This is my Buddy, 4 years old. In just two days he will undergo open-heart surgery. About 4 months ago, we found out that he had a congenital heart defect, a large hole in the upper aortal wall. This problem isn’t producing any symptoms now, but if left untreated, it would become life-threatening in his adult years. I hate to think of his perfectly-smooth, supple skin being marred forever by a long scar, but I know he’s going to be just fine. We’ll probably be able to bring Buddy home after five days or so in the hospital, and recovery beyond that is predicted to be just a couple weeks.
I’ve experienced quite a broad range of thoughts and emotions these past months. I’ve learned so much about myself and the patterns that often play out in my life. Here’s a little run-down. (In reality I didn’t feel these one at a time, in isolation, but rather, these were the dominant modes I was in at each stage.)
In the several weeks between the routine pediatric visit and the echocardiogram appointment, I was in denial mode and had convinced myself that the murmur would turn out to be nothing. Unless I have good reason, I’m not a worrier. It’s not a very good way to be, since sometimes I turn a blind eye to potential risks and hazards. I do this for the shallow sense of security it provides. I really thought that hope and positive thinking would actually prevent anything bad from becoming a reality. While there are many merits to having hope and thinking positively, it becomes naive and limiting when you simultaneously avoid acquiring more knowledge and facing facts.
After finding out that surgery was pretty much our only option, I went into procrastination mode. I didn’t want to make any decisions until I absolutely had to, because then it didn’t seem real enough to think about. It doesn’t make any sense, but I do this to avoid having to face and think about unpleasant things. Even after the surgery was scheduled, it was still 2 or 3 months away, which seemed like a really long time. I didn’t want to do anything to prepare for it, because that would be acknowledging that it was coming up.
Our pet rabbit died in the heat back in June, and while I was saddened by the loss of my daughter’s bunny, this situation also forced all my sadness concerning Buddy out into the open. I cried for days. I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t get much done during the day, which was bad because we’d just moved into our new home and had a big trip coming up. It was also bad because when my little girl saw me displaying sadness, she would get sad about her bunny all over again. I told myself I was being ridiculous for being so sad over a rabbit, but deep down I knew it had more to do with my son. I was so sad that such an innocent and healthy kid had to undergo a surgery such as this, and that he would be made to suffer, and that I, his mother, would be allowing him to suffer. It broke my heart.
Because I couldn’t keep wasting energy in profound sadness, I decided to distract myself from thoughts that would plunge me into it. I buried my feelings in the work of settling into the new home and preparing to drive across the country to Nauvoo, IL. The trip itself was a great distraction, and learning so much about the lives and struggles of mid-nineteenth century people put a lot of my worries in perspective. Upon returning home, I spent a lot of time listening to recordings and audiobooks so as not to be alone with my thoughts.
Distraction was really just an attempt to continue procrastination. But it couldn’t last long because the sadness I had felt so keenly had brought fear with it, and those fears were fighting to be acknowledged. This fear was worse than the sadness. I thought of everything that could go wrong, and what I would do if that were to happen. I soon began to convince myself that something was sure to go wrong, that it had to go wrong. My son picked up on my fear subconsciously. He started saying over and over again, “I’m going to die in the hospital.” No one had told him this. But children can subconsciously pick up on the emotions of adults close to them and extrapolate meaning in relation to themselves. As soon as I recognized what my own fear was doing to him, I also saw what it was doing to myself and knew I needed to change it.
To leave the place of fear and darkness, I needed to flip a switch to let the light in. That switch is gratitude. Instead of focusing on what I was afraid would happen, I tried to think more about the good things concerning this situation. I’m so grateful that his pediatrician was adept enough to recognize that his heart murmur was not an innocent one. Although this has been difficult information to face, I’m glad that we found out now while he’s still little. I’m grateful for superior technology in this day and age. I’m glad we live so close to such a wonderful hospital as Primary Children’s, full of proficient doctors and nurses. I’m grateful for the timing for many reasons, one of which is that my previous pregnancy’s due date was August 6, the very day of the surgery, and my current pregnancy’s due date is not until the end of November. I’m grateful that this happened to my naturally least-active child, who will be affected much less by having his activity level restricted for a few weeks.
Now that my outlook is brighter and fear set aside, I am able to utilize faith. Faith is an action word. It’s not simply a belief. It is a power. Faith is utilized through visualization and intention. I now visualize the surgery going well and being executed successfully. I fully intend to bring my son home from the hospital, perfectly whole and healthy, and won’t have to worry about his heart anymore. I don’t allow myself to hold thoughts in my mind of anything else. Of course those thoughts often try to push in, but I push them right out again. Sitting in that waiting room is going to be the biggest challenge of all, but I intend to continue holding to this positive vision.
Surrender is an extension of faith. It is letting go of what you want or think should happen and just allowing what is. It is acknowledging my own powerlessness over those aspects of life that I can’t control, and being okay with that. Anxiety and stress come from trying to predict and control every aspect of life. When you let go of that ultimately-fruitless need to control, you experience peace. I haven’t experienced surrender yet, but it’s what I’m working toward right now. It’s important to live in the NOW from moment to moment instead of dwelling on what could happen in the future. In the now, there are no problems, and everything is as it is. I am going to have to leave my son in the hands of nurses and sit in a waiting room where I am totally powerless over anything that happens in that operating room. All I can do is hold on to my positive intentions for Buddy, and have faith that the doctors and nurses will be fully in the now themselves in order to create that result I’ve visualized. For me to do anything but surrender to this, to resist in any way, is not just inane, but will rob me of energy and peace, and negatively impact Buddy and others, too. I know that if I can surrender to this, it will be that much easier to surrender to other situations that will come into my life.
I’m so thankful for the faith of so many of you and for your thoughts and prayers for Buddy and our family. I can really feel the power of it. I’ve learned so much about my little son, and how special his spirit is. I know, in ways I can’t explain, that Buddy chose before he was born to go through this, because it needed to happen for different reasons. I have such a profound respect for him and his courage and gifts. I’ve loved seeing glimpses of his soul, rather than just seeing him as a mother sees her young child, and really seeing his spirit, equal to my own, and being able to learn and grow so much because of him.