Max's Surgery

Max was born with a cephalohematoma, basically a pocket of blood between the layers of his skull. We were told it would go away, but instead it ossified (turned into bone), and left a huge bump on his head. It's super rare for him to be born with one without a traumatic birth, and it's even more rare that it didn't go away. However, it was never life threatening or dangerous to him.

When we moved to Colorado, we asked his new pediatrician what she thought about it. She checked with a neurosurgeon for us, who told us again that they usually go away, but that we'd keep watching it for another year. In three months when we went in for another well check, the pediatrician told us she had happened to meet with a different pediatric neurosurgeon and asked about Max's head. This neurosurgeon told her that it would not go away, and it would need to be surgically removed. She told us she trusted her and gave us her card to just meet with her and find out what our options would be.

We set up an appointment to do just that: find out what our options would be. In my mind, I wanted to know what would happen if in a few years it was the same size and we decided he might want it gone. I didn't want him to be self-conscious about it as a kid or teenager. While most people don't notice it and think that his bump is actually just a lot of fluffy hair, it's actually quite noticeable, and when his hair is wet or short, you can tell just how large it really is. I was also worried about helmets fitting properly when he started riding a bike or wanting to play sports. In my mind, this was something we'd have to deal with when he got older.

We met with the neurosurgeon (Dr. Osterdock) and she told us right away that this thing wasn't going anywhere. She'd seen it before and operated on it before. Here came the kicker: if we wanted it gone, we shouldn't wait ANY longer. It would need to be done soon because the longer you wait, the harder the bone becomes and more difficult the surgery is. In fact, she'd usually operate at 6-8 months, and here he was, 18 months. It was a low-risk, surface level surgery. So she put us on the schedule for two weeks later. Just like that.

I was overwhelmed. And terrified. Having his surgery at this age was so unexpected! I was planning to have YEARS to warm up to the idea, but the fact was it had to be done soon! We scheduled it, but I was still very much on the fence, planning to cancel if after a few days I didn't feel good about it.

It came down to this: would he grow up and wish we had gotten rid of it when we could have? Of course he would. No child wants to have a golf-ball-sized bump on his head, and certainly no teenager. Even if he was an uncharacteristically confident kid, even if he kept his hair long his whole life, he would notice it. He'd go swimming. His sports team would get buzz cuts for playoffs. He'd want a trendy haircut. His helmet would fit funny. He'd want it gone.

I was a wreck. Putting my child through surgery on his SKULL for cosmetic reasons? Was I crazy? What kind of parent does that? That's where my guilt stemmed from. The fact that it wasn't medically necessary. If he had needed life-saving surgery, there would be no hesitation. At all. But I felt so sick about causing my sweet baby fear and pain over something he didn't understand and didn't even need.

The surgery was rescheduled one week later because of Max's cold, which ended up being a good thing because it gave me a little more time to warm up to the idea and be 100% certain that we should go for it. So I fasted and prayed about it. I didn't want to make the wrong choice and expose my child to some unknown risk. But the answer was peace and I knew it was a good decision. I knew he wouldn't be in danger. It was the first time in my life I remember fasting to receive an answer. And I did. Unmistakably. I felt good about going forward with the surgery.

When I say I "felt good," what I mean is that I cried about it every single time I thought about it, but still knew it was the right choice, and that Max would be grateful for it someday. I still dealt with that guilt up until the surgery. The days before the surgery I was praying hard that it would go well. But I was so emotional that mostly I prayed for strength for me that I could keep it together for Max, and I prayed for him that he would be brave and that everything would go okay.

The morning of the surgery I woke up 100% okay. I was nervous, but not emotional. Not one bit. We packed bags (we were to stay one night in the hospital), and played with Max to distract him from being hungry (he was to be fasting all morning until his surgery at 11 am). Once we got to the hospital (Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children), he was totally distracted by the toys and no longer whiny about being hungry. We checked in, had vitals/history taken by nurses, and played in the playroom for about an hour. We met with the surgeon and anesthesiologist beforehand, and Craig took Max back for anesthesia while I waited in the waiting room.

Craig said that Max did great. I don't know if he just tells me that to make me feel better, but I'm grateful either way. And then we waited. For about an hour and a half. And I felt strong. I didn't have any fear for Max. I knew he was going to be okay. Things had gone so well that morning and I didn't have any reason to be nervous. We watched a TV show and got lunch to keep our minds off of it.

It wasn't until I was expecting the surgery to be over by now that I felt nervous, but more anxious to have it over with and see him already. But the surgeon came and said that everything went well. She said she shaved off about an inch thick of bone! And then we were just waiting for him to come out of anesthesia. That's when I started to go a little crazy. I was so nervous to see that little guy. Would he be hurting? Would he have a tough time coming out of anesthesia? Would he be crying?

