The "After" Surgery
First Comes the Knife, Then Comes the Recovery.
For 9 months, I sat in agony waiting for the "big day". You try and prepare yourself mentally for the day, you read all the information about the surgery and do all the research you can to be knowledgeable. After becoming an informed parent, you think your job is now easy. Just make it through the day and the rest will be cake. That's what you try to convince yourself anyways. You want to just make it through the surgery alive and be able to hug your partner if you're lucky enough to have one by your side, and say that we survived the day. We survived the tough part. We did survive the tough part... right?
The doctor told us to anticipate a rough week. We envisioned a nightmarish week, I'm not going to lie. We had the worst case scenario in our minds. We never researched the recovery much, only the actual procedure. You're really not fully prepared when you see the wound. You're not prepared to see your child in that much pain. When you see the child in the recovery room, you're not really prepared for that at all no matter how much you tried to become informed. This grotesquely mangled child can't possibly be your perfect angel... right? You repeat over and over in your head "it's for the best", and you wonder if it's really for the best or if that's some lie you're telling yourself to make you feel better for what you agreed to allow some man you've met 4 times do to your child.
My husband and I were pleasantly surprised, the grotesque wound wasn't as bad as we imagined. Our son, the one screaming bloody murder when we first saw him in recovery was perfectly calm and happy when they unplugged him from all those machines. The epidural we allowed for our son to have seemed to make his legs too weak to do anything, but he wasn't in pain or walking anymore. That was okay, we said. He's not supposed to be walking yet anyways. He seemed to take the medicine fine in the recovery room, he was a model patient. We were assured that he was doing the best the nurse had ever seen a baby his age do with the procedure he had done. We had high hopes it wasn't going to be as bad as we thought.
Soon after coming home, the reality set in. Diaper changes seemed to be a 3 person job. That "biggest poop of his life" the doctor said seems to always happen and get under the dressings happened. The next day we ended up back at the surgeon's office to get the dressings removed. That seemed to be part of the downward spiral of our "perfect patient". Maybe it was the raw wound being set into his nonstop flow of diarrhea and diaper changes. Maybe it was all the 10 prescriptions he seemed to be on. Maybe it was the fact he couldn't get the hugs and cuddles the way he was used to. (No pressure was to be applied to the area, no straddling anything, no legs wrapped around anything.) The worst part to him seemed to be how uncomfortable it was to sleep, since he couldn't sleep on his stomach like he was used to. Suddenly he wasn't taking his medicine as perfectly, and there was nothing we could do to make it right. He couldn't sleep at night, he can't sleep during the day. He can't eat much more than bottles, if we can even get him to drink those. Luckily ice cream and Italian ice make him happy, so against our better judgement we just go with it. As long as something gets in his system, right?
Then you don't even consider the other part of it, the part that goes with being overtired and overstressed. My husband and I, people who rarely fight or snap at each other, try to be patient with each other. But neither of us can do any right sometimes. It only happens at nighttime, these moments of anger. I'm not sure if it's because we're overtired and overstressed or if because we're just really upset that our child is in complete disarray and it just might be our fault because we agreed to this surgery. I keep repeating this, but it's no less true then when I first said it: no one likes to see their child in pain, especially a baby.
We'll make it through this. Alive, preferably. All joking aside, we need to stick together as a family. The reason my husband and I work so well at times like this is because we're two different people at the core of our personalities: I'm a person who jokes away nerves or grief or any other negative emotion while keeping cool and going with the punches; my husband is a nervous and overprotective overly cautious person. We balance in times like these, and it shows that in marriage especially, you need someone that compliments your personality because two nervous Nellies would end up divorced in times of struggle. Everyone will recover and forget about this time when we realize that we did the right thing and we made our child's life better for it.
A Happy Family is a Healthy One
I keep talking about the surgery even though it was a minor one, because I hope that I can give some insight and information about this topic in hopes to help someone else. Even if it's only one person. I know that every time I read something that seemed pertinent to what I was going through, I felt some comfort in it. So here are some tips I've discovered for this:
- Nap when they nap. This is the biggest rule as a new parent: you take a nap when your baby naps. This doesn't just apply to a newborn, this applies to any child under the weather, whether it's a simple cold or recovering from a surgery. They say a tired baby is a cranky one, but they forget to mention that tired parents are extra cranky.
- Time the medicines right. This is something we've discovered and are trying to remedy today: not only is a tired baby a cranky one, he's also a more stubborn one. We all know when a baby doesn't want to do something, he won't. This applies to taking medicine. The timing of his medicine fell at 12:30, we gave him his medicine when he woke up for a bottle or because he was sore. (We're still not quite sure what was wrong.) An hour later, after trying to bribe the baby and losing our temper with each other, we finally managed to give him all 6 of his medicines and managed to console him enough to get him back to sleep.
- Expect the worst, any version of it. Then forget all expectations. I expected the baby to alternate between being overly drowsy and cuddly because he was in pain and doped up. Instead, I get my normally active son with what seems like a bad stomach flu. He won't eat, we're changing a diarrhea diaper every hour at least, and we have to get fluids in him however we can. However, his spirits seem high until his diaper needs to be changed or after it's changed because of the pain of the battle wound. I wasn't prepared for that.
- Help is important. This is something new mom's are encouraged to have after bringing home baby. We're told: accept help, you'll need it. Parents, mom's especially, suffer from "superman" syndrome. We want to do it all, and we think we're terrible parents if we can't. You're not terrible parents for needing help, and you're going to need help when your child is recovering from surgery.
- Finally, be kind. You know that spouse you keep snapping at and losing patience with? They are feeling just as stressed and anxious as you are. They are just as overtired, they are just as helpless, and just as scared. Kindness goes a long way. Your child's recovery only lasts so long, hopefully your marriage will last a lifetime. Moments like these define that marriage and if you're too mean for too long, a damage can occur. People are going to snap at each other. But saying sorry and giving affections can go a long way and help out in the long run to make up for all the impatience. Plus, your love can go a long way making this recovery easy on your child by providing a happy and loving environment for them.