You can always tell the seasoned parents and the newbies, in a surgical waiting room. The newbies are fearful, teary eyed and smother their children as though its their last hug or kiss. The seasoned parents are quite different. They smile and laugh, the fear in them never goes any further than their eyes and they shield their children from the brunt of it. They give hugs and kisses when their child walks off with the Nurse and directly after their "I love you" is "see you in a little while!" They save their emotions for the privacy of a bathroom or bedroom. No one sees them cry and no one understands the worry that seeps through their veins. They are seasoned and well versed in this game of composure and strength. But they aren't exempt from the worry and fear.
Somewhere, in the last 8 years, I became "seasoned" and this became our life, not our tragedy. It isn't just me though. My daughter smiles and laughs with the nurses. She tells them, when we leave, see you next time and she knows there will be a next time. She makes requests for movies while we wait, specific surgical gowns/clothes in her favorite colors when she's told to change for surgery. When they put her arm bands on, she has them put them in the same order each time, linking them like a red, white and blue bracelet. My other children prepare for a day spent at the hospital and they adapt to the schedule change easily. Our whole family has become normalized to this way of life and yes, we've all become seasoned I guess.
I used to be that Mom who cried as my daughter walked away. Honestly, I think most of my tears were a result of Grace's fear and her own tears. She would cry as the nurse came to take her, I would cry about the entire situation. Now, we don't cry anymore. That's not to say I don't feel the fear. I do. I've just learned that Grace can smell it, like a dog. She picks up on it and it will actually change the way she reacts to the day. So I bucked up and dealt with my feelings without letting her see or sense them. I don't know when, or why she stopped being so fearful but I know its still there in her as well. I see the way she reacts to me telling her or the other kids that Grace has another appointment. I see the fear in her eyes when my husband and I talk about the surgeons expectations of her. I know its there, and yet, she too has learned to quiet the fears when it comes time to.
I wondered that day if I had become jaded in the process. What does that say about a person, about a family, when these hospital trips and surgeries are routine? What does that say about a parent who sees her child's surgeries as normal? Was I allowing Grace to constantly be "worked on" simply because it had become a regular occurrence? A necessary evil? I was genuinely worried about that as we sat there waiting for the surgeon to come talk to us post-surgery.
In that instant though, I realized I was not jaded in the slightest. The thought of Grace going through this was nerve wracking and I was horrified. I wanted to tell him, "oh nevermind" and just never come back. I wanted to run screaming out of there, actually. But I pulled myself together, like I had learned how, and I thanked him. I'm not jaded, I realize this now. These things still affect me like you cannot believe. But I have learned how to pretend that I'm strong. I've learned to wear my game face to these places because as fearful as I am about this stuff, I have to sell Grace on it being perfectly fine. I have to tell my 8 year old that there isn't anything to be scared of. I have to trust that everything will be okay, even if inside, I am a basket case. I may be seasoned but I am still her Mother and I am still incredibly fearful sometimes. Like now... I am very, very scared now.
Her next surgery is in May and I'll be honest, I may act like one of those newbie parents all over again. I may leave crying and give someone pause, a reason to wonder whether they've become old hats at this as well. I may be that emotional person, or I may keep my composure for Grace's sake. All I know is, I will stop wasting time wondering if I am jaded by this because I know that's a silly thought. I'm no more jaded than those newbies. I've just learned to look more calm than I really am. I'm seasoned, but I'm not exempt from the fear...