Saturday, November 27, 2010

Every Mother's Nightmare

My sweet baby girl, Elia, has been a delight since the day she was born.  She was a very easy and content baby.  After having three boys it was such a joy to be blessed with a little girl.  Her name means, God has answered.  During my stay at the hospital I remember just holding her.  I didn't want to put her down.  I knew that when I went home I would have to share my time with her three big brothers.  So, I held her.  Of course I did send her to the nursery overnight...those two nights of uninterrupted sleep would be my last for a while.  I took advantage of that luxury in the hospital.  Each morning I woke up excited to go get my sweet baby.  I wheeled her back to my room and held her in my arms.  I was careful to admire every inch of this masterpiece.  She was an amazing baby.

The next three weeks were heaven.  She was quiet and happy.  So easy going.  Then she began to vomit every time that she ate.  My second son Jadon had terrible reflux problems, so I was not too concerned.  I remember going through tons of burp cloths because he would throw up so much.  But, as that first day of vomiting continued I remember thinking that something wasn't right.  When she vomited it was so forceful.  It would eject up to two feet.  The noises she made after eating were weird.  The amount that came out of her ever so small body were too large.  I decreased her feedings and waited until the next morning.  Maybe it was some sort of bug.  Three older brothers can do that to a girl.

After three days, she was not any better.  I called the doctor. and the nurse went through what I am sure was the scripted Q&A.  She had suggested all the things I had already tried; decrease the feedings, hold her upright during the feeding; and burp her longer.  I explained that I had done these and this was my fourth child (not that I know it all, but I think we moms have a sixth sense about our babies).  She told me there was an opening the following day.  I accepted the appointment as I began to cry.  I apologized and told the nurse I needed her to be seen today.  I did not want to wait that long. 

My husband already suggested it was Pyloric Stenosis.  I had never heard of it.  His father and brother had it, which is why it was familiar to him.  Pyloric Stenosis is the thickening of the pyloric sphincter that connects the stomach to the small intestines.  The thickening blocks the food from passing into the stomach.  Vigorous contractions of the stomach try to force the feedings down, but as it becomes tighter, the contractions result in projectile vomiting. 

At that point I was a wreck.  I began searching the Internet for all the information.  That is always a bad idea.  Studies consistently said that Pyloric Stenosis was rare in girls.  It is common in 1% of healthy babies.  Over 57% were first born.  Males were more common at a rate of 5 to 1.  So, Elia being a girl, and fourth born, had me thinking her odds were in her favor.  Surgery was the only way to correct this.  I did not want my three week old having surgery.

I got to the doctor and Elia had just had a bottle.  She vomited there so the doctor was able to see it first hand.  Elia's skin was wrinkly: a sign of dehydration.  The doctor said we needed to go to Children's Hospital immediately.  It was highly probable she had this condition.  At that point I was sobbing and she had me call Joe.

When we got to Children's Hospital they hooked her up to an IV right away.  Because of the statistics, the initial doctor did not think she had Pyloric Stenosis.  They needed to do an ultrasound.  The technician was gone so we had to wait until the morning.  They would not let Elia eat during that time.  She was on an IV receiving fluids, but they told me she may become fussy because her stomach would still feel hungry.  That was all I could think about the rest of the night.  My poor sweet girl felt hungry.  How many babies in this world are sharing that feeling around the world tonight? What a sad thought.

They came in to get her the next morning.  I was eager to get in there, but fearful of the answer.  As soon as they placed the wand on her belly it was confirmed.  I sobbed again.  All I pictured was my fragile baby with tubes in her mouth placed under anesthesia.  It didn't seem right.  The doctors reassured me this was an easy procedure that it would be done laproscopically.  Three tiny incisions would be made.  The procedure should take thirty minutes at most.

I remember holding her in a pink and brown leopard print blanket.  I loved this blanket.  I had to have when I saw it in the store.  It was the first thing I registered for, because I could picture holding her in it.  I could not stop crying. 

I kept reminding myself that this situation could be so much worse.  I thought about how many families faced things that were far more difficult.  There were parents  holding terminal children in that same hospital.  This was a simple procedure. 

