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March 10, 2011

“Mama,” Col whisper-squeaks after choking down a droplet of juice, “can you make me an apple pie?”

Which is a strange request, coming from someone whose tonsils have been newly hacked off, who’s mostly given up on talking and eating. Earlier, he asked for chicken noodle soup and also refried beans. I flew to the store, honoring his culinary fancies, and he slurped one nano-molecule of broth, grimacing like he was swallowing a chicken whole.

Col, Rammy, Sealy, and Baby Sealy, the morning of the tonsillectomy.

On the way to the hospital Col was chatty and cheerful, wondering bravely, “what do you think my mouth will look like after my tonsils are out?” “Oh, maybe like a smooth cave,” I replied and we all laughed as if we were actually headed to the carnival ride, “tonsillectomy,” and not to the operating room.

In the waiting room Col rode a wooden horse meant for toddlers, and Dan and I watched as children got whisked away and then returned, slightly altered, to parents who appeared sort of disembodied, waiting alone with fuzzy blankets and stuffed animals on their laps. We eventually got called into the pre-op room, thick with medical personnel and paper-signing. Dan read theatrically to Col from a National Geographic, “oh wow, look at that” about humongous whale vertebrae, while nurses bustled around us. Soon we were waved off to the lobby to eat elk sausage and egg sandwiches, disembodied ourselves, with our stack of children’s books, stuffed animals and empty arms.

After the toothy grip of anesthesia wore off (during which Col was simultaneously trying to burrow inside of us and flee), we transported him home and he quickly fell asleep on the couch.

The bandage is from the IV site. Col wondered sleepily, "did I get a cast too after they took my tonsils out?"

He woke up an hour later, snuggled into me and whispered, “but, did they actually take my tonsils out?”

“They really did honey.”

“I didn’t feel them do it.”

“I know. You were sleeping.”

“No I wasn’t.”

The last thing Col probably remembers is being wheeled away from us on the big bed, crying and protesting, flanked by a team of green-scrubbed staff who were so gentle and friendly they could have been auditioning for Sesame Street goes to the OR. I stood by the lobby door watching the big bed sail down the hall, sniffling to Dan unconvincingly, “I’m so excited for how Col’s life is going to improve.”

And that was the hardest moment. Sending Col off alone and afraid. Now it’s just extreme caregiving, which is like returning to the germination of my own motherhood, when my seed-shell cracked open and a root threaded its way underground and I understood, instantly, that my singular job was to love and care for this baby.

And caring for post-surgical Col is almost like caring for an infant. We cheer when he eats, pees, sleeps and smiles. Our house has become a cocoony nest where we only leave to restock ricemilk; yesterday the four of us watched the entire, original Wizard of Oz movie in our bed while the sun bounced around the outside world invitingly.

When you ask Col how he’s doing he frowns and shakes his head, but he doesn’t complain. To communicate he nods and points from his post on the couch, while his sister narrates, loudly, every thought that tickles her brainstem. Every few hours Col gears up to speak, wincing and swallowing, and we all wait like the Dalai Lama is sitting before us, clearing his throat. “I’m ready to talk about it now,” he said the afternoon after the surgery. “To talk about what, honey?” “To talk about getting my tonsils out.” And then he went silent for the next few hours. Yesterday he asked me, “what did they do with all the blood?” “They suctioned it out of your stomach and then cauterized your throat so it would stop bleeding.” He nodded and didn’t say anything else.

popsicle solidarity

I’m so grateful for my parents who flew out to help, to Nana Judy and cousin Barb who sent so many thoughtful gifts (including chocolate for the Mama), the local friends who lent us puzzles and movies and books, our community who sent prayers and virtual smooches during surgery, the Mamas who’d been there and answered all my questions, the blog friends I’ve never met who sent gifts and books, offered support and checked in via e-mail, the balloon lady who read my newspaper column and twisted up animal balloons for both kids. I felt like I had this team cheering me on from the dugout of parenting, ready to step into the game at a moments notice. And to parent with this back-up support feels like the only sane way.

"Horseshoe crabs"

And now we snuggle and heal and give thanks.

48 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2011 3:17 pm

    What a thoughtful young man Col is. The detail in his questions floor me. What an amazing boy.

    I cried as I read about the doctors wheeling him away from you and Dan. My heart kind of broke. I can’t imagine. But your perspective is so great; the quality of his life is going to get better.

    Sending you all so much love. ~ Debbie

    ps – I love his outfit in that first photo. It’s exacty the thing Isaac would choose to wear if we had leopard tights lying around the house. As it is, he has picked fluorescent pink Crocs the last two years as his summer shoes. :)

  2. March 10, 2011 3:20 pm

    Even bandaged, groggy, and hurting, he’s such a creative little guy. I don’t believe I could have fashioned anything, let alone a chorus line of horseshoe crabs, out of a bowl of colorful shapes post-surgery.

    And I must say: I do believe the leopard pants gave him superhero-like coping strength. Can I get a pair??

