When a Parent Hears the Words ‘Failure to Thrive'


I take the term “failure to thrive” personally. These three words have the ability to bring me to my knees.

Even though I’ve been hearing these words for over two years now, I still can’t get used to them. Our son has a rare metabolic condition and weighs nearly the same as a 6-month-old. His lack of weight gain is my biggest enemy. I have shed countless tears after weight checks or well-child visits. I know “failure to thrive” is a clinical term, and I shouldn’t get emotional, but I can’t help it. I can’t help but feel like those words are directed at me and not my child. I can’t help but feel defeated. I can’t help that these words have the ability to take the wind out of my sails in a second. After all, I’m the one feeding him. I’m the one going to battle with the enemy.

Melissa Schlemmer.2-001

During our recent hospital stay, our son’s metabolic specialist stopped by and told me she’s worried about his weight. In her Greek accent she said his “weight is no good, growth is no good.” With her hand in a fist, she said we have to tackle this. We have to defeat this. He has to start gaining.

I told her we’re fighting daily. I prepare myself for battle by researching blended diets and high-calorie foods. I blend foods daily that I know have the best vitamins and nutrients. I arm myself with everything I possibly can to defeat this, but the enemy is strong. He keeps showing up and tearing me down. One would think that our son being fed via a G-tube would make it clear and simple, but it doesn’t. His body doesn’t work like ours. I’d give him Ben and Jerry’s all day long if that were a solution, but it isn’t. We have tried overnight feeds, three different commercial formulas and a blended diet with avocado, coconut flakes, sweet potato and many other “super foods.” We are trying.

Every time he vomits, I count the calories his body isn’t getting; every intolerance is the enemy winning one more battle. I feel lost on what to do. It’s a seemingly simple job of getting him to gain weight, and I’m failing. I wish the rational me would shout at the emotional me and say that by trying I am winning. I am doing everything in my power to help him thrive. Every single day is another day that I’m not giving up.

After his metabolic specialist left our hospital room, I sat in the rocking chair and cried. I cried because it’s my job as his mother to nourish him. It’s my job to help him thrive. I have all of the tools to help, but I feel as though I’m falling short. The battle will continue, but I refuse to give up. I’ll fight for every ounce. “Failure to thrive” is a clinical term, but it’s personal to me.

Follow this journey on Team Christopher S.

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