The worst feeling in the world is helplessness when your child is in pain. Grace is now six weeks post-op, and doing remarkably well. However, we’re at the point where nerves are feeling sensation again, and her discomfort level is a bit increased. Okay, alot increased. Add to that, she is depressed. It’s a normal side effect of her surgery and medication, and at her follow up Monday the decision was made that the best way to tackle it was to send her back to school as soon as possible. Tuesday morning, off she went. Her classmates were thrilled to see her, with tears, hugs, and a certain amount of fear.
Perspective is everything. To a class of special needs children, simple things become huge concerns. Would she be the same Grace? Would her “new body” change who she was? Can she accept hugs? These “children” are teenagers, with the pure, honest love of little children. No strings attached, no expectations, no conditions, just unadulterated joy at having their classmate back. I left her class that day worrying a little less. Kind of.
Nights are still difficult. She can’t find a comfortable position, and wakes up often to ask for her legs to be stretched. She cries. My heart breaks. I stretch her legs. It hurts. My heart breaks more. I hate that she has to go through this, and I hate that I’m the one who made the decision. Second guessing becomes your first instinct in the middle of the night when it’s dark. Shadows loom on the wall and in your mind, and suddenly you’re surrounded by your worst fears. When you’re a child, those shadows are the monster in the closet. As an adult, they’re the elephant in the room. “Did I do the right thing?”
As parents, we all ask that, over and over. And the answer isn’t always the one we want to hear. Asking yourself in the middle of the night when it’s dark and you’re surrounded by shadows, is never the best time. Wait until morning. Bathed in light, the shadows disappear, and the monsters recede. We do the best we can with what we have, and make the best decisions possible. That’s all we can ask of ourselves.
Grace gets up in the morning and eventually smiles, laughs, moves her new body, and says “I feel a little better today.” Sometimes she even forgets she’s had such invasive surgery. But the elephant never forgets, and will ask the question over and over again. My job is the wrangle the elephant. Sometimes it works, and well, you know the rest. But it’s okay, and totally normal, and extremely frustrating, and all part of the parenthood journey. If this is your journey, meet me at the next rest stop. I can stay for a few minutes – just long enough to recharge. Then it’s time to hit the road, and see where it takes us, because it’s never about the destination…it’s about how you get there.
Karen Cluxton lives in Hatfield, PA, and has three teenagers – Halle 16, Owen 14, and Grace 13. Between shuttling kids to soccer, baseball and physical therapy, she trains in Mixed Martial Arts.