The post below was written at the end of June, but I forgot to finish and post it.
There have been a lot of changes with Annika's eating since my last post, so I will try to be brief while trying to include everything.
After she came off her liquid diet, she was immersed into foods pretty quickly. The first week was stage 1 baby foods only. The second week was stage 2 foods plus some yogurt. Annika did really well with these, although she developed some preferences to some foods over than others (just like any baby will do I imagine). The third week was stage 3 baby foods and "anything you can squish between your fingers" according to the doctors. I wish the doctor would have given me a list of foods because I had a hard time coming up with things that qualified. We tried bananas, jello, chunkier yogurt, and pasta, but she pretty much rejected everything that came her way. Even some of the stage 3 foods were too much for her to handle.
We struggled for a week, and the fourth week was time for her to eat ANYTHING she wanted! Ross and I were so excited for her, and we wondered what foods she would really latch onto. It turns out that the doctor sort of glorified this stage. He said she could eat anything she wanted, but did not mention that she might not want any of it at all! This was the case with Annika. I think Ross and I were so excited, we figured she would be too. But when we started introducing new things, like peaches, waffles, raisins, grilled cheese, and so on, she refused everything we gave her. The one thing she really like was animal crackers (which she had before her palate surgery, so it was familiar). For about 1 week, she ate nothing besides yogurt and animal crackers. Every meal I ate, I put something new in front of her. Things I heard that other babies liked was proving to be unsuccessful for her. After a week, I called Dr. Mann's office to see if we should start food therapy (always jumping to the extreme I guess). After answering a few of the nurses questions, I was let down gently..."It sounds like she just has an extreme preference." She also reassured me that this is more common in babies with clefts, and I should not worry yet. I was advised to put the animal crackers away, and only take them out for desserts or rewards for eating the desired food. Ross and I obeyed, and the stubborn nature that Ross and my parents talk about us having as kids came out in Annika. She sat at dinner with plenty of delicious foods in front of her, and a few times she ate nothing. Other days, she would try a bite by force with animal crackers as the reward for not spitting it back out. There was even one night where we gave her 7 time out for throwing the one piece of food that was on her tray for her to eat.
Finally, by some miraculous parenting skills, or maybe prayer, Annika ate an entire meal without coaxing or objections Saturday night. She ate a hot dog, lima beans, and tried an apple all on her own free will! I can't describe the elation and relief Ross and I felt Saturday night as we sat and had our first pleasant real meal as a family. Since then, she has been open to trying many more things, although fruit is still a little hurdle (I think the slippery, slimy texture still freaks her out a little).
For now, we are continuing to explore new and exciting foods. The timing of this process could not have been mapped out more perfectly. If I would have had it my way, palate surgery would have been April 19 as originally scheduled, but with that earlier surgery would have been food struggles while I was still working. Being able to take my time and devote my patience to such an important step is invaluable to me, and I am so thankful I'm not the one in charge.