The other day I paid a visit to a very good friend of mine who definitely needed some TLC. This friend (Let’s call her Sarah for privacy’s sake.) is newly pregnant with her third child. The very same day she found out she was pregnant, she was also told that she had two herniated disks in her lower spine. A week later, she was on doctor’s ordered bed rest due to the severe pain caused by the prenatal shifting of her pelvis and the risk of further injury. So, obviously, she is having a rough time. Besides the fact that she is in an extreme amount of pain and the fact that she cannot stay out of bed for more than 1-2 minutes, these are not the things she stressed over when I was there.
Her focus was instead on her two children and the fact that she hasn’t been able to get up with them in the morning, build castles made of wooden blocks, or serve them a dinner she had cooked with love. She cried that she cannot walk her three-year-old to preschool or lay the baby down for her nap. All of her concerns were about her children and her inability to take care of them as she normally does.
As I listened to her lament, I was reminded of my own “bedridden” experiences and wondered how I would cope with my future ones now that I am a mother.
A Happy Patient
Over the years, I have had several small medical procedures done that were usually needed to determine the condition of a particular valve or ventricle of my heart. Some of them were outpatient while others required a one or two night stay in the hospital. I know this is going to sound strange, but I never actually disliked having medical procedures. Sure, I don’t like the pain, but there’s something comforting about recuperation. There’s something soothing about laying in your bed, your pillows propped up perfectly, a new book laying by your side or the remote in hand. There is something complimentary about the regular ringing of the telephone with family and friends checking in on the other end. There is even something nice about recovery rooms in which nurses gently check your incisions and tuck thermal blankets around your body.
Winds of Change
Like everything else in my life, my perception of medical procedures changed once I had a baby. Before, it was relaxing to just lay alone in my king-sized bed, recovering how I pleased. But now I think of my baby, her little voice asking for me and my inability to go to her and hold her in my arms.
Last July I had a catherization, a procedure in which a thin tube (a catheter) is inserted in a blood vessel in your groin (The neck or an arm can also be used.) and threaded to your heart. Usually, the recovery is only a day or two with some residual pain and numbness in your groin. Unfortunately, this time I developed a hematoma (a collection of blood clots that forms when blood leaks from the vessel into the tissues where it doesn’t belong) in my upper thigh, which caused a much larger amount of pain in my leg than usual and the need to elevate it for several days.
As a result, my mother’s stay in my house was prolonged and she became Rosemarie’s primary caretaker for a week or so. I am so lucky and grateful to have a mother who can and will move in with me for two weeks and take care of my child. But at the same time, I wanted to be the one taking care of her. It may have only been a couple of weeks, but I did notice a difference. I noticed if my mother and I were in the same room with Rosemarie, she would go to my mother before me. She would settle more easily in my mother’s arms than she would sitting on my lap. Luckily, the recovery was over in a couple of weeks, I returned to being the usual hands-on mom that I am, and I quickly became Rosemarie’s go-to girl once more.
We Are Not Alone
My worry is the next open heart surgery that will occur sometime in my future. When I think about this approaching surgery, all my thoughts focus on Rosemarie. How old will she be when I have it? Will it be better if she is younger or older? No matter the age, will she somehow understand why I can’t take care of her like usual? How long will it be until I can pick her up, rise with her, or give her a bath while she splishes and splashes and smiles at me amidst the bubbles? Will she remember that I couldn’t take care of her? Will she remember that Mommy wasn’t there?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions and I won’t know them until the surgery happens. However, at the risk of sounding completely mean and self-absorbed, I have to say that watching Sarah cry about her fears of neglecting her children made me feel better about my medical future. For one, it is always nice to know you are the not the only one who feels a certain way. More importantly, though, now I realize Rosemarie is not the only one. She is not the only child whose mother will have a medical issue that deters her from caring for her children for a period of time. And if there are many other women who experience this, than I think it’s safe to say that this alone will not be truly detrimental to Rosie and her development. I’m sure it won’t be easy for her. I’m sure she will act out a bit and be confused as to why everything is different. But I’m also sure she will be okay just as I will be.
Together we’ll recover one day at a time.