My 29-year-old daughter had surgery today. The thing that jumps out at me is how easy it is to become mama bear when your child, even your adult child, is sick, hurt or otherwise harmed in any form or fashion.
She had a hysterectomy which means they removed her uterus thus, she will never carry or birth another child. She is only 29 years old. We are grateful that we have “M” her nine-year old son; my grandson. She is happy with her one child as am I. We love one another “to the moon and back” as we like to say.
It’s funny how this surgery has become a bonding experience. I picked her up yesterday from work so she could spend the night at our house. We decided this would be easier since I was the one taking her to the hospital, staying with her overnight and then driving her home the next day.
After picking her up I decided to take the scenic route and we wound our way through Woodinville, marveling at all the changes. We drove by our old house… our old life really, as so much has changed since we lived there. We stopped and had dinner at Ixtapa in Duvall which we love and used to frequent often before we moved out of the area.
As we walked into this familiar place, a place of many happy memories, I noticed how nothing had changed. Not the building, not the decor, not the wait staff. It was just the same with the exception of a certain essence. It felt fresh and new. The only thing that was different was us. It felt strange how our lives could change so dramatically, and yet this restaurant that felt like a part of our family, stayed the same.
We sat at a booth, leaving the menus untouched as we knew it by heart. We always ordered the same thing every time we came. R got a Ixtapa buritto; cheese, sauce and sour cream only. I got a side of rice, beans, sour cream and flour tortillas. As we waited for the food we dug into the chips and salsa. Mmmm, they were so good, so familiar.
After dinner we drove towards home taking a route at once familiar yet different. Familiar because we had driven it many times before. Different because nothing and no one was the same. We chatted, laughed and talked a mile a minute. I felt very uplifted. I was really enjoying my time with R as we don’t get much of it anymore.
Once home, we put on our pjs and sat around with my other daughter N and chatted for a bit. It was getting late so I left the girls to themselves and went upstairs and crawled into bed. Before I knew it R was in there with me. A few minutes later N was standing in the door wanting to join us but decided she would be better off in her own bed as she was dealing with a nasty cold. As we lay in bed talking, laughing, and reading I looked at her and said, “I love you R. I am really happy right now and I am glad you are here.” She smiled at me and said, “I love you, mom.”
We got up at five the next morning and prepared to leave for the hospital. We arrived safe, sound and on time. We hung out in the pre-op area, I held her hand, distracting her from getting poked with a needle by talking about New Kids On The Block (NKOTB) and how we went to see them for her seventh birthday. She had been stressed about getting the IV but she didn’t even notice it going in so focused she was, on the memories of days gone by.
Before I knew it was time to say goodbye.
“Goodbye, baby girl.” I said and kissed her on the forehead.
Sitting in the waiting room I found that I couldn’t concentrate on the book I was reading. I was thinking about how similar yet different we are. On our way into the hospital we talked about what this surgery really meant; loss of choice. She would be losing her ability to choose pregnancy and give birth to a child. I knew a bit about what that felt like as I’d had hysterectomy when I was 26 years old. I thought I was okay with it at the time because I had two children already so… no big deal.
It became a big deal at 35. I was re-married and desperately wanted to carry a baby created by the love we shared. It was one of the most emotionally painful experiences of my life. It lasted for about two years, the longing that is.
I felt guilty for wanting more. I didn’t feel like I had a right to long for a child and feel sadness about it. I had two healthy children already and there were women that didn’t have any. I didn’t think I was allowed to sob on the way home from work, alone in the car because my grief felt so heavy. I never told anyone this because I was ashamed that I wanted more. I felt greedy.
So, R and I talked about it. I told her not to be surprised if she felt that way. And if she did feel that way, it’s okay. She told me she already had and knew she would come up against it again and again. It was a common bond we would share, this longing. Mine long over, hers just beginning.
We were told the surgery would take two hours. At the two and half hour mark I began to worry. At the three-hour mark my hospital pager went off. I walked to the receptionist and gave her my name. she took the pager, reset it, handed it back and told me to go down the hall to the consultation room. The doctor would be with me shortly.
What?!? What does that mean?
As I walked towards the “consultation” room at the end of the hall, my heart was racing and I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my body. I was scared. I walked into a room that contained a long padded bench and four padded chairs. I looked around and cautiously, tentatively lowered myself onto the bench. This is the room where they give people bad news. I don’t want to be in this room. I don’t want bad news.
I pretend to read as I flip through the latest gossip magazine but not even LiLo’s drama could divert my attention from the doorway. Five, 10 then 20 minutes later my pager goes off again. Seriously? WTF?!?
I walk quickly back to the receptionist and I see Dr. R sitting there casually chatting like has all the time in the world. Well, at least he didn’t look like a man, who was about to tell a mother, that her daughter died on the table while he ripped the uterus from her body. As I approached him he stood up and we both started talking at once.
He started with “I’m sorry..” but I cut him off and asked, “How is she?” my voice strong but the fear was there and he could hear it, see it, smell it. He started walking me down the hall with his arm around me patting my shoulder telling me everything but what I wanted to hear!
“…I had a resident in there with me and so…” I cut him off,” How is she?” he ignored the interruption and kept talking. Apparently he was more interested in telling his story than telling me if my daughter was alive or dead.
“Dr. R!” I shouted. Okay, maybe I didn’t shout out loud, maybe it was in my head but I was ready to injure him if he didn’t get to the point and quickly. “IS SHE OKAY?” Coincidently we were standing outside the door of the consultation room. The perfect place for him to give me the bad news. He led me to the bench, still patting my shoulders, “She’s fine.” he said casually but with kindness.
As tears of relief filled my eyes I reached over and slapped him in the face. “Don’t EVER do that to me or anyone else ever again! Ever! Get to the point!” I screamed.
Okay, so I didn’t really do or say either of those things but I wanted to. He spent the next 10 minutes going over how well the procedure went, explaining that it took a lot longer because he was training a resident and he needed to go very slowly… why didn’t he tell us that before surgery? Don’t tell me two hours when you know it’s going to be three. That’s just mean.
He was excited to show me the pictures of her uterus, ovaries, appendix, etc. talking excitedly, while he patted himself on the back for a job well done.
Finally, five hours after I left her in the hands of medical professionals; I saw my daughter, pale but alive.
I was filled with love and relief.
But most importantly, thanks to the pictures, I would be able to say to her, “I know you inside and out!”