Yesterday I managed to stand up for 15 uninterrupted minutes. When I sat down, I was sweating and shaking, triumphant and defeated. It was the most I’ve accomplished in the last almost three weeks, and the least I’ve accomplished in almost every day before that.
Now, I am no stranger to surgery. We aren’t friends or anything, but maybe surgery and I are more than acquaintances. Facebook friends, or the equivalent. After 4 pretty involved C-sections, a gall bladder removal, emergency hernia repair, a tubal ligation, IUD/D & C/Biopsy, over 18 years of passing kidney stones, a kidney surgery last fall, and a host of bed rest worthy pregnancy complications, I am at least on speaking terms with pain and recovery. I’ve been told during every hospitalization by staff members that I have an incredibly high pain tolerance. Great! Cue the flexing…
Except, this time hasn’t gone to plan. After spending over 5 and a half hours writhing in pain in the waiting room, a bed finally opened in the ER. Exactly one hour later, I was being wheeled into surgery. And while I joked about it on Facebook, the situation felt dire. Like, praying that you wake up because everything feels like a bad dream, status.
But I did wake up, thank God. And within 10 hours, I was being discharged. After two weeks of bed rest, I was back in the same ER waiting room, this time for hours longer. After cat scans were completed, the only information we had, was that my body was still in shock from the surgery and not responding to pain medicine. Another visit with the surgeon that week confirmed that my pain receptors were going haywire, my body was still in shock, and my surgery was much more invasive than I had been told. Bottom line, my body would need at least 6 weeks to heal, instead of the standard 2.
Needless to say, my Valentines Day did not go as planned. My new red dress remains tagged, unworn. And almost all of my big birthday plans for this coming weekend have been rescheduled. Indefinitely. I’ve missed several meet and greets, two dinner parties, and an Elmo themed date with my five year old that, thank goodness, she didn’t know about. I have spent more hours than I care to add up, just sitting. I’ve lost track of the amount of times that the adage, “You can’t parent from an arm chair” has gone through my head. I have struggled in hand to hand combat with discouragement, guilt, embarrassment, and undue shame.
At discharge, a kindly nurse said, “Be kind to your body, it’s been through a lot.” And while I know that I would do that for others, it’s been a struggle to be nice about my own body needing help to get up and use the bathroom every, single, time.
The thing is, and the thing always is, there’s so much more.
The view from the couch, really is so different from the hummingbird pace of Mommying that I try to keep up. Between homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, shopping, bill paying, wife-ing, and all that comes with raising five (super awesome) kids, I’m pretty busy. Throw in date nights, time with friends, a few times a week at the YMCA, and the occasional evening spent writing, and well, I don’t know what I have left to give sometimes.
Only, now that all that has been stripped away, I’ve found other things in its place.
For instance, my seven year old has new freckles. I hadn’t seen them until this week. Just south of her eyes, they’re resting, like tired stars, sprinkled across her nose and cheeks.
My twins have gotten better than I imagined on piano. They love to play. Not just when someone is watching, not just when they have an audience listening. I realized this week that they play piano because they love to create music. It’s so much clearer to me, that they have passion for it, now that I’m not trying to listen while budgeting or keeping up the laundry.
My fourteen year old feels more purpose when he is helping. He gets disappointed when someone else helps me, and elated and focused when I choose him to serve. Also, if I’m stuck on the couch, I am the prime target for the wad of information he’d been withholding. Nothing earth shattering, mostly facts about Overwatch, youth group, Funko Pop Figures, and his friends. But to him, it is. It’s his whole world, and he’s letting me in on it. Even more than usual.
And he’s not the only one. While they are being very careful with their hugs, and reminding me that they can’t wait to be really held, all my children are stopping by the couch and sitting and sharing. We have a great relationship, and lots of open communication. But there is something about having me immobile that has given rise to deeper conversations. My husband’s try at being helpful by instructing the children to ‘leave your mom alone so she can rest’, has been fiercely defied. Every night I spend on the couch, two to four children sleep on pillows and blankets, the love seat, and the chair, across from me. A prank-less slumber party, they gather for bedtime stories, and lullabies, whispers in the dark. Three of these nights, while the children occupied the furniture, it was my husband on the floor, sleeping on a pallet of blankets a foot away from me.
My mom and dad have spent days and days helping. Even baking my childhood favorite breakfast. (Popovers, in case you’re wondering.) My best friend came and cleaned, and cooked, and taught classes for days. By the time she left, my refrigerator was reorganized, my microwave sparkled, and my daughters knew how to sew in at least two different stitches each. Also, she left desserts for days. Her parents, my godparents, brought over a feast. They talked and they prayed, and they stayed just long enough to remind me that my story had a prologue. That they were a part of it, and happy to be.
My sister has helped with homeschool, and home everything. She has used her culinary arts degree from college, and made sure that not a pound has been lost while I recover from surgery. She is helping snuggle and hold my babies, and being an extension of me. She’s here praising every little milestone about my recovery. “You didn’t grimace as much that time when you got up!” “Your chest and shoulders aren’t as tightly clenched in pain as they were yesterday!” If you need a post-op cheerleader, in a few weeks she’ll be free.
I’m not doing a good enough job of describing all the beauty I’ve seen. I know it, I just don’t know how to do it justice.
There was an apple, half-eaten and drying out, stuck under the radiator in the living room. Though I vacuum twice a day, I hadn’t seen it. Until last week. Now it’s thrown out and the space is clear, just as it should be. That feels like everything that’s happening with me. It’s hard, and it hurts, and it’s for a longer than I wanted it to be season. But there is goodness, and beauty, all around us at every eye level, just waiting to be seen. And while I worry about the impact all my sitting is leaving on my leather couch, I’m overjoyed at the effect the change of scenery is having on me.
Fifteen minutes of standing felt worthy of applause yesterday. Today, my whole life feels worth cheering.