah, that’s what we are trying to figure out.

We get advice all the time but rarely get listened too.

And ok, there is a third camp. A camp of people who feed their kids, their kids eat, mostly, and they don’t worry about it too much. But they also tend to just get on with it and don’t give meaningless advice to others.

I’ve been in Camp 2 for the last 8 years. It’s been a long road. It’s tested my patience. I’ve questioned my parenting hundreds of times. I’ve let the whole thing go (my daughter had a feeding tube so what the heck) and I’ve worked at it like a demon. I wrote my side of the story on how to actually help your kids to eat in this post 8 ways to get your kids to eat

And in 3 words? Give It Time.

But today’s post is a celebration. A milestone has been achieved in our household.

F, my daughter with the incurable kidney disorder, the one who drank Maggi flavour enhancer, neat(!), for about 4 years, the one who didn’t eat more than crumb size bites until she was 5, the one who projectile vomited at the touch of a banana, the one who had to learn how to move food to the back of her throat so she could swallow it, well she ate a baked potato. With tuna mayonnaise. And a little bit of salt and butter.

A complete meal.

Not bits and bobs. Not a collection of random food stuffs. Not just a single item like tuna or a plain tortilla wrap dipped in ketchup (yes, that really was an acceptable meal for her for a long time).

A complete meal.

AND

She took a complete, normal sized bite. You know, the amount of food you can get on a teaspoon and that any other kid of 8 would eat. You know, where the food actually fills your mouth completely.

AND

She didn’t vomit or gag.

She just ate it. Said it was delicious. Then took another bite. And another bite. And another. Until it was finished.

I cried. I held my tears inside because, well, she would just think her mum was a freak. Can you imagine taking a bite of a baked potato and seeing your mum cry because of it? She’d call a doctor.

But inside I cried with joy.

She ate! a complete! meal!

I want to add exclamation marks everywhere because all the words are so exciting and so important!!!!!!!!!!!!

And you know what else? She loves spicy tuna maki. And eats the whole thing. Not just picking a few grains of rice out and drowning them in soy sauce (because really, that’s how she used to eat them). SHE EATS THE WHOLE THING

I know there are so many other battles still to face. So many other things she needs to learn how to do to look after herself, and I’m not even talking about her medical routine. But she can eat. She can finally do that one thing that so many of us take for granted. She can eat.

Woohoo!

For all of you who are facing this challenge, a child with difficulty eating, I just want to say:

Hang in there. You’re patience is just perfect. You’re impatience is natural and sometimes will give you the push your child needs to be challenged. And take time to celebrate the milestones. Because there are many along the way. The first bite. The first time the food stayed in. The first time they say “can I try that?” Enjoy them all.

Who would have thought that baked potato with tuna mayonnaise would make me cry with joy?

tuna

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Gratitude: it always has a place in your life

Just when one doctor shakes your faith in the profession, another will remind you why you put your trust in doctors.

In the Great Mickey Change Challenge, we have had a lot of set backs, with each event adding to the trauma.

But on Friday, something different happened. Using a combination of a nose spray and laughing gas, we put F to sleep and the mickey got changed.

I could talk about how her blood pressure dropped so low that we couldn’t wake her for 2 hours.

I could talk about how her heart rate dropped to 50 bpm and we had to place an IV to get her salt up.

I could describe how exhausted and worn out she looked as she stepped into the car.

But today is not that day.

Today is a day of gratitude. I’m grateful that the mickey button finally got changed after 6 months, 4 months after it was due.

I’m grateful that the doctor was kind, thoughtful and treated her like a person.

I’m grateful that they saw her flip from sweet angel to angry terrified monster when she woke and saw the IV in her arm (so now they have seen for themselves why the gas is necessary).

I’m grateful that J took her to this appointment instead of me. After my appointment on Thursday with a really stupid doctor, I couldn’t face it.

But most of all, I am grateful that F has finally had a mickey change experience that was not traumatic, frightening or painful.

