My son was born full term at 4 pounds 10 ounces in the early morning of November 8th after a four hour drive lying in the back seat of the car in labor, starring out at the starry night sky. During this drive I can remember seeing several shooting stars, which I thought it was a good omen of what was to come. About 45 minutes away from the hospital my water broke, and as I began pushing I could feel his head crowning. Once I got to the hospital, they frantically rushed me up to the delivery room and began prepping me in a hurried manner, and as I made that final “push” and he came out, I can still hear the doctor’s voice saying “we’ve got a preemie” as he laid his warm wet body on my stomach, and I can remember thinking to myself, “he’s not a preemie, why are they saying that?” But as I looked down at his small trembling body, reddish and water-logged, his eyes were wide open with a kind of stricken and panicked look. I reached down and took his small hand in mine, and began gently caressing his soft head to comfort him. As he turned and look at me, and our eyes first met, it was as if everything around us disappeared and we were still one. He stopped crying, became motionless and just gazed at me. I was amazed as to how small he was. I remember thinking he was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. It was love at first sight.
Then I remember the commotion as they began clearing his air-passages, wrapped him in a blanket and rushed him off for tests and further examination. As I laid there starring up at the ceiling, my mind faded and subsided from sheer exhaustion, and I slowly slipped into the silence of the aftermath. I woke up a few hours later in the recovery room, and as I laid there reflecting back on what I had just experienced, it all seemed like a dream. I felt my body aching and throbbing with intensity, which now seemed strangely empty and somehow void of life. I can remember thinking “that wasn’t so bad”, even though a short time earlier I had been in excruciating pain while wondering if I would survive it, now I laid silently in the quiet of the aftermath while momentarily longing to do it again. It was one of the most painful, beautiful and profound experiences I had ever had. I had to just lay there in what now seemed like a dream and try to take it all in. I was attempting to somehow comprehend it while still feeling consumed with all the emotions I was feeling. My mind began racing with anticipation and all I wanted to do was hold my little boy, gaze into his eyes, and comfort him with love while welcoming him into the world.
Some time later I was taken to my room where they had his crib set up next to my bed, and when they finally brought him in and went to lay him in the crib, I wanted to hold him instead so I could feel him next to me and intimately study his beautiful little face and body. I wanted to get to know who I had felt growing inside of me that I could only talk to with my heart while singing sweet lullabies. After a while the doctor came in to inform me that despite his low birth weight, he was actually well-developed and appeared quite healthy. He said “we don’t normally allow babies under 5lbs. to go home, but he seems perfectly healthy, so we are going to make an exception.” I felt a desperate sense of relief and was excited to go home the next day with my beautiful little boy that I had waited so long to get to know.
As we got home and settled in, I was still recovering from the birthing experience, and was totally consumed with the much anticipated experience of being a “Mom”. As he was breastfeeding I began noticing that he seemed irritable and as though he was experiencing pain of some kind. Though he loved being at my breast, as he drank my milk, he seemed anxious somehow, he would pull off, cry and clench my nipples with his little hands, then, relax and go back to sucking. I then noticed that he didn’t seem to be having regular bowel movements, and when he finally did, they were more like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube, long and skinny. Concerned, I took him in to see the doctor three days after he was home to try and find out what was wrong. This marked the beginning of a nightmare that would last for over a year and would challenge me in ways I had never even contemplated before.
At first I was told that he was allergic to my breast milk, and he was put on formula instead. But the problem continued and even seemed to get worse. Then it became about him being constipated, so we put Karol syrup in the formula. Then it was the wrong formula and we began experimenting with trying different ones. Within the 15 days following his birth I sought medical help and advice 18 times. I gave up on the Pediatrician after 6 visits, and proceeded to take him in to the emergency room of the local hospital, where they repeatedly couldn’t seem to find anything wrong. After about the 4th ER visit, they began talking to me about Post natal depression, paranoia, and delusions. They started recommending “psychiatric” help and anti-depressants, and would shake their head, and even started making “new mother” jokes and little sarcastic remarks when they saw me coming (again). Even my husband withdrew his support after a while and began trying to talk me into seeing a psychiatrist.
