If you're new to our blog, and would like to start from the moment I learned I was having triplets, click HERE :)
Posts about Colton's Cleft Lip and Palate surgeries as well as the Triplets' Cranial Bands are along the sidebar.

Friday, July 3, 2009

A new smile to love, and another we'll never forget...

Most of you probably know me by now, but if you don't, read on. My name is Colton Bunch. I am 3 months and 1 week old. I am a triplet. I am the oldest. I am the big brother. when I was still growing in mom's tummy, they found out that my lip did not look like my brother and sister's. I heard them say I had a cleft lip. I wondered if that would mean they wouldn't love me as much, but it didn't. In fact, I think it made everyone love me more. I love my smile, but sometimes I get sad that I can't keep a pacifier in my mouth like Ethan and Hunter. Or that I spit up a lot more of my food and it comes out of my nose and mouth. So I was kind of excited when mom and dad told me I was going to get a new smile. I was also a little scared, I mean, I am only a baby you know. So this past Tuesday, June 30th, I got a new look...I hope you like it. :) My mom will tell you the rest...
Again, most of you probably know ME by now too...probably far too much about me! But if you've just come across our blog, then here's the rest of our story. My name is Ami. My husband's name is Brian. We are the proud parents of 3 month old triplets, Colton, Ethan and Hunter. This story, however is about our first born baby boy, Colton. As he just told you, he was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. We knew about it before he was born, but never knew just how much his smile would melt our hearts and everyone's around him. Just look at his silly grin and you can't help but smile back. Colton and I had a strong bond from the very start. Probably because the mother instinct in me drove me to feel that I had to "protect" my little boy from the cruelty of the world. Before he was even born, we were anxious to get his smile corrected, but after he was born, that sort of changed...the more we got to know THIS little face, the sadder we became as his surgery date neared. But I was a kindergarten teacher for too long, and know all too well how harsh kids can be to one another. Deep down, I knew that fixing his lip was the right thing to do-for HIM and the rest of HIS life.

So this past Tuesday became a very BIG day for a very little boy....

The Friday before surgery, we took Colton to UMC for his Pre-Anesthesioloy appt. Here, we basically filled out all insurance paperwork and signed consent forms. Colton never even opened his eyes....

Here's mommy and her Baby Boy...

And Daddy and his little man...

This is the smile we had fallen in love with....

So with mixed emotions, on Tuesday morning, Aunt Mary and I packed up the little man, said goodbye to my other 2 babies and gramma and headed for UMC. Unfortunately, Brian had to be out of town for work, so he was unable to be here until later this night. Here, we are waiting to be called into the Pre-Op room.
Aunt Mary and her favorite Nephew. (Don't worry, she tells Ethan the same thing)
After not a terribly long wait, Colton was called into the Pre-op room where I answered questions about his health background for what felt like the tenth time to the the tenth different person. Colton was quite taken with his "Big Boy Crib." Never mind that it looks a bit like a baby jail cell...

I'll be honest, at this point, I am not nervous for the procedure itself, but only thinking ahead to the pain my little boy was about to be in and the struggle I would feel because I wouldn't be able to make him understand why....
You'll notice his awesome hospital gown...intended for a small child. Not a small baby. But he pulled it off. :)
Aunt Mary and Colton. Seriously. He's wearing a dress!

Fortunately, for my own well-being, Colton was in a great mood this morning. He was cooing, smiling and giggling at all the nurses.

How can you not love this goofy smile...
As we got closer to surgery time, the anesthesiologist and surgeon came in to talk with us about the procedure one last time. So look closely at the picture below....does he look familiar?? Think back to my C-Section. Yup! My friend, Tony (Dr. Lucas) came through for me again and was able to schedule himself to do Colton's anesthesiology! Thank you Tony...you will probably never know how grateful I am to you....

And this is the Surgeon who would forever change the grin that greeted me every morning in his crib, so happy to start a new day. This is Dr. Craig Hurst.

As you can see, Colton knows who to be afraid of... :)
"Don't worry baby boy. Mama will be waiting for you as soon as it's over. Don't be afraid little buddy."

