Ever since we found out we were pregnant with Freddy, we’ve been pushing the “big girl” angle on Nyana. She needs to be a big girl to help with her brother. She needs to be a big girl and put her toys away. Big girls eat all their dinner. Big girls don’t throw things. Big girls cooperate and don’t cry and respect their parents. Even when it’s all trickling down over the course of a few weeks or months, it’s a lot for a little lady to take in. But Ny has been a trooper, and for the most part has played along with us, and if I thought on her second birthday that she was growing up too quickly… well, I’d be close to crying in the fetal position on the floor today if I didn’t have Freddy here to remind me how trying the baby phase can be.
It took a few weeks after Fred was born for Nyana to accept that he was here, and he was the baby now, and that by default, she was now the big girl. And in the spirit of the season, on Christmas Eve, we decided that Nyana was a big enough girl that we could stop her tube feeds all together. Of course, this was a decision that we made with the help of her medical team—we didn’t just up and decide one day to stop feeding our child—but it was the first step in transforming Nyana: the 27-weeker into Nyana: the big girl. Orders from our paediatrician and nutrition team were that from the moment we stopped using the GJ tube, we had to chart three consecutive months of exclusive oral feeds. Not a drop was to go through the tube except flushing water. This meant we had no backup if she got sick or refused to eat; this meant we had no backdoor for administering meds—any shortcuts we may have had were gone, and Don and I were expected to expect Nyana to eat like any other two year old.
With these expectations in mind, we bought Nyana a booster seat for the table. Big girls don’t need high chairs with trays that allow messes. Big girls need—no, deserve—to sit at the big table with the Big People. And while we’re at it, if we’re going to be buying her a big girl seat for the table, we may as well buy a new big girl seat for the bathroom too, right? Afterall, big girls don’t need diapers.
And if our big girl Nyana has new big girl furniture for the kitchen and bathroom, then it only makes sense that we get some big girl furniture for the bedroom, as well. We told Nyana—again—that she was a big girl, that Fred needed the crib she was sleeping in, and that it was time for her to get her very own big girl bed. So we ordered a twin-sized bunk bed, bought a twin-sized mattress, and made up the bottom bunk with twin-sized sheets. Nyana may be a big girl, but she’s a very small big girl, and it’s easy to lose her in the monstrosity of it all.
All told, that’s a lot of big girlness to be pushed on one person in four short months. You’d think we’d be done there and give her time to adjust. And you’d be right: that’s exactly what we did. But she apparently had other ideas, and one night about a month ago, she chewed a hole right through her pacifier. Her precious lovey Suck-A-Duck, who hasn’t missed a nap or overnight since the Intubation Era, now had a gaping hole in the silicone and was no longer safe to use. Don and I hadn’t been planning on taking the soother away but this seemed to be the world telling us otherwise. Well. She cried for almost an hour that first night until we relented and gave her the backup Suck-A-Phant we’ve been keeping in the closet for just this purpose. The next morning, we found a gaping hole in this soother too and knew we had no choice. The second night was a repeat of the first that culminated in demands for Fred’s duckie!!!—a third plush pacifier we’d been trying (to no avail) to give to Fred. This time we did not relent, and we endured a rough week of bedtimes and midnight wake-ups, but our big girl is now soother-free.
And that’s where the transition to big girl ends. Well, except for that day last week when we fully and completely ended the ride we’ve been on for the past two and a half years. Last Monday, on Day 932 of life, we deflated the little balloon that has held the Mic-key in place all this time, and we slid Nyana’s GJ tube out of her jejunum, through the stomach and out the stoma, and we said goodbye forever. For such a profound moment—the official end to all the… all the everything we’ve been through, the very last shred of anything in our day-to-day life to remind us of her tiny beginning—it was a remarkably anticlimactic moment. A small patch of gauze and some paper tape to cover the wound, and today the scar is healing nicely, a second little belly button just up and to the left of the first.
It’s been a whirlwind of change and transformation around here and I need to stop sometimes and remind myself that her birthweight was charted in grams. That she spent the first three months of her life on a ventilator and that this story came very close to having a much different ending. For all the battles we’ve fought on the road to being a big girl, Nyana’s already won the war. You’re a big girl now, Babygirl.