Yesterday Liam had ear tubes put in and his adenoids taken out. I fought it having to be done for years, but last year the little guy had ear infection after ear infection and allergies up the yahoo, so there really wasn't any choice. The funny thing was that in the summer he was amazingly healthy. I absolutely dreaded the start of school knowing it meant him catching someone's cold and then an ear infection and then the school nurse leaving me a note that his hearing is off and can I please get him checked again? A few weeks ago I spent $100 on his allergies with an extensive plan from the doctor to keep away any ear problems in the most non-invasive way possible. But no-go, I got the dreaded letter again from school: Liam needs his ears checked. CODE: Liam needs ear tubes. Sometimes you just have to accept that what you want, and what you fear, are standing in the way of progress. Not just yours, but other people's.
I didn't sleep at all the night before surgery. It's not that I was worried about the procedure, or Liam, I just have always hated the thought of anesthesia, and yeah, no mother likes the idea of her child being cut into. It just sucks. Really sucks. So, after not sleeping, I dredged myself out of bed and made my coffee, fed my million pets, read my horoscope, and then got Liam up. Lucky guy got to wear his jammies and bring his best stuffed pal Maxwell from Scribblenaughts, and off we went. Oh, I did have to get a very sleepy Julia ready for school, but she was such a good girl about the whole thing and even made the bed.
The ambulatory unit is very quiet at 7:20 in the morning. You can hear the air units in the ceilings shift and talk to each other in rushing air patterns. The front desk clerk takes Liam's information and tells us to sit down. Well, I sat down. Liam played spy behind the chairs, ducking low so he could watch the other parents who were also in for their child's 'ear piercing.' Trying not to think about the story Stephen King tells about his ear problems and the family doctor who used to lance his ear drums with a needle, I stare at a collection of germy magazines and decide to read the paperback of East of Eden I've had for a decade and never had the discipline to start before. We get called into a little room where a coffee-sipping woman asks for everything except what size my underwear is, and then dredges $500 out of me for an extra out-of-nowhere co-pay my insurance company likes to throw at me so that I look stupid in front of people. Then more sitting, waiting, staring at magazines.
Liam gets called in and he becomes a patient in a green backless gown. He doesn't look scared; he's not crying. I put up a front, start telling him the Bill Cosby tonsillectomy skit where Bill wakes up and tries to swallow and his throat goes BOOM. "But you're not going to have that, Liam. You might have a little pain—" I try not to blink when I say little, "you're just having these things removed that are clogging up your nose, and then ear tubes so you can hear better and not get sick all the time." He's not even listening. My kid is having a great time—I can't even get him to sit still. He's giggling, rolling around on the gurney, making jokes. When they wheel him away the nurses all laugh because he goes, "WEEEEEEeeeeeeee."
I wait. I cry. Yes, I cry because someone's putting a mask on my kid and he's going to be knocked out and when he wakes up his ears will have been cut into and some part of his body removed, like an alien abduction, only this is real and I ordered it to be done. This is all my fault. I'm the alien.
After I get to chapter three of East of Eden, the doctor calls me into a little side room to tell me all went well, and how I am to care for Liam for the next few days. Put drops in his ears, give him Tylenol, no dipping the head below bathwater, etc, etc.
Forty minutes after that I finally get to see my kid, who's still sleeping on the gurney. His skin is pale like it's been dipped in wax and he looks limp like tulip petals on a hot day. I notice his summer tan is gone and the cluster of freckles on his nose are really starting to stick out now. The nurse lets me sit next to him while he wakes up. This is not the same kid who joked around and went WEEeeeeeee on the way to the OR. When he opens his eyes he looks at me like, what in the hell happened to me? And I'm like, What? Did something happen? Oh, the guilt.
Later they wheel him out in a wheelchair and I pull up in my old minivan with the back tire that constantly goes flat these days, and I lift him up and slide him into the back seat. Kind of bump his head on the car's doorframe because he's getting so tall. On the way home he says he has to throw up, so I dump everything out of the plastic bag the hospital gave me to keep his things in, and hand it to him before he starts hurling everywhere. I suck. I suck so much.
At home he's still quiet and not himself. I try not to fuss too much, but at one point when I ask him again if he feels okay, he says, "I'M FINE, Mama!" and I go watch TV so he can recover in peace. Slowly he comes back to himself. He even eats. I ask if he can hear better now and he says yes, but that's all he'll say.
I guess that's all I need to hear.