Mom needs some happy juice, stat

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.




{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel January 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm

My son had conscious sedation for dental work when he was 4 years old, and it was absolutely awful…for ME!  I absolutely hated seeing him groggy and half-drugged, it was heartbreaking.  I also lost it in the waiting room.  I cannot imagine the strength of parents who go through that on any sort of regular basis.  My heart goes out to them and their children! 


Alan Kercinik January 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Never beat yourself up for being concerned about your kids. You were strong in front of him and crying away from him. So what WHAT it was for. I dread the day my boys invariably break their crazy heads and I have to take them to the hospital.

Thanks for sharing.


Anonymous January 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Thanks Alan!


Sarah Bagley January 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I can totally relate.  I cried like crazy when Kate was first born and had jaundice, which I thought was code for fatal in my postpartum haze.   She had upteen blood tests, and I cried and cried each time.  I think I cried louder than Kate.  And she wasn’t even being sedated or going under those blue lights or anything!  For me, the medical/caregiving aspect of being a mom is one of the hardest parts about being a parent. 


Anonymous January 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm

for SURE.


Ann January 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Ugh yes. I had to do this with my younger son when he was only TWO. He was a champ, but the anxiety leading up to the day was so unpleasant. So awesome you’re doing this ride.


Meredith L. January 20, 2012 at 4:33 pm

My son has a rash on his chin, and I want to gnash my teeth and tear my hair.

Besides, general anesthesia is scary, and involves a great deal of trust. Just because others have it worse does not negate your own worry and concern.

You did great, mama. Pat yourself on the back.


Anonymous January 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Thanks Meredith. I needed to hear that. I’m going to write more about that.


Kdysart January 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I absolutely know that guilty feeling. When my little one was only a few weeks old, we ended up in the NICU because she was so dehydrated. We were there for a week, and I was an absolute wreck– physically ill and sobbing my eyes out every day — and I felt even worse when I saw the other moms (and dads) in there whose babies had far bigger problems, and yet seemed to handle it so much better. Sometimes I think it’s the surprise or uncertainty of the short-term illness that makes it feel so bad. 


Anonymous January 23, 2012 at 7:11 pm

You might be right. Sadly, for my friend (whose daughter is sick) all the anesthesia and stuff has become old hat. Not a good thing, but maybe it’s good that she is spared the extreme anxiety us first-timers feel.


Jenny F, Mom of all trades. January 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Totally been there Amy!! We found a lump on our 1.5 year old Rowan’s thigh (right near his bum) back in July and every time we remotely touched it he would scream blue murder so we took him asap to the hospital and within an hour the words “abscess, painful, surgically drain, anesthesia, admitting” were all flying at us…Luckily it was a children’s hospital and they’ve dealt with their share of neurotic and over-emotional parents. Within an hour they were giving him IV (which of course I couldn’t stay in the room for because he was going mental (and I was bawling like a 15 year old Justin Bieber fan who just found out he’s got a girlfriend). 

I had to hold him while they administered the narcotics for conscious sedation and watching his eyes slowly close freaked me out to no end but by the time we went and grabbed a cup of tea and came back they were done!! And within an hour he was having a cookie and a drink and watching Elmo as if it was any other day of the week…

It’s hard to say really whether it’s harder on them or us…I vote us! But like you, I too was overwhelmed with the real serious cases that were there at the same time as us. The parents with a child who had experienced a car trauma, or the ones there for round 15 of chemo…all of a sudden I was the luckiest parent in the Universe not to have to face that kind of turmoil. 

Nobody wants to see their kids get sick…but lucky for modern medicine…for the most part, we get to see them get better too..and now that’s something to smile about.


Anonymous January 23, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Jenny that sounds HORRIBLE. Although I do enjoy the Justin Bieber analogy. And you’re right, thank goodness there’s such a thing as safe anesthesia in the first place. At least the kids can check out for the hard part.


the mama bird diaries January 21, 2012 at 4:59 am

Ugh. That sounds so stressful. So glad it’s over and he is doing well!


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }