This month, my son will undergo surgery to remove his tonsils. We were told he should have them taken out in February and planned to have the surgery in May. Of course, between now and then a global pandemic occurred. For a while, we weren’t sure if this elective surgery would go through or not. We found out that it will.
There are loss moms who get very nervous about a lot when parenting a child after losing their babies.
I’ve meet loss moms who are reluctant to leave their kids with babysitters or babysitters who aren’t related to them (like grandparents). I’ve met the helicopter-type parents who fear their kids climbing too high on the play structures or trees. One of my friends joked once that if she could, she would julienne her son’s grapes to ensure that there wasn’t a chance he’d choke. Baby’s first illness is anxiety-inducing even if it’s just a minor cold. I’ll admit, that first sniffle made me pause, but I was able to sleep that night. There are moms who worry about every injury from scrapes to broken bones. And I’m not a fan of my kids getting hurt by any means, but those injuries don’t induce a panic attack.
For the most part, I think a lot of the things they’re worrying about are just part of living a childhood. Really, they are to be expected. It’s not unusual to experience those things: broken bones, stitches, days on the couch nursing a sore throat with popsicles and movies. They are also memories children carry with them for life. And having a childhood – with all its ups and downs – is the only thing this mama ever wished for her babies.
Instead, I’ve always been more anxious about the things I cannot control.
Illnesses that are unexpected. Ones that can take my kids from me quickly and too soon. Any disease that can cause me to have to bury another child. I worry about a cancer diagnosis. I worry about depression or alcoholism. My child dying by suicide. Things I can’t kiss and make better. Mama’s snuggles won’t necessarily heal them from these maladies. Those are the things that cause me to panic and stay up at night.
A tonsillectomy is a routine surgery. It should be fairly easy. He doesn’t even have to stay overnight. I would be there with him and the children’s hospital would even allow me to go into the OR until he was asleep and be there in the recovery room. Of course, there’s always nerves when a child goes under general anesthesia, but generally, I was feeling calm about it.
Then came the pandemic.
When we realized that they were still going to allow elective surgeries (and that was pretty recently), the rules had changed. No parent was allowed in the OR. One parent could be in the recovery room. And every patient would have to take a COVID-19 test.
Suddenly, I worried about my kid going through surgery. He is a clingy child, and the biggest mama’s boy. I wasn’t sure he would allow them to take him to the OR. This is the kid who refused to get in the pool for swimming lessons, instead clinging to the side rail saying “Mama Mama Mama” over and over. I wasn’t sure he’d go with them, and I wasn’t certain I’d let them take him.
We seriously considered postponing the surgery. But for how long? How long could we wait it out? The COVID-19 related restrictions could last 18 months or longer.
Then I started the downward spiral of negative and anxious thinking.
If we moved forward with the surgery, he would be entering a hospital where he could become exposed to an incredibly contagious and debilitating disease. Even though the young haven’t been as harmed by the coronavirus as others, there have been children who’ve died from the disease. And he’s only 4. There could be longterm organ damage from getting COVID-19. Not to mention the fact that he could have the virus, be asymptomatic, but then the stress of the surgery lets COVID-19 present itself and suddenly my baby boy is really sick after a routine surgery. I’m not sure we want to risk it.
On the other hand, his tonsils are so big they’re causing him breathing problems. He snores loudly and gasps for air while sleeping. If we wait too long he could develop sleep apnea. Sleep apnea would cause stress on his cardiac system. A compromised cardiac system during a pandemic would very bad where the virus attacks the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Then he’d be high risk for an incredibly contagious and debilitating disease. And he’s entering 4K in the fall where we would expect to see an uptick in illnesses in general and who knows what the pandemic’s spread will look like by then.
The latter made me more nervous than the former. There are too many scary factors in the scenario where we don’t do the surgery. All those possibilities – stopping breathing while sleeping, cardiac stress, or contracting COVID-19 – could take him suddenly and traumatically from me. The risk of him contracting the virus from the hospital is actually very low. In fact, now may be the safest time for him to get the surgery.
So, we’re moving forward. I’m still scared. There’s still a risk. He’s still so little.
But I have to trust the medical team. I have to believe that they wouldn’t allow these surgeries if it wasn’t safe. They know what they’re doing. We’re lucky to live in an area with an incredible health care system. We truly are in good hands.
If the PAL journey – pregnancy after loss and parenting after loss – has taught me anything it’s that I can’t control the outcome. I can become educated to help ease stress and anxiety. I can trust science and medicine. I can hope for the best. I can treasure the time I have with this little guy. So, we’ve been spoiling him leading up to the surgery and giving out more hugs and kisses and snuggles than he knows what to do with. And we’re throwing him a “farewell to your tonsils” party the night before surgery.
Stay safe and healthy, courageous mamas!