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To the Parents Whose Children Are Facing Surgery

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I send out my love and support to you because you’re like us. You will be handing off your child — your baby — over to a stranger who will perform surgery on them to attempt to fix whatever is malfunctioning inside them.

It’s inconceivable. It feels like the worst dream you could ever have. No matter how necessary, it’s still unimaginable something so sweet and innocent would have to go through something so intrusive, painful and traumatic.

Yet here we are, all of us, facing this truth. Here are the six things I’ll make sure to remind myself about as we gear up for another surgery with our daughter, Ellie. I hope you find it helpful, too.

1. Avoid amateur speculation.

The first time around, we were so naive. But I wish that’s something we could recreate. Our ignorance helped us take things as they came and not create problems when there were none.

I’m not saying don’t any research, but just limit your scope and try not to take everything you read as gospel. If you have questions, ask the professionals caring for your child. They’re the ones who can answer the questions specific to your kiddo. Every situation is unique, so use the expertise of your doctor to answer your questions and concerns.

2. Do what makes you feel best.

If you want to cry, cry. If you don’t want to talk about it, don’t talk. If you want to talk about it until you can’t possibly say another word, do that. If you want to be alone, be alone. If you want to be surrounded by people, surround yourself with the people who love you.

Don’t be confined by what you think other people expect from you or what you think other people need from you. You have a lot going on, so you deserve to handle and process things however you see fit.

3. Don’t play the “what if” game too much.

We’re human beings and always trying to assess the outcome of a situation. This can sometimes be used as an exercise for stress reduction, but in this situation, it can add to your anxiety. Try not to think too much about what might happen because it won’t change what will happen. Let the story unfold as it will. Handle things as they come rather than making yourself stress about how to handle something that doesn’t exist yet.

4. Look at your child.

Look at them and see their strength and determination. Look to your superhero for the confirmation and comfort you need. They don’t deserve your doubt, only your unwavering belief.

5. Hope.

Know in your heart that this is necessary. Try to remember that even though this is something you would never want to see happen to your child, it’s a necessary step to take. This is what needs to happen for your child’s survival and quality of life. Try to fill the dread in your heart with the hope this surgery brings. Hope can get lost in the wake of despair. Hope requires a conscious effort. Put forth that effort and you won’t regret it.

6. Remember, you’re not alone.

Don’t seclude or isolate yourself in the thought that you’re alone. If you want to be left alone to process, that’s one thing. But don’t be alone because you don’t feel like anyone would understand or because you don’t want to be a burden to others with your emotions. There’s always someone who will listen and support you in whatever way you need. You just have to ask.

This is the last place you thought you’d be, I know. It’s in our nature to fiercely protect our children. Allowing someone to do something to our child that will cause them pain goes against every parenting instinct we have. But when the cause is worthy, when the outcome means longer, happier lives for our children., permit yourself forgiveness and hope.

And give yourself some slack every one in a while. We are all learning this life together.


The momma of a superhero like yours

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Originally published: July 15, 2015
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