The doctor who would perform her surgery had such big hands.  I kept thinking about those huge hands cutting her small little belly.  I will never forget handing her off to a nurse.  I gave my baby to a stranger that would put her to sleep and cut her open.  That was the scariest moment of my life up until that point. 

We sat in the cafeteria waiting for them to buzz us.  They literally gave us a buzzer.  It was like Red Lobster on a busy Saturday night.  The waitress gives the customer a buzzer, and when the table is ready it flashes and buzzes.  A buzzer?  Really?  When the surgery was over it would buzz.  So, like hungry customers we waited for them to buzz us.  I stared at it; waiting. 

It finally buzzed.  The surgery was over.  We hurried to the waiting room and waited for them to call us.  The doctor said the surgery was very successful and she should wake up within a half hour.  When she woke up and the tubes were removed we could go see her.  That was the one thing I did not want to see.  My sweet Elia, non-responsive with tubes down her throat.

I think an hour or so went by and nothing.  Some parts are such a blur.  Someone came out and told us she was slow to wake up, which happens.  "Of course!", I thought.  So, we kept waiting. 

I stared blankly at whatever crap was on the waiting room tv.  We paced up and down the halls staring at the same artwork over and over.  We watched as other people left because their children were ready.  Another hour went by and nothing.  Finally, a little while later they came back.  They explained that Elia was still not awake and she needed to be transferred to the PICU (Pediactric Intensive Care Unit).  They told us to come with them.  I was not prepared for what I would see.  This tiny being, on this regular sized hospital bed laid there with tubes down her throat.  The image is still in my head.  I completely lost it at that point.  We followed her to the unit.  The doctors up there explained what all the numbers on the monitors were.  We needed to wait until she was breathing on her own. 

In the PICU were about 12 other patients.  I remember one was a small child with Cystic Fibrosis that was constantly being pat on the back to help clear her lungs.  Another mother stood by her young son who was in a car accident.  He was wrapped up and also had tubes in place.  I felt so much pain for that woman.  Seeing her made me thankful that Elia's condition was so minor in comparison. 

Elia laid there covered in her pink, fuzzy, leopard print blanket.  Her eye lids would flutter as Joe talked to her.  I stood there and held her tiny hand.  Her surgery took place the day she turned one month old.  All I wanted was for her to wake up.  After five hours had passed I was getting so nervous.  Joe kept telling me she would be fine.  The doctors were positive.  But all I kept thinking about were the "what ifs"?

She woke up shortly after midnight.  Nearly seven hours after her surgery.  She had a bad reaction to the anesthesia.  My heart was at peace.  My baby girl was awake and now healthy.  I remember the doctors pushing her bed out to move her to recovery.  We walked past the other patients that were still in crisis.  I stared at the woman with the young boy and said a quiet prayer for her and her son.

The next day she began eating but was still vomiting.  This was normal.  The doctors said she needed to hold down five straight feeds before we could leave.  This took several days.  She was still hooked up to an IV and a bunch of wires.  It was awkward to hold her.  Five days later she was released.  She was 100% healthy.  It was like none of it ever happened. 

Today Elia danced around the kitchen singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star which concluded with the "Big Finish" that her dad taught her.  It consists of a drawn out ending and a raising of her hands.  She is a joyful, happy, amazing baby girl, with the cutest Buddha belly you've ever seen.  Three small scars serve as a reminder of that difficult time.  I rarely think about it.  What I remember more is the other children in the PICU.  I wonder how they turned out and if they got to leave.

I don't ever want to be back in that place.  It's scary.  It's every mom's nightmare.  For a while after, my mind was consumed with the possiblity of the worst happening in the future.  One day I realized that I have no control over it anyway.  We pray for protection for our children and believe for the best.

I am thankful that Elia is now a bouncing 2 year old.  It's my prayer that my children bury me when I am old.  I think it's every mom's prayer.  I still live with some fear of the burying one of them.  But life is too short to live with that fear.  Reflecting on Elia's time in the PICU helps me remember.

Elia, 3wks old; on her pink, fuzzy, leopard print blanket.
The leopard print is around the edges off picture :)
She is sleeping with it today.

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