Somewhere down that hallway, the nurse asks me to go in the opposite direction they are rolling my child. The request has always been accompanied by empathetic explanations about why I can’t go with them further.
And although in my head I know I can’t be there, in surgery, in that moment confusion always overtakes my heart a little bit. It begins to pitter-patter and my eyes begin to tear up in response. I see wariness on my children’s little faces as they hold their little lovies a little bit tighter for comfort (or as in my son’s case–a massive triceratops).
I want to be brave like they are brave. I only choose brave because they need me to be brave.
The silly thing is that all the operations my children have had (tonsillectomies) aren’t even that big of a deal. They are very quick surgeries with very little risk. (Confession: I did demand for the anesthesiologist to explain in detail how she would make sure my kid was NOT going to be awake, paralyzed, with a scalpel down their throat).
In most ways, my concern is born of love. It is the fear of the unknown where I cannot go. It is the crisis of belief, my last act, the jump of faith. The hallway parting is the exact moment I must 100% begin to trust someone else to care for my most valued of all that is mine. (There are so many spiritual lessons in that!)
This last week was my third time doing this. And it was still just as emotional and vulnerable; both bonding and raw. Yes, my little guy made it out of surgery just fine (which is what some of you are really scrolling down to read). I am proud of him. He ate a hundred popsicles and had ice cream for dinner until he started begging for real food.
But I know I’m not the only mama or daddy who has been in this situation. I don’t know your story, but I do know that if you’ve experienced this moment, parting from someone you love as they’re left in the care of surgeons, doctor’s or nurses (or just in the care of others), I felt you on that day as I watched my kid go into surgery.
When Your Child Bleeds
Unlike my other kids after surgery, my son’s voice has changed. He sounds so different and it is impossible to tell if this will continue or only continue as he heals. (Just in case he wasn’t hard to understand already!)
Unlike my other kids after surgery, he carries a bowl with him, spitting in it because sometimes it hurts too much to swallow.
Unlike my other kids after surgery, his breath has been horrendous (something about the healing process). He pinched his nose closed for two hours before we made him stop. Then, for days he carried a over-ripe nectarine with him to mask the smell.
Unlike my other kids after surgery, he holds his ears because it hurts, especially when one of his two pain meds is on wears off. Getting him to take his meds can be misery. Even now, nine days later, he is still waking up at night, crying and whimpering in pain until we can calm him and redose him.
But worst of all, unlike my other kids after surgery, yesterday he began to bleed.
And I don’t mean just a little bit.
He came up to me at my computer, said my name, and then blood began pouring out of his mouth and nose. It was one of the scariest things I’ve experienced with my kids. It was worse than ER visits, welts on heads, small fractures, possible (minor) poisonings, dehydration throw-up or stitches and slicings.
I am not sure why, but there is something about blood coming out of an area that it isn’t supposed to come out (chunky too) that just rises the mama panic. Immediately I started catastrophizing. My husband (thanks COVID-19) was home and does much better with medical emergencies than I do. While he managed the bleeding boy, I frantically found my hospital discharge paperwork, called the dr. and tried to remind myself it would be okay.
Why would we be okay? Because unlike other mamas and daddies living in disadvantaged areas around the globe (or even nearby), I can take my car (I have a car!) and drive to a hospital (there is a hospital with well-trained medical workers) and get help in an emergency. Heck, I have insurance! Talk about privilege! And honestly, I am okay with privilege when my kid is bleeding from his facial orifices.
In the end, although there was a lot of tension in the moment, and anxiety through a difficult afternoon, he is back to normal. Well, far from normal, but at least drinking again and not bleeding profusely.
I am so thankful this is temporary. That my child isn’t sick. That my child isn’t forever in pain. That my child isn’t going to surgery after surgery. That I have access to so many things that are a privilege for me to even have access to. Most of all, I am so thankful my child is living and breathing.
To the Mamas and the Daddies:
And, as now as my emotions are on edge, I just wanted to say something to all you parents out there. You who find yourself in situations where your concern for your child’s health is your normal. For you who fight for a child. You who have lost a child.
You are incredible.
You are brave.
You are making a difference.
You are loving well; don’t give up.
Hold strong, Mama. Hold close, Daddy.
I probably don’t know you and it is unlikely I will ever actually meet you. Maybe you scoff at my encouragement because my story can’t even grasp your family’s suffering. I am sure it can’t. But still, sometimes we just need someone to remember us. So today, know there is another mama out there who admires you greatly. And she lifts you up because sometimes you need an invisible person who’s got your back.