After what seemed like FOREVER, a nurse came to take us back to see Max. He was sleeping in a hospital crib on his side, with his incision side up. It was a gnarly incision. About 4-5 inches long, too many stitches to count, oozing. The scary IV under his bandaged hand (I have a thing with needles). I got a little teary-eyed but kept it together. Max woke up maybe 45 minutes later and was so confused. He wanted water and guzzled his whole water bottle. They gave him pain meds and anti-nausea meds through his IV. He still threw up his water because he drank it so fast.

He sat up in his crib with a straight posture and stared at us. He was so dazed and drugged and basically had no emotion. He didn't smile, but he didn't cry either. Just stared. Forever. He started to fall asleep sitting up. It was actually pretty funny. After he proved he could keep fluids in and his incision wasn't bleeding, they took out his IV and we were able to take him home that night!!!

He fell asleep right before we got home (so dazed but fighting sleep), and he fell right back asleep in his bed. He slept for two hours and woke up a little confused and whiny, we gave him some pain meds, but he just wanted to eat, so eat he did! He ate and ate and played for a while and then went right back to bed.

I went to bed exhausted but so grateful for how well everything went today. I braced myself for a long night with him, but he slept all night without a peep. When he woke up, he ran around the house looking for toys and breakfast as if nothing had ever happened to him. I was in shock. He didn't even need the prescribed pain meds. He didn't even notice. He didn't whine, he didn't touch his head, he just was himself. He wasn't in the pain I had felt so guilty about causing him.

Never before have I had such an undeniable answer to prayers. The strength I received was not my own, and I know without a doubt that it came from my Savior. I know Heavenly Father was listening to me and aware of my needs, empathizing with me as I put my only son through pain. If anyone knows what it was like, He does.

The surgery went so well, Max hardly suffered any pain, we were able to come home hours later, the recovery process couldn't have been easier... I couldn't ask for anything more. I feel so blessed that even a week later, I'm still crying over my blessings. I felt and saw answered prayers as if they were tangible. Hearing from friends and family they had prayed and fasted for us on their own... I just can't even express enough gratitude. Because I know their prayers were heard. Again and again Heavenly Father proved that he is listening and beside me every step of the way. God is so good, always.

January + 18 months

Does anyone else feel like January is basically about survival? January is when I start getting over the cold and feeling desperate for the sunshine! This month was Craig's last "elective" rotation month, which means he was gone for two weeks rotating with a derm residency in Kirksville, MO. He was gone right after the holidays when many of our friends were out of town, and it was freezing outside, so I basically shut myself in my house for two weeks. I basically spent every minute that Max was sleeping working, so I had a killer month for Pinners. It was the perfect productive way to spend my time instead of wallowing in seasonal depression/loneliness.

It went by quickly, but I was happy that it was the last time he'd be leaving me this year! When he came back, we had a few date nights, snow days with Max, and even bundled up for a trip to the zoo on a free day! The zoo is absolutely nuts on free days but totally worth it. Plus Max loves it more and more every time.

Max eventually came down with a cold so it seems like we were cooped up for much of the month. I did however have to (single-handedly) plan a daddy-daughter dance for Activity Days, which is frightening to anyone who knows how much planning parties/decorating stresses me out. It turned out great though, and I was so glad to check that off my list for the year.

This was after I had said no.... so naughty.

Max turned 18 months on the 27th. A year and a half! I can't believe it. Our nursery at church was kind enough to let him join at the beginning of the month, and he has done GREAT -- EVERY time! The first time I brought him in there, I stayed for about 30 minutes before I told him goodbye, and he just waved at me and said, "buh bye!" He loves it and has never cried once! It's so fun to peek in on him and look at him learning to sit in a tiny chair during singing time, basically just staring at the adults because what nursery kids actually sing? All three of the leaders are older and PERFECT with little kids. Max is not social whatsoever with other kids, but he loves those leaders and is as happy as a clam to be playing with toys during church and not sitting with mom!

Max started calling Craig "mama" this month, so now we are both mama. I don't know where that came from since he's said dada from the start, but even when we correct him, he'll go back to saying mama. My favorite thing he does right now is ask a question and answer it right away as if he's confirming what he's saying is true. He loves to say, "mama? mama." "dada? dada." or "apple? apple" (for applesauce). He has started to try to say most words now, even if they don't always resemble the actual word. I'm happy he is trying! I can't wait for him to talk more.

