Yesterday my son went under the knife. Again. As I sat there in the waiting room, I couldn’t help but go back in time. It was almost exactly 16 years ago the first time we did this.
February had brought me a bouncing baby boy a few weeks early, but by March he had a collection of prescriptions. Acid reflux was the first diagnosis. Then there was the asthma and the breathing treatments and the questions of other possible problems, but it was the vomiting I was most worried about.
I took him back to the doctor. “You’ll have to put him on formula. He’s lactose intolerant.” I was devastated. I wanted him to be breast-fed all the time, but I tried the lacto-free, and I didn’t see any difference. If anything, matters were getting worse. This little tiny baby was acting out the Exorcist day after day. I’d feed him, a few minutes would go by, he’d throw up, then he was hungry all over again.
Back to the doctor again, this time he told me we needed to switch to soy. I was getting frustrated. He was my baby, and I knew there was something wrong. I wondered why they weren’t doing more tests, digging deeper, but I went home with a sample of soy formula and instructions to follow-up if I didn’t see massive improvement within a few days.
Massive improvement was the exact opposite of what I saw. By then, my little exorcist baby was shooting vomit a good six feet across the floor. Blondie was trying to hold her baby brother one day, he threw up on her, and she dropped him on the floor! “OMG!” I jumped to grab him while a very confused little girl looked up at me and said “but my shirt!!!”
I was at a breaking point. I knew my baby didn’t feel good, and I knew I had tried everything in the world to fix it, so I took him back with a plan in mind. I wasn’t leaving until somebody gave me some answers. The doctor asked me several times if he cried a lot. This was always his big question. I’m guessing his thinking was that a happy baby was a healthy baby. Maybe he thought I didn’t know the difference between a little spit-up and projectile vomiting, but when he suggested one more formula, I decided to stop taking his advice without questions.
“What baby have you ever seen be allergic to his own breast milk? And lacto-free and soy, this just isn’t right!” I prodded him to look closer. The doctor decided to do an ultrasound. He said: “there is one other possibility- pyloric stenosis.”
Of course this condition was typically present at birth, and my baby was almost 2 months old. Basically this ultra-sound would serve to put my mind at ease. Actually, more like shut me up. The doctor was sure this ultrasound would shut me up and send me home with one more version of infant formula.
I saw the look on the technician’s face when she said I would need to see the doctor before going home. I knew there was a problem. It was the apology that surprised me. “Your baby needs surgery, now!” The doctor explained that the muscle had grown over the opening at the bottom of his stomach… so he’d eat, and when the formula couldn’t move to his intestines, he’d throw up.
I didn’t really panic, I was relieved. We found the problem. In fact, I wanted to stand there and watch the surgery. I wanted to make sure they did it right. Not that I would know really, but I figured I could be intimidating at the very least. Of course they wouldn’t let me in the OR, so I stood outside and paced. My dad and step-mom paced with me. My husband was such a nervous wreck he couldn’t stay there. Back then I was so mad that he went off to test drive cars. 16 years later I have learned that when he can’t cope, he looks at automobiles. For better or worse, right?
After the surgery they said he’d wake up in 30 minutes. They wheeled in this crib with chrome bars. It looked like a prison cell. I couldn’t put my baby in it. I laid in the hospital bed with him in my arms. It took 7 hours to wake him. That part scared me, but he finally came to, and I finally fed my baby the first bottle he held down in weeks.
Later the doctor told me that he would have most-likely died within another 48 hours if I hadn’t been so adamant that things just weren’t right. I don’t think the reality of that thought has ever sunk into my brain. I have seen people lose a child, and I don’t know how one weathers a storm like that.
Ten years later, we had to go in and have that surgery revised. So much scar tissue had built up that one day I came home to find him passed out on the front porch in pain. So we had surgery number 2. Then last year he had his shoulder repaired. Surgery number 3. Now, they’ve taken out his gallbladder and scoped his stomach again. Surgery number 4. He’s just 16 years old and they’ve cut him open 4 times already and I sat there looking at this boy who is now bigger than I am and I wondered how my little baby grew up so fast.
I’d like to complain that he shouldn’t have been cut open 4 times already, but then when I look around at the cruel reality of the world, I know I have to be grateful for the scars that have kept my little boy by my side. I’ll take a baby with a scar over no baby at all every day of the week.
Funny, the same people sat in the waiting room this time around, and we’re all a little older and little wiser than we used to be. The grandparents still distract me from the chaos. The Blondie who dropped her baby brother is now a mother! And the Daddy who had to test drive a few cars the first time we did this sat still in the chair next to his best buddy, and I am so grateful that we dodged one more “that could have been really bad” moments. I’m not sure why God chooses to bless us so immensely, but as I spend these next few days playing nurse-maid, I will smile every time he says “Mom can you….” because I know how lucky I am to be able to fix him ice water and hold his hand. He’s my Dyl Pickle, I love him to the moon and back, even if he did sneak his dog in my bed…
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