Surgery has become an ordinary thing in modern times, especially the surgery my son had this week, but there’s brutality lurking behind the banal :

I handed him over to be cut. I gave him up, for a short time, to doctors and nurses, and he suffered. Continues to suffer. We as parents calculate the odds, percentages swirling, chance of benefit, risk ratios, but it doesn’t really matter, because for us caregivers, reality bleeds and blunts to black and white. Surgery will either help, or it won’t. There will be complications, or not.

None of us can escape pain in life, yet the insistent pulse of motherhood drums into our bodies and brains to try, try, try to shelter our children from it, or at least fend it off as long as possible. These instincts run deep. What miracle is this that allows a relaxing of our clutching, clawed fists? That gives us strength to our head high while we hand over our kids, hands slightly tremulous? We inform in solemn whispers that they will open their bodies to medicine, we plead for the doctors to injure them so that our babies may be well, to inflict pain so our kids may prosper. Even agnostics like myself feel a strange faith in these moments, one that helps us kiss and sigh and let go.

For my son, surgery was a success. He continues to heal but he is no longer on oxygen. Proof of benefit, the ends justifying the means, or so it seems.

I try to exhale.

4 thoughts on “post-op

  1. John Eden

    Whoo. Strong stuff. My wife’s son is facing surgery for a heart defect. He’s six, but the feelings are the same. Fear, hopefullness, all that you so beautifully express here. Thanks. She was scheduled to take him for a consult tomorrow, but cancelled, so it’s coming up next month. I’m still a little teary, so hard to type. So glad to be hearing from you. Remember to breathe! A friend said that to me last week, and it helps.

    1. bornbyariver Post author

      My son had open heart surgery last year (repair of large VSD and PDA). It’s tough but in his case was totally smooth and successful. I wish the same for your stepson.


    Thank you for sharing your most intimate concerns and for your deep love for Henry.

    The photographs ! You and Henry are so present.

    Love you all


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