A Mother’s Thoughts and Fears

It’s 630 in the morning, and outside, the sky is dark, but not so black as my mood. Carys is on her way to the children’s hospital in Dublin, and I’m sitting here, chain-drinking coffee while my heart breaks.

It’s only dental work, but it’s never ‘only’ something for children like Carys. There’s no way she’s going to let a dentist look in her mouth, or go anywhere near her, thank you very much.

A year ago, it took five of us to hold her down while a dentist gave her some temporary fillings. No needles or drills involved. It was a traumatic experience for everyone involved, not least poor Carys herself, who has absolutely no comprehension of why we’re doing that to her, except that it’s bound to be something she’s not going to like. Or hurt her.

So today, she will be having a general anaesthetic, and I’m scared, really scared. GA always carries a risk, but for Carys, with her bloated fragile heart, it’s a very serious risk, and I’m terrified she won’t wake up.

I know she will have an excellent anaesthetist. I know he will have read her file. I suspect her cardiologist will have been consulted. I know she is in good hands.

But she’s out of mine. My hands have always held her, but not today. I am home with my boys, and Carys is with her Daddy, and I am riddled with guilt. I can’t leave the boys here on their own, but I should be with Carys and Conor.

Yesterday, I was in such a state with this hanging over me, that my youngest son asked me why I was so angry and doing so much cleaning. Sounds funny, right? Conor said it would probably be best if he took her to the hospital.

Carys is always calmer with her Daddy. She’s a Daddy’s girl. She sleeps in his arms. I do the feeding and the nappies and the hair-washing and the therapies. I do the activities, the work and the fun stuff. With him, she feels safe and relaxed. I am in a stressed and emotional state. Today, I am not Carys’s best advocate.

I know this, but still I feel guilty. Not only am I not there for Carys, but I am not there for Conor. He will have to make that long walk down the corridor to the operating theatre with Carys in his arms, alone. I have condemned him to hold Carys while they administer the first drug which puts her to sleep.

If you have ever had to hold your child while this is done, you will know it feels like watching them die.

And then, while you are still in this extreme condition of terror and bemusement, they snatch her out of your arms and manhandle you out the room too quickly for your mind to register what just happened.

To wait, while some butcher takes a knife, or in this case a drill, to your precious baby.

Of course, they’re not butchers, they are life-saving angels, and two of my children are alive and well thanks to these very special people. Words can never convey such gratitude. ‘Just doing my job, ma’am.’ They really think it’s just a job.

Last time we went through this, Carys was only four months old, and she had a complex surgery to remove her haemangioma. It took four hours, and I remember sitting on her hospital bed, waiting, holding her blanket to my face and breathing in her baby scent. I remember how helpless and desolate I felt.

Today’s procedure is only a short one in comparison. But I’ll still feel the same. The risks are just as great. Conor is on his own in Dublin, and I am alone here. And we’re waiting. Just waiting. And hoping. And while Conor is being a good parent, I’m feeling like a bad one, because I’m too weak and too selfish to be there in his place.

And I’m so afraid that she won’t wake up. That her weak heart can’t cope. That after everything we have been through together in the last ten years, we could still lose her.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

And please, if you want to leave a comment, say anything at all but not what a good mother I am. I can’t handle that today.

89 Comments on “A Mother’s Thoughts and Fears

  1. I’m so glad this is all over, a GA is always worrying but it must have been terrifying for you and your family. It’s a strange thing how we are put out and then reawaken, and can respond so differently to the experience.The patient in the bed next to me after I had my Gallbladder op was quite aggressive when he woke up, making it very hard for the nurses to cope with him. I had a GA for my Gallbladder op too and the last thing and the first thing I thought about was writing!! Bit obsessed!! Maybe it was my little way to calm myself… to focus on something I loved. Also my hubby was very sweet, just before I went under giving me a much needed calming kiss! I came out of it very calmly. Carys had lots of people focusing on her, sending her love, bringing her back to you. πŸ™‚

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  2. This post brought tears to my eyes, as I feel the emotion and love that you and Conor hold for Carys, it is perhaps made even more special because of how important love is to keep everything moving forward. Then the tears are also there for this “who has absolutely no comprehension of why we’re doing that to her” and seeing this in the eyes of anyone melts me with empathy. You are so amazing (Conor too), and of course to the girl of the hour, Carys. Very happy things turned out well.

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    • Ah thank you so much! Yes, it did all turn out well. She coped with it all far better than I did, it has to be said. It must be such a mystery to her, why we, the people who she trusts the most, are complicit with strangers in doing unspeakable things to her which hurt her. That’s how it must seem, no matter how much we try and explain to prepare her, as we have no way of knowing how much she can understand. It amazes me how she forgives us time after time, and never withholds her love. I think her little being holds enough love for the whole world!

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  3. I read today’s post and had to step back and read this one. I’m a little choked up and weepy even though I know now that all is well and your little girl is home, fine and dandy. I know that yesterday you didn’t want to hear about being a wonderful mom, but does that still apply to today? You know better than most that motherhood is messy business, that it tests us to our core, that it comes with expectations that we can’t possibly meet, that the love we feel is often too immeasurable to put into words. One of the most wonderful things about families, your family, is the way that love happens in spite of flaws, good days and bad days, mistakes and regrets. Love doesn’t thrive on perfection and therein lies the poignant beauty. So smile at the graceful tangle of love you are blessed with and be gentle with yourself. You are, in fact, a wonderful mom.

