Thursday, August 3, 2023

Be Still

 In Dom's birth story post I briefly alluded to my expectation of giving birth and him needing to just hold on because life wouldn't be slowing down.  I'm starting to think this blog should be named "God had other plans". But I do suppose that is the whole idea behind the name of this blog, to persevere in running the race God has planned and set before us. In all of its ups and downs.

So yes, God did have a different race set before us than the one I envisioned. From day one, Dom was a baby who wanted to be held and, more specifically, wanted to be nursing. He was reluctant to be with anyone other than me and was nearly impossible to put down.  I wouldn't call him colicky because as long as he was with me, and likely nursing, he was fine.  That is until he was about two weeks old. He had been particularly inconsolable and clearly uncomfortable for most of the day and I remember thinking "oh no, this is when the colic is starting."  I wrapped him in my ring sling that night and walked in circles while listening to the Sunday School Podcast until he fell asleep. He whimpered throughout the night and wasn't eating as much as normal. Early the next morning he had a large green vomit.

Dom had already struggled with reflux, but this looked different. I was worried but also aware of my tendency to overthink things. J suggested I call the pediatrician after hours line. Dom was supposed to have an appointment later that day but I didn't want to wait because Dr. Google had already told me of all of the horrific things that could happen if I did. The nurse on the line was kind and calming. She had me take his temperature and called our pediatrician to ask for guidance. They decided the best course of action would be to get him checked out at the hospital and to hold off on feeding him for now.

When we arrived at the ER we were seen pretty quickly and the ER doc checked him out. He quickly identified a large hernia and attempted to manually correct it. He was surprised by how stubborn it was. Meanwhile, he also ordered a number of imaging tests to identify the cause of the green vomit and rule out anything serious. 

The first test was an X-Ray of Dom's bowels. It was pretty awful to watch. He was strapped to the board while they fed him a fluid that they could see travel through his system as they rocked him back and forth. He was crying and the fluid wasn't doing what they wanted it to do.   Afterwards the radiologist told me his initial reading of the results was that Dominic has malrotation and would likely need surgery.

We were then taken for an ultrasound of the hernia. Just as the tech was putting the goop on Dom's belly, a nurse came to let us know the urologist who viewed the imaging results wanted to take him into surgery now.  This is when things felt much like a whirlwind and started to move very fast. I had multiple people asking me to sign things and telling me what malrotation is and how they planned to fix it and oh yeah that giant hernia that is still there needs to be taken care of too and the risks of anesthesia at such a young age, but it shouldn't be an issue because the surgery shouldn't go for more than 4 hours.

Meanwhile in my head I am bitterly remembering the arduous process of getting on the schedule for Baptism at our church and how Dominic hadn't been Baptized yet. I hand the Holy Water I have in my purse (because I've been traveling with it in case of emergency) to one of the techs and explain to her the Rite of Baptism and that if anything goes wrong it is the first thing she is to do. She was surprisingly receptive. And then the tears came. I continued to sign paperwork about all the things that could go wrong and watch as my tiny baby is wheeled away on a bed with a team of people surrounding him. The people at Children's Plano were all so caring. I received the most loving embraces and reassurance from each member of the team, including the surgeon. I remember them telling me with most sincere faces that they would care for him like their own and I believed them.

I whispered into his ear and kissed him and put my head on his little two week old body. He was so tired from crying and not eating all morning. And off he went.  I believe it was around 12:30pm. The staff brought me a pump and a two ounce bottle to catch milk. Thankfully, I had brought my own hand pump and larger bottle, so I replaced the two ounce with the eight ounce and managed to fill it twice. They were very accommodating and began storing any milk I pumped.

While the morning was whizzing by I was in communication with J and my mom. J had been with the other kids, but now needed and wanted to join me at the hospital. My mom came to pick up the boys from school and stay with them. I messaged the rest of my family with an update and a plea for prayers. J arrived and a tidal wave of tears flowed from me. They were tears of relief to have him here and also fear for our tiny baby. 

At 2:10 I received my first update letting me know they started the procedure and he was stable, warm, and hydrated. At 2:58 I received a message saying "Hi Mommy. He is stable and we are still working".  At some point the nurse who had been sending messages stopped by the room to let us know her shift was ending and a new person would be sending updates.  J passed the time by watching videos of the Ladd's procedure they were doing (J watched intently, I mostly just glanced periodically). I passed the time by worrying and crying off and on. At 4:06 I received a message saying "Surgeon still operating, everything is going well, baby is doing wonderful". And then came a painful 2 hour communication desert. 

During this time, my sister stopped by with dinner for us and a big, long, needed hug where I could just crumble into my big sister's arms. She told me that on her drive the Matt Maher song Leaning was playing and I was reminded to lean into the comforting peace of our Savior. I returned to the room and we ate dinner.  We finally received another message at 6:00 saying "Finished with the belly and starting on the hernia. Baby is doing well."  I was a little surprised and disappointed there was still a significant piece of the surgery to be completed, remembering the anesthesiologist telling me anything under three hours was not of concern.  The three hour mark was passing us by. At 7:30 the surgeon came by to let us know he was out of surgery and being moved to PICU where we could go up to see him. 