  3. mama meredith permalink
    March 10, 2011 3:45 pm

    Yea! I’m so glad everything went well. Praise be to new beginnings!
    Send my love to Col, Rose, Dan, Rammy, Sealy and Baby Sealy…

  4. March 10, 2011 3:58 pm

    Why is it that sick children all look like angels sent from heaven when they are asleep? You described my experience with my own little post-op patient much better than I ever could have. They let me hold my daughter while putting her to sleep, and I thought my heart would burst holding her limp body in my arms.

    They are so, so precious. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Steph permalink
    March 10, 2011 3:58 pm

    I’m so glad to hear that the hospital staff were friendly and comforting. I cannot imagine how hard that moment was when they wheeled him away. The anticipation of *that* moment is what is keeping me from finalizing my decision for J’s testicle-dropping surgery. But the more time goes by, the more I just want that thing to be down, already.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Cheers to Col for being such a trooper! Kids are so great at accepting their illnesses and other setbacks (ie, recovery from surgery) without complaining.


  6. March 10, 2011 4:01 pm

    Yeah :) I am so happy to hear the rough part is over & Col is home & healing. I do hope he got that bell to ring ;)

  7. Jessica permalink
    March 10, 2011 4:37 pm

    So happy for the update! Sounds like things went as well as possible in this situation. Col is such a wise soul. What a joy it must be around him.

    Continued prayers for a quick and smooth recovery, and for strength for Mom & Dad. Also, patience for Rose until her best buddy is back up and running with her!

    Hugs to you all.

    ps. When Col’s appetite kicks back in, I bet it will be ferocious!

  8. Dan permalink
    March 10, 2011 4:46 pm

    This is so well done, Honey, thanks for sharing in such a touching way. Love Danny-Hubby (snuggler #2)

  9. Ellen permalink
    March 10, 2011 4:54 pm

    Wonderful beautiful post. You have expressed so well the experiences of families whose kids have had surgery. Thank you.

  10. baba permalink
    March 10, 2011 5:11 pm

    Beautifully put. It is amazing to me that Col does not complain although I can see how uncomfortable he is as he tries to find some place to rest and maybe nap for a bit.

  11. March 10, 2011 5:39 pm

    I wonder how much this time takes you back to when he was itty bitty and teetered on the edge? These days he is, as Stacia pointed out, more like a super-hero. It’s so cool to see, even now, how he’s grown from that little blanketed baby. You are such a magnificent nurturer. I love that your whole family cuddles round. It’s cozy.

    Do you call these colorful things pattern blocks? We have them too and my 17 year old had them out the other day making mandalas.

    Could you please share the recipe for the peace sign in the ice? I am stunned by its loveliness.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 10, 2011 9:04 pm

      Rebecca, it does indeed take me back to Col’s NICU days. I discovered that peace sign on a frozen lake while passing by on a bike ride. I really wish I could tell you how it was made. I’m intrigued.

  12. March 10, 2011 5:47 pm

    thanks so much for the update. we love hearing of his progress and are just so thankful it is over. will drop by a replacement puzzle manana…will call ya first. XOXOXO

  13. Barbara permalink
    March 10, 2011 5:49 pm

    sigh of relief for you that it’s over :) Glad Col is starting to heal. Sending good wishes and healing thoughts across the miles.

  14. coleen permalink
    March 10, 2011 6:17 pm

    So glad it is all over. When my daughter had her tonsils removed, the first thing she asked for was tuna fish and cottage cheese…..and she at them.
    Hope Col has a speedy recovery!!!!

  15. March 10, 2011 6:36 pm

    Thank you for the update! I’ve been thinking about you all so much! I cannot imagine anyone wheeling my kid away while he’s protesting while I stand aside and do nothing – what a heart wrenching moment!! Way to be brave, mama!
    Well, Col’s got another gift coming… I sent it off today. There’s a little gift for you in there too! But the one in the bag is for him…. turns out Cole found the rubber band car before I could send it off, and well, decided he wanted it again…. so I sent something else…
    Hope you’re all feeling snuggly and safe enjoying your sweet time together convalescing!

  16. March 10, 2011 7:16 pm

    Here is a website to thrill all of you, while Col is healing.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 10, 2011 10:32 pm

      Good pick, Kathy. We’re all enjoying this.

  17. March 10, 2011 7:55 pm

    I’m so glad things went well. It sounds like rational mama won out after all! Hugs to Col, and you as well – I hope he’s back to his old self soon.

  18. March 10, 2011 8:31 pm

    Thinking of you and your amazing, brave boy. What troopers, the both of you! Inch by inch…

  19. March 10, 2011 11:13 pm

    I am continuously astounded by Col’s bravery, and yours.

  20. March 10, 2011 11:36 pm

    Yay! So glad to hear everyone’s OK (including you, Mama!). Sending more healing thoughts your way…

  21. March 11, 2011 12:15 am

    I loved the part where you explained to him what they did and he listened and said nothing ~just took it all in to process in his own way. Such a stoic little dude.
    Love & light to Col as he heals.

  22. March 11, 2011 1:05 am

    Lots of love and healing wishes to Col!

