You all know that I had a very traumatic birth with the twins, and developed HELLP Syndrome which caused my organs to start failing and my needing to be in hospital for ten days after the birth.
I told Bunny on that morning, before I went in to be induced, that I’d try my best to have her sisters that day and bring them home to her the following day. But it wasn’t to be that way. Instead the first time she saw her baby sisters, they were much tinier than we had all expected and I was seriously ill in HDU. I had tubes coming out of both hands and from a central line stitched into my neck. I had wires connected to bleeping machines, coming out of my chest. I had a catheter veering out the side of the bed attached to a bag of my own piss. I was drugged up to the max, with no memory of the birth, bed-bound, anaemic from haemorrhaging, weak from vomiting and being nil by my mouth. I was an emotional wreck who couldn’t do anything for herself and not at all the mummy she knows.
She saw me a few times like that and then was taken away to stay with Granny for a few days. That is what she knows and understands of hospitals. That mummy went in to have a baby, and ended up like that. She had to be without Mummy for ten miserable days.
Now I have Cancer.
Hospital trips are back on the agenda. The last of which, went wrong and I had two general anaesthetics instead of one. Cue longer recovery time and an extra day in hospital. Having had my Cancer diagnoses confirmed, I am awaiting my next date for surgery.
Me and Bunny have this ritual now. When I got into hospital, I take her cuddly baby-rhino (daughter of Rhino – her attachment toy) to protect me; and she keeps my “Get-Well” Tatty Teddy to cuddle when she misses me. Tatty Teddy was given to me by my brother when I was ill a long time ago – I think when I had Septicaemia. He has a beautiful poem on his chest, which I will share with you on Wednesday Words.
So why I am I upset now? Well Bunny has lost her appetite. She has stopped eating. She comes home from school with a full lunchbox. Dinner (even when her favourite meal) is a 3 hour fight, in which all manner of bribery, threats, arguing, pleading and tears ensues. She will do ANYTHING to avoid eating, including locking herself in the toilet or going to bed and pretending to be asleep.
I am taking her to the doctors now, because she was already underweight and she is now looking gaunt. We are both worried about her, and the lunch and dinner debacle is tearing at me and Jonny every evening. Our beautiful little girl won’t eat. Not even chocolate cake. Not even things she makes herself.
The lack of eating is causing late nights, the late nights are causing bad behaviour and we don’t want to get stuck in a vicious circle. We’ve explained to her the importance of eating, but she doesn’t care.
We took her to the doctors a while back because she was always complaining of tummy pains and we are wondering if it is connected.
There are two possible outcomes…
1) Our precious daughter has something physically wrong with her – which is why we are taking her to a doctor.
2) It is my fault. My Cancer is upsetting her. My HELLP Syndrome traumatised her and my Cancer is bringing it all back.
I know I didn’t choose to have Cancer and it is not something I can help. I want to be fighting it, not fighting with my daughters refusal for food. I feel emotionally drained right now. If the doctor tells me it is psychological… what next? What can I do to not crush her soul further when I go back in for the next surgery? If it’s not psychological and she’s ill – what next? I can’t delay my treatment, but will need to find a way to be there for her too.
My daughter is either traumatised or she’s ill. Either way, I feel that I am to blame and that I am powerless to make it better. Mum’s are supposed to make everything better.
The doctor could feel a blockage in Bunny’s tummy. She thinks a couple of weeks on laxatives may help. She said that Bunny may be struggling a little emotionally too, but that I’m doing everything right by talking to her honestly, but not sharing too much fear and censoring what we tell her. She suggested perhaps just sharing our story with the school nurse might give her an extra person to go to if she feels upset while at school. Hopefully the combination of someone to talk to (other than her teacher) when she’s not with me and the laxatives, should hopefully get her eating again.
Thankyou all for your kind words, advice and support. I think I will definitely also talk to the MacMillan Nurse about it. She might be able to recommend a book or something to help Bunny. xx
Corrine Shimmon says
Either way, it’s most definitely NOT your fault
The Brick Castle says
Totally. Well said.
I second this, not for one minute should you believe that this is something you have caused! x
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Helen Braid says
Oh Emma, so sorry to read all of this – what a helllish time. Not knowing your daughter in the slightest but reading your post it sounds to me like she is worrying about you and hospital and is using food as something which she can control. The opposite of Mummy being ill – over which she has no control. But it is certainly not your fault!! You are clearly doing all you can to help her – whilst you are ill and worrying for yourself – and that speaks volumes. I’d say she has been frightened by your previous hospital visits and is feeling frightened now. Food is the one of the few things children can control – so when anxious or afraid that’s exactly what they do. I really hope things improve for you all and you get her eating again. Its the most stressful problem for a parent. xx
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I’m really hoping that it’s not all psychological. I think now we’ve been to the doctors, and once she’s started on some laxatives, hopefully the food issues will resolve. xx
Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. It is not your fault and you are doing everything you can under incredibly difficult circumstances, you are also taking her to the doctor and getting help which is the right thing to do.
