March 19, 2012

Catching You Up

This month has been a full-on blur; I have little idea what day or time it is at any given moment. (Thank goodness my iPhone is velcroed to me at all hours.)

So much has happened at breakneck speed, and yet I feel like these most difficult days of my life have lasted for ages. I can't make sense of that dichotomy.

A month ago I would have told you, while silently patting myself on the back, that I'd survived the impossible: natural childbirth. I barely even consider that when I look over recent weeks. It's certainly not the accomplishment I thought it was; it was a cakewalk compared to what came next. I'd relive that night - the excitement, the nerves, even the pain - and the happy days that followed a million times over.

Having Mary Brooks on Valentine's Day seemed like a defining moment in our lives, but something bigger has happened. Life is measured now in "before" and "after" for us - but it's not centered around her birth.

Our world came to a screeching halt two and a half weeks later, and out of that has come a fresh start. The weight of it still sends me spinning. I have put it out of my mind to survive lately, but the more I process things and think them over, the more I realize it: We've survived something that will always define us. We've survived.

Not alone and not by our own strength, that's for sure. But that's another story for tomorrow.

Mary Brooks, Bradley and I have been home with Mac for a week now exactly; last Monday at this time I was praising God and high-tailing it out of the peds floor, MB snuggled in my arms.

I said goodbye to the shoebox room that had been our home for eight full days (as B says, an eight-day, seven-night getaway we never wanted) and snapped this shot of my giddy guy carting our belongings out.

Heading home sweet home, March 13
I started this post two weeks ago tomorrow, the morning after her surgery, but I couldn't finish it. I'm still not sure I can. There's so much to say and a great deal I don't want to tell you, pieces of our experience I hope no one else ever has to know or understand. But the Lord is telling a story through us, through our girl, and I feel called to record it.

To catch you up, help me keep my facts straight and potentially help someone who stumbles across my blog with a similar diagnosis (intestinal malrotation and volvulus), I'll start at the beginning and take it in pieces. Don't feel compelled to read every word, but know that I'm pouring this out both to record it and to make sense of it.

From birth, Mary Brooks has been a tiny angel. We hesitated to talk about it for fear that she would turn on a dime and become a fussy, high-maintenance little thing, but that's the furthest worry from my mind now.

MB only ever cried out when she was unswaddled, undressed or having her diaper changed. We must have checked her breathing hourly since birth, just in awe of her peacefulness. She nursed like a champion from the first moments of her life and ate every three hours during the day and every four (or more) hours at night. You can't ask for more from a two-week-old!

On Friday the 2nd, our gorgeous girl had a projectile vomit incident during what was meant to be a newborn photo session. Thankfully our photographer was a sweet friend who kept Mac (and took some fabulous pictures of him!) while I ran MB up to the pediatrician, utterly terrified. I'd never seen anything like it - so much, so forceful, absolutely awful.

MB at the doctor an hour after she first got sick, March 2

There were no real answers at the time, and that continued when I called on Saturday morning after the vomiting continued. It was just too soon to tell if it was a stomach bug, a fluke, the start of reflux or a potential lactose intolerance issue.

Regardless, I just felt like things were off with her - but what did I know? I'd only had her for two weeks; we were just getting to know her.

My parents came up that Saturday to help and let us get out of the house for a wedding; during that time Mary Brooks seemed better. Sunday she seemed more hydrated and, numbers-wise (diapers, etc.) she was picking back up - but I still felt like she wasn't herself. I wanted to speak with the on call doctor but knew I'd hear the same thing: quantitatively, she was improving.

She gathered her strength and stayed awake Sunday evening (a rarity during her sickness) long enough to have a full meal - and I sobbed as it came back up through her nose and mouth simultaneously, as violently as I'd ever seen. I prayed for morning and the opening of the pediatrician's office doors.

Mary Brooks slept all night, something you don't want your two-week-old to do under such circumstances; Monday morning I took her in to our favorite pediatrician across town, hoping he would "get" it. He did - and we could never thank him enough.

While MB was technically fine (looked well, had wet and dirty diapers, wasn't severely dehydrated), he believed she was ill. Hallelujah, someone listened!

Just before becoming sick, our overachiever of a daughter had blown the doctor's "return to birth weight" goal out of the water by a full pound. I believe now that the Lord must have fattened her up before the symptoms of her volvulus started.

