I have gone back and forth about writing this post. Not because it is controversial or radical or anything outrageous like that. Instead, it’s because I just don’t know how to do the situation of which I wish to share: justice.
It is no secret that we have struggled with Megan’s eating habits. From the moment she was born, eating was the last thing Megan was interested in. I often read of mothers boasting or celebrating that their newborn slept a solid four or six hours through the night…well…Megan slept through the night (8 to 10 hours) every night for the first week and a half of her life (a trend that would surely have continued had we not been forced to intervene). Surprise, surprise, she had no interest in waking to eat.
As Megan continued to drop weight, our doctor encouraged us to wake her in the night by first placing our hands in the freezer and then by placing them on her bare belly. Without fail, she would awake. Then I would struggle to keep her awake as she lazily ate. I finally learned that if I got up before she did, pumped a full bottle and then woke her, I could get her to down the bottle in five minutes. I continued that routine for the first few months of her life; until the doctor gave the go ahead to let her sleep through the night without eating.
Fast forward almost four years. Not a day has passed wherein we have not struggled with mealtime. I am sure that there are many who have witnessed our feeding routine who have criticized me or blamed me for the battle which ensues which very often ends in my relenting to Megan’s will. And yes, looking back, I often think “maybe if I would have done this” or “maybe if I would have tried that, then things would be better”. But honestly, I did the best that I could at the time. And until you have been where we have been…until you have a child that will go days without eating if allowed…or who has major meltdowns when forced to eat…or who knows how to make herself gag and in turn UPHEAVE anything she has eaten…then you really have NO IDEA the position we are in.
Almost a year ago, I was introduced to the disorder: hyperlexia. If you follow and read the attached link, you might as well be reading a description of Megan, with ONE HUGE exception. Hyperlexic children fall on the autism spectrum. And it has been determined that Megan does not have autism. So she does not qualify for a diagnosis of hyperlexia.
However, I have tried several of the techniques and teaching methods that are used with hyperlexic children to see if they would help Megan in many different areas of her life. And guess what? They have worked.
How does this apply to Megan’s eating habits? Well, children like Megan LOVE the written word. They are fascinated with letters and words and reading. I have used this fact in many ways to help Megan with various struggles. In the past, I have made list after list of things we were going to do throughout the day (including when we would have mealtime and what we would be eating), and since Megan saw that it was written in stone…so to speak…she was more willing to follow through. Recently, however, making a list of daily activities has become less effective as Megan wants to make more choices on her own and can communicate better her wants and her needs. Therefore, my system needed to be revised.
I very much believe that sometimes the ideas that I come up with to help Megan are nothing short of inspiration. I have a degree in psychology (with emphasis in child psychology) which has very much helped me when it comes to child behavior and discipline, but nothing could have prepared me for the great and weighty mystery that is my daughter. I continue to do plenty of research and search for help from other moms, but there are definitely some things, that have been a great benefit to our family, that have just popped into my mind as if from no where. As much as I get overwhelmed and frustrated with the difficulties that Megan presents, I can not overlook the fact that I have received much help from my Heavenly Father.
My this has gone on much longer and much more in detail then I ever intended. I appreciate those who are taking the time to read. Anyway, so back to what I am so excited and anxious to share.
Megan’s eating habits have improved SO MUCH in the past few weeks. I’m talking like one-hundred-and-fifty-percent. Somehow I came up with the idea of making Megan a mealtime menu. Novel, I know. But what I do is write down a list of possible meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacktime. Megan gets to pick which item she wants off the list…and then here is the big thing…we then cross it off, so she can not pick it again until the list has been exhausted in its entirety. The list contains things that are very much Megan’s favorites…like pizza and chicken nuggets…but it also contains things that she has NEVER before willingly eaten.
I was nervous and apprehensive at first as she picked item after item that she was familiar with. I thought for sure that she would throw a fit when all that was left were things that she hadn’t tried or didn’t like. But guess what? She has eaten every item. She has not cried or thrown a tantrum even one time. There have been a few things that she has been less enthusiastic about, but she will eat them until mommy is satisfied. And in most cases, she eats much more than I ever expected.
The lists will change a little each week as I work to incorporate more nutritious and diverse foods. But what a wonderful and glorious change this has been! She still has NO interest in feeding herself, so I still have to feed her every bite…but we are taking it one step at a time. I am so grateful and humbled by this blessing. There are no words that really do my emotions justice…which is a surprise since this post is so very long!
I love this girl with all my heart. Even amidst her delays and struggles. But I don’t think I have ever loved her more!