When Bay was just 10months old I fell pregnant again. My husband and I were delighted and we couldn’t wait for Bay to have a sibling so close in age to love and play with. I remember my husband and I discussing whether we thought this one would also have allergies and intolerances and what it would be like with the both of them needing specialised diets. We came to the conclusion that it would be OK if they did and we would cope, but ‘please, little one, if you are going to have food issues, please let them be just one or two or even the same as your brother to make life just a little easier for us’.
Kk was born on 20th May at 7.10pm. In those first moments he was so calm and contented being held in my arms and didn’t really cry at all, he looked so adorable and angelic and it felt truly magical. Very different to how Bay came out – screaming and squishy faced with hands the size of shovels! (Exactly what I had always envisioned!) I still daydream about that first moment with Kk, even now a year on. I think about what could have been; what kind of baby he would be had things been different; whether his big brother would have coped better with having a baby brother who continued to be as happy as he was in those few minutes.
Not long after, I breastfed my hungry little baby and watched with delight as he latched on so easily and took his first meal. Little did I know that everything would change from then on. Other than a short nap in his daddy’s arms around 10pm, Kk was awake pretty much the entire night. He just cried. The midwife said to keep breastfeeding him as he was a big baby (4.5kg) and probably just hungry, and I trusted her as I didn’t have any other options. During that night Kk was sick and did 5 consecutive poos! I couldn’t believe it! There I was, on my own in my private room (which I originally thought was bloody amazing!) struggling to breathe after having given birth to a MASSIVE baby and not slept for over 24hrs, changing my screaming baby’s nappy for over 45mins! Yes that’s how long it took….I was an absolute mess and I just wanted to lie down and close my eyes!
I thought he would sleep after that but he just continued to cry. In the following days Kk was a very unsettled baby. He didn’t want to be held, he hardly slept and, regardless what position we put him in, he just cried.
After spending virtually the entire first night of his life breastfeeding, my milk production had gone into serious hyperdrive and not only did I have an enormous amount of milk but I was also suffering from an over-active letdown. This meant that my poor baby was having to cope with milk spraying with such force that he was choking, pulling off and then copping an eye-full! As for me, I was in agony! The force by which the milk came in was such that I was crippled in pain and in tears! This continued several times a day for 12weeks. Yes, 12 weeks! Unreal! It was almost unbearable! Who am I kidding, it actually was unbearable!
I remember early on in the first few weeks feeling over the moon about leaving the house and going to see our good friends. The giddy school girl in me had taken over and I could feel my smile stretching uncontrollably across my face! It continued so long that my jaw was starting to hurt but I was just so god damn happy to see friendly and familiar faces. It took a minute or 2 before I realised exactly why my jaw was hurting so much as I snapped out of my trance and noticed that Toby was staring at me in a bizarre way. There I was, standing right in front of him, after just walking through the door and saying hello, squeezing both my boobs whilst grimacing with clenched teeth! What a weirdo I must have looked!
During the next few weeks, Kk was violently sick; suffered severe diarrhoea and spent most of his waking hours screaming (most of the night too). Hubby and I started by taking it in turns to settle him in the night but it didn’t take long before Bay started waking too as the screams were horrific at times. Before we knew it, we had Bay waking 5 times a night and Kk hardly sleeping at all. We were both utterly utterly exhausted! Yet life still went on: today’s disappeared; tomorrow’s came and we just plodded on!
After spending every spare minute I had researching, I came to the conclusions that he either had allergies; he wasn’t getting the right consistency of breast milk due to the above issues, or both. I followed all the breastfeeding advice online and I cut out dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts and soy. He was still screaming, being sick and the diarrhoea continued. It was a nightmare!
When Kk was 14weeks old we finally had his paediatric appointment. I was completely broken by this point and couldn’t handle hearing both of my kids screaming anymore; watching my baby be constantly sick and sleeping for just 10 mins here, 20mins there – averaging around 2-3hrs of broken sleep a night. The paediatrician was reassuring although thought he may have a dairy allergy due to the rash forming around his mouth and sent us home with a prescription for Neocate, a hypoallergenic formula. As much as I wished to continue to breastfeed my son, I felt utterly relieved that he was going on to formula for the sake of his health. It was like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I couldn’t wait to get him started on it.
