When I think back to the moments this year that have defined me as a Mom and my husband as a Dad, I immediately think of the moment where our Mama and Papa Bear instincts perked up and reared their heads for the first real time.
The belly button incident.
Our son was 8 days old and since leaving the hospital on day three, his belly button looked... well, totally gross. Looking back on it, it was probably fine, but to first-time parents it looked gnarly. I asked our pediatrician at his first visit if it looked normal and he assured me that it did and to leave it alone. He promised me it would heal.
A few days later my husband and I took him out for a walk to the farmer's market in town and when we got home, I fed and changed him and then majorly freaked out. His belly button was red and gooey and swollen about an inch out from his tummy. It looked very bad.
We live five minutes from a hospital, so thinking that it was bad enough to go to the ER since it was Saturday and our pediatrician wasn't available, we got him into his car seat and headed over.
(I'm going to pause here and remind you I was eight days postpartum at this point. A fragile, weeping, still healing from childbirth mess.)
When we got to the hospital there was some hustle and bustle, which I guess occurs when you bring a newborn to the ER. The doctor took one look at his belly button and told us he had Omphalitis.
Omphalitis is an infection that typically presents as a superficial cellulitis that can spread to involve the entire abdominal wall and may process to necrotizing fasciitis, myonecrosis, or systemic disease. It is scary and life-threatening and mainly found in babies who live in developing nations with poor sanitation and no reliable access to healthcare.
This doctor told me we needed to start him on strong IV antibiotic drugs ASAP and that he would need to stay in the NICU for 5-7 days and that I wouldn't be able to stay with him because the hospital didn't have beds for parents ... but not to worry because I could totally visit.
I was inconsolable. My husband stepped up in a way that defined him as a Dad, he was calm and firm and told me that I had to pull myself together because this was about our baby, not me. I had to advocate for my son and needed to be clear and rational.
Immediately, I knew that it was wrong to start him on IV drugs without doing anything more than glance at his belly button...which now that I was looking at it didn't actually look as bad as it did when we arrived. The doctor suggested we start the drugs ASAP while they waited for blood work to even be taken. He said the situation was that dire and the infection would spread quickly.
I spoke up and demanded that we be transferred to a different hospital, I suggested the one where he was born and where his pediatrician had privileges. The doctor agreed, mentioning that they weren't really equipped to deal with such an emergency in a newborn and after what felt like hours, an ambulance arrived to take us. The ambulance ride was surreal and horrifying, as the EMTs strapped my tiny newborns' car seat onto a stretcher as he screamed and screamed.
I felt that this was all my fault. How could I let my baby's belly button get infected?
When we arrived at the second hospital we were rushed into the pediatric ICU and were given a room where I could stay with our son for as long as we needed to be there. Minutes after we arrived, the attending pediatrician came rushing in with a herd of medical students.
She took one look at him and said, "I am so sorry for all of your stress and heartache today...There is absolutely nothing wrong with your son's belly button."
He had an umbilical hernia, which is extremely common in boys and goes away as quickly as it appears. His belly button was "gooey" because it was still healing. They admitted us for the night as they were required to monitor him since he was transferred from another hospital, but they checked us out promptly the next morning.
After a check-in with his pediatrician the next day, his belly button was looking completely normal. No IV drugs, no week-long stay, no separation between me and my baby.
In between panic and tears, somewhere inside of me, the Mom in me appeared. A different mom than had been there before, a more intuitive mom, one who knew. I was so happy to meet her. To be her.
This article was originally published on The Ugly Cry.