‘Why, Mommy? Why are you hurting me?’ Blood poured out of her mouth. The next 60 minutes were pure torture.’: Tongue-tied newborn’s traumatic surgery reminds mom of faith

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“Six years ago, I gave birth to the most incredible daughter in the world, and she made me a mother.

It was incredible.

Shortly after her birth, she had some complications (and then I had some big complications).  I wrote this blog post back in the middle of all of it on a private blog that was more like a journal (anyone remember Blogger/Blogspot?!).

With my daughter’s birthday coming up, I went back and re-read what those times were like.  This struck me again, and I wanted to share it with all of you:

It’s 2:30 a.m.  I probably shouldn’t be writing a blog post at this ridiculous time of day (seriously, I haven’t seen this time since I was a college freshman!) but I have a lot of emotions right now.  Well, that’s a constant thing, seeing how I am two months postpartum, but it’s all so much stronger when it’s 2:30 a.m., and you have a screaming, crying, hurting 7-week-old baby.

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

No, she’s not colicky.  In some ways, that would be so much easier.  It’s worse than that.

Because I’m the one causing her pain.

When Elizabeth was born, we were told she was tongue-tied.  They went to snip it, but the pediatrician came back and said, ‘Actually, she’s not tongue-tied.  The entire bottom of her tongue is connected to the bottom of her mouth.  There is no way for us to fix this unless we do major surgery.  You don’t want that on a 3-day-old baby.  She should be fine.’  The lactation consultant (LC) in the hospital added, ‘She might have a harder time nursing, so here are some nipple shields.’

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

We were told the same thing by two other pediatricians, who added, ‘She might have some trouble speaking with a lisp, but we’ll worry about that when the time comes.’  I had a couple of sisters who were tongue-tied, and they didn’t have it corrected for years, so I didn’t have any trouble accepting what the doctors told me.

Fast-forward four weeks.  By this point, in addition to the sleep-deprivation that comes from a new baby, I was in extreme pain.  The nipple shields were causing damage (yes, I know they come in different sizes).  My little girl was having green diarrhea (mistakenly diagnosed as a milk protein allergy), which we later discovered was because of a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance since her suck was so weak that after 30 minutes on one breast, she had less than an ounce, and then I would have to switch sides because I was in so much pain.

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

I broke down and decided we needed to see a lactation consultant, even though it was close to $100 per visit and would not be covered by insurance.  She took one look and exclaimed, ‘She’s tongue-tied!  Pretty badly, too.’  Apparently Elizabeth’s tongue-tie was unique – a posterior tongue tie – and it was pretty severe.  The LC told me that the pediatricians were mostly correct about it needing an ENT to correct it, EXCEPT there was one dentist in the whole of Houston who had a laser who could cut it.

After doing a lot of research, we decided to pay the $400 (again, not covered by insurance, and a lot of money for us at the time) to have her tongue-tie fixed with the laser.  It was less painful, had quicker healing time, and wouldn’t have any sedation (one of the reasons why the pediatricians strongly urged to not do the surgery).  We set an appointment for the following Monday, with Elizabeth about 4 1/2 weeks old.

I did not anticipate this being the most difficult, painful, heartbreaking experience of my life.

As instructed, I brought Elizabeth hungry to the appointment.  I foolishly did not bring any expressed milk; in my naive optimism, I thought she’d be able to latch on right away and nurse even better.  I was given a pair of goggles, and they began to work while she was strapped into her car seat.

Because she would need to eat immediately afterward in order to get comfort and healing from breastmilk, they did not numb her.  As they began to cut, my feelings of enthusiasm quickly turned to tears.  She was crying, angry at first about being woken up, the bright lights, and having her mouth forced open.  Her angry wails became a high-pitched scream of pain.  I had to turn myself away, and eventually move to the corner of the room.  Tears began to pour down my face, and it took all my willpower not to run over and stop the whole procedure, to gather her in my aching arms and protect her from the pain.

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

After an eternity passed, they handed her to me.  Blood was pouring out of her mouth, and they very kindly and understandingly told me she now needed to nurse.

Let’s just say the next 60 minutes were pure torture.

The blood made latching on almost impossible, the pain made sucking even more impossible, but hunger kept her crying and rooting.