And this would be the last time I ever saw that sweet smile...
It's a very strange feeling to hand your baby off to people he doesn't even know. Luckily for me, my friend Tony took Colton and carried him to the Operating Room. That helped mine and Mary's peace of mind tremendously, knowing that Tony was in there every minute, taking care of my baby.

And then the wait began....Dr. Hurst sort of estimated that it would take about 2 and half hours to complete the surgery, so that's kind of what Mary and I were going off of. So we waited out on the patio as the first hour passed, then the 2nd, then the 3rd and then the 4th hour....I will admit, I was a bit afraid of why the surgery was taking so long. But finally, we saw Dr. Hurst coming towards us on the patio to let us know how it went.
You know how you try to read a person's face before any words even leave their mouth? Well Dr. Hurst's was hard to read. "Is this bad?" I wonder. But, he said it went well. Didn't start on time (that explains one of the hours) because they had some difficulty getting Colton to sleep. (My POOR BABY!) But eventually they did, and the surgery went beautifully. Thus began our next wait....seeing him in the recovery room.
Tony came out and got us and took us into the recovery room. Walking into that room, filled with bed after bed, patient after patient, my mind raced wondering what I was about to see. As we approached Colton's cubicle, I heard his signature cry tainted with a bit of scratchiness from being intubated throughout surgery. All I could think was "I'm coming baby! Mama's coming." And no sooner than we walked into his "room", did his nurse, Eva, hand him to me, clearly having been unsuccessful herself at consoling him.
This is what I saw.
An absolutely miraculously done surgery, but a face I honestly did not recognize. I knew it was my baby, but his signature smile was gone. And he was in real pain.
Let me say this. Consider yourself lucky if you have never had to watch your own child, a baby in particular, go through something so traumatic. Remember tough me? The one who loves shark attacks and military shows? Well I take it back. When I saw him, I did not feel one ounce of tough. I felt absoutely miserable. All I could do was hold him, talk to him, let him hear my voice and tell him he'd be okay, even though I wasn't sure I believed that myself. He looked so pathetic. His cheeks were beginning to swell, the sutures keeping his lip together were tainted with blood and the tubes in his nose to keep his nasal passages open were straining his ability to take deep breaths. It was all I could do not to cry.
But this was a new role for me. I couldn't fall apart because I had to be there for my son. He needed me to smile at him and tell him how handsome he looked. Everyone says "don't worry, he'll never remember this." The problem though, is that I'll never forget. My sweet Colton, you are every bit as beautiful as you were the day you were born. You are a tough little man, much tougher than you should have to be...I am so proud of you.
Grampa and Aunt Mary, I know, felt every bit as anguished as I did that we could not console Colton or help him understand where he was and why he was hurting so much. Again, all we could do was talk to him and let him hear as many familiar voices as we could.

Not terribly long after, his wonderful nurse, Eva, told me they had his room ready on the 3rd floor, (the Pediatrics Unit.) She also told me that several of the nurses remembered Colton from his short stay in that unit just before he came home from the NICU. That actually made me feel better too knowing he was going back to a place he had already been. At this point, any bit of familiarity or comfort for Colton would do my heart good.
So Eva, Anthony, Colton and I headed off to 3W, the Pediatrics Unit.
And that began the longest night of my life. It was hard enough watching the poor little thing scream in pain, but add to that the fact that I had to try feeding him immediately using his special bottle. Oh my god...the anxiety I felt having to force a bottle into a very sore, swollen little mouth was enough to put me over the edge! But again. That's my job. This chair became our home away from home. We spent most of our time right here in this chair.
Later that night, Brian arrived from Phoenix and experienced the same bit of shock that I did upon seeing his little man, completely changed, for the first time. But also every bit as impressed at what an amazing job Dr. Hurst and the team did.

Also later that night, Aunt Mary traded roles with Gramma so that Gramma could steal away from Ethan and Hunter to come visit little Colton and sing to him. :)

It's been said many times now, how much Colton resembles Ethan now. Which stands to reason really. They are brothers, triplets at that. When he's all healed, I'll put up some comparison pictures of the two.

