surgery

On Strep, Surgery and Finding My Mommy Brave

“Hey, Mom, you have four eyes,” Adellyn said, as the nurse, now giggling, released the brakes on her hospital bed and rolled her toward the large double doors where we would part ways.

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It was barely 9am, and just a few short minutes remained before I was going to kiss her on the head as she was wheeled into the operating room. She was going in for routine surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids, a common procedure done thousands of times every year for kids her age. Nonetheless, a scary mommy moment for me.

Clearly her “kiddie cocktail” had kicked in, and she was as ready as she could be, thoroughly looking forward to the popsicles and ice cream that were promised for later. I didn’t have a “kiddie cocktail” to help with my preparation. Heck, I hadn’t yet had a cup of coffee.

In between the “we’ll see you in Recovery unless there are extenuating circumstances,” and the hustle and bustle of machines and monitors and debriefs and doctors, I found myself overwhelmed for the bazillionth time with love for my kiddo and a hesitant acceptance of my complete lack of control over the outcome.

“Is she allergic to any kind of medicine, including anesthesia?” they asked.

I don’t know. She’s never had anesthesia. What if she is? What happens then?

“Is she healthy?”

Yes. I mean, I think so. But what do you mean by healthy? Should we check or double-check something to make sure she’s okay? Leave it to a medical situation involving my kiddo to make Anxiety Girl show her true colors.

After four rounds of strep throat, 40 days of antibiotics and a seemingly unending cycle of illness, I was ready for whatever it took to end the strep throat saga. As the nurse wheeled the bed with a little tiny five year-old through the double doors, there went my heart, handed over and surrendered to completely capable, yet complete strangers. And as much as I knew the surgery was best, the little girl on the hospital bed is my most treasured possession, and I just needed a moment to find my brave.

I get it, kids are meant to grow up. But it means some really, really hard moments of letting go and stepping back and releasing and trusting and having faith in them and their Maker. They should teach these things in Mommy School. They should have Mommy Schools.

I kinda think it doesn’t matter if it’s tonsils or tendons, sending them to preschool or college or down the street for a sleepover for the very first time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scheduled procedure or emergency surgery, if your child is 5 or 45, if you’ve been through it before a million times or never before. It doesn’t matter if you’re American or Israeli, single-parent, working mom, middle-upper-or lower-class. It doesn’t matter the color your skin or hair, what kind of house you live in – or don’t. What car you drive – or don’t. Raising babies is hard work. And we just can’t do it alone.

There was the nurse who took a minute to chat with me while A was waking up. There was the doctor that stopped by just to reassure me that all was well. There were videos and visits, balloons and books. There were movies and messages. There were frozen treats for the little and coffee and chocolate and conversation for the mama. My mommy-heart was made brave not by anything I could do on my own, but by selfless people who showed up in love.

“Mom, you still have four eyes,” said my groggy little girl two hours later. “And can I have my popsicle now?”

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SURGERY, STREP AND ASKING FOR HELP

Before dawn broke on Monday morning, I arrived at the hospital for non-emergent, minor surgery to repair a tear in my abdominal wall. Since the doctor doesn’t know the cause, I’ve decided it’s because of all the hard-core (pun intended) ab work I’ve been doing lately. Jokes, jokes. While I don’t and likely won’t know what caused it, I did know that even minor surgery was going to require something that, if I’m being completely honest, I still don’t love asking for: Help.

Life as a single, working mom has required me to get comfortable asking for things like help with the occasional school pick-up, or someone having the 5 year-old over for a couple hours on a random evening, or someone to take her Christmas shopping for my gifts. But in the midst of the asking, in the back of my mind, I kept a running tally, without even realizing, essentially rationing help. I made sure not to ask too much of one person, to plan activities spaced out so that I could manage them without having to ask anyone else to get involved too often, being sure to ask for the minimum I needed to get by. I was comfortable asking for “help,” just not too much of it.

So, when the surgery recovery orders were to sleep as much as possible, no driving for a week and no lifting anything heavy for three weeks, I still had a five year-old with school and activities and life things that needed to go on. To make it through the week, I had no choice but to lean into my people like I had never done before.

I needed people to drive me to the hospital and talk to the surgeon post-op and get me home after surgery, people to decide who was taking my kiddo to gymnastics, to decide what was for dinner and to prepare it and clean up after, to make sure the laundry got done and the homework was completed and garbage was taken out. I needed someone to make me a cup of tea because the tea kettle was too heavy to lift. I needed someone to do after-school pick up and bedtime routine and getting the kiddo out the door in the morning.

And that was just for me.

Then, mid-way through the week, Adellyn walked into my room and said, “It hurts really bad to swallow, Mom.” After I took one look at her throat, I knew it wasn’t a virus this time. Then I needed someone to drive us to the doctor to find out that it was indeed Strep, and then to the pharmacy. I needed someone to be available during the day to take care of her so that I could sleep and make her lunch because I can’t reach the plates. I needed ibuprofen for her and Tylenol for me and would it be too much to ask for some peanut m&ms, because this week has been a heck of one? Everything was delivered with a smile at 9pm, because that’s how my people roll.

In the midst of all of this chaos, I felt…desperate.

And this week, my community showed up, as they always do, going far beyond what I need. When canceled flights and illness forced a change of plans, my tribe rallied to fill in the gaps. People slept on my couch to make sure we were okay. When groceries were delivered, they came with bouquets of flowers. When the Gatorade was restocked, so were craft projects to keep the kiddo occupied.

While I’m grateful that most of our days and weeks don’t require this amount of intervention from my tribe, what I realized is that I…we, are made to depend on our people. We are made to be there for each other and to be desperate for each other, desperate for a loving God to work things out on our behalf, desperate for love beyond what we can repay. And while everything in me wants to be able to repay what is done for me, there is something holy and humbling about just not being able to. Grace is what they call it. Amazing, awe-inspiring, drive me to my knees, grace.

I think this is how Jesus wants us to rely on Him. I think He wants us to stop rationing what we ask for or hold back on telling Him what we need or limiting the number of times we come to Him with hands open, asking for His goodness, guidance, wisdom or will. I think he wants us to need Him for the things that are out of reach, in the daily routines, in our coming and going and in the midst of our once in a lifetime moments.

Because just like our people, I think He’s ready and able and eager to show up with more than we need, He’s just waiting for us to say the word.