Monday, March 14, 2011

So there's this new bachelor in town...

At the moment, he weighs 5 pounds, 11 oz. He can get a bit feisty and he's totally obsessed with my breasts. But what can I say, I'm in love.

So in case you haven't heard, our son showed up about 5 weeks early. This is not entirely surprising since our daughter showed up 4 weeks early. What a lot of you guys may not know is, he was born with a condition called TEF (tracheoesophageal fistula) which is an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea. I could go into a very long and drawn out explanation or I could just tell you that his esophagus and stomach were not connected when he was born. That's where our story begins.

Now....I truthfully feel that the best way to get through life happily is to try to just focus on the here and now. This is why I skip high school reunions (plus high school sucked). That said, we've had a long strange trip these last few weeks and maybe our story will help someone sometime. I don't know. Here goes:

I couldn't have been happier when I got pregnant this summer. We took all the prenatal tests and everything looked good. And then during an anatomy scan via sonogram....the baby's stomach was hardly visible. Huh. What did this mean? Lots of various theories and more tests later (fetal ecocardiograms and MRI's, etc) and it seemed all the doctors agreed that our son more than likely had TEF. The good news? It could be fixed. The not great news? It's something you have to keep an eye on the kid's whole life...since once they fix the esophagus, it is very narrow and can cause choking. It can also cause your kid to accidentally aspirate food into his lungs and cause pneumonia. And your kid is way more susceptible to germs and respiratory illnesses.

So not that I am the type of person who skips through pregnancy all aglow and feeling all mother earthy anyway. But...this finding put a major damper on things, to say the least. I don't know if I smiled the last trimester at all.

January rolled around and on top of everything else, sonograms revealed the baby wasn't growing as much as he should have been. So the doctors strongly felt Baby Boy needed to come out. I had a C-section. My ob said it was up to us if we wanted the C-section or not but that if the baby had TEF, he might be in distress during the birth process. That was all we needed to hear. I did the C...though I really really really didn't want one and was kind of terrified.

When Baby Boy was born, he did indeed have TEF. There were about 20 doctors there in the delivery room....surgeons, neonatologists, the works. They whisked him off to the NICU and immediately hooked him up to a gazillion tubes...IV, ventilator, etc. Three days later, they performed the surgery to connect the esophagus and stomach. They managed to make the connection even though the esophagus was exceedingly narrow.

Slowly slowly Baby Boy weaned him off IV and give him breast milk via tube. And then....we got a call that Baby Boy was having trouble breathing. Xrays showed something on his lungs. You don't really know what terror is until you get a phone call saying "either your son has pneumonia or some sort of consolidation on his lungs." Not a fun night.

Eventually, they figured out that Baby Boy was leaking lymphatic fluid from the operation. Apparently, this happens sometimes. Stupid lymphatic fluid, go away. They put in a chest tube to drain it. They put him on special formula that is easily digestible for kids who have had surgery. Eventually, they started him back up on breast milk again.

Meanwhile, weeks went by. The NICU is like's like Vegas...all kinds of sounds and lights and you never really know what time it is.

For those who don't know what a NICU is, that's the nursery for really small or sick babies. If you ever want some perspective on life, spend some time in the NICU. You will begin to think that what you do for a living is really really stupid. Doctors and nurses perform miracles every day. Sure, there are a few bad seeds out there but most of them are really quite amazing. They walk among us like regular people when in fact, they keep people alive.

At the NICU, we had our favorite nurses. We had a couple not-so-favorite and one we so strongly disliked we asked off our case. She was a night nurse told us our son's respiratory rate was 7. The normal rate is in the 90's...and anyone who spent any time in the NICU would know that a rate of 7 would be highly dangerous and close to impossible. If I could understand that as a definitely non-medical person, I was very concerned that she could not see that. But she was the exception, not the rule. Mostly, I saw my son receive a lot of tender loving care in the NICU and his victories were the nurses' victories too.

Eventually, Baby Boy made progress. He was moved out of the incubator and into a crib. Still hooked up to lots of monitors but no tubes. I went to the hospital to breast feed him and stayed as long as possible every day. I felt strongly about being home for dinner every night so everything would seem "normal" to our daughter. Of course, she is smart and sensed things were absolutely not normal at all. But we pretended it was.

In the meantime, I joined this little club of parents who were at the NICU every day. Reading and talking and singing to little three pound babies. And pumping. And pumping. And pumpin. Man, do I hate the pumping room at the hospital. They were these weird little sectioned off areas where women could pump breast milk for their babies. There was one woman I called The Pump Singer....she would pump and sing every day. Really annoying, in case you're wondering. Plus she sang the oddest things. Mac the Knife? Really? Boogie Woogie Buggle Boy? I guess we all have to do what we need to do to keep our spirits up. At one point I was tempted to shout out "Free Bird!" but I restrained myself.

There came a time when I started to feel like I worked there. Maybe it was when I started running into people I knew at the cafeteria. Or when I could tell residents looking for certain babies where they were. "Oh, the Smith Twin B? She got moved into the other room." At any rate, it seemed as though it was time for Baby Boy to come home. All the nurses said he was ready. And finally one day, when we least expected it, he was.

We brought him home in a pouring rain storm last Sunday night. We had one of those old school Brooklyn guys as our car service driver which I thought was a great introduction to the neighborhood for Baby Boy. When he dropped us off, he said "Now he's back in Brooklyn where he belongs." In like the best Brooklynese on the planet. And it's true. Baby Boy is back where he belongs.

And one day, when Baby Brother isn't a baby any more and is doing something that could really endanger himself (and he will if he is anything like his father) I will bust out the Jewish guilt remind him of everything he put us through and therefore he MUST stop doing what he is doing immediately, our hearts just can't take seeing him get hurt.

I can't wait for that day.