Sending you so much love x
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Thankyou. Yes we have tried everything and are doing our best. xx
Michelle Willis says
It’s not your fault at all! She’s probably really worried and needs to talk to someone. Why don’t you talk to your McMillan nurse and ask if there’s anything in the area for her to help her. Something like play therapy. *hugs*
Michelle Willis recently posted..Random Meditations – How The Holocaust Became Real To Me.
That’s a really good idea, thankyou. And the Maggies centre has toys too so I could take her there for a break. Thankyou xx
The Loving Parent says
I am so very, very sorry to hear this. You poor, poor mummy. 🙁 Your girl is so incredibly beautiful and despite the tubes and hospital paraphernalia, the photo of your feeding your twins is stunning. You’re doing the right thing. You are seeking help and trying to get to the bottom of the problem. My only advice would be to stay calm. It is no more her fault that she has no appetite than it is your fault that you are poorly. (i.e. NOT AT ALL!!) She needs love, cuddles, attention, reassurance and the confidence that – somehow – all will be well. She is on shaky foundations (understandably) and probably needs an injection of love and attention. It must be so hard to find the time / energy / resources to give that, but just by being aware, you’ll be half way to delivering it. Thinking of you. ((HUGS)) x
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She gets love and attention in abundance, although I do want to more creative things with her and do more crafts other than baking. Things she can make and feel proud of. Thankyou for your kind words. xx
Karen Hannah says
Oh Emma. I feel for you. Louis is 5 and he’s super deep. About 18 months ago he stopped eating and we were at a total loss as to why. In the end, after a lot of heartache and worry, it transpired that he had learnt some sketchy details about death after my husband’s nan died and he figured that not eating would mean not growing up and therefore not dying. It’s amazing how much children think about things. This went on for some time until we explained properly to him and then he started, gradually, to eat more. It took a while though. I suppose what I’m saying is that maybe she’s worked up over something – and maybe it is the cancer – but it might be sorted by talking it through with her. The only trouble is whether or not she will easily open up about what’s troubling her.
I wish you all te best with this Emma it’s a tricky one and heartbreaking too.
Huge hugs xxx
Thankyou for sharing your story. xx
Chelsea Williams says
Not your fault, I am right there with you on the mummy guilt, I know what your thinking and you need to stop! You are doing your best and that is all you can do. Try and stay calm and let the doctors help.
Stop blaming yourself, it will make this stress worse xxxxxx
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Thankyou hun xx
Sarah MumofThree World says
It seems highly likely it’s because you’re ill, but that’s not the same as saying it’s your fault. She remembers you being ill and she is understandably worried about you going to hospital again. I hope the doctor can help her. Thinking of you all and sending you hugs. X
Thankyou. Doc has prescribed her laxatives and another appointment in two weeks to see if that makes a difference. xx
this is so very hard on you all and it probably is having a consequence on her, I work with children using play therapy to counsel them and what I would say is remove the fight element of it, dont try and encourage/try/force her to eat or make it into a battle, its the old mule thing the harder you drag a mule the more likely to dig their heels in they are and stand stock still, I would put out the food and invite her to sit with you but make no reference to the fact she isnt eating, this attention is still attention, so I wouldnt make any reference to it at all, so very hard I know but get in contact if I can help anymore xx
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But she has lost so much weight already, we can’t risk her losing anymore. And the stupid excuses she comes out with for not eating – if we let her get away with it – she will use them repeatedly and never eat! It’s not a matter of “she’ll eat when she’s hungry” – she doesnt get hungry anymore. The doctor thinks some laxatives will help, as she could feel something there. So hopefully that will sort the problem. xx
Katy Hill says
I don’t know what made me read your post and I may not know you but I’m sending an emotional HUG. You sound like a totally amazing and inspirational woman x
The Brick Castle says
Just reading this, the first thing that comes into my mind is that she’s scared you’re going to die. She’s worried and, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to eat when I’m scared and I get a tummy ache. I imagine you’re having a very hard time eating right now, but you’re doing it for your children and because you know you have to.
