This is Eli.
Eli’s my baby boy, born on Dec. 5 to Mark and I in Oklahoma City. Within 24 hours, he needed emergency surgery to save his life. He had a chopper ride followed by surgery Dec. 6 to fix his little digestive system, which didn’t develop quite right. I think the color returned to my face today so I decided to start writing.
Usually when disaster strikes I’m in a newsroom. Eli is no disaster, though. A baby born to two loving parents never could be. He’s just had a bit of an ordeal for someone so young. I hope he doesn’t turn into a baby cynic, thinking this world totally blows. I digress, but his ordeal struck about 14 hours after he was born. I guess I’ve decided to report on it. The last few days have been a blur and I want to remember.
I had one of those uncomplicated lovely pregnancies with a big, round, endearing belly, followed by a glamourous, drug-addled labor during which I felt no pain.
Here I am in heavy labor feeling nothing at Mercy Hospital. I put on some make-up for the camera while Mark tried to arrange the delivery of a washer/dryer on the phone with Sears. Then he took my photo.
There was a woman down the hall screaming in pain. This made me grateful for modern medicine.
Everything was peachy as Eli made his debut, around 2:15 p.m. It’s surreal and wonderful to finally meet the baby you’ve been lugging around all those months. Mark and I immediately fell in love with the little guy.
I’d say next, the poo hit the fan, but in his case, it really didn’t. That was the problem.
We sent him to the nursery around 10 p.m. to grab a night of shut eye. Eli started spitting up. Gooey, bile-y liquid was backing up his throat, making him choke. The nurse suctioned his tummy, sent him to the NICU and awoke mom and dad. That was 4 a.m. His bellow was distended, meaning swollen. These weren’t great signs for a young digestive system. The nurse was talking fast. She wasn’t panicked but she wasn’t calm either.
They took X-rays that showed a swollen small intestine, which is the twisty part of the gut the stomach empties into. A doctor was going to order various tests at Mercy to help pinpoint a cause but I instead had Eli transferred to Children’s Memorial at OU Medical Center. Mercy was wonderful with his delivery but they lack a pediatric surgery team. If there was a remote chance he would need an operation I wanted him to be in the right place.
Chopper nurses in black jump suits appeared and put Eli in a giant, sterile baby Easy Bake oven thingy. They gave him a teensy blanky for the ride over. I don’t really remember what I said or did at this point, except experience every symptom of a sloppy freak out.
Dec. 6 was a bad day for Oklahoma babies. Eli was by far not the sickest baby in the state, so his chopper transport took a while. Transport teams took five babies from far flung corners of Oklahoma into the Children’s Memorial NICU that day, which constitutes as a very busy day, the nurses said. Eli arrived mid-afternoon. I sent Mark home to shower because I would be going home for the night (so I thought) and he would be coming back. Also, we missed our daughter, Laila, who is 2.5. Mark headed to the park first, where she was with grandma, to meet her. About 30 seconds after he left, a team of surgeons came in to check Eli out.
They looked at his X-rays and said “Screw the tests, we want to operate on him right away.” That was said in smart-people surgeon talk, I’m just paraphrasing here. It really didn’t matter what they said, because alll I heard was “cut my baby open” and I fell apart. Mark came back. I spent the next few hours roaming around the hospital, a postpardum mess, still tuck with IV tape, Percocet coursing through my veins, flinging snot and tears every which way, etc. etc. I called my sister and said something about how I drank too many pumpkin spice Starbucks lattes, obviously, which were poisoned and I have now killed my baby with high fructose corn syrup and caffeine. I was orbiting a disaster moon unaware of the rest of the solar system. Along those lines, I don’t remember what Mark was doing other than being supportive and freaking out outwardly much less than me. Emotionally, I felt like I’d been beaten with a bag of rocks and glass. I looked like it too. So much for the baby-mommy glamour shots to go along with my perfect pregnancy and labor!
During Eli’s surgery, a nurse put us in a private waiting room. I took this as a disastrous sign that we would need somewhere private to hear the horrible news. During his surgery we both stared at the wall and expected the absolute worst. My innards were a big ball of doom.
We did not get horrible news. He handled the surgery quite well.
I won’t get technical here but Eli’s small intestine (the one connected to the stomach) didn’t move meconium (tar-like poo that babies make while they’re in mom) like it should. His small intestine swelled and backed up his whole system. That left his colon underdeveloped.
Surgeons separated the small intestine from the large intestine (aka his colon). They arranged each end to poke out of his belly. Later, they bagged each end end and begin to flush out his small intestine. The idea is, once he heals, the swollen, cleared-out small intestine will shrink and the underdeveloped colon will grow. He’ll need a second surgery to reconnect them.
That’s about all the mental energy I have for descriptive writing now.
I have zero perspective on my own experience and will probably wince at every word I’ve written in the future. Oh well. Writing helps me process and reflect on things.
I’m at the hospital today and Eli is asleep.
Here we are today. We are both doing so much better. I’m just happy I get to hold him again, because I love my baby and am obsessed with his cute face and teeny sounds. I had the nurse take a pic.