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    • Gosh, I’m so sorry I never replied to your beautiful comment! Yes, motherhood, like all relationships, is a messy complex business, with its fair share of ups and downs. Sigh! But she coped really well, far better than me, and her poor ravaged little gums are healing well. Thank you, Diana.

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  4. Wine and Ben & Jerry’s? I love it! I’ve done the same thing! Sorry I missed this post the other day, Ali. I am so glad everything went well. Don’t feel bad about letting Conor share in the parenting duties, Ali. You two are a team, after all.

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  5. It takes great strength in a relationship for both parties to recognise who is best equipped to do a job, particularly when children are involved. Sometimes we do things because we think we should, that it’s our responsibility, and we feel guilty if we’re not “there”. But it’s often wiser to pick the “man for the job”, because you’d have more cause to feel guilty if you were the wrong person there.

    I remember my son breaking his arm (though we didn’t appreciate that was the case till we got to the hospital). My daughter wasn’t with us, and needed to be picked up from somewhere, so although I showed up at the hospital, we then had to decide who was going to stay with him and – much as I wanted to – it proved to be right that it was his mum. And she stayed with him overnight, while I looked after Rachel.

    But it was me that went with him for his GA the next morning (it was a very bad break). Not sure if I was the right person, to be fair. I didn’t show it to him, but it crucified me to watch the life seem to drain from him, and I was not good company for his mum for the next hour or two.

    It turns out okay in the end – and I’m glad to see it has for you – but it’s hard when you feel as if your life is on hold.

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    • God, yes, I know so well how that feels, Graeme! Our kids certainly put us through it, don’t they? Glad everything was ok with his break in the end… must have been soooo painful, shudder!

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  6. God, you poor things. Heartbreaking. I’m glad to comment when it’s all over. I hope she’s healing well and yesterday is a distant memory already forgot.

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    • I think it is for her. Not so distant for me, but defo putting it behind me. Its not the procedure which bothers me, it’s the GA, so risky with her heart condition. Thanks, Tara. 😊

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  7. I hope you can handle being told you’re a good mother today. I’ve never had to go through something as awful and potentially dangerous for the child as this, but I’ve often been in the position of holding the fort at home while husband takes an injured child to the hospital. We don’t have a car and public transport isn’t always cooperative when you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there. I’m thinking of when Nell (four years old) decided to break her arm the second evening after we arrived in Bordeaux. Anyway, it’s over now so you can look back on it, give Conor a big hug knowing that you’d have borne the burden alone yourself if you’d been able to. Lots of love to all of you.

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  8. Oh Ali, I’m so sorry I missed this post (internet woes), but I am happy to hear all is well now. Why is it that parents are so easily filled with guilt when it comes to our children. You did what you felt was best. Huge hugs, my friend.

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  9. On the days when you go to Dublin with Carys you can imagine how Conor feels at not being the strong parent who takes her. I’m sure you’ve never thought of him as a bad parent Ali. On this occasion no-one but you seems to have any doubts about your parenting. See how clever I am no directly saying what I’ve been forbidden to say. Aw heck, you’re a great parent (I didn’t say good).
    I’m sure everything went well in the end but will watch for a report.
    xxx Sending you Hugs Galore xxx

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    • Thanks, David. It’s really hard being a parent at the best of times, isn’t it? Wish kids came with a manual. All we can do is our best. We’re only human too.

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  10. Is it pointless to tell you not to beat yourself up because in our different ways we all think we fail or if we don’t we probably aren’t trying? That agonising is so poignant. There’s a lot of love out here for you and your family. Hope it all goes well

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  11. Just read Connors post that all is well! Si far so good Ali, BTW my kids ask why I am angry all the time I just say it’s because of your dad ;-)!!

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  12. My middle son went through an episode of kidney failure when he was a toddler, and then when he was in his early teens he had two orthopedic operations (but he was still just a frightened little boy). By the latter time, I had become a Registered Nurse, although that still didn’t help me very much with my own coping, but then, I was the only parent he had.

    Take care of yourself, so you can meet the challenges, and don’t beat yourself up, even if you think you’ve dropped a ball or two. Best wishes to you and those you love.

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    • Thank you, Christine, I really appreciate that. We don’t half go through it with our kids, don’t we? I suspect that being a nurse only made things harder; you must have been aware of things ordinary parents aren’t. Thanks for the advice. All the best to you and yours. xxx

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  13. Australian time it was yesterday when you said we couldn’t say you’re a good mother, because I think you are. All the best, Ali. You’re pretty remarkable.

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  14. Sending positive thoughts and warmest wishes on the wings of compassionate winds your way, Ali. My crystal ball shows all’s clear and well…!

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    • Thank you Raj. Your crystal ball was right! It all went well, even if a few unexpected things cropped up, but she was fine.

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  15. Sending lots of hugs and good wishes and prayers to you all! My son had to have ear tubes put in when he was six months old and I was a mess the whole day. Still can’t imagine what you are going through, but hopefully you will soon have good news!

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    • Thanks Noelle! I think it makes you feel so helpless handing your precious child over to someone wearing a mask and wielding a knife!

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  16. Oh Ali… I know we’ve only met once but I wish I could give you a hug right now! My heart was beating fast as I was reading your words… Stay strong, my thoughts are with you and your family. xxxx

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