In the six days between her two-week well visit and her surgery, she was on track to gain another pound; instead, she lost nine ounces and couldn't keep down an ounce of clear Pedialyte. I was desperate for an answer and afraid we'd be sent home to "wait it out" again. I just couldn't stomach watching any more lethargy in our baby, much less any sickness. It ripped my heart out.

The doctor was concerned he'd send me into a panic by suggesting an ultrasound at the hospital. He told me he was probably being overly cautious and could go either way on the decision, but just felt that her abdomen seemed guarded and tense, as though she was hurting.

I knew she was hurting. Instead of fear I felt overcome with peace - Yes. We will get an answer. She will get some relief.
We were told not to pass go or take our time in getting from that suburb to the hospital minutes from our house. I guess the receptionist didn't get the "don't cause panic" memo? We called a friend who lives near us and dropped Mac off on our way.

After an hour in a waiting room full of hacking, foul-mouthed, body splash-spraying future hospital patients, we were thoroughly irked and scared for our girl finally registered, processed and ready to...wait more.

We went to the radiology waiting room, then the pediatric waiting room. It's amazing how calm things were there, looking back, because once we got into the ultrasound room, everything went in a different direction. The ultrasound tech took her time looking around for what our pediatrician suspected was the problem - only not to find it.

The diagnosis I was most hoping for, odd as it sounds, was pyloric stenosis. The words "laparoscopic procedure" had dropped my heart into my stomach days before, but at this point I wanted a definable, fixable issue.

Her pylorus looked normal and we were mentally heading to the next step (giving her dye and an x-ray of her GI tract) when the tech caught something small, easily missed - just a vein and an artery placed a little differently than most.

The head of pediatric radiology, hard of hearing and speaking loud as all get out, swooped in to confirm her thoughts, told us Mary Brooks had intestinal malrotation with volvulus and that it was life-threatening.

He described it to us briefly - it was essentially a twisting of her midgut that could cut off bloodflow to her bowels - and emphasized that any time spent discussing it further would only delay her much-needed surgery.

Next came the tailspin.

B made arrangements for Mac while I stayed with Mary Brooks and focused on not falling apart. I texted a friend, asking her to inform another that we wouldn't be home to receive the dinner she was delivering. Because that seemed so dire at the time. I tried to call my dad (because I didn't want to have a mutual meltdown describing things to my mom) but hung up on him three consecutive times as new doctors rushed in.

I opened the Bible app and asked Mary Brooks if she wanted to read the verses I'd prayed over while she was forming. I couldn't get them out of my mouth, though, and instead just silently prayed over her and told her how much we loved her, what a good, beautiful girl she was.

Soon Bradley and I were scrubbing up to walk Mary Brooks through a labyrinth of halls and elevators into an OR. We answered a few questions and handed our sweet beauty to a nurse who would put her to sleep. They told us they'd remove her appendix permanently, then take both her large and small intestines out of her body, untwist them, and put them back.

That was the best case scenario. They'd only know once they got inside her what her prognosis was. I'm glad they didn't give us the worst case or discuss the mortality rates or the chances of survival for babies her age who had complications or any necrosis (dead portions of her intestines). We learned later how grave the situation was and how much heartbreak could have been ahead.

MB in her room, days after surgery
I'm glad my parents rushed in and our dear friend Matt left work just to sit with us in a waiting room, no questions asked and no need for conversation.

I'm glad friends came out of the woodwork to call, text and email for news and I'm especially grateful for the friend who brought me an iPhone charger because my one lifeline to the world was dying.

I'm glad for the people who passed along updates so we wouldn't have to and who listened to my manic I'm-totally-fine-my-whole-world-isn't-cut-wide-open-on-a-surgical-table-right-now attempts at humor and conversation.

As we tend to do, Bradley got quiet and I stayed busy. Finding the lactation office, getting a pumping kit, hunting down a room with a door to just stand, thunderstruck, and fight back tears. I just knew that if I let the waterworks begin, I'd be useless to Mary Brooks and everyone else. I fought hard.

When I left that small lactation room, the only private spot in the hospital for parents who have just kissed their babies goodbye with a moment's notice, we ran smack into two precious friends coming to deliver their son.

