It’s been ten days since I started reducing food via my daughter’s feeding gastrostomy tube (g-tube) in our third weaning attempt. Under the watchful eyes of the Seattle Children’s Hospital medical team, we have been monitoring hydration and slowly reducing Gia’s g-tube meals by about 10% a day. We are currently at a 70% reduction of calories, and Gia is still not very interested in eating.
We’ve had a long and exhausting week of daily hospital appointments. Gia is battling a cold and is congested. She is miserable, but thankfully seems to be more comfortable with our new surroundings. Our lives revolve around food now: touching, smelling, playing, and yes, even tasting all kinds of food.
Although much of Gia’s time is spent in a highchair at the hospital, she has the most fun at the baby picnics. The purpose of a baby picnic is actually not to eat. Well, kids CAN eat. The kids can do what they want with the food. But the main purpose of a baby picnic is to allow the kids to be comfortable with food; to handle and explore different tastes, textures, colors, smells in an un-controlling, no-pressure environment. Easy to say, a bit harder for a mom to do, especially when your child doesn’t eat orally.
She’s played with purees, smashed bananas and avocados, crumbled scones, thrown chips, painted with pudding, kneaded dough, rolled in pasta, poured juice all over herself, smeared peanut butter on me, and even took a small bite of a cracker. She is extremely focused on feeding us, not so much herself.
However something is changing.
There is a stirring deep inside, an internal revolution of sorts. She wants me to feed her using the g-tube, but then fusses during the feeding. Watching this struggle has been agonizing. There are times I just want to take a graham cracker and force it in her mouth, so she eats SOMETHING. But I refrain and hope she will follow my lead as I constantly shove food in my mouth instead. I am so tired of thinking about and eating food, yet I cannot escape it.
While Gia battles food demons in her head, her conflict is a reminder for me that the decision to eat is something she alone can make. I can only lead her to food; I cannot make her eat.