For those of you who haven’t had experience with Neocate, it is absolutely and utterly vile! The smell alone is enough to make you heave and I knew, from already going through it with Bay, that it would be a long process. This time was different though – he screamed so hard, as if being tortured! We tried several more times over the next few weeks, but to no avail. By this point the rash had spread around his face and down his chin. Kk screamed hard throughout the nights and scratched his face, sometimes until it bled. We gave him numerous medicines and used creams to settle his angry skin.
The weaning process was just painful! We couldn’t tell which foods he was reacting to or not as he already had all the symptoms and so, after a few months of getting nowhere and feeling utter despair, we realised there was only really one option – I had to go through the weaning process too! I cut out nearly all foods and went right back to basics – carrot, sweet potato, pear, raisins, salmon and chicken. The result was incredible and for the first time in his life, at 10months old, he had beautiful soft cheeks, he smiled and laughed throughout the day and started sleeping for longer stretches at night. Bay started to calm down too and even started to play with Kk without trying to hurt him. I LOVED this time SO much!
As a family, we had seriously struggled to cope with the hand we had been dealt until then. My husband had changed jobs; we had moved country; we had hardly slept for 10months; we had 2kids who spent most of their days screaming (for different reasons); we were away from all family and friends and we had no support network. So this moment, when we had our happy and contented little boy back and our lives started to feel like ‘this is just what it should be like’, was a moment to cherish. It really was! Because, of course with all things baby related, it didn’t last long!
It turned out that Kk had allergies to all other foods! ALL OTHER FOODS! We tried giving him Neocate again but he had an allergic reaction to it. It was only then that we understood why it felt like we were torturing him when he was just a baby….because we were! We were all devastated and in shock!
After a couple of weeks living on just plain carrot, sweet potato, pear, raisins, salmon and chicken, I was finding it hard to care for myself let alone my kids too. It was around this time we decided we desperately needed some help and were lucky to find the most amazing au pair who not only helped look after the kids, but recognised that I was in need of help too! I lost so much weight and I couldn’t bare even looking at myself in the mirror, I was so gaunt and ill looking that, one day, my husband said to me, ‘you’re going to have to start eating the chicken fat and skin’. Just hearing this made me want to vomit, but I knew he was right.
Within a week I was dipping my carrot and sweet potato chips in the fat and drizzling it all over my meal as if it was a delicious sauce. It became second nature to eat the skin and, for the first time ever, I actually started to enjoy it. Both Kk and myself were so hungry though that for lunch alone we could polish off a whole roast chicken between us. Our food bill was astronomical and god knows how many chickens we got through a week – it’s not a thought I like to have.
It didn’t take long before I started to dread eating the same foods day in day out and sometimes I just sat staring at my plate of carrot and sweet potato, feeling slightly nauseated. Despite being absolutely ravenous, I just couldn’t bare the thought of eating one more shitty carrot! I wanted to throw the plate away as hard as I could in utter frustration. I didn’t blame Kk when he did throw his and I couldn’t ever get upset with him for having done it either.
The screaming started again. This time, Kk was crying because he had started to realise there were many more foods he could be eating that he was being denied of, especially when he saw his brother eating foods such as rice, pasta, bread and eggs. I know how much I craved these foods and no matter how much I ate, I was never fully satisfied. I felt so sorry for my poor little Kk but I had to stay strong and be a tough Mummy! ‘I’m sorry Kk, you can’t have it, it will make you ill’. These seriously crappy words have been on replay for months now and will unfortunately continue to play like a broken record for the foreseeable future.
I don’t know how I managed to do it, it was all a bit of a blur to be honest and at the end I was a complete nervous wreck, but I continued this diet for 3.5months. (However, the months prior to this I also had, what I thought to be at the time, a very restricted diet.) It was then that we had our next paediatric and dietitian appointment. I had been counting down the days to this appointment. Normally I go into meetings like these with low expectations as then there can be no disappointments and often I leave pleasantly surprised that I had learned something new. However, this one was different. I couldn’t have low expectations for this meeting. For me this appointment had to give me answers! I needed answers, I needed advice, I needed help! I had no room for disappointments and I wasn’t prepared to leave without ….something. Just something!
The advice that we were given was so unbelievably simple, yet was a whole game changer! I couldn’t believe it. Why hadn’t I even thought of it myself? (Probably because I didn’t have the energy to think at all, about anything!)
I got started the very next day and a month on – I am filled with hope!