Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting but beautiful day of an older mom like you!
One of those challenges that I never expected would fall on me this long was the challenge of acid reflux. I still remember when the babies were in the NICU, the twins, all the problems and challenges. And they sent me home with this huge bag of medication, primarily because their acid reflux was so bad.
And at that time, Andy’s acid reflux was much worse than Emmi’s. It was so bad that sometimes, I just didn’t know what to do for Andy. Yes, I gave them the medication. I always gave it to her on time. I gave it to her consistently. But she would cry and cry and cry, and there was nothing more gut-wrenching than my baby crying. Of course, we went to a specialist, and we went to a pediatrician. The pediatrician said something to me that to this day, I think if I saw the man, I would at least kick him in the chin. He said, “sometimes you just have to accept that your child’s going to be miserable and that they’re going to cry.”
I was like, “what the hell is wrong with you? We’re talking about a newborn baby!”
He said, “You just have to let them cry.”
That just wasn’t my parenting style. I wasn’t just going to let my baby cry. That didn’t work for me. I certainly wouldn’t let my baby cry knowing that something was physically wrong with them that was causing this discomfort and distress. Especially in the beginning, oh my goodness, it was so gut-wrenching when Andy would start crying, and there was nothing I could do for her! His only solution, other than giving her the medication, was to stand her up. Which I would do for hours on end, and she would just cry and cry. I would let her latch on to my breast, put her in sideways so that perhaps the acid wouldn’t go up to her throat, and she would still cry. It was absolute agony hearing my baby cry like that. I was just miserable, and I felt so helpless, and I kept going back to the doctor saying, “This is not okay!”
His argument was, “well, this is the way things are.”
I don’t believe that! I don’t believe that. I don’t accept that. I looked for a different pediatrician because I felt it was my responsibility to advocate for my child and ensure that since she couldn’t speak her needs, I was speaking on her behalf. And this was very difficult for me because as a child in an abusive home, one of the things that I had been primarily taught to do is keep my mouth shut and never complain. Here I was saying, “this is not okay. It needs to be fixed. We must fix it. And if you don’t have solutions, I have to find someone who does.”
Of course, I scoured the internet. I bought my babies a special bed where they slept at an angle. It was so funny. And frankly, back then, I didn’t even have the money to pay for this special bed. I was a student. My husband was working all crazy jobs because we needed nannies. We needed nannies so that I could finish my Ph.D. So, I wrote to the manufacturer of this special acid reflux bed. I explained the situation and just poured my heart out to him. He sold us the beds at a discounted rate, and they helped. They truly helped a lot! But of course, it didn’t solve the problem in its entirety.
My children continued to grow up with acid reflux issues. There was a lot they couldn’t eat. I swore to myself that I would be the kind of mom who wasn’t going to cook three meals for three different people, and so on, and so on. Yeah, that went out the window! I even learned how this vegetable caused acid reflux; these vegetables were acidic; this doesn’t work. You can’t feed them at this time. I had to figure out some way to help them, and it wasn’t easy. It really was not easy. My husband sometimes would say to me, “Your expectations are too high. Accept what the doctors are telling you.”
I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t see my child in pain that way. And just when Andy’s acid reflux began to taper off, Emmi got in the game. And Emmi was special because she went from acid reflux to full-blown gastritis. The doctors keep saying to me, “Well, we think that maybe we need to do an upper endoscopy because this isn’t normal.”
I mean, either the baby’s really in pain, or they very nicely said, “You’re being a pain in the ass because you come in here, and you’re fighting with us all of the time.”
I didn’t get it because I really thought, well, every mom has to be doing the same thing. Every mom’s coming into your office, looking for the best answers, the best solutions for their children’s problems. I didn’t realize that was, in fact, not the case. And I had a couple of doctors look at me and say things like, “Well, you’re Mexican. How much education can you possibly have? Why are you fighting with me?”
I was like, “I am Mexican. I’m Mexican-American. I have a Ph.D. My race does not determine my intelligence, and your racism doesn’t determine how I’m going to advocate for my child. That’s just not going to cut it. You pretend that I’m ignorant to make yourself feel better to put me in my place is not going to cut it because my place is to be my children’s mother. It’s my job to advocate for them. It’s my job to make sure that they’re all right. I don’t care what your profession is—M.D, policeman, teacher. I don’t care! Your credentials are not going to impress me out of being the best mother that I can possibly be, and the only way that I can be a good mother for my child is to advocate on their behalf, especially when they are in pain!”
And my children never had a problem telling me when they were in pain. They were very demonstrative when they were kids, and when they were toddlers, they knew the words. And they knew that mom would do whatever it took to solve that problem.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy because there was a certain level of resignation from the doctor’s perspective. I was an older mom; therefore, I have to accept that I would probably have preemies. I had preemies, so then I have to accept that they were going to have challenges. And I call bullshit to that!
