I find myself in familiar territory this morning. We've been through this before, Connor and I. The routine is the same each time. We arrive two hours prior to surgery. I sign the forms. He changes into the worn, blue scrubs. The nurses come in and I nod. Yes, i understand. No, he doesn't have any other conditions. Yes, he does have an allergy to dissolvable sutures. He watches sports on the TV hanging from the wall. I watch him.
Yep, we've been here before, Connor and I. Six times before to be exact. But this time is different. This time, his little sister is having surgery, too. Her first. Their doctor will take out two chondromas from each of them. I've been promised that they will be able to share a room afterwards.
But right now I am so torn. They are in adjoining pre-op rooms. Their dad sits watching sports with Connor, and I lie with Ella in her hospital bed. We play 20 questions. And she asks 20 more. About her surgery, about recovery, about the nurses, the medicine, the doctors, the pain. I answer slowly, carefully. And smile. So that she knows everything's going to be fine. She's going to be fine.
I love you, she says to me, prompting me to say our nightly ritual.
I love you, too, baby.
I love you more.
I love you most.
I hear the nurse in Connor's room. It is time for his IV. "Would you like to play 20 questions with daddy for a few minutes?" I ask Ella. She smiles and nods her ascent. Daddy and I switch places.
They prep Connor's hand for the IV. He gives me his free hand to hold. We talk about the Panic! concert he and his brother went to last night until the IV is in and taped.
A few minutes later, I hear the nurses in Ella's room and switch again. I want to be in both rooms. I NEED to be in both rooms. In Ella's room, the nurse is preparing to give her a liquid medicine to calm her. At 7, she won't get an IV until she's asleep. It tastes yucky, I am told. I nod. I know.
Inside of a minute she is giggling. I lie down beside her, look into her hazel eyes.
"Are you having surgery, too, Mama?" She is being silly with me, but her question pierces my heart.
In my heart, I am having two.
The morning goes this way, back and forth from room to room. At one point, I stand in their adjoining bathroom, just so that I can see both of them at the same time.
Soon, they are ready to take Ella back. Thankfully, she is still feeling silly. Probably won't remember any of this. The doctor explains that they will take her back and have her breath into a mask. She'll fall asleep quickly, then get her IV. They run through the technical and I nod. Swallow around the lump in my throat.
Hey guys, this is my baby.
The nurse looks at me. We're going to take very good care of your little girl. I nod, thankful. I don't speak. I can't.
Her daddy and I kiss her one last time.
"I love you most," I whisper into her ear.
Connor and Ella blow kisses to each other.
It's difficult to put into words what it's like to watch them wheel your child down to the OR.
It is fear.
It is helplessness.
It is love. So much love.
And it is prayer. Always prayer.
It is times like these that I am thankful for my faith. For my ability not to question what's real, and what's imaginary. What is fable. What is fact. I hope that all three of my children find a strong faith that they can call on in times of helplessness. For what else do we have? Even Connor, who is driven by logic, facts, science. I understand all of that. I respect his questions, I understand his doubt. I have my own.
But not now. Now I pray.
But I digress. Connor has fallen asleep waiting for his turn in the OR, a mix of exhaustion from a late night and nerves.
We've been through this before, Connor and I. And in fact, I've been through this once already this year. Jack dislocated his knee and broke his kneecap on the first day of Spring Break. Literally 2/3 of his kneecap came off in the dislocation. In the OR, the surgeon repaired his tendons and then put the puzzle piece of kneecap back in place. Held it there with three pins that were removed in a follow-up surgery four weeks later.
Hospitals are not new to this family. But all three of my kids in one year? That's a lot.
But I digress. It has been said that if everyone threw their problems into a pile, we'd all rush to grab back our own. It's true. I am grateful that when the nurse runs through the checklist of health issues, I can answer "no" to each one. I am thankful that they will both get to go home in 24 hours (God willing), when so many other kids are here for extended stays. There are so many things I am thankful for. There are so many emotions I could write about.
But not now. Now, I pray.