It has been over a month since I returned to work four days a week, and the same period since I recorded any adventures. Milo has changed a lot in that month and much to our bafflement turns one next week. I think the best way to describe these changes is to compile a new list of the ways in which Milo is like our cats:
- Both Milo and the cats love eating Hills Prescription Diet Dental Care t/d cat biscuits;
- Both Milo and the cats enjoy the sensation of licking the short spiky hairs on top of my head;
- If allowed to roam freely on the balcony both Milo and the cats will instinctively chew on fibrous plants, to help with their digestion;
- Both Milo and the cats are able to balance unaided on two feet for up to fifteen seconds, if the correct stimulus is supplied; and,
- Neither Milo nor the cats have any interest in bathing, ever.
Last week almost every baby we know had gastro. The phone would ring, Kuepps would talk in a hushed consoling tone, hang up then look at me with a wordless nod of her head, as if our co-workers were being laid off one by one from the coal mine. Another baby down. Unfortunately Milo was no exception.
It started Wednesday night. On Thursday morning Kuepps and I sprang awake at around 0630hrs, discombobulated and confused. Our bedroom was filled with light, streaking in through the gaps in our shutters. We looked at each other with small raisin eyes, the overnight bottle sat motionless and unused on the bedside table. “Did you….?” we both started, then realised what had happened. Milo had slept through the night. We leapt out of bed and met in the middle of our room to perform an impromptu jig, rather uncoordinated as our legs were still recalibrating from our long sleep.
We pranced upstairs feeling like super-humans. The coffee was the richest, earthiest, most free-traded we had ever tasted, the weet-bix crunchy, flaky, malty, as if the fibres had been knitted by the weathered hands of artisan wheat farmers, the blueberries juicy, tart, firm and plump as if you could lay them out in a single layer on the floor and sleep comfortably upon them for days. We felt incredible. Of course being parents to an infant our joy quickly turned to guilt so we snuck into his room to check. There he was, rousing himself, grinning in his toothy gremlin whole-faced way. All was right with the world.
I rode to work with ‘Accidentally Kelly Street’ by Frente playing on loop in my head, waving this way and that; to the milk-man, post-man, police officer on the beat, the ruffians spray-painting graffiti on the railway underpass.
Milo was in the care of his grandma (Lali) on the Thursday. We returned home to reports of a happy, energetic boy who ate well and even completed some light Gymbaroo drills in the afternoon.
Thursday night he slept through again. Once more we woke with the sunrise and a smile, overnight bottle still untouched. We were feeling smug by now, as if our careful sleeping regime was starting to pay dividends. We deserved some credit for this key moment in Milo’s development and we were going to enjoy it. The future was starting to unfurl before us; lazy Sunday mornings, toast and paper in bed (not that we have ever done this once). “We might have to start setting an alarm again” I joked in a hilarious fashion as Milo vomited his weet-bix all over Kuepps.
We had never seen that volume or vigour from Milo before but we put it down to breakfast quantity and the fact we had also given him a morning bottle, to make up for the lack of milk overnight. Friday is my day with Milo so we largely stayed home, Milo sleeping another four hours during the day.
Friday night Milo slept through again but by Saturday he couldn’t keep anything down. Our night-time dream was crumbling. Milo wasn’t sleeping because our relaxed sleep-training methods were finally yielding fruit; he was exhausted because his little body was fighting an unpleasant virus. And he wasn’t winning.
By Monday morning after one more night sleeping through, a visit from the after-hours doctor and a horrible night for the poor Milo man on Sunday we found ourselves in the Children’s Emergency Ward at the hospital, along with all those other poor babies who had been laid off from the coal-mine.
With a gastro-ridden baby it is all about fluids. Milo had lost almost 2kg, roughly 20% of his body weight in a week, which for me would be the equivalent of losing 17kg! The doctors were not concerned about this but were very keen to ensure Milo was getting enough fluids, to replace what he was losing and to start recharging his reservoir. What we had been doing wrong was giving him large volumes at irregular intervals. We were sent to the waiting room with a chart, a pen and an instruction to get 15mL of hydralyte, dilute apple juice or at least water into him every 15 minutes. This is the kind of structured challenge that we enjoy so we set about earning a gold star for our piece of paper, later to be stuck on the fridge.