Well, because we wanted to maintain some normalcy for Ethan and Hunter, Brian decided to go home that night and take care of the other two munchkins while I would stay at the hospital and take care of the littlest patient. Let me just say, that may have been the hardest night of my life. Just when Colton would fall asleep, he would need to be awakened for pain medicine or vital sign checks or to attempt to eat, and would therefore scream in pain again. This cycle continued the whole night.
And there I sat, rocking my sweet boy just as best as I could while he cried. I became increasingly grateful for the constant beeps and blips of his heart monitors all night becase they helped cover the sound of my own crying that ensued each time Colton would drift back to sleep. I have never wanted a night to end so bad in my life. His nurses that day and night, Daria and Amy, were angels wearing scrubs. They had both been his nurses before when he stayed there after the NICU, and they both remembered him. I'm sure they could tell how upset I was and were therefore even more loving towards my little boy themselves. Some people are simply meant for careers like that and Daria and Amy are two of them. And though she wasn't his nurse this time, Laura came in to visit with us and Colton too. She had actually been his nurse one day while he in the NICU. Each one of them in their own way, made it easier to be there.

Somehow, morning finally came and I waited anxiously for Brian to get to the hospital. I just needed someone else there to bear some of the heaviness of Colton's care. Don't get me wrong, I did not want to give up my little boy to anyone, (and I really only let Brian hold him a few times probably!) but I needed support. Someone else to tell Colton he'd be okay and to take that burden off of me for just a few minutes. .

Those who know him, can probably see some of Ethan in these pictures of Colton's new face.

Here I am in frustration, confirming for poor nurse Daria, that Colton still had not eaten.
Little by little Colton began to eat again. We ended up having to entice him into eating by mixing his formula with Apple flavored Pedialyte. Worked like a charm, though his appetite just simply wasn't his usual. And what do you expect?

And here may be evidence of the worst part of the whole thing....notice Colton's elbow splints. He has to wear these, made of velcro and hard, pliable plastic on his arms to prevent him from messing with his sutures and nasal tubes. Poor baby can't even put his arms down by his sides.
I like to think he's saying, "Mommy, I love you THIS much!"
There's Dad, hanging out.
And here I go again, trying to feed Colton.
This is a card that Gramma helped Ethan and Hunter make for their big brother. Colton was happy to see their faces. He missed them and so did I.

After a little uncertainty about whether or not Colton was going to be able to go home that night, we got the word! He was free. Though I would need to really work hard to get him to keep eating.

"Goodbye Nurse Daria! Thank you for taking such good care of me! I'll see you at the new building for my palate surgery!"
Does this hallway look familiar?

Baby Boy, we're goin' home!

This picture is 2 days post-op. The swelling, believe it or not, has gone down tremendously, but the bruising has only begun to worsen.
Those who knew Colton before will feel the same sense of amazement that we did at how absolutely different he looks.
Ethan wanted Colton to know he was there for him, so he wore the elbow splints as a show of solidarity!
Home once again, Aunt Mary is there to rock me while I get better....
And I'm here to work on my new smile.
So though I do not have even MORE recent post-op surgery pictures up here yet, I'll say this. I had no idea how much pent up anxiety I still felt for my poor little man, until tonight. I was sitting on the floor watching Colton in his bouncy seat, just talking to him, telling him how much I loved him. And somehow, through sutures, tubes and bruises, he honestly forced a smile. And all I could do was cry. And he did it again and I cried some more. Brian confirmed that I was not imagining it :) and said to Colton, "Thank you buddy. You just did your mom's heart good."
And he sure did.


Bama Bound Gordons said...

That is most touching story. I am so touched and still crying. Ami you are the most amazing mom.

Anonymous said...

Ami - I am still crying - you tell your story so beautifully.

I am so glad things are going well. I empathize greatly with you - Ryan was 6 weeks old when he had to be admitted for pyloric stenosis and I wasn't allowed to feed him (he had an IV) the night before his surgery.... I remember that long night of crying - You and Colton are in my prayers....


Mary said...

You are amazing Ami! Seeing him after surgery was the hardest and most helpless I have ever felt...I don't know how you do it! He is a such a strong little guy : )

Fisher Family said...

It was a tough week for our lil men. I was just nodding my head and had ALL the same feelings you were describing!!!! We honestly had you and Colton in our thoughts and prayers as much as we had Prestton. I still get all choked up but know we did what needed to be done for them. He looks amazing and certainly is a trooper. We have something special for the Bunchkins and their wonderful parents, so let us know when Colton is up for visitors. oxox from all of us.

