“Oh don’t worry, we do happy surgery here” said the lead nurse of the Children’s Hospital operating theatres.
I had told her that I had just returned from maternity leave, and that I was finding it heart-wrenching to witness so many little people in very large beds. She continued to explain that in trauma theatres, where I would be working with her, we would be fixing things, making things better. She then went on to offer the example of this afternoons surgery, which was an amputation, but would create a good outcome for the little boy.
At that moment I had to make my excuses and quite literally find somewhere to cry. If not for the fact I was at work, I would have indulged into full-on gasping blubs of snotty tears. My mind created images of the mother who had counted all ten toes at birth; washed between them every night, nibbled on the arches of his feet in laugher, and creamed the folds of fat on his ankles. That mother, and her little boy, would be saying goodbye to a part of him that they grew together. Then I imagined the rest of his life unfolding, the challenges his surgery would create for him, the social limitations and exclusion that may result, which his mother could possibly either know nothing about or be capable of doing very little to change.
As the final straw, I then registered that the nurse had called this a “happy” operation, and allowed myself to understand that just down the corridor there were many other operations happening every day, with very sad outcomes. Holy mother of Murphy…KEEP IT TOGETHER GIRL. You are at WORK.
I spent the rest of the day feeling shaken and trying to understand why this conversation had set me off on such an emotional bender. It is only now, whilst writing, that I am able to put it into words:
My heart is no longer my own to protect.
Looking back over my younger years, time spent dating and getting close to others was entirely my choice. I was the master of my own vulnerability, and was quite cautious in my devotion to others. Those days are long gone. As a wife and a mother, my heart no longer belongs to me; it is on long term loan, and will be forever more.
My influence over what my little boy decides to do with his body and life is becoming less with every passing day. His tiny newborn toes are now like overstuffed cocktail sausages, his helpless youth developing into confident knowledge, flirting with danger and consistently pushing boundaries.
One day, he will surely fall off a skateboard and break a bone, get an awful tattoo, or recklessly travel somewhere dangerous in a rickety bus without seat belts. My borrowed heart will follow him on his journeys with pride and quiet anticipation for his safe return. Lastly, because it is real and deserves to be said, should something terrible happen to him, well I just know I would never be whole again.
Whether it is right, healthy, or avoidable, he who holds my heart is the master of my sentiment. I don’t believe there is much I can do to change this.
Love, hugs, and strength to all of you with hearts on loan; I feel you. ♥