Emmy’s heart surgery is tomorrow. In one sense, I am SO ready for this to be over. In another sense, I am SO NOT ready for this.
Confession: I’m not as strong as you think I am.
I look around at the parents I know whose children who have had heart surgery, some with three and four heart surgeries behind them, and think, “I am nowhere near as strong as they are.” Even in adulthood, I still feel like a kid in many ways. I have a little bit of an immaturity and naivety that has stuck with me all this time. I kind of like it because it makes me feel young and goofy.
But now I’m being asked to step up to the plate and be a strong woman and mother for my family. It’s a tall order for someone who still feels like a kid inside.
I’m also very much aware of how Charlotte is going to feel over the next few days. We have wonderful friends and family who have generously offered to take care of her, and for that I am so grateful. But while half of my heart will be with Emmy, the other half will be with Charlotte. I hope that she will feel our love from far away and won’t feel like we’ve ditched her.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve tried so hard to keep things “normal” around here, for Charlotte’s sake. We’ve been trying hard to remain calm, positive, and playful while dealing with a heavy situation. We’ve read her some really good kiddie books about surgery. She has asked to read them over and over again–several times a day. She is fascinated by the idea of being in a hospital. She asks questions like, “How did Emmy get the boo boo on her heart?” and “Will I get it?” No, it’s not contagious, sweetie.
Even though I’ve tried to stay composed, I’ve been more anxious and nervous than usual. It’s inevitable, I guess. I just hope that thirty years from now, Charlotte won’t hold it against me. I imagine us sitting together on a therapist’s couch when it all comes out: “I hate you for not being a perfect, carefree mom in the week leading up to Emmy’s surgery!” Oh hello, Mommy Guilt, it’s you again!
I’ve also been feeling very uncomfortable with the fact that Emmy has no idea what’s about to happen to her tomorrow. She only knows a few words at this point, like “more” and “open.” The concept of “heart surgery” is not in her vocabulary. In some ways, it’s a good thing because she won’t be afraid. However, I also feel like I’m duping her. She’s happy as a clam and totally oblivious to the major surgery and recovery period that’s right around the corner.
I told my friend that I feel guilty for unintentionally “duping” Emmy into thinking that tomorrow is going to be a perfectly regular day, just like any other. My friend’s advice was to tell Emmy about the surgery–to put it out there even though she won’t understand.
So I sat her down, put my hand on my own chest, and said, “Emmy, listen to Mommy. You have a boo boo on your heart, and you’re going to go the hospital on Thursday to get it fixed. There are going to be nice doctors, and it might hurt a little afterwards. But you’re going to be just fine. Mommy and Daddy will be right there with you.”
She looked straight into my eyes. Then she put her hand on her chest and said “boo boo.” I’m so glad I shared that moment with her. I felt like she understood.
I hope I can get at least a few hours of sleep tonight.
I hope Emmy’s surgery and recovery go beautifully.
And I hope we all end up on the other side of this, stronger than I ever imagined.