Last week we welcomed a new member to our family, a beautiful baby girl. Living in the boonies and having a history of speedy deliveries, my biggest concern was that we would not make it to the hospital in time. Thankfully we arrived with an hour to spare before our ten-and-a-half pounder made her grand entrance. Other than being larger than our other kids, she looked just like they did at birth. We were so excited to bring her home to the rest of the family.
A Change in Plans
Because of some complications, we returned to the hospital less than 24 hours after leaving. We expected to get simple advice or directions to deal with the problems our baby girl was having, but instead, the doctor wanted to re-admit her for some more testing, to re-hydrate her with IV fluids, and to treat her jaundice.
Some of the test results led the doctor and neonatologist to suspect a rare and dangerous condition called galactosemia. When there is a suspicion of galactosemia, patients are counselled to immediately stop breastfeeding and giving any milk-based formula. Because the galactose cannot be processed, it becomes toxic and quickly starts to poison the baby. Without making the dietary change, most affected babies dies within weeks of birth. Thankfully, galactosemia is one of the conditions tested for in most newborn screenings.
A nurse ran to the store for soy formula, which we started immediately while waiting for the test results. Never having used formula with my kids, I had no idea how much I should be feeding our little girl. The instructions from the medical staff were vague: feed her as much as you can (she was having trouble gaining weight) without making her spit up (forceful vomiting was part of what landed us in the ER).
We wanted to go home and continue soy formula there while we waited for the galactosemia test results. The doctors wanted us to stay until the baby was gaining weight. They weighed her nightly. Each night I was sure that her weight must have increased because I was diligent about regularly feeding her according to the instructions given to me. Each night, I was disappointed and lost my hope of leaving the hospital the following day.
On the fourth day of our stay, the on-call pediatrician was looking at our baby’s case to figure out why she wasn’t gaining. She was still spitting up a fair amount, which we knew contributed to her problem, but the pediatrician noted something really frustrating. He said that even if she kept down all of her feedings, that still wouldn’t be enough for her to gain weight. We simply were not giving her enough calories for a baby of her size to gain weight.
Setting an Informed Goal
Well, I sure felt dumb. I had set a goal for her to gain weight and spent four days trying to reach that goal. I could see the goal in my mind–walking out of the hospital and bringing our little one home. I failed because I didn’t understand what was necessary to make the goal I had envisioned into a reality. I didn’t have a clear picture of what it would really take.
Had I known the number of ounces of formula she needed each day to maximize her chance at weight gain, I would have done everything to make sure that she ingested at least that much. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know what I had to do to get there.
Setting Small Goals
While it is important to set our sights on our end goal, we also need to have a clear understanding of what it is going to take to reach our goal. There are a certain number of steps to the top of the mountain, and we have to walk up each one, or we’ll never reach the summit. Fortunately, most goals in personal finance are naturally tied to a numerical value. For example, we can tell you each month how much debt we have remaining to reach our goals.
Take a look at your financial goals. Are the steps clear? Are you factoring in all the necessary details? If your goal is to be debt-free by a certain date, do you know how much you need to pay off each month in order to reach your goal? Breaking your big goal down into smaller goals will make your goal more attainable.
A Happy Ending
As the doctor was deciding whether or not to keep us a fifth night, he got word that the galactosemia test came back negative. I could resume breastfeeding! We still had the problem of weight gain, but now we could go about it with a feeding method we were accustomed to. They discharged us so we could work on our goal of bulking up our baby from the comfort of our own home!
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