I am currently sitting on the children’s ward of a hospital, waiting for a nurse to tell my partner and me that our little boy has come out of surgery and can be brought back to his bed where his three favourite cuddly plush toys are patiently watching “Incredibles 2” on the screen which is placed next to the bed of another little boy to my right. Baby Jack Jack (a character of the film, in case you haven’t seen it) is currently fighting with a raccoon and I have to smile, despite the constant anxious knot in my stomach. Baby Jack Jack reminds me of my baby boy a lot: always a cheeky smile on his face, a whirlwind of curiosity and causing havoc and chaos wherever he goes.
My son’s surgery is minor, a routine procedure, nothing of huge concern. I know I am very lucky sitting here, knowing that, hopefully tomorrow, we are allowed to take him back home and life can go back to normal whilst he is healing and getting better. Earlier on, whilst walking back from the anaesthetist’s room, my partner and I acknowledged the fact that, for many parents, life in hospital or frequent stays, procedures and operations are the norm, and how our worry and emotional turmoil at the thought of our baby boy having surgery is a small dot in comparison to other families. There is a lady who tells us of her daughter’s 7th surgery and monthly hospital stays and knows there are many more to come; one of the fathers on the ward recounts the times he has spent here with his son. I sympathise and feel with them, counting my lucky stars. I am welcoming my emotions and fears as they, if anything, let me know how appreciative I am of our general good health and luck to have healthy children. It also makes me realise that, as many parents would say, I would gladly take my children’s places and go through any harm and pain for them. The worry of the operation, which was cancelled twice before today’s date, has had me in tears many of times and I have played all realistic and unrealistic scenarios in my head, often stopping myself from diving into the darkest, most horrendous fears any parent could imagine. Being rational and matter of fact is something I am and can be, but the dramatic “what ifs and buts” are never far away. When faced with those terrors, the true emotional rollercoaster of being a parent takes me on its wildest ride, shaking me around, turning me upside down and making me realise that, when signing up for experiencing all the highs and joyful loop de loops with my children, I also became more vulnerable and scared than ever before. Nothing could have prepared me for the raw emotions I experience now and have done in the last few years. And it breaks my heart for those parents whose life in hospital has become part of their normality, whatever “normal” is.
Having my baby back from the operating theatre, despite seeing him in distress and disoriented from the anesthetic makes me ride on waves of relief and gratitude, eternally grateful for the wonderful doctors and nurses that have taken care of him and contributed to making his quality of life better. I feel drained and worn out from the rush of varying emotions but watching him clutch his favourite teddy, peacefully sleeping off the narcotics, I feel equipped again to deal with whatever our life has in store for us next. I wouldn’t swap it for anything else, no matter how intense and hard these emotions can be.