Children don’t have to be preemies to get sick. Children don’t have to be the product of an older mom to get sick. One thing is not related to the other. I’m sorry. It’s not. I have plenty of friends who had their children young, that had them in their twenties, in their early thirties, and you know what? Their kids still had medical problems. Not all of them, but some of them did. And guess what? About half of the moms rolled over and listened to the doctor. The other half did not.
It wasn’t until I was being faced with those challenges and started talking to them that I realized that not all moms are the same. Everybody handles motherhood differently. Is there a wrong? Is there a right? I’ve said this many, many times. We all do the best that we can do given our situations, our backgrounds, our emotions. And that’s the most important thing that we do the best that we can do, that we are the best moms that we can be. Not that we’re like someone else.
But even though I’m an introvert, even though I don’t enjoy conflict. You know that saying, lead, follow or get out of the way. I’m the get out of the way kind of person. I don’t really care. I mean, I once sat across a table in front of a man telling me, “You are a leader.”
And I was like, “Dude; I am not.”
The man kept insisting. He really wasn’t hearing what I was saying.
Even if you can lead, you have to want to do it, and I have never been interested. But I was very interested in being the best mom I can be. And for me, that meant learning to advocate for my children. And acid reflux was part of that journey.
It was like when they kept saying, “have the upper GI.”
My response was, “No! They’re too young. I’m sorry, you’re medical doctors. You’re not god, and you make mistakes.”
We just recently had a friend in the family died because they had an upper GI. I’ve had like ten, and I’ve never had a challenge. But these were my kids. So, I wanted to wait until they were older, and I didn’t allow them to the upper GI until the girls were six. And let me tell you, I was not very satisfied with the way that doctors behaved.
So, what did the upper GI find? What the doctors knew all along. Andy has severe acid reflux, and Emmi has acid reflux and gastritis, and they needed to change their medications. So, I had been right to be pressing all along. They had changed their medications. And their medications will need to be modified as they grow older because, despite the doctors’ assurances, they will grow out of it. Guess what? They haven’t grown out of it.
The one thing that has happened because of my advocacy is we have learned to manage the situation so that my children live very normal lives. Can they have pizza? Sure they can, but they need to take the appropriate medication before having the pizza. Can they have red sauce? You know, like, marinara sauce. Yes! Maybe once a week or every other week, not every day. So, guess what? I was right not to marry that Italian I talked about in the Valentine’s Day post. Just kidding!
Acid reflux really was one of the things that pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to be active—to play an active role in parenting. Because I think if I didn’t have to face these challenges and have to face them early on, I would probably be a different parent. You don’t appreciate things as much when you don’t have to fight for them. That’s something I learned the hard way. The harder you fight, the more you appreciate the outcome.
So, today, where are we with this? After going through all the doctors, I could possibly go through. Well, not possibly. I’m sure there’s more out there. I did find two doctors that we worked with that are excellent. They listen, they adapt, and they follow up. So many times, I had been to a doctor that just, “Here you go. Here’s the medication. It will be fine.”
No. No! It doesn’t work that way. Medication that works for one kid or the dose that works for one kid doesn’t necessarily work for the other one. When they go through growth spurts, everything changes. When they enter puberty, everything changes.
Now, if I had any doubt about my behavior regarding acid reflux, it was all put to rest when I had an ERCP, which is basically a medical procedure, kind of like an upper endoscopy. They use very similar equipment, but during this procedure, the doctors completely scraped my stomach. The gastroenterologist said I had a road rash in my stomach and developed gastritis and acid reflux. I’m grateful for the thing, and it’s because the procedure saved my life, but you know, it had this negative outcome as well. And you know what I found out? Acid reflux and gastritis are extraordinarily painful! Not always, but it can be. And just having lived it, when I think of that pediatrician that told me, just accept your child’s cries, I wanna go back and wring his neck.
Who says something like that? Who says accept your child’s cries? You wouldn’t say that to an adult. You would say to an adult, if you’re crying it’s because something is wrong, or because you’re sad, or because you need help. The cry is an indicator. It’s a way of communicating how we’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. So, either this doctor wasn’t very bright, empathetic, or simply had no common sense. I don’t know what to tell you.
I do know that it wasn’t his responsibility to take care of my child. It was mine. And when I realized it didn’t work for us, I didn’t have a problem moving on because I took on that responsibility. I said to myself, my baby’s problems, I’m the one that’s obligated to find solutions. And that often means not accepting what others believed to be clear-cut answers because there’s no such thing. There’s only finding the best solution for your child that you can find given their specific situation.
So, acid reflux wasn’t just a medical journey. It was a parenting journey. It’s also a journey of self-discovery because I learned that I could be a lot stronger than I thought I could ever be and that I could do things for my children that I was too weak to do for myself. Being a parent is amazing. You learn so much about yourself. I feel, at least in my case, that challenges have allowed me to come to a better understanding of who I am and challenged that understanding and keep me moving forward, keep me evolving. So, I’m not just working on becoming the best parent that I can be, but I’m also working on becoming the best person I can be. It’s an amazing journey. It really is.
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