Gut Wrenching Surgery


I watched the nurse serve our then twenty-two-month-old son a purple cocktail. His body slumped in her arms and she whisked him to the Operating Room. Fears of injury or worse swirled in my head as I waited. The doctor informed us hernia surgeries are common. Yet, despite his attempt, the hospital statistics did nothing to calm my nerves. This is my precious son; my firstborn.


My husband wrapped his arms around me, “Austin will be fine. He’s in good hands.”

I squeezed him, “I know. I just love our boy so much. It pains me to see our toddler undergo surgery. I wish I could take his place.”

I paced back and forth on the waiting room rug. I thought I knew the meaning of love when I married my best friend three short years earlier. One of my favorite traditions is watching our wedding video on our anniversary. It never fails; a lump forms in my throat each time I see Randy wipe a single tear off my cheek during our nuptials. Yet, this time my heart ached.

Two months earlier, Randy called me into Austin’s bedroom. “Come here Hon, there’s a bump sticking out  of his stomach when he pushes!”

I gasped. “What’s that?”

“I’m not sure. Pack his bag. We’re taking him to Emergency!”

I composed myself as to not scare our little guy, dressed him and rushed him to the ER. Upon our arrival, the staff immediately wheeled him into an examination room. The doctor asked us some routine questions and pressed on his bulging tummy. He explained, “Austin has a hernia. It’s typical for children his age. I’ll have my nurse schedule a simple surgical procedure to close the hole. The current schedule is approximately three months out, because we perform 400+ surgeries annually. If the bulge doesn’t retract for some reason, return immediately for emergency surgery.”

What! His intestines are popping in and out of his the muscle lining and we have to wait three months to seal it?” I looked at Randy, “Why doesn’t the parenting handbook cover these issues for first time parents?”

He chuckled and pulled me close, “We’ll learn together.”

Like clockwork, ninety days passed and his surgery day arrived.

An hour later, Austin’s surgeon walked in, “The operation was a success and Austin is fine,” he proudly announced.

Inexplicable joy filled me. I exhaled, “Thank you, Doctor. When can I see him?”

The nurse escorted me to his recovery room. I glanced at my baby shaking the crib rails with all his might. His sweaty face was beet red from screaming hysterically, “Mommy! I want my Mommy!” I felt as if someone had opened my chest cavity and ripped my heart out. I believe his unfamiliar environment and tubes taped all over along with the absence of his parents caused his plight. I imagine his brain couldn’t comprehend the bright lights, sterile smell of antiseptic, strangers poking at him, nor the arithmetic noise of monitors.

I gathered him in my arms and held him. I sunk into a rocking chair and whispered, “It’s okay Austin. Mommy’s here.” He buried his head between my neck and shoulder and fell asleep. At that moment, I felt unconditional love. It’s a sacrificial compassion for someone other than myself and it’s sweeter when reciprocated. As I recount this I’m felt Austin’s surgery hurt me more than it did him.

During our ride home, I watched Austin nap and felt the mother child bond deepen. I believe it’s one of life’s beautiful mysteries. I now understand to the cliché “Beware of a mother bear robbed of her cubs.” It’s inate.

Today, Austin is a healthy thirteen-year-old young man. I love him dearly! The Bile says love is patient and kind. It’s not jealous, nor rude. It doesn’t demand its own way. It’s not irritable, and it keeps no record of wrong. It rejoices in the truth, and doesn’t give up. It’s always hopeful and endures forever. It is the thread that weaves the fabric of our lives and allows us to weather tough storms; even gut-wrenching surgeries.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Nor Cal
Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Nor Cal

Have you experienced gut a wrenching motherhood crises ? Feel free to share with us.

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