To See Both Sides

Today marks one week for us at Children’s. I’ll be honest, most moments I still can’t quite believe we are here, and much less that we’ve been so for an entire week, but try as I may to stiff upper lip my way through each day, the toll of being here is starting to show.

The second I say that, however, I remember that we could have been sitting here for at least 48 more hours beyond today just waiting for WA to have a bowel movement, but she crushed that milestone last Saturday which has led to her jumping hurdle after hurdle since and so maybe what I am experiencing right now is emotional whiplash as much as anything.

Honestly, I think we’ve had our heads spun pretty much every day during our time here which is perhaps why it feels way longer than just a week and also like the time has flown by in a blur. B and I decided this morning when we again walked into a “Oh, my. Really?!” morning update on her PIC needing to come out (which then led to us attempting to exclusively breast and bottle feed today) that literally EVERY morning has been like that.

“Oh! She pooped already?! WOW!”

“Oh! She’s off the O2 and can start 5mls of colostrum via the bottle?! Amazing!”

“Oh! No urps and we can put her to breast?! Holy cow!”

“Oh! She can breastfeed as much as she wants?! For real?!”

Legit, that traces back over each of the previous four mornings and while all of those things have been gloriously good green lights, that doesn’t mean they have been stress-free announcements. I mean, we’ve been through this new-parent gig before, so I guess we shouldn’t really be surprised that nothing is going to go as planned/expected and thankfully things are still mostly going in a positive direction, but it starts to mess with your head and your heart when the timeline and expectations are constantly shifting like that.

I always tell people, the best parenting advice I ever received with Baby Harrison was that just as soon as you think you know what is going on, the baby changes. So it also goes for our experience in the NICU.

And that’s when I remember/realize that I’m a NICU mama now. It may still seem surreal, but we are in fact doing this because what choice did we have?

I’ve thought a lot about what landed us here in the first place – our “unknown omphalocele” and how it also has a “two sides” head-spinning story to go with it. The fact that we did not know about the omphalocele’s presence is still a little wild to me, but then again, everyone in the medical field has deemed Willa’s “small” so while it seemed scary big to us, we now know it’s entirely possible for babies to be born with much, much more on the outside of their abdominal wall than what she experienced.

We also learned, on Day 4ish, that we are actually lucky she got have surgery at all and that again, all the medical folks around us were a little surprised that they scheduled her for her initial procedure as they did. Most kiddos have to go home until they grow enough for all the contents to go back in, or they have to do surgery in multiple stages.

This felt like some sort of secret we needed to keep close – like we got away with something, but the more we talk to the doctors, the more we see that her size (another surprise element in all of this) is probably what helped our cause/her ability to have the procedure in the first place. Thank goodness because I can’t imagine what a wreck I would be if I’d been sent home with a newborn’s wrapped omphalocele to handle along side my other four children for X number of months. And I’m glad I never knew that was even an option until AFTER the surgery was done because wow, the added stress of her already stressful first two days would have been intense.

Another hidden blessing of the omphalocele bringing us here when it did? The blocked bowel that presented Thursday morning just prior to surgery was also unknown until that day, so had we not already been here Wednesday, we would have just been here a day later anyway and under perhaps even more duress.

The other thought that has been floating around my brain since roughly 6:00 a.m. on November 22, when I was literally driving down I-80 five hours after delivery, was just that – Wilson’s labor and delivery and what it could have been like had we known the omphalocele was there. I haven’t had time to talk to my doctor about this yet but had we known it was there my guess is I might have been sent off to Omaha to deliver or even possibly been told that I needed a c-section.

The flip side benefit of knowing would have been proper prep for the Bigs and better packing for myself and Ben. But I can’t really imagine either of those outcomes being less img_8332stressful because neither would have given me the joyful delivery I had at MLH (one of the nurses said I was going to laugh out the baby at one point but Wilson’s size actually left me a little incapacitated on the bed because my normal two-contractions-and-out strategy felt a little different with an almost 9 lb.er!). And quite frankly, even more time away from my other babies prior to this baby’s arrival would have been hard on me because there is no two sides of being split from them. Either way you look at that, it’s rough and a big contributor to an achy heart and leaky eyes these last few days.

Of course, as overwhelming as all this has been, we really do know that we landed at the right spot with the surgeon, doctors, and nurses we needed to be our little fighter’s great champions. We might find ourselves surprised at each morning’s developments but clearly they see Wilson’s strength and are doing everything they can to run with it, which is exactly what we want to do, too.

P.S. For the record, I think she looks a lot like her bookend buddy, Baby Harrison.

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