By This Time Tomorrow

ByThisTimeTomorrow

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.

One Week from Today

OneWeekfromToday

In exactly one week, Emmy will have heart surgery. I’m still in denial. I keep waiting for the phone call where a doctor says, “Oh my goodness, I am so sorry for all the confusion! Emmy’s numbers were showing up backwards! Whoopsie.”

Or, when we go in for her pre-op on Monday, I’m expecting a nurse to say, “I have good news! The narrowing in Emmy’s aorta has completely disappeared. This kid is healthy as horse. Take her home, and we’ll see you…never!”

It probably won’t feel real until Emmy gets wheeled into the operating room and I’m left behind to obsessively stare at the clock.

There’s a chance that she might need a blood transfusion during or after surgery and, because we have the same blood type, I was able to give a directed donation earlier this week. Dan came with me and donated to the general population because he and Emmy aren’t a match.

The woman who worked at the blood bank was so unbelievably kind as she took down my information. I hadn’t told her who I was donating to because I didn’t want to cry, so I just acted nonchalant.

As she transferred my information onto the form for Emmy’s surgery, she saw her birthdate–July 2, 2011.

The woman looked back at me and, with tenderness in her voice said, “This is for a small child.”

I steeled my jaw, intent on not breaking down, and said, “It’s for my daughter.”

She was so kind and offered comforting words. As I was giving blood, she asked lots of questions about Emmy. It made me feel good to have support, even from someone I’d never met before.

After Dan and I gave blood, we sat down at the small snack table and made conversation. We dutifully drank our juice and ate salty pretzels.

All of a sudden, Dan’s face turned grey. His breathing got shallow, and his eyes weren’t focusing.

“Are you ok?” I asked, stunned.

“I’m…having…trouble…breathing,” he managed to get out.

I jumped up, still woozy from having just given blood, and hobbled over to the kind woman. I choked out, “My husband…”

She called out to her coworkers, and a swarm of people descended on him, putting ice packs on his neck and keeping his head down.

“This can’t be happening,” I thought, as I stood back from the crowd. My mind flashed to Emmy’s surgery. “This can’t be happening.”

The kind woman who took my blood looked over at my panicked face and said, “He’s going to be just fine.”

I didn’t believe her.

They put Dan on a stretcher with his feet in the air as I nervously looked on. It took him a solid fifteen minutes to regain his color. Finally, he climbed off the stretcher and came to sit back down with me.

“That was really scary,” I said.

“I don’t know what happened,” he replied.

Dan is a strong guy, which is why he is my rock. To see my rock go down left me feeling completely helpless.

We’ve had a stressful week trying to get our ducks in a row before surgery, and I think the weight of it all has taken its toll. As nervous as I am for surgery, I just want to get it over with so we can finally exhale.

Feeling the Fear

Feelingthefear

I am living in a place of fear right now. I have a friend whose child is in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. My own child is scheduled for heart surgery in a month. My friend, Erin, posted the most heart-wrenching story on her blog, which has just rocked me to my core: http://edivaput.blogspot.com/2013/04/when-it-just-isnt-fair.html

And then of course there is the horrific event coming out of Boston and that sweet boy’s picture on Facebook holding up a “Peace” poster.

I am living in the middle of fear. I must admit that a large part of me feels comfortable in a place of fear. My first reaction to any uncertain circumstance is usually fear, so this emotion feels spot on.

But I am very much aware of the anxiety in my chest, the constant nerves; the guzzling of caffeine which only makes it worse. Recently, I’ve found a new way to address fear which is to eat. I take those Lindor truffles that are only 73 calories each…and I have 10…in an hour. I fantasize about the rosemary fries at Smashburger. I eat slice after slice after slice of cheddar cheese.

Finally, I confided in a wise friend who replied that I was feeding the fear to make it go away.

I hadn’t even realized it. Instead of feeling the fear, I was feeding the fear.

The problem with that (besides the tight pants) is that even though I’m stuffing, I’m still feeling everything under the surface. The emotions are still there, bubbling up. They haven’t gone away.

Now that I realize what I’m doing, I can look at myself objectively.

“Self, why are you doing that?” I ask.

“Self, you know exactly why you’re doing that,” I answer. “You don’t want to feel.”

But, self, it’s natural to feel. It’s completely human to feel afraid and sad and upset and angry. And then it’s beautifully human to feel support and connection and love and generosity. And then it’s entirely human to feel hope and bliss and joy. It’s normal to feel all of it.

I don’t think that living in a place of fear is a good place for me. But I recognize it and look at it objectively and reach out to others and hope that there will be great joy on the other side.