Will here. With an account of the weirdest, hardest, most beautiful days of our lives. McCabe Louise Odom was born not too long ago with twisted guts.
My wife says to be known is to be loved. There are so many who love us, so we want the last week or so of our lives to be known. I'll let a lot of the pictures speak for themselves. It's a well known fact that nobody actually reads blogs... we all just scroll down through the pictures. That's OK with me. What you'll see as you scroll are two of the most beautiful, courageous women I've ever met.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's start at Saturday night.
Just a normal night at the Odom house. Jess was bathing the eldest. I was making a shepherd's pie from scratch (no recipe).
Jess walked by and said, "I think I'm going into labor."
I said, "But I'm making a shepherd's pie."
An hour later this was going on:
I don't claim to know much about childbirth, but damn, way to go ladies. I kind of hid in a corner and let stuff happen. Labor was quicker this time around. We were in our room by 10PM, and Jess was pushing by 3AM. She was perfect.
I'd break up our experience since then into two parts: The first three hours and the ever since.
The first three hours:
Unreal. Jess pushed twice and out came a screaming, beautiful, 6 pound 10 ounce little girl.
At one point, while all the measuring, cleaning, weighing, registering was going on, I looked at Jess and said that things really changed fast. A year and a half ago we were kids. Living a permanent, never ending date. We'd go to movies when we wanted, stay up late devouring TV shows on DVD, run hard after teenagers through our ministry with Young Life.
And in what seemed like a hazy afternoon, we'd become an old married couple with two kids. We've long since given up weekly trips to the movies. It takes us months to finish shows that used to take a long weekend. We haven't stopped in our ministry with teens, but it looks different. It includes our kids. And, to tell you the truth, it's so much fuller.
And here's where the melt of the century happened:
The ever since:
About a month ago our doctors found something on an ultrasound. It seemed like McCabe had a dilated intestine. They couldn't tell exactly what was going on, so they sent us to a specialist. Within a week or so, we had discovered that something was probably significantly wrong with our little girl's bowels... a blockage, an atresia, a disfunction, something. Ultrasounds, consultations, conversations, new doctors, a couple of scared parents.
The long and the short of it was that McCabe would most likely require surgery within the first couple weeks of her life accompanied by a stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). We are so grateful for the time we had to process all of it. We walked into this weekend knowing that and wanting our little girl to be taken from us. We wanted her to be whole.
It was our expectation that we would have thirty minutes or so with her before they took her to the NICU for scans. Thirty minutes passed. Then an hour. Then three. I'll admit that I was soaking up my time with her and wasn't complaining. But as the morning began, I started to become a little antsy. The plan wasn't being realized.
Me: Do you all think it's time for her to go to the NICU?
Nurses: She looks great. We've given her her first bath. Her temperature is nice.
Me: Yeah, but her problem is on the inside, not the outside.
Nurses: She's so happy here with her mommy.
Me: I'm happiest when I'm eating a large meat-lovers pizza. I'm not asking you to make her happy. I'm asking you to do what's best.
Nurses: Sir, we've decided not to admit your daughter. We'll wait and see if anything happens. Perhaps your ultrasound was a false positive.
Four hours later McCabe was in surgery.
It's not our outsides that need a wash. It's our guts that are screwed up.
The surgery was exploratory. The plan was to go in, see what was wrong, and fix it. It was performed by Dr. Tsao, a pediatric surgeon at Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital. I've been eating his chicken for years.
After surgery, Dr. Tsao drew us two diagrams. One was an ordinary, healthy digestive system. The second one was McCabe's:
You'll notice that McCabe's intestine's look like another stomach and a Knox Odom original drawing. There were two significant problems. One: there was a series of very underdeveloped small intestines (squiggly lines on right, middle) that were failing to let anything through. That was causing a dilated intestine (what looks like a second stomach on the right). And two: there was a total gap in another place as the intestine approached the large bowel (bottom of drawing). Essentially Dr. Tsao and team removed 20cm of unusable intestine, popped it all together, and my girl will eat cake at her wedding.
I'll never forget Dr. Tsao, and every time I order the General from a Chinese food restaurant, I'll thank God for his hands, hands that made my daughter whole.
Here's the scar:
After surgery, she was taken back to the NICU. She has been brave. And strong. And adorable. This is her current set up:
She's had visitors aplenty:
She's starting to wear bows:
Knox can't meet her until she's out. There's a whole lot of this going on though, so I guess it's OK.
McCabe'll be in the NICU for a while. Today, we are praying for poop. She needs to learn how to use her new gut before she can come home, and we've barely even started. It might be a month. It might be longer. We have visited her everyday since our discharge. It's hard to leave her there, but we know it's right.
I've started to read "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" to her while I sit with her. The NICU is as warm as it could be, but Narnia is a good place for me and my girl to travel. There's a character named Reepicheep in the book. He's a mouse the size of a toddler. A mouse with pride and bravery. A mouse that carries a sword and speaks as if he's looked into the face of The Lion and been marked by it forever. And my girl... she's becoming my Reepicheep. She's so valiant. And radiant. And was so worth skipping the shepherd's pie.