The Umbilical Hernia Experience
posted by: Christina Antus
This past spring we learned that our one-year old had an umbilical hernia. Which was a relief. We were worried she swallowed a marble.
An umbilical hernia is a tiny hole in the abdominal muscles that never closed after the umbilical cord opening healed. As a child becomes active the hole gets larger. Resulting in intestines bulging through.
It sounds worse than it really is.
Using medical terms overcomplicates everything. It’s like a doctor diagnosing you with a contusion on your coccyx. You’re immediately concerned because you have no idea what they’re talking about.
You: Can this be treated?
You: Is it contagious?
You: How long do I have to live?
Dr. I don’t know. But the bruise on your behind should be gone in a week.
It was like a weird version of Pinocchio. Except instead of lying, every time she sneezed or pooped her pants her belly button grew a half a centimeter.
After three months, the novelty of her new little companion wore off.
I told my daughter’s doctor that I was worried she’d fall and somehow damage her intestines—I was really worried her sister would poke it back in too hard with a straw, or the handle of a bubble wand. He was positive injury wouldn’t be an issue. His concerns were cosmetic.
Having been pregnant, I’m no stranger to the laws of gravity when paired with skin elasticity. I didn’t need a doctorate to understand that what he meant was more intestines would come out, stretching her skin as she grew. Ultimately leaving my child with an elephant trunk-like piece of skin flapping like a windsock off her belly button.
Try surviving 7th and 8th grade like that.
As parents our job is to make sure that our children don’t grow up having the same issues we had. Our job is to give them different issues. Instead of low self-esteem, I’d like something more unique for my daughter. Like, being 25 years old and having a hard time putting together IKEA furniture.
So, we all agreed to have it surgically closed.
When surgery day arrived, I signed every single piece of paper in the hospital. It was all in medical terminology so the only thing I understood was, “patient responsibility.” Otherwise I have no idea what the forms said. Thankfully no fat was removed and she still has her old nose.
After the form signing party, I walked my daughter and her favorite bunny into the operating room. We played peek-a-boo with my facemask along the way. Once we got there, she and her bunny were given strawberry scented anesthesia—which was nice. When I had surgery all I got was the funny anesthesiologist who said, “See ya on the other side…of the recovery room.”
Twenty minutes later the doctor walked through the doors. It was less dramatic than on Grey’s Anatomy. Also, it wasn’t Patrick Dempsey. Which is a good thing because he’s a brain surgeon on the show. Also (spoiler alert) Patrick Dempsey’s not a real doctor.
My daughter’s doctor explained the whole procedure. When he asked if I had any questions, I considered asking if he happened to see a pink marker tip while he was in there but decided against it (I found it after I got home—behind a book, not in a diaper).
The most difficult part of the experience was after. I had been well prepared by several staff members of what to expect from a baby coming off anesthesia. There was a lot of crying. Some thrashing, a little rage. It was like watching a one-baby episode of Bad Girls club.
The hospital staff was great. They were professional, personable, sympathetic and understanding. They treated my child like she was their child and made a stressful situation a very positive experience.
Thank you, Children’s Hospital of Colorado.
Christina is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Denver with her husband, two daughters and a cat who’ll never forgive her for having children. You can find her cleaning cracker crumbs and juice spills off the dog at: