At this point we have been making great strides in our development. Gavin recovered from his lip repair surgery fairly quickly and we continued on as any other family. There was tummy time, he began rolling over, pulling himself up and before we knew it he was coming up on 10 months of age. His cleft palate repair surgery had already been scheduled and we knew of our countdown date.
This surgery (cleft palate repair) was going to be quite a bit tougher in some ways than his lip repair. First, we knew that he was not a tiny infant and would understand in some ways more of the pain he was feeling than he did back then. Secondly, this repair was the entire roof of his mouth extending to the back of his throat so there was going to be a great deal more pain and swelling, discomfort in a way we would not be able to understand or that he would be able to convey, and recovery was going to be longer.
Some of the things we did to prepare for surgery was to just spend as much time with him as possible enjoying all of the little things. We set up a Dedication Ceremony through Church for just our family as I wanted to make sure that he had that prior to this next surgery. As parents we were still very worried about him going under anesthesia and it helped us as parents to know that he was dedicated and that he had his cross blessed that he could take with him on his stuffed animal into surgery. He had this puppy with different colors on it and when you pushed its paws or feet it would talk or sing to you. He loved that puppy and his doctor and nurse told us he could take that with him into surgery so I pinned his cross to the puppy so that it was near.
I continued to pump and store breast milk for the surgery. We knew that as long as we kept him on breast milk he could drink almost right up to the surgery. We felt that making sure he had a full belly would make him feel better when he woke up after surgery and our surgeon let us know that she believed breast milk really did help to heal the palate much more quickly. Not only that but stomach issues were usually less with breastfed babies so the less he spit up the better while he was healing.
In between the recovery from his lip repair and up until his 10 month palate repair we had spoken to his surgeon and pediatrician about vaccines. We wanted to make sure that his immune system was not compromised in any way and that he was as healthy as he could be for surgery. We put our son on a very delayed vaccination schedule allowing him to only have 1 vaccine per visit. More about this in another post!
Another long night of packing and not sleeping happened for us. We knew this surgery was going to be more difficult in some ways than the first surgery he had at 3 mos. The surgery was going to be longer and he was older now and would understand that he was being carted away from us. Our stay in the hospital was going to be longer due to the extent of this surgery and he was going to be in a great deal more pain because of the entire roof of his mouth being repaired. This definitely had us all in knots.
Once again we found ourselves on the 405 at 4:30 a.m. and we were pretty tense with worry. Same deal as the first surgery. We checked in and they got us to our waiting room where we changed him into his surgical gown and began pacing with him in our arms. Since he was older for this surgery the nurse came in prior to surgery and gave him some medicine that made him pretty loopy. They told us it would make him less likely to cry when it was time to be taken from us and more relaxed for the anesthesiologist. I don’t know if this information made us feel better or worse.
Palate surgery lasted quite a bit longer than the lip repair surgery and we were stressed the entire time. Recovery was much more difficult this time around. He was really upset coming out of the anesthesia and had this awful cry that sounded really hoarse. His surgeon told us it was from all of the tubes and that his vocal chords were irritated and he would sound hoarse for a few days. There was also blood that was coming out of his mouth and nose so we had to keep burp rags and towels on our shoulders and anywhere else that was handy. This stopped after a few hours but you could just tell how uncomfortable he was. They had him on a mixture of Tylenol with Codeine for pain management but I felt like I might need something as well, only stronger!
We spent a restless night in the hospital with check ups hourly and a lot of rocking and singing to keep him calm so that he could sleep and heal. This night was by far the toughest and both my husband and I felt as if we would drop from the sheer stress of it all. The following day he woke up and seemed to be feeling slightly better. He seemed more alert and actually wanted to try and eat. We had a sippy cup with the valve taken out with us that our surgeon had suggested we bring. We warmed up some breast milk and put that in the sippy cup for him. We were able to help pour that into his mouth a little at a time and he actually seemed to feel better afterwards. We were so scared trying to feed him like this. He already looked in pain and we didn’t want him to feel frustrated about getting his belly full. Getting through this first feeding we felt apprehensive but by the end we all seemed to get the hang of it and our little guy looked a little better.
Our surgeon came to check on him and after witnessing him getting the breast milk from the sippy cup a few more times and feeling satisfied with how he was doing she discharged us later that day. They kept him on the Tylenol with Codeine while there but she let us know that if he was doing okay during the day we could keep him on regular Tylenol and supplement the Tylenol with Codeine at night to help him sleep.
I am amazed at how quickly our son was recovering from such a major surgery. He was eager to eat and after just a few days at home he was crawling around with his arm splints on and was babbling. His frog like voice began to disappear and if you didn’t know him, to look at him you simply would not know that he’d had a cleft palate surgery only days before.
Children really do recover much more quickly than adults. This surgery was a difficult one and obviously much more involved, but as a family we got through it. Our immediate family around us made sure we were fed and stopped by to check in on us, fill prescriptions or grab things from the grocery store. We are lucky to have so much help and love surrounding us during our times of need. Do not be afraid to ask for help! If ever there was a time to do so, it is while you are worrying about your little one.