If you are reading this you surely know that Zayd has food proclivities. You likely remember baby Zayd who cried and cried, had bloody stools, and the 10 month Total Elimination Diet that fixed it...mostly. You probably remember reading that Zayd only ate nuts and seeds from about 16-26 months. You remember when his poor nutrition led to poor health led to multiple pneumonias in 2013 and an experimental revaccination campaign. You've watched him gain and loose a total of 40+ pounds in these last four years but still only clock in at 31.6 pounds this morning. Maybe you've seen him vomit at dinner. Maybe you've heard him tell you about all of the foods he doesn't like. It's been four years of a food rollercoaster. We've sought diagnosis, pediatricians, nutritionists and immunologists to no success. By the fall of 2014, Zayd was as thin as ever, vomiting multiple times a week, and refusing to eat even the few foods he liked once at school. It was time for another Mammen family full court press. But what next?
We've got great friends and a pretty swell pediatrician, and by leveraging my every resource we made a plan. Dr. Cevey recommended play therapy for the general anxiety and occupational therapy for the eating. Zayd and I have been on a mother-son therapy journey these past twelve weeks that is both inspirational and exhausting. Making it to therapy twice a week with only one of your two kids is a test of your mental and emotional will. That said, I think we're getting somewhere. Certainly, I dare to hope.
In food therapy each week, we do the weirdest stuff. We spit food at targets, smash soft fruits, balance clementine wedges on our noses, play peekaboo with food resting just inside our teeth, make messy messy perishable (!) food art that we bring home to show dad- anything and everything that gets Zayd interested and participating with foods outside his norm. I wish i had a copy of the spreadsheet of foods I brought in on day one: "Will eat", "Has eaten regularly", "Has tasted once" with no more than 15 entries between them. I considered a "Trigger foods" category to cover his absolute fear of noodles but couldn't come up with a less dramatic column header. In S.O.S. Food Therapy, I've watched Zayd grow from being unwilling to touch a peeled clementine to spitting a wedge across the room or allowing me to squeeze juice onto his tongue. He hasn't eaten it, but that's where we're headed. His bravery at the table is astronomically high from what we walked into Pediatric Therapy Specialists with last November/December. It has helped me see that there is something real under all that refusal and the OTs have given me tools to work with what I've got.
Here is Zayd two weeks ago on a "Green Day" painting with green ranch dressing and a broccoli stalk. Each day is organized by color and we experiment with 5-6 foods with a little bit for the therapists, a little for my lentil, and a bit for me. He knows he can cover any food that disturbs him with a paper napkin and that as soon as we spit our "rockets" into the trash it's playtime in the world's most awesome sensory play room.
He tasted the ranch that day (no love) and a piece of broccoli stalk the next week. Wait! Did you catch that? A piece of a vegetable! He has since also tried one kernel of corn, and a miniscule piece of cucumber no bigger than an apple seed. He's licked hummus and tahini. He's eaten a chip that "looked weird" because it came from Mommy's salad and two grains of rice with soy sauce. They are tiny tiny wins but they weren't imaginable six months ago. Someday, hopefully soon, he will try something new and like it. And maybe eat a spoonful or a bowlful. And then add it to his repertoire. Either way, today we are enjoying less anxiety at the table, an openness to smelling everything on Mommy's plate, and teeny tiny bites of "something new" that make Zayd remarkably proud and earn him his desert of choice (lately dark chocolate hot cocoa made on the stove).
I think we've hit on something. Zayd is never going to be a big eater but we were headed down a path where he feared food and mealtimes and that was terrifying, frustrating, dangerous territory. At least now, we've stepped back from that ledge and are opening up to the "training plate" and a world with either fruits or vegetables! (Or...maybe...both!)