We take Eli to the pediatrician for his nine month weight check. I am nervous. The weight checks always make me nervous. Mr. E tells me it will be fine, it’s always fine.
This time it is not fine. Eli’s weight has fallen in the percentiles, from 25% to 5%. This freaks them out. It freaks me out.
I try to be honest with Eli’s doctor but her questions about breastfeeding sound suspicious. I feel defensive. I don’t say that the internet tells me that pumping output isn’t a good indicator of supply. I don’t say what sounds funny on my blog: “Eli doesn’t sit and he doesn’t breastfeed because he thinks sitting and eating are for boring losers and he has better things to do.” I don’t have the balls to bring up the WHO weight charts. I don’t argue. I am sheepish. I feel like a bad advocate for my son.
Our doctor frowns and hems. She isn’t happy. She gives us two cans of formula and a photocopied sheet on foods for weight gain. She tells us to butter everything.
Eli gets a flu shot – he can’t get sick and lose any more weight, they say.
Mr. E and I stop at the store on the way home and overdraft our bank account buying raisin bread and Guinness and 4% yogurt and fish sticks and anything fattening we think Eli might eat or that might increase my milk supply.
I come home and eat two chocolate chip cookies, a package of chocolate covered donuts, and a slice of chocolate cake. I make peanut butter cookies and eat the dough, raw.
I call Mr. E’s mom and tell her I am starving her grandchild. She tells me that Mr. E looked just like Eli when he was little. I don’t tell her how scary it was in the doctor’s office, how serious they seemed.
I feed Eli his oatmeal mixed with formula and I feel commonplace and small – for nine months I’ve said I just didn’t want to feed him formula – I’d breastfeed him as long as I had to, I just didn’t want to give him formula.
I wonder when I first failed – when I took a stand that made no sense, rooted in stubborness I should learn to live without, or when I took the can of formula and didn’t argue, or that morning when I fed it to my son for the first time?
I slather raisin bread with butter and feed it to Eli, bits at a time. I mash up half an avocado and cut up fish sticks and wave them in the air to cool them. I can’t help but notice that thickly buttered raisin bread is delicious. Fish sticks are delicious. I love avocado, even just plain, in fat chunks, scooped from a half.
I can see Eli growing fatter before my eyes. Maybe I am not a total failure of a mother, after all. I wonder if I’ve doomed him to a life of morbid obesity.
Eli starts to feel warm. Then warmer. I feed him his favorite food, infant Tylenol. He is hot to the touch, and then hotter.
He nurses nurses nurses (maybe I am not a failure! All this Guiness is working!), then sleeps. I try to relax in front of Project Runway and a slab of cake.
Screaming. Eli is hotter. More Tylenol.
Hotter still. More screaming. He is growing hoarse. He screams so intensely his arms shake. He throws up. I cannot put him down.
My arms are giving out from the holding. I start to panic.
Mr. E calls the emergency room. His voice shakes. They tell us to give Eli Motrin. We wonder why no one ever mentioned this before – we don’t have any Motrin. Mr. E drives to Walmart and further overdrafts our account buying children’s motrin. We don’t have a dosage spoon. We have nothing we should have. We feed him motrin from the infant tylenol dropper.
His fever breaks. He still doesn’t sleep. We are up all night.
We drag ourselves out of bed at 9 am.
I mix more oatmeal and formula. Butter more raisin bread.
I microwave my every morning breakfast of instant oatmeal and craisins. It sits and congeals while I try to cajole my son into eating something, anything, buttered whatever. He isn’t interested.
I return to my cold emulsified oatmeal, and I can’t do it this morning.
Instead I eat two slices of buttered raisin bread, in two bites.
Later, I step on the scale. I have gained five pounds.
(At least one of us is gaining weight.)