Thursday, July 5, 2012

Health and Happiness

Every time I start feeling like my life is under control and that I can actually handle all of the events and responsibilities that each day throws at me...I get thrown a little more. At least it gives me perspective; things can either be worse or be better, and no sense in wishing for one or the other because you'll get your turn at both at some point. Better to just focus on what you've got for the time being.

Right now what we've got is a complicated approach to trying to improve the health, happiness, and well-being of Keane. Without drawing this out--the meat of it is that he's been ill almost nonstop for the past 9 months (essentially, ever since he started eating a mostly solid diet as a baby, his immune system quit functioning). Ear infections, sinus infections, countless colds and coughs, croup, hand food & mouth disease, tonsilities, unexplained fevers for name it, he's had it. And on top of that, he's frequently cranky as all get-out for no apparent reason and communicates to me in certain ways that an outsider would not see or feel, but that in my own motherly intuition I am 100% certain of, that he just doesn't feel good, most of the time. I remember when the dink was this age, around 18 months, and I would take him out in public to stores and such, people would constantly comment on what a happy baby I had. He was all smiles, waving at people, looking around with bright eyes and absorbing the world around him. I used to think to myself, well what does he have to be unhappy about? The kid has a nice life. Well, I'd like to think that we're giving Keane the same nice life, but no one has ever commented about how happy he is, and we've certainly never made it through a single outing anywhere without fussiness or tears. Some days I've even found myself wondering, is there anything for him to be happy about?

So we have two different kids, despite their physical appearances. That goes without saying. But there's more to the story than that. I've been aware of Keane's sensitivites to food since he was a newborn and I was eating only 6-7 foods to try to get his diarrhea and general misery under control. And that's what I'm still doing today. We recently had his blood tested to find out what foods he is sensitive to, though not necessarily allergic to. And now we're doing a strict elimination diet to get those foods out of his system and see if he experiences any relief. It involves an absurd amount of effort, as he's limited to only a couple dozen very basic foods, so I'm trying my hand at things like banana/oat/sweet potato "bread" if you can call it that just to have something to leave him for a snack at daycare. He's pretty much living off of turkey, asaparagus, mushrooms, onions, sweet potatoes, and a handful of fruits for a few weeks now before we start adding other foods back. But amazingly he's accepting it pretty well. The first days were really rough, with massive BMs that could not be contained by a diaper, a full body rash, and extreme irritability that culminated one afternoon with a fifteen-minute, on-the-floor trantrum asking for a cheese stick...but now things are leveling off. That was supposed to be the "detox" phase of the diet. Yesterday, a daycare worker told me that Keane seemed happier and healthier to her. And two nights ago, I put him to bed at night awake, and he went right to sleep without crying or needing me back in there...for the first time ever in his entire life. So I took that as a sure sign that some part of him is feeling better already. Oh, and his two-week runny nose suddenly disappeared completely around day 3 of the diet...another welcome relief.

So who knows what this will bring. At the moment, it feels like life throwing more at me, but at the same time I realize that if it's successful, our entire family will be in "for the better" phase. We'll all have one more impetus for happiness and health. Even if I have to keep baking these fake breads for the next 18 would be worth it.

Along with this intense focus on diet comes, naturally with these little boys, some silliness. One evening shortly after starting his new regimen, Keane had a poop so enormous that it could not be contained by his size 5 diaper. Before I could grab the wipes to change him, he had passed through the kitchen, dropping poop clumps in various places along the way, culminating by sitting down in the "carpet room"...and I'll leave the rest to the imagination. So I start running around frantically, trying to clean the poop and Keane before any further spreading takes place. The dink senses my stress and asks me what's wrong. So I explain the situation to him, and give him the task of looking around the house for more droppings. Perhaps I should mention that at that moment, he happened to be wearing a Santa Claus hat and a scarf (in July) and carrying a red flashlight. So off he went, telling me he was on an "adventure", shining the light in the pantry, behind the TV, at the base of the dishwasher...looking in earnest for treasure. That dink has a way of putting a smile on my face even in the stinkiest of situations.