Our son, Little-S, I have mentioned before, was my easiest delivery, and my largest baby (so far- this baby I’m carrying now feels like he might be trying to break the record). Our experience with him has been unique in other ways as well. He was born with a meningocele, or neural tube defect. Right after birth, the nurses turned him over in the warmer, and we saw a mark on his back, about the size of a quarter, that indicated his spine had not formed properly. It was 3:00 in the morning, I was obviously very tired, and I just started crying.
Thing was, Little-S was moving all his limbs and acting completely normal (even peed on one of the nurses:), so after my good cry, I couldn’t muster up very much fear about his condition. He had tests done during our postpartum stay in the hospital, and they all had good results. We went in for x-rays and an ultrasound and could see for ourselves that at the foot of his spine, things weren’t right. It was decided that Little-S needed surgery to fix that area. He wouldn’t have to have it done right away, so it was scheduled for June 16th, when he would be eight weeks old.
There were many thoughts in my head the day of the surgery. This kind of procedure wasn’t exactly life-threatening, but you never know what can happen, especially while operating on an infant. Would Little-S survive it? Was this the right decision to make for him? He might have grown up just fine without the surgery, but then again, he might develop problems with the spinal cord tethering at the spot it was abnormally connected to his skin tissue. We thought we were doing right by having it fixed.
For six hours prior to check-in, he couldn’t have anything to eat. I remember waking him up at 2 am, to nurse him at the last possible time. He was already sleeping through the night by then (what a champ!) and would have slept til morning if I didn’t do that. I remember the too-big yellow gown they put on him when we checked in, and tiny id bracelet. There was quite a wait before he was taken into surgery (big surprise there), so I got to walk around with him and sing to him and look at some books with him. He was hungry, and would fuss, and that made it so upsetting for me to hold him at times, so Luke would take over.
Finally, Little-S’s name was called, and we laid him on his back in this tall, steel crib. He didn’t cry, and was totally at peace to look at the lights overhead and suck on his fist. A nurse pushed him down the corridor, while we stood and watched him go, this little, kicking bundle of yellow. There was a strange sense of deja vu at that moment. I remember standing and watching my mother’s bed be rolled down another hospital corridor, years before, on her way to heart surgery. Now it was happening again; this time it was my son.
That was probably the hardest thing I have had to do so far in my life- let my baby be taken away, and trust a surgeon with his little life. In reality, though,I wasn’t placing my faith in the hands of a (albeit able) neurosurgeon- I was giving my Little-S back to the Lord, the God of all creation. This would only be one of many opportunities to surrender his life to God’s wishes. If God wanted to take Little-S, we were ready for that. If He chose to heal Little-S, we would rejoice.
Which isn’t to say that my time in the waiting room was a piece of cake- it was very difficult. And, the surgery took a long time. But eventually, someone came and told us that the operation was over, and successful, and we could go up and see our son.
That brings me to the second hardest thing I have ever had to do- see my baby come out of anesthesia and know the pain he is experiencing, and further know that there is nothing I can do for him. One of the saddest sounds I’d ever heard, Little-S would cry weakly, his throat sore from being intubated. He couldn’t be moved much for another day or two, his spine had to stay as flat as possible. Thankfully, however, he only suffered that much pain for a short time; soon the nurse had him comforted with meds, and I had the comfort of knowing that Little-S wouldn’t remember any of this. And that was the worst it got. From there on, he began to heal quickly, and after a day of rest was able to be held and nursed. Everyone told me babies bounce back easily, and Little-S certainly proved them right.
After getting home again, I don’t think it took long at all to fall back into a routine and be normal again. His incision required some care, but all in all, it became almost easy to forget that this baby had had major surgery at two months of age, unless someone would ask about his scar.
That day four years ago certainly doesn’t enter our thoughts very often now, as we run around with this very active, healthy boy. But, on the anniversary of his surgery, it is good for me to go back and think about that experience, to remember those tiny feet with huge yellow footies taped around them, to cry over the pain I saw in my son, and so many others on his floor, to again feel that joy when I could once more hold him and feed him. To remember the goodness of the Lord, our Healer and Life-giver. I know that I am incredibly blessed to have had such an easy time with Little-S’s birth defect- many children born with forms of spina bifida have had to undergo many surgeries and go through many ordeals to maintain their health and wellbeing. That wasn’t what the Lord had planned for Little-S, and I can only thank Him for His mercy.
Top Photo: Little-S on “crunches”, like Grampa Chase was recently