My Baby Doesn’t Have a Belly Button!

Yep, no belly button. Nothing to pierce, tattoo, or expose for a little attention. Although, considering this baby is a boy, the exposing part probably holds little appeal.

So how is this possible?

For some people, the surgical correction of abdominal issues alters the belly button’s appearance, making it seem non-existent. In my son’s case, once the umbilical cord fell off, that was it…no belly button. However, there was a good reason for this. My son was born with bladder exstrophy, his bladder developed on the outside of his body. This condition is relatively rare, one in 50,000 births, effecting twice as many boys as girls.

The treatment course is very individualized, depending on the condition of the bladder and the extent of other issues present. While my son’s treatment plan was being developed, we had the task of protecting the bladder with plastic wrap at each diaper change. To date, this is my most creative use for Saran Wrap.

After numerous surgeries, including one month in traction for proper alignment of his hips, the outcome was not what we had hoped. His bladder failed to thrive and had to be removed. Several urostomy diversions later, where a pouch is wore outside the body to collect the urine, the doctors at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles felt a different approach might be more appropriate. A Kock (coke) pouch, basically an artificial bladder, would be created out of his own bowel. This pouch would be internal, accessed through a catheter on his side. Wow, this sounded too good to be true.

We were excited, our son was excited. Surgery was performed. Only, things didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Another surgery, then another. Finally, everything seemed to be working as best they could. By this time, our son was in Junior High. To see his hopes raised and dashed was crushing as a parent. The physical drain left him unable to attend school. The psychological trauma inflicted by the other students, for being different, made this recuperation period a welcome reprieve. School was difficult and I was as thrilled as he was, when his 18th birthday finally arrived.

Now, as an adult, my son has adjusted very well to being ‘unique’. In fact, everything about him is unique. He has had some medical issues over the last few years, that were resolved with surgery, although these same concerns will likely resurface from time-to-time.

So after all this, is he upset about not having a belly button? He said the thought of having cosmetic surgery to create one has crossed his mind, but he has since made his peace with it. And coming to terms with the numerous surgical scars he has accumulated, resulted in a plethora of entertaining stories, ranging from shark attack to fighting off aliens.

How do I feel about my son not having a belly button? After all is said and done, we’ve learned it’s pretty cool to be different.

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