Last week, my little nephew, 14 months, took it upon himself to suck in part of a pen (or maybe a hair bead of some sort–it’s hard to say) off the locker room floor. Not swallow, but inhale into his lungs. This lead to VCU Children’s Hospital, surgery to remove said pen part, and some very stressful moments, but I’m happy to report that our Hank the Tank is just fine. As I stood there with my sister-in-law, who I have mentioned is also already part of the bereaved parent club, and the doctor (and multiple med students) outlined the surgery for little man, I thought about those moments with Noah in the hospital. I remembered the fear and the vulnerability of entrusting your child to a stranger who promises to do everything they can to fix him. I thought about what our collective family has already been through and how much our entire clan just needed Hank to be okay. I saw my sister-in-law, holding that precious kid as the doctor talked and felt an overwhelming need to protect her–to shield her from anything bad happening. I remember that not too long ago, she was doing to same thing for us, in a different hospital on the other side of the country. I couldn’t have made it through that time without her and everyone else that stepped in to be with us.
I’m sure that the doctor couldn’t possibly fathom what I meant when I wrapped Lindsay in a hug and said, “Look, doc. We have had a rough couple of years, and we’re going to need to have a good outcome here.” She and I both chuckled through our tears–just a little bit. He had no idea what a loaded statement that was, but we did. As bereaved mommies, we know how fragile life is and how quickly joy can turn to pain. We know the ache of empty arms. We know the milestones missed. We know that sometimes we cannot protect our children, regardless of our parenting abilities and our bodies. Sometimes life truly gives you lemons and there isn’t enough sugar in the world to make lemonade out of the situation.
The surgery went quickly. Baby boy was unphased by his dramatic admission and two nights in the hospital. He will probably eat something else off the floor this week or the next because that’s what kids his age do. He will continue to charm the ladies, just like in this picture taken minutes before he went into surgery. And sister-in-law will keep being the amazing, vigilant, knowledgeable, patient, kind, superhero warrior mom that she is for my nephews. Being in the hospital that day taught me that not every visit is catastrophic, that sometimes people do get better. It was good for my soul to see that–to help with my anxiety. And I think our whole family is feeling very blessed that Hank will carry on like nothing happened. But little man’s roommate, a little girl fighting to get better, lying quietly in her crib while her mommy stood watch at her bedside, reminded me that every day people are going through hard stuff.
I think I needed that reminder, too.