The second night came just like the first - very routine. Meagan had her 6pm bottle - did a great job with it. We hooked up her feeding tube at 9pm to start her 10 hour drip feed... just as we did the night before.. and just as the NICU had done for her the 4 nights before she came home. We laid Meagan in bed, organized all her tubes, wires from the monitor, and propped her blankets to support her head. Brian flipped on the TV, as we often do, to watch some "mindless" shows and drift off to sleep. Well, Meagan had other plans.
Soon after we put her down to bed, Meagan became very fussy. I changed her diaper, offered her a pacifier, rubbed her back, changed her position, swaddled her, unswaddled her, etc.. I tried about everything in the book and she still would not calm down. She was not aggitated, like when her shunt had previously malfunctioned in the NICU ... this was hands down the "typical" newborn hungry cry. "How could she be hungry?" I thought. She had the drip feed going and she'd been satisfied every night. I finally put my finger near her mouth to see if she'd suck on it since she kept spitting out the pacifier and was still crying. She sucked a little bit, and then she just 'took off' ... she was sucking so hard, she was crying in between. I called over to Brian and said "Brian, I think she's hungry. This sounds JUST like the other girls when they were hungry. And she's going to town on my finger." ....
So I did the only thing I knew to do since nothing else had calmed her. I picked her up, and put her up to nurse. Meagan latched RIGHT on! She ate for about ten minutes, then was calm, and fell asleep. I was so elated!! But I was also cautious - so many ups had ultimately led to so many let downs. I was at least thankful we had those 10 minutes... 10 minutes of a normal mommy and baby relationship. It was the best feeling ever. I laid Meagan back in her crib, hooked up her monitors again, and I, too, went back to bed and fell asleep.
I woke up to Meagan's crying a little after midnight. This was unusual, especially on the drip feed because she was always fed, and had always been calm for so many nights on this schedule. As I listened, I realized it was the same cry - the very tell tale hungry cry any baby under 8 weeks old will do when they want to eat. I thought.. "Could she be waking to eat now? Finally? After so many weeks of sleeping through feedings?" I didn't hesitate. I picked her up, unhooked her monitors, and put her up to nurse again. I was nervous she wouldn't do it again - meaning the first time was just a fluke. But to my surprise, she went right on again and nursed for about 15 minutes! I was so happy - I felt deep down in my gut this was a turn of events for Meagan. That in no time, she'd be eating without that tube.
The next morning, I woke up first. Meagan was sleeping soundly -- we had to get the older girls to school, so we quickly got up and started to get things ready. Meagan started to stir, and was looking around. She started to smack her lips and root around in her crib, so I picked her up and she nursed again! I told Brian this time, and said "Brian, I think she's eating on her own now!" Brian was so happy - so we decided that as soon as the GI doctor's office opened, I would call and figure out how to wean down on feedings to get Meagan off her feeding tube at night.
Well, that was the original plan. Meagan continued to eat well throughout the rest of the day. She even downed a few full 60cc bottles which I had offered her just to be "sure" she was really eating well since I couldn't measure what she nursed. Every 2-3 hours, she would fuss, cry, root... just like my other babies had done when they needed to eat. The GI doctor still hadn't called me back, but she was eating so well, I just knew she didnt' need that tube anymore. I told myself if she ate well at the next feeding, I was taking it out. Period. End of story. Brian and I had to train in how to use all her feeding equipment to bring her home on a feeding tube - so worst case scenerio, if she ever backtracked or stopped eating, we knew how to place another tube, work the pump, etc..
It was about an hour before her first Pediatrician appointment, and I took Meagan upstairs to feed her again before we left. She nursed like a champ. Both sides, about 25 minutes total time. I was so proud of her. I held her up close to me on my shoulder as I patted her back to burp her and I whispered in her ear. I told her "Meagan... Mommy is so proud of you! I'm so happy you are eating now. You can do it. We can do it." Then, I laid her on my bed in front of me, and in about 2 seconds, pulled out her feeding tube. Brian came upstairs shortly after and I held up her tube and said "Hey honey, can you throw this thing in the trash?" We were finished with it. She was doing well - and she needed to continue to eat on her own without a tube in her throat.
The GI doctor did eventually call me back once we were already at the Pediatrician's office. He'd been at a doctor appointment of his own so he couldn't get back to us as early as he normally would. I told him what had been going on with her eating well and that I wanted her off the feeding tube. He started to tell me about a plan we could do to wean her down at nighttime - and I had to politely interrupt and say "Well, Doctor, to be perfectly honest with you, I already pulled out her feeding tube." What came next? Awkward. Silence. I then heard the doctor speak up finally and say "Um... Oh! Oh ok! Hmmm, well we normally don't have parents who are comfortable enough to take the tubes out without consulting us on their feeding habits, but you know best!" I was laughing a little bit inside at his immediate reaction - his voice was extremely surprised and shocked. But, at the same time, I was so happy he was supportive of me in my decision. Further into our conversation, he seemed to have no problem with what I'd done. He knew we could read her cues the best, and said we would just monitor her with weight checks to make sure she was getting her proper nutrition and calories. So that was that!
(To clarify, normally, a healthy breastfed baby would not be monitored for weight gain/calories..etc.. If they eat, and look healthy, we assume all is well and they are getting everything they need In Meagan's case, because of where her shunt was placed, they do try to track calories and "pack" as much food into her as possible. The skin around her shunt site is SO thin, they want her to bulk up calories as quickly as possible to prevent any injury, infection, or easy access to 'bump' it around. This is why she will still see her GI doctor as she grows in these early weeks).
In 2 days, Meagan did more with her eating than she'd done in over a week. She did need that tube before then - she was so tired, weak, and hurting from her surgery and her fluid pressure. But the NICU doctor we liked so much was right! She had told us one day, Meagan would just "wake up" and do what she was supposed to do with her eating. And on October 21st, at 12:14am, Meagan did just that - gave us her wake up call that she was ready to conquer eating all on her own.