I think you need to sit with her and be brutally honest. Tell her you are scared too and that eating is hard work for you, but you know you have to be strong for everyone else, and you have to carry on. She’s the next lady of the house, she’ll appreciate she has a job to do to ensure everything goes okay when you are visiting hospital. It takes a woman to make sure everyone eats regular meals and all the socks get washed. Tell her you need her to be strong for you.
We had a problem several years ago when one of my step-daughters behaviour became suddenly and massively erratic, violent and nonsensical. It turned out that she thought her Mother might be going to die, but she didn’t tell anyone for 3 months until her Mother’s situation and health improved. It was not the best of times, and we couldn’t figure out why at all.
Of course I could be completely wrong and you might have a diagnosis of appendicitis by now….
The Brick Castle says
Replying to myself, sorry. I know I’ve gone on already, but my Step-Daughters Mother also had suspected Thyroid Cancer and radioactive therapy which included her not being able to see her children for several weeks.
It shouldn’t be weeks? I’ve been told only 3 days? Mine has been confirmed as Cancerous now. x
I don’t think she knows enough about Cancer to put it with thoughts of dying. She is only 5. We have talked in great depth about why she needs to eat. The doctor thinks there is a blockage in her tummy, so hopefully some medicine might help. xx
The Brick Castle says
Aw, I really hope so. It’s positive that the Doctor has taken you seriously and looked into it. I shall be thinking of your daughter each time I feed my children and hoping she eats well.
I wondered if maybe she’s seen adverts on TV for Cancer, they’re commonplace and really harsh. As a test I just asked my 4 year old what Cancer is, and he said he had no idea, so maybe not…
Sorry if I come across as cold. I was sobbing when I typed that response yesterday and I think I over-compensated! I really hope that you speak to someone who can get your appointment organised really quickly, if nothing else but to take away the stress you must be under, I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must be for you right now. I also hope that your actual appointment is really quick, and you can put all of this behind you and get on with the rest of your life xxx
All of the above is wonderful advice. Certainly lots of hugs and loving needed. Try not to make it a battle ground if u can help it, does she drink? Can you give her full fat milkshakes and let her not eat if she chooses to for a few days to break the fighting cycle. Will she eat if she goes to tea with a friend etc ? Also the other thing worth trying is being open, honest and grown up with her, tell her how important it is for you to eat well and healthily so that you get better as quicky as possible from your illness, and the same applies to her body, she needs to fill it with healthy food so she can be strong to help you as she is your right hand ‘man’. Just keep talking and listening to her and loving her and try not to fight, in 15yrs of paediatric nursing I dont think ive seen one young child admitted to hospital through not eating. Hope it resolves soon and use macmillan who will have experience in helping with this type of thing xx
No we made milkshakes and she refused to drink that either. She is already underweight and lost a fair bit of weight this last week so it’s gotten to the point where we cannot let her lose anymore. We’ve already talked to her openly and honestly, numerous times. It doesn’t make a difference. She always gets lots of love and hugs and affection. At weekends she has “sleepovers” in our room! xx
Sounds like you are doing everything already then. You maybe crazy with twins but from your blog you sound like a damn fine mum. Xx
Elaine Livingstone says
you seem to be bending over backwards to make sure she is ok, getting the problem seen to and doing all you can for her. I hope the laxatives help, if not then I am sure you will take her back.
You are a great mum going through a very hard time, dont waste energy beating yourself up when you are doing everything right.
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Thankyou Elaine, that really means a lot. xx
Dear, sweet, precious Mamma,
I truly do understand your heartache, worry, anxiety, and feelings of guilt. I had breast cancer at the age of 35…my sons were 10, 8, 6, and 4 at the time. In the two-and-a-half years that I battled my disease, there were times that were drenched in hilarity and times that were drenched in sorrow and tears. Twice during that time I nearly lost my battle.
Here are the things we did to help minimize the trauma of my diagnosis and treatment:
1) Minimize disruptions in her daily routine. As best as possible, we stuck to the parenting boundaries and daily routine we had established prior to my illness. Sports, band lessons, piano lessons, homework routines, etc, were adhered to so as to “normalize” their days as much as possible. Now that the boys are grown (30, 28, 26, 24), they’ve all commented one time or another how, even though I was sick, their lives weren’t interrupted. Family members, friends, my students, church family…all just stepped in and helped.
My problem? I HAD TO RELINQUISH AND LET GO….I had to let others serve me. A friend of mine said to me, “Your job is to rest so you can fight this. Let others take care of you for a change.”
