The last two days have been filled with moments of frustration and triumph. In a recent suggestion from Univ.Prof.Dr.med. Marguerite Dunitz-Scheer, she advised that we are making food too readily available and that we need to put Francesca in a position in which she needs to “fight for food.” We have begun to implement this strategy and to increase our understanding of what it means to let go, while we “wait” for Francesca to request food, “watch” as she interacts with it (or takes it directly to the trash), and “wonder” when she will truly begin to embrace the act of eating.

Yesterday, our biggest triumph happened during a daily ritual. I was reading stories to Francesca at nap time and she asked for a carrot. We presented her with shredded carrots, carrots shaped like coins, and carrots cut to look like flowers. None of those were what she had in mind. She wanted carrot sticks. As we read, she slowly nibbled away swallowing some and spitting some out. In total, she probably had a couple teaspoons of three different carrots, but who’s counting?

Over the last week, we have watched Francesca get thinner, but have not had a concrete measurement of exactly how much weight she had lost, until today. We went to our weekly doctor appointment this morning dreading and eager for the exact amount. Francesca knows the routine well and can even push the buttons on the scale by herself. We have spent countless times crossing our fingers for a weight gain. Today, however, we were fully prepared for a loss. Francesca has lost about 5% of her overall body weight. She dropped from 10.42 kg (22.9 pounds) to 9.99 kg (21.9 pounds). The Graz method will let her lose a total of 10% of her total body weight.

Even though we were expecting a loss, it is never easy for parents of a failure to thrive baby to watch the number on the scale drop (it took at least a full month to gain that pound). However, the more frustrating news is that Francesca also has her first ear infection. We knew she had been fighting one off, but she had started to feel better (and now worse). We expect that this challenge has impeded Francesca’s progress all along. Her doctor told us that she has a very high pain threshold and that “normal” children with such an ear infection would have been a lot more vocal and totally uninterested in eating. Francesca has never been a complainer.

As difficult as tube weaning has been, we did not want an ear infection to force us into taking a break. Luckily both Francesca and Marguerite Dunitz-Scheer seemed to agree. This afternoon, in spite of feeling miserable, Francesca desperately tried to let go of her fear of food. She had three sessions of exploration. The first was while reading books and playing with various cereals. The second was biting pretzels off of her food necklace. The third was pretzels out of a bowl while watching 101 Dalmatians with her Uncle Blake. At each session, she swallowed some and spit some out, totally covering her clothes in chewed pieces of food.

Miniature bites of carrot and laundry with partially masticated food on it are just enough to continue to instill the faith in me that we are all prepared for (and succeeding in) the “fight for food.”