Sunday, October 21

G-tube 6 weeks on

This *points up* makes me very happy.

Now, just ignore a) the mess b) the fact my child is only half dressed at gone noon and c) the fact she is covered in paint (one of those days when you have to pick your battles. The bath can wash it off later).

That is a child who has suffered terrible oral aversion for eighteen months and as a result is now tube fed. Now obviously, she did not eat the whole hunk of bread. In fact, I think the area consumed amounted to about the size of my little finger nail (and I have tiny hands) but the point is she is going for it.

We have had the g-tube for about six weeks now. I can't believe it is only that long; it feels as if we have had it far longer. I think by the time we had it, Wriggles so badly needed it, that it fitted in perfectly because there was no other option such was the struggle of feeding, gagging and vomiting. The first week was a shock to the system. I knew how much we needed it , knew how much better it would be than the NG we had been making for with for a few weeks, but I wasn't ready for how taken aback I was by the sight of it. Something artificial and permanent sticking out of your child's unblemished perfect skin is a shock. Even if you know how necessary it is, it still got me. Let alone her. I really struggled with how to communicate to a small child how she could be put to sleep, then back up in pain with a lump of plastic sticking out of her stomach and at that point, an ostomy bag. The bag went, feeds were cautiously resumed and we got back home. After a few days of feeling sorry for ourselves, we picked back up. That is to say, Wriggles picked up; she clearly couldn't care less and her attitude gave me a jolly good kicking. If a not-quite-two-year-old could cope with this, then her twenty-something mother was bloody well going to join in. Of course it isn't that simple-as a mother and an adult I am effectively "feeling for two" the emotions, the presumptions, the hopes and fears and everything that is attached to coming to terms with the fact that normality has flown out the window.

We have had some teething troubles with the tube; two infections needing antibiotics and dressings, and hypergranulation tissue making an unwanted appearance. Fingers crossed, it has now all settled down and things are pretty good. I have lost any notion of caring and have primed feeding sets, vented, flushed and hooked everything up on public transport, in lifts, in H&M, in the park, coffee shops, baby groups and in an art gallery. We have got some funny looks and stares out of curiousity but have not yet had to deal with any questions which is a relief.

When the tube was placed, we were still very much in a not-eating cycle. Wriggles is prone to being a little more receptive and trying some limited foods for a few weeks, then frequently going for months with complete refusal to take anything by mouth, touch food or acknowledge anyone eating. Even if she is not all-out refusing, she will take miniscule amounts of familiar food such as a handful of crisps a day. Hardly sustaining! Just over a week ago, we started a period of trying food again. I had forgotten how intense the heady bliss is when your non-eating child willingly takes something. When she reached out for something I nearly fell off my chair and had to hold back tears of relief. Since then, I have tried to capitalise on her curiosity especially in the finger food department and in the last week we had tried:
  • Mummy's chocolate brownie
  • cake crumbs
  • bread (including toast)
  • rice cakes, particularly bright yellow "cheese" flavoured ones and salt & vinegar
  • pizza
  • gingerbread
  • hand cooked crisps (not by me, by M&S). Worcester sauce got the thumbs up, parsnip did not
  • scones
In the last few days, she has also decided to let me spoon feed her limited things (yoghurt, mango, raspberry, banana or blueberry puree) too which is brilliant. Whilst I am over the moon about independant eating with finger foods and expanding that area, I don't want to take away from her ace progress but I will stress when I say "eat" it is far more from a sensory and curiosity point of view than a nutritional or otherwise perspective. The amounts that are chewed, and not always swallowed, are very small and are far more about practising her oral skills. Friends who have seen her put food to mouth simply do not understand the problem. The "problem" is that she might only put one thing to mouth per week if that, and there is no guarantee she will actually masticate, swallow and digest it. Even if she does, we are a long way from her actually eating orally any calories, as the time it takes normally expends more calories than it creates. So if I was to be super-keen on emphasising the calorie side of things (which for the record, I am not. It is very early days, and thanks to the tube we have a nutritionally complete formula which provides all her calorific needs to maintain and increase weight to be able to facilitate hopefully increasing food intake eventually) then the only way to do so would be spoon-feeding purees which she can take a reasonable volume of, for someone not used to eating. On a good day, she can take about 60g (half a baby pouch or jar or a small fromage frais pot) comfortably before she looses interest or gets upset. On a mind-blowingly good day, she can take just under 100g but these are rare and to be celebrated in the extreme! Those sort of amounts and the likelihood of matching those calories are at this point only the stuff of dreams when it comes to finger food or self feeding. But this is why I now love the tube: the pressure is off and it doesn't matter. We have time. We can do it at her pace, and if that takes an age it is ok.

For the time being, we also seem to have her reflux under control which presumably will only help her willingness to try food. She also seems more comfortable in herself and my washing machine is enjoying a longed for break from twice-daily service. I have now been doing this long enough to realise that this isn't a "fix". Refusal and the return of more aggressive reflux may be around the corner. It's sad but true, and I have to acknowledge this. This isn't a defeatist or pessimistic viewpoint although it might seem this way. After the road we have been on with feeding, reflux and tubes to date, I know we are far from the end or even the middle. And it pays to be realistic. It pays to set new goals or everyone becomes upset and frustrated. So if we get through more than one fromage frais in a week and I get my dinner played about with by someone that isn't me, then we're winning. It may not seem much, but to us it's huge. It has taken me a long time to accept this and adapt to realising my baby girl is not as straightforward as I might like but not any the worse for it!


  1. Didn't realise their were such similarities between our 2. Tiddler has had a food aversion and reflux, when i get 2 mins i will read more! *hugs*

  2. I love you take photos of her eating. Looking through my phone the majority of my pics are gemma eating that I send to her dad. Still do it now even though eating well.

    Pleased you are getting on well with it and thst the pressure is off with eating.make for happier girls!

  3. Wonderful news Amy. I'm dead pleased that thanks to the g tube you feel you have that one less pressure and can enjoy the ace progress she is making. Sometimes it isn't until the pressure is gone that we can fully appreciate how good it is to be without the worry. I love the way you always make an effort to enjoy the good days!!

    1. Thank you. And we make an effort to enjoy good days because I know through experience if we don't then things sour very quickly :) x

  4. YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!! And that's all I have to say about that. :-)