  23. Peggy permalink
    March 11, 2011 8:19 am

    So happy to hear that the surgery is over and was successful! I have almost cried 4 times while reading your post, and the comments of others. It’s amazing how much we love our little ones, and what lengths we will go to protect them. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you and Dan to let him go down the hall on the gurney, but he needed to see that bravery and in the end that moment will surely help to mold him into an even finer and braver man! You did it! You ALL did it! Enjoy your time at home as everyone heals!! xo, peggy

  24. March 11, 2011 9:22 am

    Congratulations on making it through, Mama. What a sweet, brave boy…keep the apple pies coming.

  25. March 11, 2011 10:47 am

    so happy you are done with that! check out the peace sign on my blog. great minds think alike and all. i caught it a few weeks ago before it sunk. can cole eat dairy?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 11, 2011 10:58 am

      Ivy, so glad to see the origins of that peace sign. Love that it caught both our eyes enough to photograph. Col isn’t eating dairy right now, because it puts that film in your mouth, which requires more swallowing. Maybe in a few more days?

  26. March 11, 2011 1:12 pm

    I’m so glad for Col that it’s all over and it looks like he did very well, and was very brave and you too! :o)…Now is the healing with lots of ice cream to soothe that throat if it gets hot (even when it’s not :o)

  27. March 11, 2011 3:39 pm

    Kid’s a trooper! Interestingly, his horseshoe crabs look almost identical to a plains Indian (my peeps!) symbol that means “the Spirit is everywhere.” This experience kinda sums that up beautifully, eh?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      March 12, 2011 11:32 am

      Thanks Aldra, I love that. Col does too.

  28. rose permalink
    March 11, 2011 4:00 pm

    That will always be the hardest thing, sending our kids off alone and afraid. Unavoidable and excruciating. I’m so glad you’re moving into spring with this behind you. Breathing a sigh of relief for you all…

  29. March 11, 2011 5:01 pm

    So glad it’s over and that you’re all snuggling, talking it over, and creating…


  30. March 11, 2011 7:25 pm

    what a brave and beautiful little boy. a nice, easy recovery to him…

  31. Nana Judy permalink
    March 11, 2011 9:30 pm

    You’ve all made it through – and beautifully – and as Col heals, absorbs it all, and gets his voice & energy back, I bet he’ll have his own amazing ways of telling the whole story – again & again. And I hope he goes for some over-the-top exaggerations – he’s earned them!

  32. March 12, 2011 2:41 pm

    I’m glad you are now on the cozy, snuggling, healing side of the operation.


  33. March 12, 2011 3:51 pm

    Oh, there’s so much for Col to process right now & so much dreaming of food for the weeks to come. Has he ever read “The Seven Silly Eaters” by Mary Ann Hoberman? He’d be the boy in the family that only ate apple pie. ((()))) Here’s hugs for the whole family.

  34. Melissa permalink
    March 13, 2011 12:25 am

    Been thinking about you guys a lot and very, very glad to know that you are all healing so nicely–the Wizard of Oz sounds like just the right medicine!

    Loved Dan’s comment, too. You did capture the beauty of what was understandably a wretched experience . . . but you are no slouch with the words, after all!

    I love Rose and her popsicle solidarity, too. And Col with his puzzles? He’s like a little Buddha, all zen about his pain and healing path. Sending more love and light to all of you from Berkeley! xoxo

  35. March 13, 2011 9:21 am

    “which is like returning to the germination of my own motherhood, when my seed-shell cracked open and a root threaded its way underground and I understood, instantly, that my singular job was to love and care for this baby” oh man – i think i felt my little mama seedling creep closer toward my children when i read that. such perfect wording. so very true.

    lots of love and healing wishes for col and all of you. i am focussing all of my positive thoughts on how this will really change things for the better for col! <3 <3 <3

  36. March 13, 2011 5:57 pm

    I’m so loving the leopard pants/tights, the peace sign, and most of all, I’m loving that Col is getting better and that you (and Dan!) are brilliant at ‘extreme parenting.’

  37. March 14, 2011 4:19 pm

    Col is such a strong, calm spirit. I adore him.

    I love this:

    And that was the hardest moment. Sending Col off alone and afraid. Now it’s just extreme caregiving, which is like returning to the germination of my own motherhood, when my seed-shell cracked open and a root threaded its way underground and I understood, instantly, that my singular job was to love and care for this baby.

    ps mamalode magazines on their way!

  38. March 15, 2011 7:49 am

    sorry i’ve been out of the loop and am so late in sending my well wishes and love.

    sounds like you have everything under control with out me but just wanted you to know i’m thinking of you…



  39. March 15, 2011 10:29 am

    Such a sweet boy you have. Glad to read he is feeling better, silk skirts, apple pie, imaginary casts, and all!


  40. March 15, 2011 2:56 pm

    yay, col! glad you are doing so well!

    love you, rachel!

  41. March 15, 2011 11:05 pm

    I’m so glad this went well. After he’s healed, I hope he’s in for many restful nights of sleep and many fewer bouts of sickness.


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