He loves to give "noses" (eskimo kisses) and calls them "nono." He learned how to give kisses and says mmmmmma while tapping his head to yours (sometime if you get lucky he'll actually get his lips on your face). He's learning shapes and is getting better at identifying which shape goes into which hole on his shape sorter. He LOVES to build towers with his blocks and crash them as fast as he can! He's really into dinosaurs, books, and his animal figures. He loves to make his animals "stomp stomp stomp," or even give each other noses!

He has also started to pretend to count, which is by far the funniest thing he's taught himself. Out of the blue he has just started to point to things and say, "do, do, do, do, DA!" as if he's counting to five and emphasizing the words just like we do! He "counts" blocks, toys, food, you name it. It is hilarious to hear him counting away -- totally on his own and while no one else is looking.

He also loooooves to "hide and seek" by hiding toys and asking us where they went. He will put something behind his back and lift up his other hand like, "where'd it go?" and then whip the toy out laughing. He's started to hide things under our leather chair while we're watching and do the same thing. He lifts his hands up with this surprised face as if we didn't just watch him shove the toy under the chair. It is his favorite game and thinks it's hilarious every time. He also loves to peek around corners himself and say, "boo!"

He's grown out of all of his 18 month shirts and they are complete belly shirts on him, although he still fits into 18 month pants perfectly. We've moved onto 18-24m/2T shirts and jammies. He's 25.5 lbs and height is questionable since we struggled at the doctor's this month. He has started to hate diaper changes and would rather not wear a diaper at all after a bath. He runs around naked and scratches his bum so hard until we catch him and force a diaper upon him.

He's a riot. Craig said that when he came home from Missouri, Max was a different baby (is he even a baby anymore??), and it's true! He has started to really LOVE playing with us. He loves to wrestle and tickle and dance and build and play catch with us, which is so much fun. 18 months is the best age.

17 months

Max at 17 months:

- Finally got some more teeth! 12 in total. All four molars came in and now we are just waiting on those canines.
- LOVES his popper and loves to "pop pop" all over the house
- Says "ahhh" whenever he crashes a tower or runs his popper into a wall
- Says YAAAAA while clapping his hands after anytime a song finishes (radio, church hymn, you name it)
- Is becoming more attached to his puppy he sleeps with. He always wants to bring it with him when he gets out of his bed.
- Went through a week-long waking up in the middle of the night phase. Sure glad that's over (probably teething).
- Wants to read Where the Wild Things Are at least 5 times a day and calls it "ooda ooda," since we say "ooga chucka" during the wild rumpus. I love that he loves to read.
- Loves to play with his animal figures
- Needs 100% of my attention 100% of the time. If I catch him playing by himself and try to sneak away to do something else, he notices IMMEDIATELY and drags my little finger back to do whatever he's doing.
- Is SUCH a limit tester. He will straight up ignore me when I tell him not to do something, or he'll just laugh at me and do it anyways
- Loves to rub noses and will scrunch his nose and say "no no" (for noses)
- Took off all of the ornaments on the bottom half of the tree during Christmas time. He LOVED the tree and all of the lights, but could not resist the ornaments. I finally gave up and just left them off.
- Loves doing downward dog and looking between his legs. He can be in the middle of walking somewhere and he'll just stop and put his head on the ground. Hilarious.
- Started running this month and it's the cutest little bowlegged run you've ever seen
- Started using a fork and spoon and the food usually makes it to his mouth!
- Has his own toddler language and I sadly can usually understand it all. Some of my favorites are yee yee for smoothie, day doo for thank you, and uv oo for love you.


When Craig started his intern year, he lucked out with easy rotations as far as hours go. December was the first month that he had a tough schedule as he was doing internal medicine at the hospital. He worked 12 straight days, 2 days off, repeat. This meant he even worked through Christmas. I think what made it so exhausting was just the number of days in a row he worked. Yes, his hours were long (about 12 hours a day), but it was mostly the fact that he had no weekends that wore us down! I think it's safe to say he isn't changing his mind to internal medicine.

On that first week in December I took Max to our library for "a visit with Santa." It was actually SO cute. They had Santa come and sing a few songs with the kids, tell them the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas story, and answer any questions they had. Then each kid had a "visit" with Santa, and the rest of us did crafts and a photo booth while we waited. Max was at the end, which I thought was the perfect amount of time for him to watch everyone else sit on Santa's lap and get used to the idea. He kept running into the room and pointing at "Tanta." Of course, when it was our turn, he had a colossal meltdown, even when I held him. Apparently he really loves "Tanta," but only from a distance.