That bright spot - the hugs, the excitement, the mutual promises of prayer - was God carrying me through. I saw it in so many ways that Monday and in every hour since.

I'm getting long-winded and ahead of myself here. See why I'm dividing this up? Feel free to read or not read as you see fit, but know that your prayers and love are a huge part of why we're still here, still functioning. The food, the calls, the support.

I'll write more about the surgery, the longest eight days of our life, and how we have learned more about compassion, love and community than we knew in our decades on Earth before this.

The happy end of the story is this: our Mary Brooks is home and well. We four are back under one roof and, although we're still walking through some challenges, we are more grateful than you know to face them in our own home.

Thank you for letting me clog this space with my rambling, ridiculously incoherent thoughts. I haven't allowed myself much time to work through them until now, just typing this out. I look forward to making sense of it all.

They took great care of us, but a terrible day at home still beats the best day in here.

"Let all that I am praise the LORD;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!"
Psalm 103:2-5


Shani Gilchrist said...

Oh, Anne! I'm so glad you are home and that things have improved so. You've handled this with the strength of the best kind of mom. We are thinking and praying for you and your sweet baby girl.


Shani Gilchrist

Turner Aycock said...

I cannot imagine. This was so hard to read. I am praying so hard for your sweet family. I hope the Lord continues to heal sweet MB and gives y'all the courage to deal with whatever comes your way. You are such an amazing mom. Wow. I am inspired by your strength! xo

Kristen said...

Typing through tears and sending you more love than you can imagine. You and Mary Brooks are two of the strongest gals I've ever had the honor of knowing.

The Gaymons said...

Thank you for sharing this, Anne!! I am amazed and so thankful for God's goodness and protection. I have told your story day after day (to many who don't know you or the Lord), and I know that the Lord's grace is being revealed through the sweet story of Mary Brooks Smith. Can't wait to see ya'll again!

Samma said...

Anne, I have huge tears in my eyes reading this-tears that I wouldn't have had 8 weeks ago before Dell Harper came into my life, because I had no idea how your own child makes you feel. I am so thankful that Mary brooks is home now, and so glad that you are sharing this story to inspire and give relief to others. Much love, Samma

Tiff said...

Sweet, brave and amazing MB. She gets that from you. I can feel your emotion through this post. Hope y'all are having a good week and enjoying this warm weather. :)

User Not Found said...

Praise the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness. Anne, you are very brave. Thank you for sharing your heart with us - and the story of your sweet baby girl!

Lori said...

My heart was breaking for you guys as I read. I'm so thankful you had a positive outcome, and I'm so sorry you had to deal with this. I hope your sweet baby girl continues to improve! Thank the Lord for cautious doctors, and Mama's gut feeling that something wasn't right!

Rowena said...

Just a reminder that all four of you are dearly loved and will continue to be lifted up in prayer.

Rachel said...

What a whirlwind these past few weeks must have been for you. I cannot even imagine the emotions you've been through. I am so glad to hear your on the other side now and things look good for sweet MB. Y'all will continue to be in my prayers!!

Perfectly Imperfect said...

Love y'all so much. So proud of your little fighter.

Taylor said...

You are such a strong and wonderful mama to those precious babies! I'm so glad Mary Brooks is doing well and that you are all home together! I'll continue to pray for you guys!!

Solar Powered said...

First, let me say I am so sorry for what you have been through yet the tone of your writing shows strength and faith that is a TRUE inspiration to me.

I found your blog again tonight randomly after reading an old post of mine from 2009...before we had our first babies. I'm about to have my second as well and am so thankful to have stumbled back on your blog tonight.

I wish you easy days ahead with that sweet baby girl and look forward to getting re-acquainted.

Meredith said...

I cannot even begin to imagine what you went through/are still going through. I am so glad that Mary Brooks is back home and healing. I will be praying for your family and a quick recovery for your precious baby girl.

Naturally Caffeinated Family said...

Oh Anne, I am so sorry you all had to go through this! I am so glad that His hand was with you and sweet lil' MB the whole time. I don't know if you remember, but BabyBoy had surgery on his lil' intestines the morning after he was born (would have been life-threatening too), my eyes are full of tears right now, I know some of what y'all have gone through. God showed us so many things through that time (and reminders still because of that time). I am praying for you, MB, and your whole sweet family! Email, text, or call me anytime!


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