Thomas's oral aversion started when he was first born. He was intubated for more than a week in the PICU, then had a tube stuck up his nose and down his throat for feedings. Add to that severe reflux and Sensory Processing Disorder, and the poor kid decided that anything in his mouth was bad. REALLY, REALLY bad. He had a g-tube placed at 8 weeks and we've been trying to convince him to eat ever since.
His first feeding therapist was a saint. Thomas was about 9 months old when we had our initial session and I walked in and announced that my son WOULD eat some of his first birthday cake. Bless her heart. She understood that we were going to be on Thomas time and that my goals and deadlines were essentially meaningless.
Those first few months it was a challenge just to get Thomas to tolerate having crumbs on his lips. He would toss his head to the side and throw his hand up in front of his mouth to prevent us from putting anything in there that he might have to chew and swallow. Over the years we've tried everything from applesauce to peanut butter to cheetos, and yes, before you ask, we've tried ice cream. Lord, if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if we've tried ice cream. I know ice cream is the best, YOU know it, but Thomas doesn't agree. Unfortunately, since he doesn't speak yet we can't ask him to explain the reasoning behind his refusal.
Thomas has loosened up a bit and now will occasionally put something he knows to be food in his mouth. And he's very clever, this one. For someone who has never truly eaten anything, this kid can spot a food item from 20 yards. He'll stare balefully at it and giggle if we suggest he try it. Oh you silly grown-ups, he's thinking, why don't you just use your tubes to eat?
This weekend my mother made some of her famous and much-loved dill bread for me. I would eat a whole loaf smothered in butter in one sitting if people weren't watching me. As it is I usually try to limit myself to 3 or 4 pieces per meal. Large pieces.
We sat down at the table and the bread was placed in front of Thomas because it was the only available corner. Thomas checked it out, decided the loaf was relatively harmless and started pushing his finger into it to make little holes. Instead of letting him mangle the entire thing I sliced off a small piece and laid it on his tray and, to our collective shock and delight, he picked up that piece of bread and SHOVED IT INTO HIS MOUTH.
Seriously, I cannot overemphasize how unbelievable this is. The boy has been in therapy for 2 YEARS to convince him that food is ok. And look at this!
The look on his face was priceless. It was almost as though someone else's hand was holding the bread and OHMIGOD WHY AM I OPENING MY MOUTH?
How did this bread get IN MY MOUTH??
He's only repeated the performance once since then, but my mother has already promised him a bread maker for Christmas if he'll just try it again. I long ago came to terms with the fact that, if Thomas ever eats by mouth it will not be because I want him to, but because he is ready, and that's fine with me. But I have to say, I loved the experience of picking up the after-dinner mess and cleaning his hands and face.