2) Move daily activities to the bedroom. I had no choice–I was bed-found for awhile because I was just too weak to be elsewhere. So, after school each day homework was done in bed with me instead of at the kitchen table. Dinner time was in bed with me, instead of at the dining table. Band instruments were brought into my bedroom, and music was practiced there instead of in the living room. In other words, all activities were moved to one room in the house, my bedroom! Heck, we even whipped up salads and pudding and jello in my bedroom!
3) Give her something to care for. My oldest son got a gerbil, my second son got a hamster, but third son got a kitten….they had something to cuddle and tell their worries to, something to care for, something to focus their care and attention on.
My husband also brought home a puppy…who only lasted for about 2 days because the $#@! thing ran off with my IV bag–and it was still attached to my pic line!! Oh well, that provided a LOT of laughs as Mom was chasing a dog while still tethered to her IV line!
4) Be honest…but keep in mind that developmentally she can’t think much beyond the here and now. Her constipation may be the result of anxiety and stress.
We often refer to children as the “forgotten mourners”—because of your daughter’s age, she doesn’t have the vocabulary and the life experiences to describe how she’s feeling. She can’t label her feeling as “anxiety” or “fear” or “worry.” To her, it’s all one lousy feeling.
Help her to verbalize her feelings. There are a number of “face charts” online that can help her to pinpoint her feelings (she would choose a face that most closely resembles how she feels). If she points out that she is scared, for example, you can say, “Oh Sweetie, there’s no reason to be afraid! Mommy is getting the best care, the doctors are taking very good care of me!” If she points out that she is anxious, you can say, “Let’s come up with a funny song we can sing when you feel that way.” You mention crafts—there are great ideas on Pinterest that are age-appropriate and can be very therapeutic!
5) Let her help with meal preparation. Let her help to dish up your meals, you dish up hers, and trade. Let her help you make the grocery list. Involve her in grocery shopping.
Finally, my best advice to you is to realize that KIDS ARE RESILIENT! You’ll be amazed at how she rebounds from this! Our goal as parents isn’t to protect our kids from “life”–that’s impossible. Our goal is to help them learn to “struggle well.”
YOU CAN survive this. YOU WILL survive this. YOU ARE a survivor.
Hugs across the miles,
Thankyou so much Kelly for your brilliant advice and sharing your very moving story.
So far we have stuck to her routine (gymnastics/swimming etc) but I know what you mean about it being hard to let others look after me, when I am used to doing everything myself. I often wonder if I overdo things and I get too little sleep.
My daughter already has a cat, whom sleeps devotedly on her bed every night and I’m pretty sure she confides in, the way I used to confide in my dog when I was little. She also talks to her baby sisters. We listen over the baby monitor in the mornings. It’s very cute.
As we live in a 3 storey house, when I’m feeling poorly, I make myself a bed on our oversized sofa, so keeping things to one room can be easy – making me stay there is the hard bit! lol. But such brilliant ideas thankyou. And the idea of your puppy running off attached to your PICC line… makes me rather squeamish! I had a Hickman line (which I believe is the same thing?) when I had chemo as a little girl, so the idea of anyone pulling on it makes me feel sick even now!
I like the idea of face charts, although she’s pretty good at telling us if she feels sad or scared, I think it’s still quite a good idea to try for when she’s not sure how she feels. I will check on Pinterest also!
We already let her help with meal prep most days but not with serving. In general – she usually does eat more if she’s helped prepare it. I will get her more involved with the groceries.
I really appreciate you taking the time to share your tips and they mean so much as you’ve been there and shared your story and understand how we both feel.
Musings from a mum says
So pleased Dr has found something to help your daughter. You’re very brave and sound like a lovely family. I am sure together you can get through everything life is throwing at you. Take care. X
You havehad some amazing advice, and i cannot offer anything else but support, I am glad that the Dr thinks that the food issue may be resolved with laxatives, it is so eay to jum the gun on issues like this, and Mothers Guilt does not help. Rest assured it sounds like you are doing the very best for your daughter. I have so much admiration for you and the strength and courage that you have xxx
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I haven’t really got any advice, but I didn’t want to read and not comment.
I think you are amazing and so strong. I just wanted to send you a hug, and I hope things get better soon. xxx
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Thankyou so much xx
Am glad it went well at the doctors, fingers crossed that sorts things out.Try and not let eating, or lack of, become an issue. Leave food she may like easily accessible, but not forced. She wont starve herself.
and can I say what a remarkable tandem feeding pic xx
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She actually DOES starve herself – that’s the problem. She went the best part of a week having barely eaten. We had no choice but to be a lot firmer with her. Thankyou, I’m quite proud of it even though I was so ill. xx