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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Hartgrove Mahoney

Beautiful Breath of Life

My baby girl was born on Tuesday, June 30th at 9:17pm. Her name is Avalyn Rose (lovingly referred to as Avie) and I'm completely in love with her. The delivery was long and brutal and after nearly 4 hours of pushing, she finally arrived. My Mom dubbed her 'a little firecracker' when announcing her birth to friends and family. My labor was induced a day before my due date because the doctors didn't want to risk her coming late. If she was too close to the 4th of July holiday, it would be harder to get her surgery scheduled when and if she needed it. So she came on Tuesday, and had surgery two days later, on Thursday, July 2nd. Her first day of life was rough on everyone. I got to hold her once on Wednesday, in the NICU of my hospital before she was transferred to the Children's hospital. My husband went with her when she was transferred and he spent the day with her tiny hand clutching his pinky finger while doctors poked and prodded at her. He broke down about it later that night, as he described the procedures and how she wouldn't let his pinky go. We were back in my room at the hospital then, where I felt like a prisoner, held away from my baby. Those procedures were necessary evils, and the very next day she was getting wheeled away from us to the operating room. I had my discharge papers signed with just enough time to get to Children's hospital and touch her hand before they took her back. Thank God for family and friends providing distraction during the operation. It was in the waiting room where we unveiled her name for the first time. Everyone cried together when we told them that the reason for choosing her name was that it meant, "beautiful breath of life". And man, is she beautiful. The surgery went well, but it is going to be 1 of 2 (with the second surgery meant to 'put her all back together'). As suspected, there was a severe bowel blockage in her small intestine. Luckily though, there weren't any ruptures or twists and all of the organs were pink and healthy. The surgeon tried to clear the blockage but decided that trying to clear it would take hours under anesthesia and would damage her intestine. Instead, he cut the intestine at the top of the blockage and pulled both ends up through her stomach, one on either side of her belly button. The intestine on the right side of her belly button has an ostomy bag over it. This is where the waste will be distributed from anything she eats (which she isn't allowed to do yet- but she is on an IV, providing nutrients). The intestine on the left side of her belly button has a catheter sewn into it. The nurses are injecting enzymes into this catheter with the hope that it will clear the blockage and eventually the Meconium will pass into her diaper. There is a tube in her nose that goes all the way down into her stomach which suctions out all the stuff that she's swallowed and that her body has naturally produced. Since things weren't moving through her system, this 'waste' was building up in her tummy and making her belly swell up. The fluid from her tummy tube needs to run clear, with the 'waste' being deposited into the ostomy bag, before we can feed her. At first, that tube was pulling up a dark green fluid from her tummy and the ostomy bag was only collecting blood. The enzymes being injected into her other side, were pooling in the catheter and dripping out around the syringe... nobody was sure how much, if any, was actually getting INTO her intestine. Meanwhile, I struggled at home to get colostrum running, knowing that was the only thing I could do for my baby girl right now. Yesterday, on July 4th (4 days after her birth, and 2 days after surgery), I finally collected 2ml of colostrum. It was a small amount, but it made me so happy. When we got to the NICU to visit her, we were told that the fluid in the tube from her tummy was running a lighter green color- another positive. The nurse then filled a syringe with enzymes, as she described to us how it was still pooling and where it would leak. She positioned the syringe and pushed the plunger... and to our surprise, the syringe emptied. We held our breath and searched for drops and leaks and what we found was dark brown meconium coming up the intestine, around the catheter. The nurse was ecstatic. She said, even though the meconium was coming up- instead of down into the diaper- it meant that the enzymes had finally gotten through to the top of the blockage and were beginning to do their job of breaking it down. Then I got to hold my baby and swab her mouth with colostrum. She can't eat it right now, but her mouth will absorb the important nutrients it provides and this will only help her organs function. We were on a high! Leaving the hospital that afternoon, I was the happiest I had been since her birth. We spread the good news around to our families and everyone sent pictures of their July 4th cocktails as a cheers and an ode to Avie's successful day. That evening, we ended the night with our ritual phone call to check on our baby girl. "Guess what, guys," said the night nurse, "there is some green waste coming into the ostomy bag. This means the intestines are starting to wake up and function, taking the waste from her tummy down through her bowels like they should." As I ended the phone call with a hearty, "Happy 4th of July!" I heard the fireworks going off in the background. Fireworks for our Firecracker.

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