After years of horrific periods that showed no signs of getting better, along with some other gynecological issues like fibroids and polyps, the time had come for me to have a hysterectomy. And I was scared. I’m such a wuss when it comes to needles, and I kept worrying that when I went under, I wouldn’t wake up. I’d be in the hospital for four nights, and I was anxious.
My husband and I had explained to our kids that I was going into the hospital for a procedure, and they started asking when they could come see me in the hospital. My husband suggested that he could bring them in the day after my surgery. Wary, I asked him if I could think about it.
Of course I wanted to see my kids, but I was really worried about them seeing me.
You see, way back in 1984 when I was 11, my mom had the same operation and naturally I went to visit her. It was grim. The hospital stank of bleach, the stone corridors echoed as I walked along them, there were scary shadows on the dimly lit walls, and the ward was packed with women moaning in pain. Worst of all, my mom looked deathly pale with huge bags under her eyes. At the end of her bed laid a bag of blood while another was there collecting urine, and there were tubes poking out from her arms. I felt nauseous and couldn’t wait to get out of there. I remember how frail she looked, how sunken into the bed she appeared.
My childhood experiences of going to the hospital had never been good ones: visiting my great aunt as she slowly became more ill and eventually died; having x-rays of my lungs when I had tuberculosis, my chest pressing against the cold plates; having needles jabbed into my arms by a scary doctor.
All of these experiences shaped my fear of hospitals in general, and I didn’t want this for my own kids.
My main worry was that I didn’t want my kids to see me in any other way than my normal, healthy self: fit and trying to juggle too many balls — rushing around making dinner/doing laundry/writing TV scripts/singing badly to my Prince records.
It wouldn’t be like the time my son visited me in the hospital after the birth of his younger sister. Then, it was a joyous occasion. This time, it was just “mom needs the doctors to make her better,” and I could see that even that thought worried them. Days leading up to the procedure, my 5-year-old daughter was tearful at school, sad that mom was going to be in the hospital for a few days.
She questioned me endlessly about what I would and would not be able to do when I got home:
“Will you be able to lift me up to bed?”
“Will you be able to play Snakes and Ladders with me?”
“Will Daddy have to make dinner?”
The kid wouldn’t stop asking questions, so I worried that if she saw me in the hospital with all of the equipment around me, it would distress her.
It was a tougher decision than I realized. I just kept telling myself that this surgery wouldn’t be that scary — after all I’d had two C-sections and they went fine. More importantly, I truly didn’t think I could go four days without seeing my kids’ smiling faces. After going back and forth, I made the ultimate decision that I would just need to focus on getting better quickly so that they could come and visit me.
So the day of my operation came and went, and I let my kids visit the following day. My daughter looked worried and was scared to hug me, lest she hurt me in some way. Just as I had settled her down and was comforting her with talk of how well I felt, in came the nurse with an injection she needed to give me in my leg to thin my blood and stop any chance of clots.
My 5-year-old burst into tears and ran out of the room, having to be cuddled by her 9-year-old brother. I looked at the poor nurse and commented that I wished she’d done it at another time. The fact that my kid left in tears caused my own to start flowing. Her cheery little face only lit up when she came to collect me the next day. Only when I was home did she start to relax.
Now, on reflection, letting your child see you in a hospital — even when the catheters and cannulas have all been taken out — is not a wise plan. You aren’t the same mom as normal and it worries them.
So note to self: next time (fingers crossed there isn’t one), my kids will just have to wait until I get home.More On