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Children / Health / Humor

The Umbilical Hernia Experience

The Umbilical Hernia Experience

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?
Dr. Yes.
You: Is it contagious?
Dr. No.
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:

Christina Antus
Author: Christina Antus

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  1. I’m so glad you caught it early and I’m so glad she’s OK!

  2. I went under the knife twice under the age of 1 1/2 for the same reason many years ago. I apparently came out of the anesthesia fine- but my mom complained about her inability to breast feed for a few hours- days before pumps were so popular. The small scars were a talking point when I had to get my appendix removed.

    • The incision was made in her belly button. It was so fine that it looked like a pin scratch. You can’t even see it anymore. We are thankful we decided to have it surgically close, in case it may have reopened wider. In fact, after surgery the doctor told me it had opened 2.5cm wider than it was three weeks before. The surgery prep was nerve wracking but I’m thankful all went well and that we have specialists who know this stuff like the back of their hands.

  3. My little guy, 2 months old today, is have his umbilical hernia repaired next Friday the 25th. The only thing bothering me about the whole ordeal is the anesthesia. Since he is so little we have to stay overnight for observation. I just want the whole thing over with. He is my youngest of 5.

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