When I was in 2nd grade, I sang Mary Poppins’ well known anthem Just a Spoon Full of Sugar in the school talent show. Anyone who knows me, or has heard me sing, knows why that is a funny scene. (For those who don’t know me and haven’t been blessed with a song, consider yourself lucky! It’s not good!) Over the last week I found myself unabashedly singing it all over again, this time more practically coaxing my three year old to take her post-tonsillectomy pain medication while holding a spoonful of chocolate ice cream in front of her to wash away the terrible faux cherry smell.
My husband and I prepared our daughter for her surgery as best we knew how – with honesty, discussions and books, and a “goodbye tonsils” party the night before the extraction. However, there was no way for us to truly prepare her for the hours and days following the surgery because the pain and recovery was totally foreign to both of us and far too conceptual for her to understand. More so, though we’d prepared her and both felt totally confident that having her tonsils and adenoids removed was the only solution to thwarting her sleep apnea, we truly hadn’t prepared ourselves for this intense milestone in parenting.
Some parents go through a situation like this on a grander scale or more frequently, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to watch their children undergo procedure after procedure to rectify whatever ailments plague their kids. My heart truly goes out to them. One time was more than enough.
Last Thursday, as we approached the operating room and our spunky, independent daughter’s eyes flashed from confident and happy to frightened and filled with tears, the gravity of the moment hit us. Our “big girl” is, and will always be, our baby. In that moment we had to garner the strength to let go of her hand as the nurse carried her to the operating room while we were ushered to the waiting room for some of the most agonizing and anxiety-ridden 60 minutes of our lives.
When she came out of surgery and was emerging from her anesthesia-induced state, she was a shell of herself. She was there, but in the sterile white bed, connected to IVs and monitors, inconsolably moaning and crying she was a different kid. And in that moment my husband and I reached an unspoken pact that we had to stay calm, even-keeled and patient despite our growing concerns and fears. Though the nurse continued to assure us that her reaction was normal, it didn’t change the overwhelming shock at what we were seeing. As the minutes and hours ticked by, her altered state was replaced with flashes of herself intermixed with that of a post-surgery patient. She alternated between playing with her new prized Barbie and crying over being coaxed to eat a popsicle.
The last seven days have continued to be a series of ups and downs – moments of normalcy quickly replaced with moments of inconsolable tears. As each moment of up is replaced with a down, and then up again, I remind myself that parenthood is a series of tests – tests of strength, will power, compassion and love. Some of these tests, I fail miserably. But others seem to go okay. And when it comes to giving her comfort and unconditional love, I pass with flying colors. Singing, however, continues to be a test I just can’t pass. Good thing there’s ice cream to soften the blow!