The whole time this was happening I was going through a kind of mental anguish and emotional torment. I had a deep pervading feeling that something was seriously wrong, yet I didn’t know what, and I couldn’t seem to get anyone to help me. I was constantly aware of it, and it slowly developed into a kind of inner anxiety that led to feelings of panic. I could sense that something was definitely wrong, and I would notice what I thought were clear symptoms, yet every doctor I took him too said he was fine and I was just imagining things. I knew in my heart my baby was struggling for his life, yet no one seemed to hear or believe my repeated cries for help. I began feeling isolated and alone while overwhelmed with a sense of urgency.
On Thanksgiving morning, after spending half the night in the ER because I could see his abdomen was not only swollen and extended, but starting to turn a bluish color, and he was acting as if he was in pain, only to be once again ridiculed in an impatient manner and sent back home, and told to try and relax and enjoy the holiday. I was able to finally coax him into drinking 4 oz. of formula at around 6am., and he then seemed relatively peaceful and was finally able to sleep. After holding and rocking him for a couple of hours, feeling relieved, I put him to bed, and began preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. At around 10am, he suddenly woke-up with a painful shrill and threw-up the formula he had drank four hours earlier. I thought to myself, there is no way that formula should still be in his stomach to throw-up. At this point I began feeling queasy inside as I became overwhelmed with a feeling of sheer panic. I could feel a rushing sensation deep inside that had an urgency to it and was overwhelming me with the need to do something quick. But where would I go? Who would be able to help me? My heart began racing and I felt frantic. I knew that everyone thought I was crazy, and I searched my heart trying to figure out what I needed to do. I finally decided I was going to take him to a different city and hospital to see if they could figure out what was wrong and help us.
I randomly opened up the phone book, selected a hospital in a nearby city that stood out, and called the ER, explaining my concerns. They told me to go ahead and bring him in, and they would take a look at him. When I announced to my husband what I was going to do, he shook his head, sighed with frustration and tried to talk me out of it. When I then decided I was going to go alone, he reluctantly agreed to drive me down there, even though he was sure of what we were going to be told. At this point he was convinced that I was having serious psychological problems, and seemed irritated that I was going to “ruin our Thanksgiving”.
When we arrived at the emergency room of the hospital, they quickly examined him, determined there was a serious problem and handled it as if it were an emergency. They rushed him away for further tests and to be examined by other doctors, and the long “wait” began. They emerged periodically to ask all kinds of questions about my pregnancy, our family history, any traumas experienced during pregnancy, or infant deaths in the family, and so on. By 2pm that same afternoon, they came to inform us that he had been diagnosed with “Hirshsprungs Disease” and I was being informed and advised in a hurried manner as I began signing an endless amount of paperwork necessary for “emergency surgery”. They told me if I would have been 2 hours later, he would have died from perforated intestines, which were on the verge of “popping” when we arrived.
I was beside myself with shock as everything began rushing through my mind and I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. I felt as if I was caught in a whirl-wind of excruciating chaos. I had trouble coordinating myself to think clearly about everything that was happening. By 4:30pm, he was undergoing major surgery in a hurried attempt to save his life. All I could think to myself was, “thank God I didn’t listen to any of them, thank God I followed what I knew in my heart to be true and real, and I believed in myself even though I was being told by everyone I knew that I was crazy”. I felt overwhelmed with intense feelings of gratitude as I silently waited in the plain and sterile surroundings of the waiting room, anticipating an unknown and possibly scary outcome. He had been given a 4% chance of surviving. Four percent! All I could think of was all the papers I had just signed that told me what “type of death” he would most likely experience, while praying in my heart for a miracle.
