Faith Journal Kids

Failure to Thrive

Written by Esther Vandersluis

Labeled: Failure to Thrive.  Whether your baby was labeled at 2 weeks old or 5 months old, the label can be scary, overwhelming, and simply terrible.  Perhaps you are nursing and your milk is ‘just not good enough’.  Maybe your baby is taking it in but the milk is not filling him.  Or maybe your baby simply will not drink the milk for no apparent reason.  That is where it all began with us.

After months of talk of being admitted to the hospital, it finally happened.  We had to admit our sweet, little girl for ‘failure to thrive’ at 7 months old.  Even In Utero she had periods of growth and periods of weight loss; periods of eating and periods of eating next to nothing.  My sweet girl possibly has something terribly wrong with her and yet we have no idea what it could be.  After hooking her up to IVs for dehydration, we sat and waited.  And waited. 

When the doctor finally came by, he only came to tell us we would be seeing a specialist soon.  But instead we waited some more.  After finally seeing specialist after specialist, getting blood test after blood test, and having an intrusive Upper GI test, the answer was clear – it was inconclusive.  Yet with more medication, she was eating once again and we were able to go home. 

The fear of the unknown is overwhelming.  Before every feed I question whether or not she will  take the bottle.  After every feed I add on the ounces she took to my daily mental counting, hoping and praying she reaches the right amount.  Because if she doesn’t?  Three days in a row and she is back to losing the small amount of precious weight she did gain.  On top of this – I am constantly questioning, googling, and ranting about it to anyone who will listen – what could my little 7-month-old be sick with?  What could possibly be wrong? And why don’t the doctors and specialists know?


Failure to Thrive.  Failure.  My sweet girl is not a failure.  She is stronger and braver than I could ever imagine a little girl to be.

A few months later and nothing has changed.  Out of medication options we are down to using a tube to feed her – a piece of plastic on her face, into her nose, down into her belly giving her food that she otherwise has no interest in.  The diagnosis?  Still nothing.  At 11 months old, our sweet girl continues to stay small, very small.  And here I am.  Still waiting.  Waiting daily for the doctor’s call for next steps.  Waiting for the next appointment with the Naturopath, or the GI specialist, or the Pediatrician.  Waiting for the next weight check, hoping and praying she gained enough that week.  Constantly I am waiting.  Waiting obsessively.

The future is unknown for my littlest.  The future looks scary at times, worrisome at best.  The unknown is so bold and brutal.  Yet I am reminded of the One who does know.  The One who is above the brutality of the unknown and the fear of the future.  The One who has it in His hands and holds it close to His heart.  The One I can trust and love and lean on and surrender to, even now.  The One who has a love for my sweet Maia larger than even myself, her own mama, knows.  Oh, what peace.  Peace in the waiting.  Peace in the constant unknown. 

‘Maia’ meaning ‘Close to God’. May I be reminded of the value and beauty of this again and again through my sweet, tiny Maia. 

About the author

Esther Vandersluis

Esther is a Canadian writing from Hamilton, Ontario. She is a stay-at-home to two incredibly sweet little girls, a wife to a very hard working husband, a writer and crafter in her ‘spare’ time, and a teacher at heart.

Most of all, she is a follower of Christ and is working on living in His joy through every task of motherhood. You can find her on Facebook where she writes about waking up each day with an attitude of joy and thankfulness while living a life of intention and purpose for Christ.


  • This is exactly what we are going through right now. My son is 7 months old and we don’t have a diagnosis yet. Thank you for your wise words. I often feel hopeless in this journey and I need this reminder.

  • My daughter is 11 years and happy and healthy! I’ve been in your place and know the empty hopeless feeling of not knowing. She had a feeding tube much longer than I would have liked but we got through it. She had a rough start in life with several weeks in NICU with few answers and lots and lots of tests and questions. At 2 1/2 we finally were tube free. i remember weighing her, feeding her, hooking up her feeding tube, weighing her again, pumping more breast milk, and then repeating the process all over again a few hours later. May you have hope today from my story!!! We may never know more than the power of
    prayer to change us in the process and perhaps a miracle in the outcome. Blessings to you and strength for today!