Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Melodramatics and Histrionics of Ear Tube Surgery

She went to bed quickly the night before -- only one small, common enough attempt at prolonging the moment.  As I gave her a last hug and kiss, she locked her tiny arms around my neck and begged me to stay here for a longlonglonglonglong LOOOONG time! 

And all the tension in my shoulders that had been building for the last several days broke; my eyes filled with tears.  I laid my head against her cheek and traced her forehead with my fingertips.  I stayed as long as I could before her big sister needed my help, but I wanted to stay forever.

With the surgery in the morning, it was too hard to let her go.  Because what if something went wrong?  Or what if everything went fine, but didn't ultimately help her hearing?  What if they discovered unforeseen complications?

I wanted nothing more than to stay here for a longlonglonglonglong LOOOONG time.  Holding my perfect child as she fell asleep.


And okay.  It doesn't have to be this melodramatic -- we're talking about ear tubes here.  It's neither a risky nor unknown procedure, and nothing about the condition requiring it suggests life-threatening.  Still, it is my three-year-old child, and it did involve both anaesthesia for her and much prolonged worry on my part.  Every mother's entitled to a little melodrama, right?


I'd prepared her for the day in the loosest way possible. 

"Lauren, tomorrow you're going to a special doctor's appointment!" I chirped.  Her eyebrows rose at the tone of my voice, but fell again as she started doubting that tone's honesty.  "We'll go early, early in the morning, while Mia's still asleep -- before breakfast, even! -- and when we get there, the nurse will give you a special nightgown to wear."

She did perk up at this development; we've never had a doctor's-office nightgown before! "Will it be a DORA nightgown?!"  Her breath caught at the magical possibility, despite her not having actually seen a Dora episode in the past 18 months or better.

Unsure about how to deflate this optimism gently, I plugged forward.  "Hmmm...I don't think so, but we'll just have to wait and see, okay?  And then you'll drink some special medicine before going with the nurses and doctors to another room whilemommyanddaddywaitoutside.  And guess what?!  You get to take a little NAP there!  Isn't that silly?  You get to sleep at the doctor's office!"  My smile was gigantic.

Lauren's fear of people is staggering at times.  I imagined scenes in my daydreams that went like this:

In the stark light of the surgery-center's hallway, a silent nurse peels a screaming Lauren from her mother's breast, where she can't restrain her own tears from falling.  The child's eyes are filled with abandonment and betrayal, but most of all, terror.  Where are these strangers taking her?!  Why is her mother allowing them to be separated?! 

As they round a corner, the nurse sighs in resignation -- another difficult case -- and shifts the desperate child to another hip.  The hallway becomes quieter and quieter as the sweet little girl's screams become less penetrating.  The weeping, bereft mother is left alone to contemplate the additional fear and agony her daughter will experience as the doctors strap her to a table and lower a mask over her nose and mouth, effectively silencing the lamb.


And okay.  Although I did imagine this scene, I didn't actually think it would become reality.  Sweet friends had tried to help prepare me for the truth: that it might not go perfectly smoothly, but that the doctors and nurses are very skilled at their jobs, and they try their best to make it as easy on mother and child as possible.  But a melodramatic mind will wander, won't it?


Lauren smiled mischievously.  "I'm going to sleep at the Doctor's?!"  She threw her hands out wonderingly, bobbing her head with the upturn of her voice. 

Happy that this was going smoothly, I continued.  "Yes!  It's so silly!  And after you wake up from your nap, you'll be all done.  And you'll get a present!"  Oh, the perfection.  The gleam and joy in her eye.  The....suspecting of ulterior motives.

Squinting at me sideways, Lauren clarified: "But...will there be pokes?  I don't want any pokes."  Pokes -- shots -- being the only thing she could imagine that would warrant a present at the appointment's end.

No pokes, I promised.  Just a nap, then a present. 

When the morning came, she was joyful as always, so that checking in with the registration desk, Lauren charmed the employees with her laughter and early-morning sweetness.  Isn't it always true that a child's voice seems louder and more piercing in a hospital setting?  I tried to shush her enthusiasm while not squashing her happiness.