Anabelle said...

As much as Colton is a brave, strong little boy, you are a brave and strong little Mama! Nicely told my friend :) Colton looks as handsome as ever & I love his new little face already.

Nicole said...

I've always admired how brave and matter of fact you are. I know why God gave you these three babies- he knew you could handle it and do it without any complaints.
I am so happy that he is doing better and I am so glad that a new chapter for him (and you) has begun!

Mom said...

Ami-watching you as a Mom has been a wonderful experience. How lucky you all are to have each other. You have spread your motherly love to all of your babies. You are a natural. I know it has been so hard for you with Colton but you are pulling him through it all. The way he looks at you melts my heart. I love you. Love, Mom

Adam and Samantha said...

Oh my gosh! I don't cry, Adam even says that I'm dead inside cause I NEVER cry, but I was totally crying reading this! You write it so well. Your three little ones are so lucky to have you two as parents. They are loved so much! Your little guy can get through this easy with you there to help him! By they way, I can't believe how big he is getting!

Marci said...

Reading this post takes me right back to bringing my little guy home post-op. The swollen cheeks the bruising, and the tough little guy still trying to smile and let me know that he was okay. You are lucky to still be able to feed him a bottle. My little guy couldn't suck on anything for a full week so we fed him with a 10cc syringe with a tube attached to the end. We, I mean me and my mom, because it took two to feed him this way, would squirt a little bit of milk into his mouth and he did his best to try and keep it in. Most of it just ended up all over everyone! I can't wait to keep seeing the progress!

Auntie Val said...

I just got home and sat down to read the new post and I can't stop the tears...you write such an amazing blog. To experience such an
emotional journey through your blog has captured the hearts and prayers of all who love you, Brian and the bunchkins. Thank you for sharing. Colton is such a little trooper..Through your strength and positive attitude you have pulled him through a tough time. One that will be so beneficial to his future. You are amazing. Even when it felt as though your heart was being ripped from your chest you were there to comfort him and assure him that he would be okay and would soon be home with the other two beautiful little miracles..I love you so much...Can't wait to see him and fall in love all over with yet another sweet little smile...Auntie Val

Vanessa Corey said...

I'm holding my little man while reading your blog, crying and thanking God for Jack's health and I am completely amazed by your strength. Your love for your babies shines through and they are so blessed to have a mama who would do anything for them. Thank you for sharing and reminding me not to take anything for granted. XXXX

Stephanie said...

Tears....you write so well. Perhaps when your kids are older you might want to look into creating a children's book.

When I saw you and your three gorgeous babies in Target my heart fluttered. Three babies, one with a new smile! Is it my birthday! So many toes and not enough time!

Colton looked fabulous with his new smile. He is a tough little man and so is his mother! You were brave, much braver than I could have been. I admire your strength and you make motherhood look good!

I would love to share my blog. Email me when you get time (Does that happen, I am sure you use free time to shower.LOL) and I will send an invite since it is set to private.



More Than Words said...

They say the Lord works in mysterious ways and after having stumbled upon your blog today, I am even more convinced that this is true. I’m sitting here at work, in tears. Not sad tears but happy (and nervous) tears. My 4 month old baby girl goes in for her cleft lip surgery in 2 days. Up to this point, we have had many appointments with our plastic surgery team but are still pained with feelings of uneasiness and uncertainty. Reading about your experience as a mom brought me to tears but also gave me such a sense of relief. Up to this point, I have been unable to find any blog posts regarding cleft surgery so this couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

I look forward to following.

Jacqueline said...

I just came across your blog, while searching for information on my sons bilateral cleft repair. He is nine months now, has had his lip repaired at 7 weeks old and now we anticipate his palate repair this coming March.
I just want you to know I read your story and it was like taking the words out of my mouth. I made me re-live those days when Joshwa had his lip repaired...
I have twins (kudos on triplets) One girl and one boy...and like you only one of them was born with a cleft. I would love to speak to you more about how you went about weaning your son and his palate surgery and so on...if you wouldnt mind getting in touch with me my email address is joshsgirl_1979@hotmail.com
Name is Jacqueline Putrzenski...Thanks so much...I look forward to hearing from you...
You are so blessed with your beautiful children :)

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