I’m not sure how long we will need to keep using the laughing gas and the spray, but knowing a timeline doesn’t actually help. What I do know is this: finally we have found a way to make a very necessary procedure easier for F. We are not adding to the trauma any more, we are gently and ever so slowly, showing her that it doesn’t need to hurt. She doesn’t need to be afraid. Not of this.

Gratitude always has a place in your life


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The little white lies

On Tuesday I was talking to someone and mentioned I was at the hospital. People always get alarmed so I usually say “it’s just routine stuff”.

Because it’s not an emergency. These are planned visits.

But this was my “routine stuff” visit yesterday:

after months of therapy and hypnosis, take my 8 year old to have a procedure that she is absolutely terrified of.

That’s my routine.

It was difficult a day and here’s what I wrote.

But, you just can’t dump that on people. It’s just not ok to bring them down into this. This is not their life. So I play it down. I tell a white lie.

So what happened at the appointment? We didn’t get the Mickey button changed. Despite all the therapy and preparation, F’s anxiety was just too high.

So we’re going to see if we can do this with laughing gas, to put her under.

The thought of it makes something inside me itch. I don’t want to do things to her when she is “asleep”. That’s also how she feels. She told me she would be cross if we secretly did it, while she was under.

Putting aside my feelings, I was really clear to hear:

it’s not going to be done secretly. We either change the mickey when you are awake or when you are asleep from the gas. If you don’t want to be asleep, then you need to let us do it when you are awake.

But I struggle. I have always wanted her to be able to choose; that her treatment should always be administered with her consent. And not just that she says yes, but I dream that she says yes happily. But she’s frightened out of her mind. She wants to travel forward in time so that she can avoid the procedure entirely. She’s thinking of time travel and this is what she wants to do with it.

So creative.

So scared.

And I need to accept that she isn’t always going to willingly agree. Sometimes, we’re just going to have to do it anyway. We have to make the best choice for her. And she might resent me for it.

Here’s another white lie I tell:

I’m just doing what any parent would do

I tell myself this often. And while this gives credit to all the wonderful parents out there, it’s actually a way for me to minimise what I am actually doing. Parenting a chronically sick child is hard. So hard. It’s not the same as parenting. The stakes are always high. Every day. So actually I’m not just doing what any parent would do. I’m doing what other parents with chronically sick kids do. Parents with chronically sick kids, be proud. You are amazing. And yes, I am including myself.

Here’s a final white lie

that unconditional love comes from our children

That’s what we say right? That our kids will love us unconditionally. But I think that the unconditional love needs to come from us, the parents. It is our job to love them no matter what.

We parents need to love our children enough to do the right things for them, no matter how hard, even if we risk losing them. And when they resent us, stop speaking to us, dislike us, we love them anyway.


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Why I hate Frozen

If you are a mum like me, you do this:

run and hide in the bathroom when the kids are driving you nuts.

Well, my sweet, smart and cheeky S just destroyed for me.

Today, while I was trying to find my sanity she came up to the bathroom door and sang “do you want to build a snowman?”

then she sang through the lock and then under the door.

how could I not open the door?

so thanks Frozen. I have lost my refuge.

It was incredibly cute though. I’m still smiling.


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Rock and a hard place: Back to a PEG?

for the last 3 and a half years we’ve been going to the hospital to get Fs Mickey button changed.

Now, technically, we can do it at home. Unfortunately the first time we tried it F had an infection in the wound and it really hurt. She freaked out and since then Nurse H does it. She’s the specialist stoma nurse and F has known her almost all her life.

it was going well until today. For various reasons nurse H isn’t allowed to do it anymore. Today I was getting trained and doing it with her and it all went tits up.

F has got really strong stomach muscles. (Although according to her she hasn’t because you can’t see the “stripes on her tummy”. What can I say? She obviously has a great role model in me, not).

She was tense. Tense muscles contract. I tried to pull it out and it got stuck. Nurse H took over and she had to practically yank it out and shove the new one in. That’s not how she did it, she’s a professional but it was almost impossible for her to do it.

So after 3.5 years building up to F allowing me to do it, we are back to square one.

Nurse H’s suggestions? Back to the child psychologist to help F get over this fear (of something that is actually uncomfortable and sometimes painful).

