Since my littlest joined our family, the first hand experience of infant reflux that we have lived through from day dot has shown me just what this awful illness really is.
Nearly every time I mention Frankie’s reflux to someone who doesn’t know her or us, they say ‘aah bless her, is she a bit sicky then?’
I’m not judging, I’d have probably said the same before I’d cared for a baby with reflux. But honestly, every time I hear those words, my heart sinks a bit. It makes me feel like I’m being a whinging old bat. That I’m massively overreacting. That I should shut up about it. I realise that’s rarely what’s meant, just as calling someone’s baby big probably isn’t meant to make them feel massively inadequate as a parent.
But please, next time someone tells you their baby has infant reflux, don’t ask if they’re a bit sick. Instead, give them a cuddle, make them tea, bring them cake and know that reflux isn’t just being a bit sick…
It’s mopping up the first bit of sick in the morning and resigning yourself to the fact that it’s the first of 30+ times you’ll do it that day
It’s changing the outfits of you and the baby for the fourth time that day and praying those jeans will last until bedtime as you no longer have any clean clothes in your wardrobe.
It’s not having enough muslins or wipes in the world. Ever.
It’s the feeling of hope at the latest cure or solution you’ve been offered. Only to be swiftly followed by the crushing disappointment when you realise it won’t work.
It’s declining invitations to friends’ houses as you are too embarrassed to spend an hour clearing up sick from their carpets and furniture just to make excuses and leave early anyway.
It’s dreading playgroups as you know you’ll spend the entire time anxiously awaiting the next vomiting episode, hoping it doesn’t hit another parent or their child.
It’s sitting up at 3am having not yet been to sleep, looking into the eyes of a tiny little person who’s suffering is constant. Feeling powerless and helpless and ultimately useless as a parent.
It’s posting in Facebook groups, desperate for answers and being overwhelmed by how many you receive. It’s feeling sad that so many babies and parents are living in the same hell as you.
It’s being a shit friend, daughter, sister because you simply don’t have the energy to give anyone other than your child the attention they deserve.
It’s guilt for the older sister who has to entertain herself too often while you clear up vomit.
It’s fear of what the drugs are doing to her tiny tummy.
It’s constantly being in the pharmacy dropping in repeat prescriptions for formula and medications.
It’s watching baby groups come to an abrupt and embarrassing halt as the leader mops up your child’s sick and everyone looks on at your baby, kindly telling you, ‘she’s just been a bit sick’.
It’s listening to the stomach acid gurgling around her little guts and wishing you could endure it instead of her.
It’s hearing people tell you that she’ll probably grow out of her allergies and hoping with all your being that they are right.
It’s not feeling you can leave her with anyone else because you’re embarrassed about the level of vomit they will have to mop up while you’re gone.
It’s fantasising about leaving her with someone and having an hour if not seeing any sick.
It’s grieving a little for the baby months that feel a bit like they were lost in a pool of sick.
It’s not being able to get a nappy on her because lying on her back makes the acid rise up her throat, causing her unbearable pain.
It’s feeling like an animal for holding her on her back long enough to clean her up and get that nappy on, knowing you’re causing her to feel even worse.
It’s secretly feeling pissed off at having to clear up another pile of sick as your husband quietly closes the front door and heads off to his vomit free office.
It’s opening the front door after the stables at 7am to be hit with the putrid smell of vinegar and knowing that today is going to be a particularly bad day.
It’s waking up at 4.30am day after day after day as her little body just can’t cope with the pain of lying down any more as it causes the acid to be worse, despite her being absolutely exhausted and needing to sleep.
It’s holding her upright and fighting yourself to stay awake so that she can get the rest she needs and that you so badly crave.
It’s watching her little face light up as she plays and wishing beyond anything else that she could live comfortably.
It’s feeling so bloody proud that she doesn’t cry or moan or complain despite the illness, instead smiling and cooing because she knows no different.
It is all those things and more. And it is, quite frankly, living hell.