After 6 hours of waiting and not knowing, I felt a noticeable calmness and relaxation come over me, and something told me, it was going to be okay. A few minutes later the surgeon walked into the room with a tired yet relieved smile on his face and embraced me. He looked me in the eyes and with excitement in his voice said . . . “he made it. He’s a little trooper, he made it with flying colors.” Hearing those words, I felt as if the room was swirling and I felt my knees buckle. The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the ground crying while laughing uncontrollably holding my head in my hands. I felt caught up in a fantasy, nothing seemed real. I was then able to go see him in the ICU unit for newborns where he was strapped to the bed, had tubes coming out everywhere, his head had been shaven and was severely bruised from attempted IV’s, and he had a colostomy. Seeing him like that became almost a nightmarish image in my mind that would haunt me for years, and I felt consumed with an overwhelming sense of grief mixed with relief.
It turned out this was just the first step in what would become a year long process. The first colostomy he had “failed”, and they had to perform a second one, which seemed to work. Due to the fact that he was so small they had trouble putting IV’s in, and had to surgically implant “main lines” into the main arteries of his neck and chest. He seemed somewhat stable, though he wasn’t gaining any weight or growing. He then started losing weight and becoming slightly lethargic, and after three months and a couple of exploratory surgeries, they told me “he should be getting better, but he’s not”, and they diagnosed him with “failure to thrive” and informed me that his major organs were beginning to shut down and that he was in the process of dying.
They gave me the option of either leaving him there or taking him home to die. Naturally, though I was grief stricken and in a state of shock, I decided to take him home. This experience was life transforming, and I have written another article that conveyed that experience because it’s to in-depth to go into here. After he was home, he immediately seemed to start recovering and began thriving again. The second set of surgeries, which would remove the part of his intestines that were damaged and close up the colostomy came at 7 months old, and those seemed to also “fail”, and the second time around when once again I was told his system was shutting down, I decided to take him home against the doctors orders, which caused a major uproar in both the doctors and in my personal life. As I took him and started walking out I was chased down the hallway with the doctor telling me that if I left the hospital I would be “killing my baby”, yet I felt completely confident in my decision and what I was doing, so I left with him. Once again, just like the first time around, he immediately began healing and recovering from the ordeal, and within a few days began thriving. He was hospitalized again for two weeks at a year old, and spent his first birthday in the hospital surrounded by the nurses and doctors who had helped care for him. And that was last time he was ever in the hospital.
The long series of events that transpired over the first year of his life that ultimately amounted to 12 surgeries, would be the most profoundly transforming period of my life, followed only by the murder of my husband which would come seven years later. He was hospitalized for most of the first year and we underwent many extremely intense moments together which only served to bond us. I had to make several difficult decisions that went against everything I was being told based on “intuition” and I had to walk through some of my most deep seated fears and feeling of insecurity. I learned how to not only tune into my inner feelings of “knowing”, but believe in myself while embodying a kind of strength I didn’t even know I had, and I gained a true sense of confidence in myself.
These decisions and the actions I took created a “rapid recovery” that was later deemed miraculous (even by his doctor) on two separate occasions, and led me to my first experience with what I later came to know as “Healing Touch”, which is the healing power of love. In the moments that proceeded out of this incredible experience, my whole life would crumble before my eyes, truth would reveal itself in extremely profound and painful ways, and I would come to learn the true meaning of moral “courage”. Not the kind that comes from facing my fears, but the kind that gave me the mental and emotional fortitude to carry on the face of complete devastation and all loss of hope. The kind of courage that true miracles are made out of.
Another interesting thing about this whole experience that provided me with a lesson on the true meaning of intuition, was that the hospital (University of Colorado) I randomly chose to take him to just so happen to have the chief surgeon who only five years earlier had discovered the cure/treatment for Hirshsprung’s disease. He was the “leading authority” in the country (and world) for his condition and its surgical treatment. I had unknowingly selected and placed my son into the best possible hands I could have, all without even realizing what I was doing. Clearly a case of pure intuition, the unknowing that silently guides our actions through feelings and a form of heightened awareness around certain ideas, only to be realized in the aftermath and seen for its profound implications. This experience brought a whole new meaning to “Thanksgiving”, and to this day, it’s my favorite holiday.
And on that note, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and may your hearts be filled with a deep sense of gratitude for all those you so dearly love and care for in a devoted and unconditionally loving manner! :-)
Dr. Linda Gadbois
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