Hours slip by quickly when you are so focused upon a task every fifteen minutes and soon it was lunchtime. We were called back in to see the doctor, who was not as pleased with our collective performance as we were. No gold star, nothing for the fridge.
The doctor expressed her opinion that Milo was still sluggish, not vibrant and that she would like to insert a tube down his nose to regulate the process of re-hydration. We asked how Milo would feel about that; “he won’t enjoy it” was her quite reasonable reply.
While Kuepps was pregnant we attended a course which we found quite useful called Calm Birth. One of the many nuggets of wisdom imparted during the course was to ask some key questions whenever faced with a decision regarding medical procedures. Essentially, ensure you have all the information on the procedure being suggested, seek clarification on what alternatives might be available and if you are not comfortable making a decision at that moment, see if it’s okay to buy some time.
Milo already looked so limp and traumatised that the idea of force-feeding him through a tube was a little bit heart-breaking. So we ran through our Calm Birth questions; the tube would deliver 80mL an hour, there were no other benefits beyond the reliable supply of liquid and yes we could have another hour to prove ourselves.
We were already running a pretty tight, successful regime at 60mL per hour so we huddled and agreed upon a plan to reach our new benchmark of 80mL or above. We needed to push Milo to 20mL or more every 15 minutes, knowing that any vomit failures would almost certainly result in ‘the tube’. Success would require diligence, attention to detail and teamwork. Milo gave his tacit endorsement for the plan by drinking 20mL of apple juice and not vomiting, we were away.
In the first hour we put up a non-flashy result of 80mL whilst simultaneously building rapport with the triage nurses, offering to buy them lunch. When the results were tallied after the second hour we were all delighted to see a new record, 90mL.
It was now after two in the afternoon and we were summoned again by the doctor. Kuepps strutted into the examination room, proudly flitting our results back and forth in front of her. Milo chose the exact right moment to burst out of my arms and goanna crawl across the room toward a magazine stand, flashing his first toothy grin of the day at the doctor, and engaging in a little light destruction of the reading material.
We received our gold star and were released back into the world with strict instructions to keep the liquids up, and some reasonably hazy instructions as to when solids should be re-introduced.
Milo had one more relapse on Tuesday night, probably because of an error in calibrating the timing and volume of the reintroduction of peas and ham, but when I returned home from work on Wednesday afternoon he was back; smiling at everything and anyone that glanced in his direction, bobbing up and down and babbling nonsensically at his Elefun. Only his greatly reduced little belly gave any hint of the week he had just had, but that too would return quickly.
I’m back, and I’m a Knicks fan
So we’ve learned a couple of things this week.
Firstly, it is highly risky to celebrate ‘developmental milestones’ too vigorously, and particularly fraught to take any credit for them. Almost certainly great successes will be swiftly reversed, or they may not even be what they seemed in the first place.
And secondly, it is equally nonsensical to engage in introspection on your parenting decisions, or to carry guilt for mistakes. Almost certainly our high volume, low frequency liquid delivery was exacerbating Milo’s condition days before we ended up in hospital. And even as late as Tuesday evening, after the hospital saga, we were still unsure when and how to reintroduce solids (the literature is far from consistent on this issue), and perhaps we were still getting it wrong. But they were our mistakes, made with the best intentions and with the best information we had at the time.
I can only imagine this is a recurring theme in parenting, and one that only gets more challenging: Dad why did you cultivate a rat’s tail on the back of my head for the first five years of my life? Mum why didn’t you make me go to ski camp even though I didn’t want to when I was six, now I will never be a Winter Olympian? Dad why didn’t you force me to learn Latin? Mum why didn’t you send me to the private school across town? Dad why did you buy me that ugly beige Volvo? Mum why did you have to come to every dance recital? It was embarrassing.
And, dad why did you let my big brother Milo decide my middle name even though at the time of my birth he only knew 7 words and they were all related to Pokemon?
But that’s another topic, for another time.