Holding back my tears and holding my breath, I reluctantly signed all the consent forms allowing the doctors to remove my son’s deteriorating appendix. I surprisingly, and coherently answer all the questions and list out what the anesthesiologist needs to know: sleep apnea, hearing loss, tinnitus, asthma.
I kiss my brave boy on his forehead right before they wheel him away.
Tears are flowing before I leave the pre-op area.
While it is true that I have witnessed my children be put under anesthesia 26 times before. IT DOES NOT GET EASIER. It gets familiar, but does not get easier. My feet get heavy as I walk away. Have you ever stood at the end of a shoreline and felt the tide wash sand on your feet? And as you stand there, and the tide ebbs and flows, your feet sink deeper and deeper into the sand. And soon, your feet are buried, almost up to your ankles and you try to lift your foot, but it is so heavy. And you feel unbalanced. But on the beach, the unbalanced feeling is fun. This is not. It’s just heavy.
I need a hug. I desperately need a hug. My husband cannot be by my side because, you know, “COVID rules”.
I tearfully text my family in one group text and then copy and paste the exact info to another chat group for my husband’s family.
I decided that maybe I could find the high risk specialist who cared for me when I was pregnant with the twins. Whenever I am at the hospital we unintentionally bump into one another. I thought I would surprise her and find her this time.
The surprise was on me! Her office relocated to a new location.
I am a glutton for punishment. I realized that I was on the same floor as the nursery and NICU. I ask the unit clerk if I could be allowed to visit “the wall” of the NICU. She tells me that unfortunately, they are not allowing visitors to the NICU, only parents. Stupid “COVID rules.” Tears. Tears I cannot control start rolling down my cheeks again. In between sobs I try to explain that I am not here to visit any babies. I just want to see “the wall”. I try to explain that my son is a NICU graduate. And I need to find his tile. I explain that he was in surgery. And I need to find comfort and hope. And if I could just touch his tile, it would mean so much to me.
Now she has tears in her eyes. She bows her head and whispers “follow me”.
She brings me to “the wall”. I stand there in awe. Inspiring amazement. So many children that are alive because of the phenomenal men and women who dedicate themselves and their lives to saving the tiniest of lives. And there are so many more who did not make it to the reunion, but are living and thriving because of these doctors and nurses. It was just beautifully overwhelming. This is the first time I had visited “the wall”. After the 2016 reunion, I never went back to see the final product. Too many painful memories. But such a beautiful tribute.
I find my niece’s tile. She too is a graduate of the very same NICU. My lips start to quiver trying to stifle my emotions.
I find my daughter’s tile. Now come more tears.
I find my friend’s son’s tile. We met when our boys were in middle school and she and I quickly realized that we, as well as our sons, had so much in common. Both boys had the same rough start.
My eyes finally fall on my son’s tile. And I smile. And I cry. And I know how many times he was near death, but always pulled through. I know that he will be fine. I say all this to the unit clerk, who now needs to touch up her mascara. She allows me to take pictures.
As we head back toward the elevators, I thank her for not calling security on me and for having the compassion to allow me this moment. And before I knew it, I was kissing my groggy and loopy son in the recovery room. And now I cry tears of joy and relief.