I’m writing this from the waiting room. The room where parents’ lives seem to hang in mid-air. The room where emotion is palpable. I call this room the eye of the storm. This is my third time in the eye, this one being much less dramatic than before yet still devastatingly quiet. It is the holding space between the hand-off and recovery. If you’ve ever had a child undergo surgery, you can probably still feel the very instant your baby was pulled from your arms. The instant your heart was literally taken from your chest to be brought into a brightly lit room where doctors and nurses and anesthesiologists were waiting to perform their tasks. The eye of the storm is your time as a parent to try to prepare for round two. You made it through the adjusted morning routine that forced you to skip feeding your child breakfast. You made it through one of the longest drives you’ll ever go on, even if the hospital is two blocks away. You made it through collecting vitals. You made it through the millions of thoughts bombarding your brain while your child is still in your arms about what they are about to endure.
You made it through. I made it through.
The last time I was in the eye, the second part of that storm culminated in what will always have a spot in the top three worst days of my life. Ellie was in a state of postoperative emergence delirium for 12 excruciating hours. As I sit here today, I’m wrestling with the images of my baby being unable to open her eyes, rolling around, crying out in pain and confusion. The rational side of my brain keeps telling its other half that she had been exposed to anesthesia for hours longer and that her second surgery was much more intensive. We were in the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit, after all. The rational side of my brain is also trying to explain to the large pit in my stomach that this particular surgery is easy by the standard of an experienced doctor. Read it again – easy! But all the rational thoughts in the world can never change the fact that the last time I was in the eye, it was just the beginning to my life being forever altered by what was to come. When Ellie finally woke from the anesthesia, the moment she saw her mommy and daddy and realized she was okay, is a moment I’ll never forget.
I’m anxious for that moment today. I know at some point soon a nurse will come out and give an update on the surgery. She’ll tell me that everything went well and that Ellie is in recovery. She’ll guide me back to sit beside my baby and wait for those little blue eyes to flutter open. This is the moment you enter the second half of the storm with gratitude and an unfailing willingness to tackle any obstacle of recovery. Your baby made it, so what’s a little more rain to you?
As I learned last time, the severity of the storm’s second half can never be accurately predicted. With this knowledge, I am as prepared as humanly possible today for the second half. I am prepared for recovery to go smoothly. I am prepared to take my girl home from the hospital mere hours after she wakes. I am prepared for her waking to take a little longer and for the possibility of being kept overnight. I am prepared to be a weekend warrior should more concerns arise. I am prepared, yet I am afraid. This is a totally normal combination and I feel no shame in my fear. My child is currently undergoing a surgery that is the only option for her health but will without a doubt affect her later in life. I am confident it is a step in the right direction in a journey that will never end for her. I am confident in these doctors. I am confident in my resilient little warrior. I am confident in my after-care abilities. But today, right now, in the eye of the storm, I am afraid. And that is okay.
So if you ever find yourself in the eye of the storm, know that it doesn’t last forever. It literally can’t. The seconds may drag on for what will feel like an eternity, but your nurse will come. I promise they will come.