Or go back to a PEG. This can stay in for years (but you never know how long) but requires surgery to put in and change. And there will be a tube dangling from her body again.

Rock and a hard place.

(I was going to call it Hobsons Choice but I googled. What we have is a dilemma (2 unappealing choices). A Hobsons Choice (this or nothing) might be easier. Then I wouldn’t need to decide.

so, what to do?

Unpleasant experience every 2-3 months, potentially scarring her psychologically (some more).

Or surgery every 3years or so. And having to be careful every minute of the day so that the dangling tube doesn’t get caught on something.

Rock and a hard place.

The coach in me is saying “that’s not a helpful perspective” and she’s right. But I need to find some energy so that I can let go of this very stuck and comforting perspective (as long as it’s a rock and a hard place it’s really easy to put off making a choice).

I think it’s time for some Dr Seuss

WITH YOUR HEAD FULL OF BRAINS AND YOUR SHOES FULL OF FEET

YOU’RE TOO SMART TO GO DOWN ANY NOT SO GOOD STREET


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What’s different about chronic illness No.5: always sicker

Soemtimes it feels like the only reason we have school holidays is so that F can fit in her “get sick” time and not miss school.

Every holiday contains some days of sickness. Every one.

This December was no exception, except that it started with S. She got 5th disease, otherwise known as slapped cheek syndrome.

S was a bit itchy, achy, cried more easily but otherwise was actually kind of okay. I would describe her as being a bit off for a few days.

Then F got it. It just hid her harder. Because she is actually ill almost all the time, any other illness can really put her out of action.

She had to take to her bed, couldn’t keep on playing.

THEN she got impetigo on top. How cruddy is that? (pun intended).

My heart ached and I didn’t know what to say as she cried in bed, not understanding why S only got a bit of a rash but she, F, was sick in bed, with painful, itchy, sores all over her face.

You see, she knows. She sees the difference. She does always get sicker than her little sister. Than anyone else.

And she knows that it means that she has to miss out on fun, playing and parties. Not her brother, Not her sister. Only she misses out.

My heart still aches and I still don’t know what to say to that.

Do you?

holding-hands-mother-and-child2

p.s. she didn’t scratch her impetigo sores, not once. She had them all over her lip and chin, really like a beard. And she didn’t scratch them once. She is my hero.

 


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Come on in, my old friend Self Doubt. Come on in.

Inspired by a session with my coach on how we can shift out of (negative) emotional fields. We all have these thoughts of self doubt, that we are doing it wrong. But we don’t need to stay there. We can invite the feeling in, get to know it and then send it on its way.

Come on in, my old friend Self Doubt. Come on in.

You’ve been knocking on my door for so long. Whispering, and in turn shouting, through the letter box.

No matter how tightly I hold my hands against my ears or how loud I set the telly, I can still hear you.

So come on in. Have a seat. Get warm. Have some tea. Take two biscuits, not just one. Yes we are in the Netherlands but we are flouting the rules anyway by being together like this. Take the whole tin.

So what is that you want to tell me? What must I know?

Yes, I am a terrible mother.

Yes, I am emotionally scarring my children and they will never recover.

Yes, I am not doing all the things I set out to do.

Self Doubt, you keep telling me this as if I don’t know. What is your urgency? Are you trying to keep me away from joy? Are you trying to keep me small, afraid and guilt-ridden?

Well, it’s been working my friend.

But now that I have invited you in I can see you clearly.

You are small and frail. Brittle. Be careful with that tea, it may melt you, turn you into a puddle of ash.

Yes, now that I have invited you in I can see that you are small, not me. You are guilt-ridden, afraid, urgent. Not me.

You look tired. All this banging on doors and shouting through the letter box has tired you out. The anxiety is wasting you away. So let me send you to a wonderful place. A place in the sun, where you can relax. You do not need to speak for there is no one to hear you there.

Go. With my blessing and good wishes, go my old friend Self Doubt. It is time for us to part ways. We do not belong together.

I belong with Self Believe for I am interesting. I am quirky. I am dance.

I am a good mother.

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