My son was born in the early hours of a Wednesday morning after a long, hard labor. He was my fourth boy and the biggest one yet, weighing in at a whopping nine pounds and five ounces. But despite his size, he wasn’t nursing well. He also kept burping even though he wasn’t taking in much food. When I mentioned it to the nurses the next morning, they reassured me that everything was fine.
At 11:00 p.m. that night, a nurse came into my room to wake me up. There was something wrong with my baby and they wanted to take X-rays. He had started throwing up bile and had yet to have his first bowel movement. Babies are supposed to have their first bowel movement within 24 hours after birth. They reassured me that that he’d be back in the NICU by 3:00 a.m. and promised that a doctor would come by the following morning to let me know the results.
At 6:00 a.m. I got a visit from the neonatologist. “You’re a lucky woman,” she told me. “We discovered the problem. Your baby has something called meconium plug syndrome. This means that the baby’s first stool is stuck. Once we get it out, it isn’t a big deal.”
It sounded like a big deal to me, but she explained that all the procedure involved was getting it out with a finger. She also said that that’s what had caused him to throw up the bile. “We were concerned that it might be Hirschsprung’s disease,” she admitted. “It’s a congenital condition whereby parts of the colon are missing nerve cells, so the bowel is essentially paralyzed, preventing the baby from being able to pass any stool. ”
My baby remained in the NICU for another three days and was given a lot of fluids. After he was finally discharged, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to rest up from the ordeal. When I followed up with my regular pediatrician, he reassured me that because meconium plug syndrome is a one-time thing, there wouldn’t be any aftereffects and I had nothing to worry about.
For the first few weeks everything seemed fine. The baby was eating and having regular bowel movements. But he wasn’t gaining weight, so I had to supplement his feedings with formula. He was also a very difficult baby and cried almost non-stop. I couldn’t figure out why. I would turn to my husband and ask, “He just ate (or just slept), so why is he screaming?” We spent entire nights rocking him in our dining room, and during the day I couldn’t put him down for a second or else he’d scream. It was obvious that he was suffering. At the six-week mark I was able to decrease the formula. That’s when his bowel movements became less frequent, occurring only once every two weeks. Alarmed, I called the pediatrician and told him that I was really nervous, because I didn’t think it was normal.