When my oldest son was little, he had a lot of ear infections which resulted in a visit with the ENT who promptly recommended tubes for his ears. It was a minor procedure. In fact, it wasn’t even done at the hospital. And yet, I remember how many feelings I had before, during and after his procedure that surprised me. After all, as far as childhood procedures go, this is probably THE mildest you could have done. And yet, it didn’t matter. He was my baby and when I saw him wheeled away from me, he might as well have been going to have open heart surgery. Being brought into recovery was also rougher than I expected. He didn’t look like his usual self, he smelled like anesthesia and he had a rough time coming out of it.
Since that day, as a parent, I’ve been to at least ten or more procedures with my kids. Some were simpler than others. But no matter what was being done, it was never easy for me. Leading up to that day there are doctor appointments, and day-of surgery prep discussions with the nurse. You will get information on the procedure and how to prepare your child. But the one thing that they don’t prepare you for, is how to take care of yourself. And if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not have the stamina to take care of your child.
And so, here is a short list of things I have found helpful for me over the years. Everyone is different, but hopefully, if and when your kid needs surgery, you will be prepared to take care of yourself and not just your kiddo. The hospital will tell you that your child should bring a comfort object. Trust me, you will need something for yourself as well.
I know this seems obvious but sometimes it’s not. It’s possible you will forget to eat or drink anything the morning of the surgery because your kid can’t. Bring a water bottle or a coffee with you to sip once your child is wheeled off.
Pack yourself snacks but also a few goodies. I’m not suggesting you eat your feelings, but once your kid is taken to surgery, this is your chance to nourish yourself while you can. And, eating something that you don’t normally get will give you a little boost. Once they are in recovery you do not know when you’ll have another chance.
Don’t forget to bring a phone charger and maybe a book or a few magazines for yourself. Download some podcasts or a few episodes of the show you’ve been binge watching on Netflix (don’t forget the headphones). Sometimes I bring a simple knitting project just to keep my hands busy.
Wear comfy clothes!
Do this especially if you’re staying overnight but even if you aren’t. Wear layers because you will be hot and then cold on the same day.
Go for a walk.
The minute my kid is off to the OR it’s time for me to move around for a bit. If I just sit down in the waiting room I will cry. It doesn’t matter that my kid is simply having her teeth repaired, I’ll begin to wonder if her heart stopped beating and won’t be able to stop. It’s harder for me to create ridiculous worse-case scenarios in my head if I’m moving.
Things to bring for an overnight:
When we’ve stayed overnight I brought the above items PLUS, my favorite pillow and pjs. You don’t get much sleep in the hospital but it’s a little better if you have a few of your own comfort items with you. If we knew we would stay more than one night, my husband and I took turns staying home with the other kids while the other stayed in the hospital. If your kid stays more than a day or so, I highly recommend asking people to come visit you and bring you lunch or coffee.
Most importantly, I’ve learned to be more aware of my feelings and sitting with them for a minute, acknowledging them and then asking myself what I need. While most of the procedures my kids have had are “no big deal,” I can acknowledge that they are still not easy or comfortable for me. Trying to comfort a kid coming out of anesthesia is rough, dealing with pain management and advocating for your kid is also hard. But if I come prepared for days like these I can make things slightly better so I can do my best in helping my kid.