Perspective

Yesterday felt like a tough day. At a moments’ notice, thanks to a last-minute cancellation, I had to rush into the city to take the baby to a dietician. That meant dragging a toilet-training toddler in a buggy and a baby in a sling down to the station, onto a train, walking a couple of miles across the city (which takes twice as long as usual because it’s festival time), trying to occupy the toddler during the wait and during the appointment, whilst at the same time taking in everything that was said, then doing the whole thing in reverse to get home in time for tea.

It’s over two months now since he has gained any weight, one month we’ve been waiting for the referral to dietetics but, thankfully, one month earlier than the appointment we’d originally been scheduled. The young dietician looked at his graphs, asked what he ate (and what I ate, which was embarrassing as we had a whole bag of reduced-for-quick-clearance doughnuts last night), and immediately prescribed a nightly bottle of fortified, high calorie formula. For the first time in weeks, he slept contentedly through the night.

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So how do I feel about this? Guilty, certainly, that my poor little boy has been going hungry. It’s easy to see with hindsight, but there’s a pretty good correlation between when his weight started to flatline and when he started feeding all day and waking up every two hours every night, which was also the age at which most capable children start guzzling solids six times a day. Ashamed, a little, that I can no longer provide for my baby without outside help. But proud, too, that I stuck to my guns and hassled the authorities weekly when all they would say was “don’t worry, just put double cream in his cereal. We don’t expect him to follow a normal growth curve.” (Curve, what curve? Extrapolating his graph would leave him still weighing six kilos in 20 years’ time!).

There’s a lot of relief. Relief that my little boy is finally getting the nutrition he needs, to keep him comfortable and to help him grow. Relief that my little girl can now get the attention she needs, rather than a one-handed game of snap in front of CBeebies while I try in vain to get enough breast milk into her little brother. Relief that we can all start to catch up on the lost sleep that has got us snapping at each other’s heels and walking like zombies into stupid arguments every night.

But mostly, gratitude. I thank God that we live in a country that has access to such things as high-calorie formula milk. That we don’t have to pay for it. That we don’t live in a war zone where supplies could be cut off any day. That we have a fridge, a sterilizer, and clean water. That we can be pretty sure there will always be someone who can provide our baby with what he needs to keep him healthy and comfortable as long as he lives. I think of my friends in the Middle East, running for the bomb-shelter every night. My friends in the States, taking out bank-breaking health insurance. My friends in China, who would never have had the chance to have a second child. Those who don’t have a hospital, let alone a dietician or fortified formula; who don’t have a train or a buggy or a sling or a potty. Yesterday was really not a tough day.

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