I can be brave, I think to myself. Everything is fine. Sitting in the waiting room filled with people, I’m trying to focus on conversation, but struggling. So many people in such a large room. Everyone there with the same purpose, but feeling and reacting differently. My mom sits next to me, chattering about nothing because she knows it makes me feel better.
The receptionist announces over the intercom, “Can the parents of Bentley please come to the front desk?”
Finally it’s our turn. Everything went well, although longer than anticipated. Why? There were some complications, but nothing major. One of us can see her now in recovery. My husband and I look at each other. We both know it will be me. I can’t wait any longer. It’s been hours, and 2 hours longer than anticipated.
I leave my husband and parents with all of my stuff I brought to keep me busy: knitting, iPod, even a book—all of it barely touched. I follow the nurse down the hall of the hospital wing. It’s so quiet I can hear our footsteps echoing off the walls. The large doors open into the recovery room, and I am blasted with so much sound and smell it’s staggering. The room is huge and filled with people, nurses, patients and parents, all talking and yelling to each other. One child needs more medication, another is screaming for her mom, while another is kicking at the nurse and trying to pull out her IV. The machines are loud and shrill, all beeping a different tune. The hospital smell is always there, churning my stomach. It all feels so overwhelming and chaotic.
I eagerly but nervously follow the nurse to her bed. I brace myself. The incision will be small; it was the option we chose. Early surgery with less blood loss and more therapy. No one wants their baby to spend time in an operating room, but it was her best choice. She was born with the fontanelles of her tiny head closed. The pressure of her brain trying to grow made this sweet little baby so sad. The surgery would cut those fontanelles back open, and with therapy, she did well. We later found she has a rare syndrome and we don’t know her future. Life has not been easy for this little girl. She has had her trials. She is 5 now, delayed developmentally, but healthy and full of love. This surgery was an opportunity to give her a better start.
The nurse and I walk down a long hallway filled with beds and those horrible beeping machines. And there she is. So tiny in that big bed. I can be brave, I think to myself. My family needs me to keep it together. But that first sight of her is overwhelming. My tiny 2-month-old baby is laying there, a large cut filled with sutures on her forehead. She’s quietly trying to catch her breath and sleep. The nurse tells me she’s done amazingly well. It was so hard for her to wake up and feel the pain again, so they let her sleep. Her little face is blotchy from crying so much. I’m happy to be able to touch her, but want so much to tear away the wires and tubes and hold her in my arms. It’s so sad that such a small person needed to go through so much.
A few hours later, she wakes up. She wakes enough to open her eyes and look around. She looks up and her eyes focus on me. Both of them. With all the pressure in her head before, she struggled to really see. But for the first time, she really focuses on my face. I smile and talk to her, and the most amazing thing happens. She smiles. To a parent of a normal child, a 2-month-old baby smiling is fun. To me, it’s the first time, and it’s amazing. A miracle. And I finally feel comforted.