You know how sometimes you have an experience and think, “Hey. I know all about that now. I am an expert and know how it all works. I’ve got it all figured out.”
That’s exactly when God shocks you again.
Many of you have read my post on Veronica’s lip palate and ear tube surgery here. So when Levi had his surgery on Tuesday, I thought I had envisioned pretty clearly how it was going to go. However, this surgery didn’t follow the same script.
In many ways, this surgery was much easier, at least on me. And yes, I do realize how incredibly self-centered that sounds. There is no way I can fully comprehend how Levi experienced this, so I won’t even attempt to pretend that I can. I can empathize and sympathize. I can care and comfort. But I can never truly know.
Unlike Veronica, Levi’s cleft lip had been repaired in China before we brought him home. That alone cut out an additional two hours of surgery time. With only four hours (instead of six) from the time he was put under till we saw him, I had a lot less time to freak out and worry.
I also had the advantage this time of not being shocked by the appearance of a child that looked completely different. Since his lip had already been repaired, his face just looked a little more swollen than normal. But, he has these adorable chubby cheeks, so he didn’t look much different.
Coming out of surgery, Veronica screamed for about three hours straight. Levi slept. For hours. He slept in his crib in the hospital for about an hour and a half. Then Ben and I alternated holding him for another six or seven hours. He barely whimpered the whole time.
Now, that sounds fairly pleasant, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. Having a child complacent and brave in the face of discomfort and pain makes me wonder why he didn’t cry out more and fuss. My boy has had some pretty physically painful experiences in his life, including but definitely not limited to his cleft lip surgery. He faced this so stoically. Was he used to not being comforted in the face of pain? Did he get used to dealing with it himself and not learn to rely on anyone?
I like to think he was just so high on pain meds that he actually was feeling no pain. However, I’ve seen this toddler’s dry eyes during blood draws, scraped knees, bumps and bruises that would leave me whining for days, and all manner of typical childhood traumas.
Fortunately, even if he wasn’t willing to express his pain, he was more than willing to accept comfort from us. From this mom who has been rejected by this sweet boy more times than I can count, it felt pretty good that he would seek out comfort from me and snuggle his body into mine.
Check-in for Levi’s surgery was 7 a.m. By about 7 p.m., Ben was getting ready to head home for the night. I spent the night with Levi. Since he had slept nearly the whole day, I assumed he would be wide awake and frustrated all night. I assumed wrong. He slept from 11 p.m. till 4 a.m., with only a brief wakening when the nurse checked his vitals and gave him some medication. I slept for nearly four hours. Not consecutive, but I’m still pleased.
At about 4 a.m., though, is when Levi started to get restless. His morphine had long worn off and he was irritated by his IV. Also the arm restraints (called awfully enough “No-No’s”) put a damper on his energetic attempts to play. He was ready to get down and get moving. This was a bit of a trial, trying to keep him as content as possible, especially when he has no interest in television. Fortunately, Ben returned to the hospital shortly after 7 a.m. and relieved me for a spell.
By 9 a.m., Dr. Lander (Veronica and Levi’s awesome surgeon) made his rounds. He commented on our amazing son and we readily agreed. He gave his approval to be discharged and were back home by a little after noon on Wednesday.
There was one aspect of the surgery that was harder to deal with. Post-op, Levi bled quite a bit from his ears, nose and mouth – much more than Veronica did. Anyone who has seen any trauma scene on TV knows that bleeding from these orifices is bad. Very, very bad. Even with the reassurances from the nurses, it was disconcerting, especially when there was so much more blood than we had anticipated.
About the Author: This blog was originally posted on Kristin Nelson’s blog, “Trying to Control the Chaos,” which tackles topics on motherhood, adoption and parenting. She has also graciously allowed us to republish her blogs about her daughter’s cleft palate surgery as well as her experience building attachment with her son.