Bad news, bad news then good news: TJ has to have surgery again. He has a ventral hernia and has to have his stomach muscles fixed since they didn’t heal after the first surgery which can happen, especially with all the post-surgery infection he suffered the first time. But the good news? He doesn’t have to have the surgery right away, not until March. The surgeon doesn’t think it’s dangerous. She doesn’t think that TJ and Nathan will wrestle and my son will explode, which is a question I asked.
But this is still hard. When the surgeon felt TJ’s distended stomach then said, “He has a hernia,” I immediately responded, “And how do you fix it,” like I was expecting her to say, “Just wear a kid’s girdle, something from Sears.” Instead she said, “An operation.” Of course she would say that, she’s a surgeon, not retail employee telling me that I can’t try on clothes outside the dressing room. It was deflating to hear that because of everything we just went through and what I carry with me.
Maybe this is time to say that I got really sad in the hospital and even when we took TJ home, I was still sad about it. It lingered. Even when I got back to work, this sadness cloud hovered over me despite all my attempts to get back to some kind of normal.
The day after we got home from the hospital, I went on a job interview that I didn’t perform at my best self. I was exhausted and sad, though I never mentioned during my answers that only the day before, I wasn’t in a suit and heels, I was in yoga pants weeping because we were free. And I wanted to do this to prove something to myself, that I could manage something as incredible as talk to doctors and surgeons and manage the care of a four-year-old and then succeed professionally. In retrospect, what was I trying to prove? I didn’t get the job or a medal, just a pair of heels I returned to Nordstrom Rack. (pro-tip: tell them your feet are too fat and they’ll take them back so you can stop talking about your Fred Flinstone footprint. It works!)
The surgeon talked assuredly that this would take an hour or two, we would stay overnight then we would go home the next day. We’re handling different issues now, ones we can prepare for and not being rushed into an operating room because his appendix has burst and if we don’t operate now, his organs will start to die. I don’t to be there again. I don’t want him to be so sick he can’t talk, too weak to jump and play and run around. I don’t want to be woken up every time the syringe machine empties and I have to buzz the nurse.
Sometimes I worry that people will just tune me out—this story is too sad! I talk about it too much! I play the mom with a sick kid card! Then I think, I can play any goddamn card I want to because I was in a hospital for too long with a four-year-old. And what would TJ say? Mommy, you stopped talking about me because it made other people feel bad? Ugh. It’s all over the place. I don’t want any cards to play, you can have them back. I want the card that says, “Girl, you look so good.” Actually, I want a whole deck of those cards.
I didn’t post any photos of TJ while he was in his worst, sickest state, even though I know some people do and find strength in that, I cropped a lot of the photos. Also, there was a smaller but more terrified voice that said, “What if he dies here? And these are the photos that last forever?” I didn’t want that to last forever, because even if I was scared of what could be, what I wanted to happen was stronger—I wanted him to be well again. I wanted people to see just enough of space we were in and take my word for it—ICU is hard enough, you don’t need to see the various tubes and needles attached to my son to know that it’s a terrible, scary place to be.
And now, two and a half months have passed from his first surgery. He’s so happy. He’s not embarrassed to show you his tummy and the long scar that runs up his skin. He eats all the food in our house and asks for more. He wakes up and then calls for me and asks that I snuggle with him and I always say yes. This is the kid I know.
So there are heavy things I need to let go, happy parts I need to remember and voices I need to hear through this noise: we are okay, we will be okay, we have each other, he has you.