After over what was probably the longest hour I have ever experienced and lots of prayer, she kind of latched on, sucked for about 10 minutes, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

I just wanted to get home.

I wanted to get milk for her so she could really eat, then cuddle with her, skin-to-skin, for the rest of the day.  As I paid and we started to leave, the devil dentist told me for the next three weeks, I would need to ‘massage’ the area under her tongue and the bottom of her mouth (the raw, gaping wound she had) every single time she ate, halfway through feeding.  This was to strengthen the muscles and prevent it from growing back.

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

I faithfully followed this directive, even though it caused tears on both ends.  She would scream every time I tried to latch her on; the feel of her lips on my skin brought back painful, traumatic memories.

Only after two weeks was she able to feel my breast on her mouth without screaming and pushing away, and this only after she was full. We syringe-fed and then switched to a bottle, with me pumping at every feeding.  This has caused a complete loss of sleep since each feeding is about a two-hour process on my own (between bottle, pumping, etc.).  Even with Phillip’s help at night, the entire thing takes over an hour to complete.

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

We saw an Occupational Therapist (OT) because she had a weak suck, and were given exercises to strengthen her mouth, tongue, cheeks, and lips.

After about two weeks, I was finally starting to get my little girl back.  Her diapers had become normal (no more black from all the swallowed blood and no more green diarrhea since she had a healthy mix of foremilk/hindmilk), and she even had her first smile.  She was awake and alert in between feedings, whereas for the first week she would wake up crying, only to eat and fall back asleep in pain.

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I was so thrilled to have my happy, alert baby back!

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas
Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

Imagine my horror last week to realize that in spite of this, her tongue had begun to re-attach itself to the bottom of her mouth.

I immediately emailed the dentist (who is actually quite nice, caring, and supportive), and we had to repeat the entire procedure a couple of days ago.  This time, the actual cutting went much better (and I was wise enough to bring a bottle).

The massages afterward, however, have become terrible.

Even with baby Tylenol the hour or so before, it still hurts her more than it ever did before.  Each feeding comes with tears on both sides as I rub her gaping wound, my fingerpad fitting deep into the cut hole, tearing away at scar tissue so as not to have to repeat this a third time.  Those 10 seconds feel like 10 years.

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

As I held my poor, crying baby tonight, I couldn’t help but sob myself, as I have so many times in the last few days.  She kept looking up at me with big eyes filled with tears, hoarsely weeping pitifully because she had worn herself out from crying.

I could just imagine her asking, ‘Why, Mommy?  Why are you hurting me?  It hurts so bad.  Why are you doing this to me?  Did I do something wrong?  You’re supposed to take care of me.  Why are you doing this?’

There was no way to explain to my 7-week-old how necessary this was.  She would need to eat solid foods.  She would need to learn how to talk.  I wanted her to be able to even lick an ice cream cone!  But she didn’t understand any of that.  All she knew was that it hurt right now.

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

In that moment, I had a flash of insight.  Oftentimes we ask ourselves why bad things happen to good people.  Why sometimes trials just don’t make sense.  Why God allows so much hurt and evil to go on in the world?  If He really existed, why would He allow all of this to go on unchecked?

The answer is because He loves us and is doing what is best for us.

In our young minds (young compared to eternity), we do not understand all of the complexities of life and beyond.  We do not always see down the road and view mortality with an eternal perspective.

We are like my little baby girl: we only know that it hurts right now.  We can’t comprehend solid foods and talking without a lisp.

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He may not be able to answer in a way we can understand, just like I couldn’t tell my daughter why this was for her good.  Instead, if we allow, He pulls us close to Him.  He rocks us at his chest, hugs us, kisses our heads, and cries along with us.

I am grateful for this small insight into the love of our Heavenly Father.

Being a mother has given me a window into the heart of our God and the love He has for His children.  As Elizabeth and I (and Phillip, poor man) go through this, I know that one day it will all be gone.  The pain of this life will fade into a distant memory, just as Elizabeth’s pain will pass and she will eventually forget all of it.

We can trust the Heavenly Father is doing this for our good, even though we may not see it yet or understand it.”

Courtesy of Tiffany Thomas

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tiffany Thomas of Saving Talents. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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