La La How The Life Goes On

I Was So Much Older Then

Posted on: January 8, 2011

I’m younger than that now.

It feels like eons since we got the photo of a seeminlgy-chubby baby with a buzzcut who was instantly mine in my heart and in my head even though I couldn’t let myself say it out loud until she was in my arms months later.

It feels like eons since we were in China meeting that little frightened toddler who was clearly wondering WHAT THE FUCK?!!!

It feels like eons since I agonized over her fears, speaking in my craptacular Chinese to say “Don’t be afraid.” Bie hai pa, baobao. Bie hai pa. I’m sure my lack of technique turned this supposedly-soothing mantra into something very scary, like, “I will eat you for breakfast” or “I make kids cry.”

It feels like eons since she finally made eye contact with me, allowing me to touch her in a non-diaper-changing way, and called me Mama.

It feels like eons since I sat and listened to her cry “Mama! Mama!” at night in her sleep, my heart breaking for her as she mourned her wonderful nannies and her entire life before we met.

It feels like eons since we received, along with her photo, the news that she had a rather rare congenital heart defect that would need correction someday. I recall us thinking, “Then we’ll get it fixed. When can we bring her home?” It all seemed so theoretical and in-the-future at the time, as to be almost a non-issue.

And now here we are: a few days from her surgery, which now feels very real and very current. I”m being heartily reassured that she is in the best hands (she is) and that this is routine surgery for the doctors even if not for us (true). Honestly, the contrary has never crossed my mind. Perhaps our family has quite comfortably walked through the valley of the shadow for so long now that we don’t really flinch at the notion of surgery, even to our daughter’s heart. I’d pretend it’s 100% confidence based on my 23+ years of cardiology study, but I’d be lying. It’s at least 99% loyalty to my child, on the notion that any suggestion of anything but a successful outcome is treasonous to her, to us, and to anyone who loves her. In fact, we have a relative that we still can’t really embrace simply because she said to the Baby Daddy back when I was getting my transplant, “But what will you do if it doesn’t work?” It was like a punch in the face, an instant feeling of betrayal for it to even be spoken aloud. Did you really just speak that into the universe? Really? How about you just assume we’ve pondered that amongst ourselves and then you spend your time offering some quality cheerleading instead? You can call it irrational if you want, but I never ever speak aloud that someone might not be well until I see them lying in their coffin or until they tell me to can the pollyanna shit already because they are dying. Until then, I’m 100% believing for a full recovery for everyone.

Anyway, my pre-rant point was that I”m more concerned with Baby Sister’s emotional and mental state than I am with her physical state, if that makes any sense as the parent of a kid whose chest is about to get cut open. I know she’ll physically be fine, but how the hell do you minimize the trauma of heart surgery for a TWO year old? “Can you say “heart valve”?” Hmm…I think not. How do I help her not be afraid once she is awakened from sedation? How do I calm her when her body hurts? These are my concerns as the clock ticks toward the big day. I told the BabyDaddy that she had a specific cry for when she was scared in China and during those first nights home. It’s a cry I can’t imitate but that I will always be able to name in one note. It made my stomach hurt to hear it because I knew there was nothing I could do to help her at the time beyond being present, being respectful and being patient, which are all lovely qualities but are less than useless to a parent who wants to make her child’s pain stop right now.

The good news is that pediatric surgeries, unlike toddler adoptions, have prescription drugs to ease pain, promote healing, and make you sleep until you don’t remember a thing. And you should see what they have for the kids too! (Ba dum dum! I’ll be here all week…) So we’re forging ahead, looking forward to when Baby Sister will have a fully functioning heart like anyone else, preparing her as best we can without scaring her, and engaging the generally-surly-on-this-topic Bambina in preparations so she doesn’t get bent out of shape that “Baby Sister has all these doctor appointments and I have NONE! Not fair!”

As you can tell, it’s a magical, magical time. But we’re lucky to be having it. Life, all those eons ago, was joyous and happy, but it was missing nutty and lovely Jones #4. It was missing the sweet Jones #3 as we now know her–a big sister much matured and reality-checked. It was missing the sense that our family was complete. Most importantly, it was missing the question the BBDD and I now have at the end of every day: “How did we get this lucky?”


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