My daughter had a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy on Friday. This was not a decision we entered into lightly. While she has had frequent illnesses, especially this year, it was the sleep apnea she was experiencing that resulted in our going forward with the surgery. A 4-year-old simply needs good sleep to develop properly. We couldn’t let her go on with interrupted sleep any longer.
This experience has been rough. I have gained a new respect, as well as more empathy and sympathy for parents with particular challenges. Specifically, I feel for parents with challenges in four areas.
1. Parents of children with chronic illness. We have had to keep a watchful eye on my daughter because the complications associated with this surgery can be serious. Besides the general anesthetic, which is worrisome in itself, there is pain, fever, medication, swelling, bleeding, vomiting, constant monitoring and encouragement of increased fluids, limited diet, hindering activity, and I’m sure more that I’m missing in this long list.
It is stressful. I just keep counting down the days. But, I realize there are parents of children who have ongoing or permanent challenges that don’t get to count down the days. I can’t imagine what a toll that would take for an extended period.
2. Parents with no local support system. I’ve always wondered how single parents do it, especially when caring for newborns. If I didn’t have my husband, I don’t know how I could have managed to even take a shower when my children were infants. In many ways, the almost constant attention my daughter needs for two weeks has been like going back to the newborn phase. Knowing what I do now, I feel strongly that this should not be an out-patient procedure.
In addition to my husband, my parents are nearby, and I have friends who show concern and support (as an example, my son’s friend’s family let him stay over the night before so we didn’t have to worry about getting him to school and getting my daughter to the hospital early in the morning). In today’s world, many people have to relocate for jobs, and they have no family or established friendships in their community. How difficult it must be to juggle parenting and all of the other responsibilities of life without support.
3. Parents of children with food allergies or other dietary restrictions. My daughter could not have dairy for the first two days after surgery. So much for the promises of ice cream. My husband bought her some non-dairy ice cream (one made with soy, another with rice), but to be honest, the texture and taste just aren’t as good. She can’t have any red food or drink, because you can’t distinguish between the food and blood. She can only have soft food. She is supposed to drink 64 ounces of fluid per day. This is extremely difficult to achieve with a 39 lb. child who is not allowed to use a straw or a sports bottle to get all of this liquid in her.
We were at a convenience store yesterday. She asked if we could buy a snack. My first instinct was to say “no”, because obviously most snacks at a convenience store are not the healthiest. But, I have had to say “no” to this poor child so often lately, that I told her we could get something if we could find a treat she was allowed to have. Unfortunately, between the chips and the candy bars, there was not one thing that I saw that she was could have.
I thought, how trying it must be to have a child who can’t have anything containing peanuts or gluten. Again, I felt grateful that our situation is temporary, and my heart went out to parents who have to be vigilant about these restrictions every day, permanently.
4. Parents who seem impatient or pushy. This child of mine has a history of aversion to medication. Without getting into a lot of detail, getting medication in her body has been nearly impossible. We’ve tried everything. When she was a year old, even the nurse in the emergency room was not successful at getting her to swallow ibuprofen without her gagging and spitting it out. This time around, with all she had been through, I really wanted to avoid suppositories.
She did not want me to use the syringe, so I gave her the chance drink the 1.5 teaspoons every four hours, alternating between Tylenol and ibuprofen. It would take her hours. She admitted, at one point, that none of the medicine from her teeny tiny sips was entering her mouth. She was wetting her lips and wiping off all of the medicine with a wet paper towel. She used every stalling tactic between sips that you can imagine. She’s much smarter than I, so they worked for quite a while. Then, there was the gagging. How much was real, and how much was put on to get out of taking more medicine? Hard to say, but after days of going through this, hour after hour, I was ready to pull my hair out.
The pressure from medical professionals to make sure she gets all of the pain medication and fluid in her is tremendous. The frustration is incredible.
Yesterday, against my better judgment, I allowed her to attend her brother’s t-ball practice. I encouraged her to wear a pull-up because there is no bathroom available there, and we are constantly making her drink fluid. She said she didn’t want to look like a baby. Okay. “Try to use the potty before we leave.” “I don’t have to go.” “Try anyway.” She tried. Nothing happened. The ball field is a bit of a walk from the car. We weren’t there ten minutes when she said she had to go potty. I drove her to the gas station. We returned. In the meantime, I’m trying to get her to take her medicine from a syringe because she was due (I had talked her into the syringe earlier in the day). She’s gagging and carrying on. I must have looked like a crazy freak. Then, she tells me her tummy hurts. I can’t help but wonder if it’s legit or another stall tactic. She says she has to go to the bathroom again. I tell her, she is definitely not coming to the next practice. I ask my husband to take her because my patience is gone. They return as practice is ending.
We get home and the syringe is still not empty. I get her to take another tiny squirt. She pukes all over me. I guess the gagging and the tummy ache were for real. She says her throat hurts a little from throwing up. My heart breaks. I feel like a terrible mother for pressuring her to take the medicine when she already felt sick.
I thought of the times I have judged parents who didn’t seem patient or kind enough, without having any idea what they may have going on, and I tell myself, next time, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.