Walking into the PICU was a mixture of relief and shock. I was so glad to see our sweet boy, but not prepared for the amount of machines and wires surrounding his little body.  The surgeon gave the PICU team a synopsis of the surgery, letting them know the hernia had been a major problem and resulted in needing to resection part of his intestine. She emphasized the hernia was the hardest case she has seen in someone so small and she had needed to call in a second surgeon to assist. I later learned that his particular malrotation was rare and one that was newer for her to operate on. He would remain sedated and on a breathing machine.  

J went home to help reassure the worried siblings and I settled in for the night. Throughout the night Dom's temperature dropped over and over and at points his pulse would take dives. That combined with waking to pump, I didn't sleep much. They lessened the amount of pain meds they were giving and placed him on warming bed which helped with his vitals.

J arrived back at the hospital for rounds the next morning. The plan was to slowly reduce support from the O2 machine as well as continue to reduce pain meds and start to wake him. They also wanted to place a PICC line to give him TPN (IV food) since he would not be able to nurse for a few days. The person placing the line recommended I leave because Dominic was likely to cry during the procedure and while he could handle babies crying, it broke him to see the mother cry. So I left J with the holy water and Baptism instructions and he assured me there would be no need to use it.   I took a long walk around the campus and prayed a Rosary and reflected on the meaning of giving Dominic's care to God the Father first and trusting in His perfect will.

The line was successfully placed and Dominic made slow progress towards reducing his need for breathing and O2 support as well as began to wean off of the sedation medication.  As this happened he slowly started to wake up.  He also started to pee, which was a great sign. However, he didn't like having his diaper changed and would hold his breath whenever the nurses were doing this. It was nerve wracking every time. I loved our PICU nurses. They provided encouragement and words of comfort and so so many hugs.  

That afternoon, he was stable enough for me to be able to hold him and it was the best feeling.  He pretty much stayed in my arms from that point on unless a nurse made me lay down in bed or if it was J's shift. My mom came to visit so J could spend some time with the worried siblings.

Dominic continued to have green gunk (bile) sucked through the tube that was going to his stomach and we needed this to be gone for a substantial amount of time before we could reintroduce breastmilk.  By bedtime on day 2 at the hospital, he was not impressed with not being able to eat. Being more alert was a blessing, but hearing him cry for food was heartbreaking. 

He had a rough night with waking and realizing he hurt and was getting hungrier. Unfortunately, the amount of green getting pulled from his stomach was increasing. The hospital team didn't seemed worried by this and said it was a sign his intestines were starting to work again, just slowly so they were backing up and causing green to be in his stomach. Meanwhile I was learning how to hold a baby attached to what felt like 100 wires, pump, and not drive him crazy with milk in his face that he couldn't have. 

It was day three and J had a special surprise for Zilla, they would be headed to the UT/OU game together at fair park. J debated calling off the trip, but Dom was doing so well and this would be such a special time for them they decided to keep their plans and got to see UT trample OU. 

That evening J and I switched places and I went home to see the kids. Leaving the hospital was hard. All the thoughts and what ifs were flooding my mind. The nurse told me she was glad to see me going to get a good night of rest and assured me all would be well. Dom had a good night with J and they started to see him poop some, which was a great sign of progress. It was day four at the hospital and Dom was off all major pain meds and was taking only Tylenol and antibiotics in addition to the TPN. I went to Mass with the kids and (thankfully) my mom. After Mass, we had Father Michael say a prayer over our family for Dom. It was a needed dose of peace. 

When I returned to the hospital, Dom had been moved out of the ICU onto a regular floor. While I loved that he was making progress, the nurses here were far less hands on and also didn't like me sleeping in a chair while holding him.  So I got really good at waking up anytime I heard the door open. I struggled more with pumping because he was getting more and more agitated and wanted to be held most of the time. I was glad I brought my Freemie from home, or there is no way I would have been able to keep up my supply. 

On day 5 at the hospital I was given the go ahead to feed him an ounce of milk from the bottle. It was a huge relief after a very difficult night. From here, he continued to make beautiful improvements and eventually moved back to nursing.  Never in my life was I so happy every time I saw poop. It was wonderful. The kids were able to come up at one point to say hi and J and I switched places again. We switched back the next day so J could return to work. After arriving on October 6th, we were given the green light to go home on October 12th.

I am so grateful for all the love and support that was poured out over us throughout this week and the weeks after. So many friends provided meals for us and our family stepped up offering care for our kids.  And the prayers sustained us through it all, providing us with an overwhelming sense of peace. There were moments of fear and sadness but there was so much peace. Especially in the openness to God's plan.

It's amazing to look back and see where God was in all of this. And more importantly to look back and see that God was calling me to "Be still, and know that I am God". I was ready to fling myself into motherhood of five. I started seeing clients the day before Dom went into the hospital. I was ready to convince Dom he was a kid who was comfortable with being put down often, because well, it felt like a necessity. I was ready to have another kiddo like Betty, who slept amazing from day 1. I was ready to hit the ground running. I was absolutely not ready to find ourselves back in the hospital knowing that J had spent much of the summer in the hospital with his mom. But God, well he knew better. He knew I needed to Be Still. To stop and take in the moments with this new precious soul. To sit with him, to hold him, and to let God redeem some of the pain of the past year. To spend more time in silence and prayer and trust.  God knew. He always does. He is always good, in all things.

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