My Failure, Not His

“So, I think what I’ll do is write here for ‘medical concerns’ ‘failure to thrive.’”

I tried not to react when my son’s pediatrician told me my now-eight-year-old son had grown only an inch in 12 months.  I tried to hold it together when she said he hadn’t gained a single pound.  I did my best to remain expressionless when she said he had no body mass index.  None.

IMG_1024My son is eight years old and 43 pounds.  Forty-three pounds and four feet tall.

He is no longer on the percentile charts parents and physicians so frequently consult and rely upon.  He weighs less than his four-year-old brother.

And now he is the holder of a “failure to thrive” diagnosis.

And I am his mother, whose job it is to ensure he thrives.

I know this is related to his medication, that the stimulant medication he takes to treat his ADHD suppresses the appetite and can lead to this.

We knew he was thin, could plainly see it along with the rest of the world; but we thought we had an overall handle on it: Syrup and butter on everything.  Eat when you’re hungry.  Eat as much as you want.   Three helpings of mashed potatoes with sour cream?  Of course.  Nachos smothered in cheddar cheese?  As if you have to ask.

But it wasn’t enough.  According to his doctor, he’s not thriving.  And while the long-term complications of this I equally understand and fear, there is something else I fear . . .

That I am not a good mother.

I mean, I know I am a good mother in many ways, and I probably should stop short of delineating all of that here because none of it really matters.  I look at my child’s body and feel like a failure.  We chose this medical path for him, and it truly has made such a significant difference in his life, in the way he sees himself, the way he engages with the world.  He is without question more at peace emotionally.

But physically he is not thriving.

His body is not just slender; it’s emaciated.  He is not growing.  He does not look like an eight-year-old.

He is my eight-year-old, and nothing I can do is enough.  Nothing I am doing feels right.

And I look at his beautiful face and feel as though I have it all.

So, I ask, then, why can’t he?


10 thoughts on “My Failure, Not His

  1. You are and will always be an amazing Mom… my heart goes out to you as I know how hard it is to be a Mom and do everything in our power to see that our boys grow “big and strong”. Keep doing what you are doing, it IS the right thing.

  2. These words will likely offer little comfort, but hear them anyway…you are not alone, this too shall pass, you are a good mother. All true.

  3. I have been only a mother for a little over 2 years, but I am now understanding what an ass-kicking we can get with this “job”. I am in the middle of thinking that my son might have disorder and am feeling that this is my fault..

    I wish I could easily tell you, “Don’t blame yourself.” Because as many times as you hear it, you will still do so..

    Just understand that you are doing your very best to help your son and that he loves you for it..

  4. You are a fantastic MOM. Did they order any blood work or CT scans or even Ultrasounds? Do not ever beat yourself up. I am so glad the meds are working. Maybe morning yummy smoothies would help??? Hugz to all of you!

  5. Balance.
    All now need to work on nutrition and medication; it is the other professionals who now need to focus on what can be done next. There is more work and watchfulness forthcoming, and more nagging, that’s about the only quality worth questioning: am I nagging others enough!

  6. As one of Edgar’s grandparents and I see (almost on a daily basis) how you provide for Edgar’s physical, intellectual, and emotional needs. I find it very difficult to think that any mother would be more qualified to provide for these needs than you. I think Edgar’s needs would be better served if the medical people involved would provide better answers or provide concrete directions to help with Edgar’s weight problem. If blame to needs to assigned, then the medical people involved should assume the blame. Not you.

  7. Samantha, I implore you to remove the word “failure” from your thoughts regarding your son. Perhaps instead of professionals using the term, “failure to thrive,” they could adopt something like “striving to thrive.” It’s heartbreaking to read that you berate yourself when you do EVERYTHING in your power to be an awesome mom. What the heck do the doctors expect you to do? Force feed your
    son? Yeah, trying to force food down his throat will make him enjoy eating.
    One of my brothers had the same challenges, and I remember my mom buying cases of Nutrament (high calorie “shakes”) and making milkshakes for him daily. He is now a healthy adult and could easily be described as “buff.” Believe that all shall be well and continue doing your best. No one could expect more.

  8. this is NOT your fault and you and Don are amazing parents, I’ve never had a chance to meet the boys, but just from what I’ve read here, pictures I’ve seen, etc.. they’re the happiest kids ever. Its really too bad the doctor worded it like that, I honestly think I would have had words with the doctor!

  9. Sending love your way Samantha.
    We all have those days, feeling like we can’t “fix” the problem. Well, we can’t always. But that is not what we are needed for. What we are needed for is to love and be present. Those things you do exceedingly well. Just keep on keepin’ on my friend!!!!

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