After experiencing a ‘textbook’ pregnancy with no complications, Laura was completely unprepared for what was about to unfold with the birth of her second child.
Sharing her story in the Mum’s Grapevine Spring 2022 baby group, Laura had a positive induction, right up until she started pushing…
“I managed on gas and air for the first two hours and then around 2:30 am I requested an epidural. They came immediately and administered it but low and behold it only worked on the right side of my body.
“The midwife came in to do a cervix check and I was sitting at six cm dilated, so I just relaxed my body and breathed through them. Twenty minutes later I had the urge to push! The midwife came in and she was like ‘No, you can’t push yet you are only six cm’. I then responded by saying I NEED TO! She checked my cervix again and I was fully dilated.”
Suddenly, her baby’s heart rate started dropping and he became stuck in a posterior position in her pelvis.
“Before I knew it, I was being wheeled down to theatre – all the way I kept pushing as I really did not want a c-section or any other intervention.
“I got down to theatre and by then I was so numb from all the drugs I had been given I couldn’t feel any contractions or the need to push so the midwives were telling me what to do. They managed to spin the baby and in two pushes he was out!”
But the emotional rollercoaster had only just begun for Laura when she saw her beautiful new baby boy was missing a thumb on his left hand.
I noticed the deformity straightaway
“He was placed onto my chest and as soon as he was, I noticed a severe deformity of his thumb. It wasn’t a thumb, but a sack attached about the size of a 50-cent sized ball,” Laura tells Mum’s Grapevine.
“A midwife goes ‘Oh, that’s his umbilical cord and I said no, that’s attached to his thumb!’ It had a tiny little fingernail on it, and he was sort of just holding on to it. It was attached to his hand by a single artery.”
Laura and her husband, Brandon, were both surprised and concerned for their son. “My husband took it probably worse than I did. I looked at him as we both noticed it and his face was pretty much white, like he had no emotion, and we were both quite upset. We didn’t know what the prognosis would be for him.”
Despite having multiple ultrasounds during her pregnancy, including an anatomy scan at 20 weeks, which checked her baby’s size and body organs for any defects, as well as a 3D/4D scan at 32 weeks, her son’s thumb deformity was never picked up.
“I remember they covered everything, and they counted 10 toes and 10 fingers. Everything was good. So, what happened was a bit of a shock really.”
The Melbourne-based couple named their baby Xavier Nicholas and were relieved when the pediatrician told them he was otherwise completely healthy. But after being discharged from the hospital and heading home to enjoy their new life as a family of four, little Xavier’s situation took a turn for the worse.
“It was just so hard to dress him without tearing this thing off because it was so big, and he just kept holding it like it was a part of him and he did not want to let it go.
“The midwife came over and it actually looked like it was dying, it was full of fluid and a bit of the artery was turning black. The midwife basically told us to go to Monash Children’s Hospital right away. We drove up there and as soon as we got into emergency, the plastic surgeons came down and they took one look at it and said, ‘that needs to go’.
“At two days old he had his thumb amputated and is now on the road to growing up with four fingers.”
Thumb hypoplasia: 1 in 100,000 chance
Xavier was diagnosed with thumb hypoplasia, a rare congenital underdevelopment that occurs in about 1 in every 100,000 babies. But thanks to amazing medical advancements, his future is looking bright. “There is the option down the track, in six months’ time, for him to have reconstructive surgery to create some sort of thumb for him,” Laura says.
“We sat with the plastic surgeons and they’ve agreed that the best thing for him is an operation called pollicization surgery. They said that 80 per cent of his hand movement is his thumb, so with pollicization they’ll move his index finger over to where his thumb should be, so he’ll be left with three fingers.”
Now a three-month-old, Xavier has been meeting all his developmental milestones but does find some activities more difficult than others.
“At the moment he is slightly delayed when it comes to tummy time because he doesn’t have enough strength in his left hand to push himself up, but he can hold his head up,” Laura says.
“We have a plan in place for him. He’s now actually under the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme). That means I’ll be able to get funding for physio, chiro, osteo, and swimming lessons – all the things that can help him.
“Even though he only has use of four fingers on one hand he is still the most perfect little boy in the world.”
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More birth stories from the Grapeviner community…
- Birth story: ‘After three losses, I finally held my son’
- Birth Story: ‘There was no time for the epidural to work’
- Birth Story: ‘My birth felt like a party’
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