Any parent of a medically-complicated child will tell you that ‘surgery day’ is always terrible day. It’s the day where you hand over your little one to the team that will love them and care for them for the next few hours; that will literally cut them open and repair their problem and put them back together again. Where you kiss them goodbye and tell them you’ll see them soon and wait – agonizingly, painstakingly wait – for hours on end for updates and hope and the moment you can finally see them again. Not exactly as you left them, but in some ways even better than before.
It’s like the first day of kindergarten on steroids.
Yes, surgery day is terrible. But to be honest, that part isn’t the worst.
I trust our doctors and our team. I understand the process. I look forward to the updates that come in, using them to imagine the details of the operation as they unfold.
No, the hardest part for me is the day before.
The day before any procedure is a mix of emotions. Of worry, of doubt, of excitement, and of fear. Of anticipation for what’s to come and a desire to slow down time and a hope that miracles really do happen and everything, down to the last step, will go as planned. The day before is a time when you can be optimistic and realistic and pessimistic, all in the matter of a single breath. Where you’re eagerly looking forward at what’s to come and, at the same time, hoping for it to be over sooner than it started.
The ‘day before’ Jackson’s first surgery lasted for three days – three long days of waiting and hoping and wondering when we may get a call to say it was our turn to go. Surgeries take a lot of planning and coordination. Just having a surgeon available doesn’t do the trick. You need the surgeon and the room and the anesthesiologists and the support staff and a little dash of fairy dust to not get bumped.
Jackson has had a lot of ‘day befores’ but today may be the most important so far. Today is a big day before because tomorrow is an equally as big day of. Tomorrow is the day when we will give Jackson one more chance to let us know what he needs, tracheostomy or not, to help him breathe. Tomorrow we are one day closer to being home.
These ‘days before’ never end and it’s part of what makes our experience with Jackson normal – the fact that all parents have their own version of the day before a major milestone. Sure, ours have to do with the day before surgery or extubation or being discharged. But all moms and dads have those days; the day before preschool or the day before his first big game. The day before graduation or his wedding or the birth of his first baby. All of these normal days before come with the same fear and anticipation and joy of our current days before.
And those are great days to look forward to.