It was that enthusiasm that made me feel worse than anything.  She's so innocent and hopeful that she would never suspect there could be anything worrisome behind curtain number one.  All of our hype about going with nice nurses sounded fine from the safe confines of mommy and daddy's arms, but once it actually starts to happen, I could envision Lauren's face falling with fear. 

One worry after another was trespassed without much incident.  I doubted she'd be willing to wear the hospital gown in question, but:

I doubted she'd be willing to drink the oral woozy-maker in pre-op, but she did.

I doubted the oral woozy-maker would actually make her woozy, but it did.

I doubted she'd be willing to go with the nurses when the time came to traverse the long hallway, but she did.


And okay.  'Willing' might be a stretch of the vocabulary.  The nurse, who was very kind, asked Lauren if she'd rather ride down the hall on the bed, or be carried by one of the staff.  Lauren, being Lauren, didn't answer.  She stared at her hands, refusing to be part of the conversation.  Not aggressively, just from trepidation; she didn't want to answer because an answer leads to action.  (Or maybe she just didn't hear the whole question?  We were there to treat a hearing issue.)  Justin tried placing her on the bed, and that elicited the morning's single yelp of denial.  Instead, he placed her in the nurse's warm arms.  My darling girl was brave: she held herself stiffly away -- no cuddling this stranger -- but clung to her blankie and went


Thank heaven for blankies being allowed as a matter of policy. 

Lauren never cried.  Not once.  Not while being carried down the hallway, not while being laid on the table (or bed?  I don't really know what it was...), not while having the mask placed on her face. 

I don't doubt that she was actually afraid, but either the previous medication calmed her down enough to merely confuse the issue, or she wouldn't allow herself to cry with strangers, I don't know.

The first time I heard her voice again -- a mere 12 minutes later -- was from a curtained cubicle in post-op.  She lay on a big, white bed, covered in a big, white blanket, with tears streaming from her closed, red eyes.  She couldn't lift her head like she wanted to -- the anaesthesia was still retreating -- and her cries were wearily slow.  I pulled her into my arms, and the world was closer to being right again.

Still, she cried.  For at least twenty minutes, she cried, waggling her head to either get away from the confusion or simply find comfort that was elusive.  My ears hurt, she moaned when her mind could once again formulate a sentence.  My ears!


And okay.  All kids cry, I'm told, upon waking up from anaesthesia.  It's so disorienting for them that all they can do is wail for a bit in mama's arms.  And before the Tylenol had a chance to blessedly soothe her newly-operated-upon ears, of course her ears were sore.  Still.  I was almost frantic watching her discomfort.  Her lolling head shifted her weight across my body time and again -- this wasn't right.  And yet, it was alright.


She didn't really stop her intermittent crying until we got home.  We snuggled into a rocking chair: me rubbing big, slow circles on her back and resting my head on her hair; Lauren letting herself be relaxed after a confusing morning. 

Thirty minutes after I laid her in her bed and tiptoed out the door, she was awake again.  A completely normal awake.  Nothing hurt, she said, and I could tell it was true.  She was exactly herself. 

This has to be the quickest recovery time in medical history, folks.  My baby is a rockstar.

Plus, and even better, she can hear now.  Yes, she could hear before, but not fully, not crisply, not confidently.  Now, she can hear a whisper from afar.  Now, I don't have to cross the room to look into her face before speaking, just to be sure she hears me.

No.  Now I just cross the room to look into her face so I can see her smile when I whisper I love you, Lauren Jade.


And okay.  The smile is still the same as it was pre-tubes.  Gorgeous and lively and perfect in every way.


  1. Tears. Sarah, you really know how to express emotions through written words! So glad everything turned out well! Good for you Momma (and L.J. too)!!

  2. Your baby IS a rockstar!! Glad to hear it all went well.

  3. I'm so glad it went so well! And glad she's hearing all the sounds she's been missing. :)

  4. I'm glad everything went so well!

  5. So happy to hear all is well! I can't imagine holding my baby in post-op and keeping it together. Strength! You got it, girl.

  6. I'm so glad it all went so well!

    I had tubes as a kid and my mom always tells the story of the first time I went to the bathroom after I got them - I shrieked and covered my ears because the toilet flushing was SO LOUD!

    Hope you get something like that to giggle about :)

  7. Really I'm so pleased that everything went so well sweetie.

  8. Oh! Tears! I'm glad she's doing okay!!


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?