When I was about 5 months pregnant we found out two things, that he was a boy –which provided with great relief since we’d already successfully kept one boy alive to age 4 and I was psyched to continue to use the mad skills I’d cultivated in the Matchbox arena- oh, and we learned that he had a jacked-up kidney. Jacked-up was not the technical term, they called it something more like a blocked kidney but regardless, it was all blown up and not draining. Hydronephrosis was the technical term but I couldn’t remember it. Little did I know it was the first of many gigantic medical terms I would learn thanks to this kid. My doctor reassured me that this happens often in boys and chances were solid that with one colossal whiz after his long road trip through the birth canal everything would be set right. But just in case he was wrong he sent me to see Maternal Fetal Medicine and Pediatric Urology.
To those who have spent time in Maternal/Fetal doctor’s offices, God bless you. If you’ve never been to one you need to thank the powers that be. Once they determined at least one kidney was working, I got to take the carpool lane to the fast zone and just had to return for monthly ultrasounds to make sure it kept working. However, the women I met in the waiting room waiting on those ultrasounds often brought tears to my eyes. As I listened to women share stories of 8th and 9th rounds of IVF, 2nd mortgages on their parent’s houses to afford more and countless pregnancies that never made it past the single digit weeks, I’d never felt more grateful. There I sat, an elderly fertile Myrtle who could get knocked up if her husband walked too close and I was taking up valuable ultrasound space with a kid that probably just needed to pee. My Catholic guilt was strong.
When the Nugget came out he did in fact pee and but that didn’t take care of the problem. His kidney still took up most of his little abdomen when full. He was fat and sassy but there were also a few other things we noticed…like the ear. Nugget had one ear that was normal but had a tag on it. We’d later learn that a skin tag on the ear means there is a kidney problem. Crazy how that works huh? (It’s also crazy how much time I now spend looking at people’s ears wanting to send them to a nephrologist – see that, another one of those big words I’ve learned. Impressed? You should be. And I’ll save you that trip to Google- it’s a kidney doctor. You’re welcome.) The other ear wasn’t quite right though and the doctor and nurses really knew what to say. It was tiny and not really ear-shaped and it looked like it was totally closed but considering he’d been laying on it for 9 months in a less-than-spacious studio apartment, I thought maybe it just needed time to pop out to normal. In my defense, I was on a lot of drugs. Don’t judge.
A day later it didn’t pop out. It didn’t open up and he totally bombed his newborn hearing test. (The first of many hearing tests he’s bombed. That kid has the same luck with hearing tests as I once had with driving tests.) But no one really cared about the kidney or the ear because the Nugget was yellow. And sleepy. So sleepy. His bilirubin was high making him jaundiced so he did some time under the baby sunlamps and soon we were on our way home with a mini light board for him to sleep on and a massive list of appointments and tests: nephrology, audiology, ENTs, urology – you name it we had an appointment, our first being for a blood draw the next morning to make sure the light was working. It wasn’t.
The first days home were a mess of running back and forth for blood tests before finally being sent back to the hospital two days later. His bilirubin kept going higher and he had Rh issues. Basically the little turd didn’t like my blood type – the first of many times we would butt heads in life- but on a guy with a bum kidney and a missing ear no one was really sure the issue was as simple as that. But, a few days in the hospital and the threat of a blood transfusion finally got him on the right track and got me moving as well. Obviously I hadn’t just birthed an ordinary kid through my lady parts. This little hellcat was going to stretch me to my limits and I needed to toughen up.