I’m reposting what I wrote last year (with some edits) when Aidan had his first orthopedic surgery. We’ll be in hospital housing again and the weird world of children in hospitals instead of at home.
I showered with a Super Hero this morning. Two dinosaurs and a monster truck were there also, these forgotten sentries of innocence. We’re staying in hospital housing because my son is having surgery. In this case it’s a beautiful Tudor home that has been converted into shared living space. The previous night behind these closed bathroom doors, we heard typical childhood fussing that most likely accompanied a vigorous hair washing.
Not at all an unusual scenario. Except this time, the bedtime routine was the last before a medical procedure, or possibly this child has a sibling in the hospital. It’s hard to say. Every family has a different story. I wasn’t at all annoyed; it’s not like I haven’t showered with a dinosaur before. I only felt sad that this child had to bathe in an unfamiliar place and that this parent must have been physically and emotionally exhausted having to care for a medically needy child. A T-Rex was conspicuously absent and isn’t that every child’s favorite? What if he was left at home, and how long will this child and his favorite pre-historic carnivore be separated?
The trappings of a normal life stand in juxtaposition to the world that shouldn’t be; a world of children in hospitals.
My husband Garreth and I had a very Marty McFly moment last night. We met ourselves of 12 years ago in the communal kitchen. A young couple just arrived having taken a bus from their small town up north. They had their two year old daughter in tow; she was slowly taking in her new surroundings. Garreth, a veteran of hospital houses though new to this one, immediately started showing them around and making sure they were fed. They told tales of their hometown NICU and how their newborn son had been there for 100 days before being transferred. “Can you believe it,” their eyes said, “100 days!” This doesn’t really happen in the real world. No one should be expected to go through that. Country folk waiting for a chance to be with their new son in a big city hospital. Their bodies and words held that surreal mixture of disbelief and courage. “I am surviving something I didn’t know existed.”
I get it, young beautiful innocent postpartum mom, I do. What you don’t know is that your strength will continue to surprise you; you will feel overwhelmed and then you will dig down and rise up and fight for this son you are just getting to know. And then later, probably much later, you will sit back and weigh the absurdity of your story and be amazed that you were able to live though it.
After showering with a Super Hero, I poured myself a special cup of pumpkin spice coffee, a gift from a friend for this very occasion. We set off on our brisk walk to the hospital just like all the other morning commuters, and yet completely different. I walked with my coffee in one hand while pushing my son’s wheelchair in the other just hours before he goes under the knife.
We blend in and head to the hospital. The schedule is already an hour and a half behind. The doctor has recognized that his first patient of the day is precious as well and needs some extra time, attention, and care. We will wait.
The pre-op nurse if fabulous. There’s just something about pediatric medical folks. She spoke to my son, making small talk and asking the important questions. She noticed it was his birthday soon and I remarked that surgery was a pretty awful gift. She reminded me that when his birthday comes around next week he will be on his way to healing and getting stronger.
We will be on our way home, where we belong.