The next weekend I snuck away to Salt Lake for a quick Pinners training. Max was a pretty good traveler -- thank heavens, because I usually get anxiety about traveling solo with him leading up to the trip. It was super fun to stay with Lisa & Ryan (Ryan watched THREE babies while we went to the training)! We went to Seven Peaks' "North Pole" experience which was SO fun!  Christmas lights, Santa, bumper boats, train ride, and food trucks! I feel like they don't have anything like that near us in Colorado.

This was Max's face the entire boat ride and train ride. 

We had to, right? They'll love this when they are teenagers.
When we came back we spent a day at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on its free day! I seriously could not love that museum any more. It is so fun for kids. I only wish that it wasn't so expensive on regular days so I could go more often! We came here right after we moved and Max was about 12 months. He hadn't really gotten the hang of walking down so I carried him in a pack. This time Max was running through the Dinosaur room yelling "RAAAAAA" and it was just so hilarious. The toddler area is incredible and we could have probably spent all day at the water table. I love exploring Denver with this little guy.
Literally running through this entire exhibit

We went with Jessica & Briella Craig!

Water table king
We had our first Denver snow day this month and took Max out to experience the snow! They didn't last long (I say they because I stayed inside and took pictures from the window), because it was single digit weather, but it was fun to see Max experiencing the snow for the first time!

Because of Craig's schedule, we couldn't travel anywhere for the holidays. This wouldn't have been a big deal if he didn't have to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but since he had NO breaks the week before and after Christmas, it was pretty miserable. All of my friends had gone out of town for the holidays, so it was just Max and me most of the time, and it just really didn't feel like Christmas at all.

So we planned a few fun things to do after Craig got home from work. One night we went to Hudson Gardens in Littleton, which was our replacement of temple lights (it was the first time in my life that I realized there are only 5 temples with lights!! WHAT! It just so happens that I've always lived near one of those temples up until now. I've been so spoiled). Hudson Gardens was actually really amazing! Sure, we paid like $15 to get in, but it was really well done. It was a pretty big event center and it took us about 30 minutes to walk around and see everything. We loved the lights and music.

On Christmas Eve Craig got off a little early, so we really wanted to go out and do something "Christmasy." I really wanted to go ice skating but we couldn't really figure out how to do that with Max. He's too little for skates and too big for our carrier. So we went bowling. Super Christmasy, I know. But it was pretty fun. I'm just as horrible as I've always been, but Max did pretty well so I'll call it a successful family activity. That night we even made homemade pizza, a Prince tradition that has pretty easily become a Parson tradition. We put Max to bed and stayed up watching Christmas movies and wrapping presents.

On Christmas Day, Max woke up early (it's like he knew Santa came)! So we actually got to have a "Christmas morning," which I was pretty worried about because of Craig's schedule. Like every other day in December, Max wanted to see the tree first thing when he woke up, but this time there were presents! We gave him an old school fisher price popper, and I left it unwrapped with a big bow on it. He went STRAIGHT to it and started popping all over our house. It was SO funny. It seriously made me so happy to see how much he loved it. It was something unlike anything I've felt before. I was so happy to give him something that I KNEW he would love, and then seeing how happy it made him was the icing on the cake. He loves that thing.
All of our Christmas morning pictures are this blurry. Max was a madman.

His favorite present: a new toothbrush

I think this picture is hilarious.
We opened the rest of our presents and stockings (Mega Bloks and a puzzle for Max), and I looked at the clock and told Craig he better get ready for work. And then he told me--he wasn't going in. I was in SHOCK! Apparently the day before, the kind, kind doctor he was working with told him not to come in. I was seriously almost in tears I was so happy. It was a true Christmas miracle and the BEST Christmas present I could have been given.

The rest of Christmas day was 1,000x better than what I had imagined, although we didn't do anything extraordinary. It was just so so special to me that we got to be together. We went to church (I accompanied the musical numbers for the second week in a row), came home and made abilskivers (another Prince Christmas tradition that Craig now loves), went to dinner at our friends', and watched lots of Christmas movies.

Craig worked the next four days and ended his rotation with the last two days of the month off. The first two weeks of January he has an away rotation scheduled in Missouri, so we lived it up and got babysitters both days. We went to the temple on Friday and saw La La Land on Saturday, which by the way, may be one of my favorite movies of all time. Also, that movie theater had COMPLIMENTARY popcorn and drinks so we'll be returning.

It turned out to be such a magical Christmas. When people would find out that we weren't spending Christmas with our families, they'd tell me how "special" it would be and what a "fun memory" it would be to have Christmas just the three of us. And I rolled my eyes because in what world is Craig working on Christmas "special" or "fun?" But after our little Christmas miracle, I think it's safe to say I will always remember this Christmas.