I’ve always considered myself a very fortunate person – the path I’ve taken for most of my life has been smooth and relatively easy. My parents are immigrants and I’m sure their whole lives have been against the odds, but for me they provided a solidly middle-class upbringing. We had a TV, plenty of books to read, a decent sedan, and a sturdy house for my brothers and I. Education-wise my parents ensured that we would attend good schools (by having us take preparatory classes so we could test into these schools!) and therefore I was able to graduate from high school, attend a good college, even attend a post-graduate program, and snag a well-paying job with little impediment.
So this all sounds like some kind of humblebrag, but I just wanted to lay out that I haven’t had many obstacles in my life. Things usually worked out the way I wanted or turned out decently enough and I’ve pretty much coasted. That all changed, however, as soon as I became a mother. HA!
Since I was used to things going smoothly, it took us totally by surprise when this babe decided to show up 6 weeks early! It can’t be, I remember thinking when my water broke at work. It’s way too early and I have my maternity leave planned out, damn it! But there it was and 12 hours later baby Melanie was born, my precious preemie daughter. After a little skin-to-skin she was carted off to the NICU, where they would monitor her vital signs, but initially all seemed pretty good. Sure, she had a touch of jaundice but that was pretty common. Her feeding wasn’t awesome yet but she was a preemie and didn’t have the strong instinct or jaw muscles for great breastfeeding, so she had a feeding tube put in. Her lungs seemed fine and her vitals were always good, so those were positives.
But as the days went on, it seemed that there was something wrong with her digestive system. She wasn’t pooping as she should (new parents know that pooping and peeing takes over your life with babies!) and they couldn’t figure out why, despite multiple x-rays, scans, consultations. They finally decided that maybe surgery would be the best course, and because her current hospital wasn’t equipped for neonatal surgery she would have to be transferred to another hospital.
At this point she had already been in the NICU for 4 weeks – 4 weeks where every day I would wake up in the morning, drive over to the hospital and stay by her bedside for the day to be with her before driving back at night to sleep and do it all over again. I had hoped that they would find out something easily fixed and then we would be able to go home as a family. To hear that she might need surgery and would have to be transferred was very saddening and upsetting to me.
But she was transferred, this time to a much larger and busier NICU which lacked the privacy and personal service of the previous one. But if this was what it took to get her better, I was all for it. It was frustrating because in all other aspects she seemed perfectly fine – her breathing was good, her temperature regulation okay, etc. She was one of the few in her NICU nursery that could be in an open crib vs an enclosed incubator. But they still couldn’t figure out what was going on, and ended up running many of the same tests and scans that had already been done in the previous hospital. It was so frustrating! And at this point they decided NPO (nothing by mouth) which meant no breastfeeding, which meant only pumping and my supply plummeted. But that’s another story…
After 3 more weeks in the hospital, they finally figured out what was wrong… it was a DAIRY PROTEIN allergy! Of all the stupid things… I mean, obviously I was relieved that it wasn’t something more serious. But after a total of 7 weeks in the NICU I was mildly upset it took that long to figure out something that seemed so basic. I had actually suggested it earlier but they said that dairy protein allergy is so rare that it wasn’t even worth considering. HA!
So that was a very very long post to say… against all odds… Melanie had a dairy protein allergy! And against all odds… she came back home with us on Christmas Eve. And against all odds… she came out wonderfully healthy and perfect! She outgrew her allergy by 1 year and she loves to drink cow milk, eat yogurt, cheese and all! Strong baby overcomes all!