A few weeks ago my six-year-old daughter had her tonsils out. I was terrified. I spent the days (and weeks) prior to her surgery envisioning worst case scenarios and then trying to replace them with harmonious visions of everything going smoothly.
And things did go smoothly. Aside from the excruciating process of singing my baby to “sleep” as she went under anesthesia, sobbing and frightened, we made it through the day without too much trauma. The surgery was quick and she recovered well; we were home in a matter of hours.
And then, a week later, we had an emergency.
She woke up at 4:15 and wanted a drink. I begged my husband to go downstairs and get her some apple juice; once I’m awake and functional, I’m up all night. I heard her say downstairs that her nose was bleeding, and then he called for me. And I knew we would be going to the hospital.
I stayed calm; I followed the protocol. I evenly told the ENT answering service what was going on as I got dressed to get in the car. We drove to the hospital, beginning to run red lights and speed as the bleeding became profuse and she appeared listless. I murmured prayers aloud while assuring her and her eleven-year-old sister that everything was going to be OK. When I ran into the ER triage begging for somebody to please help me, I had that surreal experience people always talk about, how you’re sort of watching yourself doing something.
Time had slowed down. I was aware of all these ridiculous and dissonant thoughts that had surfaced during the “moving through gel” minutes.
I should grab my overnight oatmeal from the fridge. I will be hungry soon. That’s ridiculous; are you kidding me?
The Easter dresses lying on the floor have blood on them. I wonder if it will come out. This doesn’t matter at all.
What shirt should I wear, and do I put on a bra or is that wasted seconds? Who seriously gives a fuck?
My mouth is so dry, am I in shock? You can drink later.
Give me Night Night Bunny, I don’t want him to get blood all over him. Your daughter is gushing blood from her mouth; the bunny is irrelevant.
The bleeding stopped on its own shortly after we arrived, but we would be at one of two hospitals for the next nine hours. After she was stabilized, we were transported by ambulance to the hospital across town where she’d had surgery the week before.
And when the adrenaline wore off, the fatigue set in. My baby slept in my arms; I of course was crammed into the tiny hospital bed with her, frantically one-handedly texting people who wouldn’t be awake for hours to fill them in.
My parents weren’t awake yet in the next time zone over. My best friends would be sleeping for several more hours. I needed someone. I needed a witness.
After our ambulance ride, I decided, after conflicted inner deliberation, to share our trauma on Facebook. The aforementioned inner deliberation went something like this, “It is inappropriate to share everything on social media. This is a private family matter. People might think you’re an attention seeker. Does everything have to go on fucking Facebook??”
But I shared. Because last week, when I had asked for love and positive energy and prayers on surgery day, I felt lifted up.
You know how awesome it is on your birthday every year when like a hundred people wish you a Happy Birthday and you feel crazy special? I love Facebook for that. I feel connected, and important, and cherished.
I also know how insane Facebook makes me, how I check it like a nervous tic, practically watching my dopamine fire every time I see that, holy shit, I have 3 new notifications! Maybe this is the one that tells me I won the damn lottery or got published in the NY Times! I mean, seriously. I am impressed and inspired by my loved ones who have quit the Book in favor of living a more authentic, less frenetic life.
And yet. As I lay in the cramped hospital bed knowing that everyone in Mountain and Central time was still asleep, I messaged my HerStories Project partner in New York to tell her what was happening. Within minutes she had posted in our community group asking for its members to send me love and support. When I saw it and read the words of comfort and solidarity, tears filled my eyes.
I am not a traditionally religious person. My spiritual practice is eclectic and unconventional, but it is vibrant and real. And despite my non-denominational leanings, I must say: Friends, I will take your prayers. In any way, shape, and form. I will take them all, and gratefully.
As I absorbed the love, support, shared experiences, and diverse prayers of my friends, family, and hardly-even-know-who-you-ares, I felt held, loved, and lifted up. And I am just so, so grateful. Because at the root of it, aren’t all our prayers something of this variety? God, nothing else matters and I will do anything, just please let me keep my babies.
We didn’t need an additional surgery; she appeared to be healing fine on her own and we went home mid-afternoon to rest. My husband made himself some eggs; I made myself a whiskey.
While I almost envy my grounded friends who have simplified their lives by leaving Facebook behind, I am staying. Because of birthdays. And emergencies.
**Speaking of Facebook, connect with me there on my Mommy, for Real page!