Last week, I faced down something which I truly dreaded: my child under general anesthesia.
In October we found out that our nine-year-old son Connor needed to have five baby teeth pulled, in addition to some “gum removal” (shudder). This was all because his grown-up teeth are sitting in his upper jaw, fully formed but refusing to descend. The reasons for this are complicated and genetically inherited (and COMPLETELY MY HUSBAND’S FAULT, by the way).
That day the doctor looked me square in the eye. “Putting him under for this,” he said, “is not the right decision for YOU, I know. But it is definitely the right decision for HIM. You don’t want your child to have to lie there and watch this happening.”
I don’t know any mother who wouldn’t hate the idea of her child being rendered unconscious. But I tried to tell myself it was completely everyday. Heck, my friend has had to sit in the OR waiting room five times in four years, thanks to her twins’ blocked tear ducts and propensity for broken bones in sticky spots. I could handle this. I would do a crossword, have a coffee, he would be in recovery.
I managed to tell myself this until we were in pre-op, and they handed me a hazmat suit to put on.
This photo does not show the part where all of a sudden I’m sobbing like a fool, trying not to let my son see me, because even though the doctor is engaging Connor in witty New York Giants banter I can see his leg shaking.
“How about some happy juice?” the doctor said. “It’ll make you a little sleepy, and relaxed. Just so you won’t feel nervous. Just if you think you need it.”
“Yes, please,” Connor said, a little too quickly.
“Do you have some for Mom too?” I said, way too quickly, because I gulped some air down the wrong pipe and then started choking and the 20-something anesthesiologist had to go get me a Dixie cup of water and I’m sure he was thinking, Geez, lady, get a grip.
Connor had the happy juice. Five minutes later, he told me, “It’s funny, because I was nervous, and now I’m not nervous at all.”
“That’s great, honey,” I said, glad I was standing behind him so he couldn’t see my face.
They let me stay until the very moment he slipped into unconsciousness, then whisked me out of the room like I was Typhoid Mary.
I sat in the waiting room and cried for a while, then I went to get some coffee from the snack bar, hoping to kill a bit of time. When I returned, the doctor was already behind the reception desk, dialing my cell phone. “He did very well,” the doctor said. And I burst into tears again, embarrassed to be so emotional, but so relieved I didn’t care.
Connor’s fine. Recovering slowly. Nothing a few more milkshakes won’t cure. But I’m still going back to that waiting room in my mind ten times a day. There were parents there with babies far younger than mine, with conditions far graver than mine. I can’t imagine living at the hospital for months, sleeping in the chair, watching my child go through dozens of procedures. I was a baby about tooth-pulling, for Pete’s sake. It’s them I can’t stop thinking about, and I am newly, deeply grateful for each new day that my children are healthy.
To that end, I want to plug something I’m doing on Feb 12th. (as if the giant button on my sidebar wasn’t enough…) I’m taking part in an indoor cycling event called Cycle for Survival — I’m on Team Perry, supporting our friends’ 11-year-old daughter who is now fighting cancer for the third time. Perry is kicking cancer’s butt, by the way, but it’s been one lousy year for her. Cycle for Survival is an amazing charity because 100% of monies raised go directly to support research of rare cancers like the one Perry has now. If you’d like to support Perry’s recovery through supporting my ride, we would both be so grateful. And if you’d like to know more about Perry’s remarkable story, you can read it here. Thanks for listening.