Chylothorax – The Uninvited Guest

I was blissfully enjoying my first pregnancy unaware of the tsunami of emotions that were eagerly waiting for me. While I discovered that I was pregnant, I welcomed the life change with open arms and a fuzzy heart.

Shopping for maternity clothes, indulging in midnight cravings, long walks by the sea side and happy dreams of a healthy baby was all an integral part of my enjoyable pregnancy. I savored every moment of holding this new life inside me, pampering myself with loads of goodies from my favorite foods to feeling proud of my growing belly.

My dreams of the perfect first-time mother came crashing down when I was asked to go in for an emergency C-section in my 35th week of pregnancy. Unprepared and afraid, my mind froze as I went through a couple of sonographies after the doctors decided that I was going in for a C-section. I was clueless about what was happening. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to deliver my baby. My questions were left unanswered and my fears were growing within me, spreading like a forest fire.

In minutes, my gynecologist and pediatrician were by my side, ready to separate my baby from the safe zone of my body. I do not remember too much after that, except for broken conversations between the doctors and excruciating pain which indicated that my baby was announcing his arrival to the world.

“The moment a child is born, a mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother never.” Waking up to an empty room with no cradle and worse, no baby sleeping inside it was undoubtedly the worst part of the journey of motherhood for me. I still remember the emptiness in my stomach and the horror of the empty room that engulfed me readily. After a while, I discovered that I had given birth to a beautiful boy, who was battling for his life in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care).

The pediatrician told me that my son was suffering from a condition called Chylothorax. I had never heard the word Chylothorax ever in my life. The first time I heard it, felt it and understood it was when I had my first child. Google will tell you that Chylothorax is a type of pleural effusion. It results from lymph formed in the digestive system called chyle accumulating in the pleural cavity due to either disruption or obstruction of the thoracic duct. My relationship with Chylothorax is one of pure hate and anger, because it sucked away almost all the joys that I had accumulated of being a first-time mom.

I cringed but did not cry when the pediatrician told me that the fluid accumulated inside my son’s lungs would be tapped out through two holes that will be made on either side of his chest. My brand-new baby boy was on ventilator and therefore there was no way I could breastfeed him. He was on iv fluids, the only nourishment that could enter his body in that medical condition. Our first meeting was nothing like what I had imagined it to be. I could not touch him, nor could he touch me. There was holding him close, no picture- perfect moments to be captured on camera or in my mind, no cuddling the little piece of life that had just emerged out of me.

All I could do was stare at him fighting for his survival through the nest of colored wires, scary looking equipment and the cacophony of beeping machines. I was more than terrified, maybe almost numbed by the enormity of it all. This was what I least expected after having what I had assumed to be a normal, joyous and healthy pregnancy.

I knew that the birth of a baby is going to bring along with a whole range of emotions that I had never experienced before. But this morbid fear of losing my first baby was not something I had anticipated. I was supposed to rejoice in having stepped into motherhood but instead all I was feeling was anxiety and guilt of putting my son through all this, though of course, none of this was my fault.

After I managed to recover slightly, the pediatrician explained to me that Chylothorax would take four whole weeks to fix itself. He said that the tiny hole (literally the size of a pinhole) in the thoracic duct would close on its own as the baby grows, thus putting my son back on the road to recovery. These words of assurance gave me a ray of hope and something to hold onto at a time when I felt absolutely crushed. I was working hard on pulling myself together, but even after four weeks, my son’s condition remained the same. There was no improvement. No change. He was stable but Chylothorax was very much a part of our lives, an uninvited guest who refused to leave.

In fact, his body was vulnerable and more prone to infections since I was unable to nurse him. I was lactating and had to pump out the milk and throw it which was the most ruthless act I had ever done. I was hopeful of being able to nurse him once he was out of the ventilator. I was agonized by both my physical discomfort and how helpless I was as a mother, in no position to do anything to make my baby boy’s situation better.
The wait seemed endless. It felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. All the visions that I had of bringing my baby grew blurry and I was unsure of what to expect anymore.

The support of an efficient team of doctors and the rock-solid support network of family members and friends, my baby boy was successfully rescued out of the jaws of death. It was more than once when I thought that I had lost him forever. It has taken me tons of courage to write about my experience because every time I recreate these memories, they make me sore and bitter and like all parents harassed by such situations, I wonder why me?

Today, I am grateful to be the proud mom of a normal, healthy teenager. Undoubtedly, there are times when I still shudder in fright when I recount the early struggles of my precious son. My experience has made me thankful to the advancement of medical science and research which played an important part in my son’s recovery. More importantly, it has taught me that you are never prepared enough for this journey called life.

Author has chosen to stay Anonymous

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of PatientNextDoor. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and PatientNextDoor does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.

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