Harry recently had planned surgery on his eye socket and as ever, I found myself with time on my hands as I waited for him to return to the ward. I sat in the café and then at the side of the hospital bed and I got thinking about all the times I had been here. Waiting for another kiss with my boy. (Read ‘is no surgery ever not an option‘ for a bit more info on my reasons for such invasive surgeries for my boy)
Although I had known the operation was coming for weeks there were still aspects of my stay there that I had totally forgotten about. Today, I want to share those aspects of being a mum at the side of your child’s hospital bed that you’re always prepared for, and the things that you forget until you are in the middle of it all (probably a defence mechanism seeing as though gin isn’t allowed on the ward!)
The things I remembered I would be doing…
- Interpreting the numbers on the machines at the side of the bed and understanding to a degree what they meant rather than feeling overwhelmed and scared as I had when I first encountered them as they monitored my new born baby.
- Listening to the variety of regular noises on the ward through the day and night. Rhythmic and soothing when I zone out. Relentless and torturous if I focus on it.
- Consuming a ridiculous amount of food as I wait for news. I swear that hospitals have their own time zone and I never know when its time to eat so I constantly graze. While I waited to hear that I could collect Harry from the recovery room I shamelessly consumed a chicken baguette, iced finger, crisps, salmon and cream cheese sandwich, jacket potato with tuna and cheese, chicken and bacon sandwich and family sized bag of haribos (I did drink loads of water though instead of Ribena which helps a bit #NotReally)
- Appreciating the kindness of NHS staff – the gentle nudge in the night to offer me a pillow as I slept on the chair, the smiles and the quiet nods of understanding and reassurance. So many reasons!
- Being called ‘Mum’ all the time by staff and sharing a ward full of others who share the same title although few other similarities.
- Interacting with those other mum’s. In the short term exchanging half smiles with weary strangers and in the longer term getting to know them, their children and journeys and creating an unofficial magazine swap shop!
- Taking deep breaths on the long walk to theatre at the side of the hospital bed as I hold my boy’s hand. A familiar part of our journey now.
- Clock watching as the hours crawl past in between handing my child over and kissing his forehead again. If there was a Guinness world record for the amount of times someone can look at their watch and say “has it only been 5 minutes?” I think I would hold the title.
But then there are other aspects of the hospital stay that I had forgotten until it was happening…
- Just how much I would hate sleeping on the world’s most uncomfortable reclining chair under a flimsy blanket.
- The smell coming from my boy as I got close enough to kiss his head –clinical with a hint of damaged flesh and congealing blood. Sour and heavy.
- My urge to go and talk with the babies who stay in the ward on their own overnight. I am NOT judging by the way here. I know that many parents stay in the accommodation provided or live close enough to go home to the other children that might need them overnight but seeing a child without a loved one at their side always pulls on my heart strings.
- The lights that have to stay on overnight. I understand why but I love the comfort of darkness at home and it’s a bit of a pain when even closing your eyelids doesn’t block out the lights.
- The sounds of other children. I lie on high alert for any noises Harry may make anyway so my brain has a way of making me aware of every other child’s noises, snuffles or cries through the night (often as mine sleeps soundly!)
- The heat. Ugh the heat.
- The feeling of being utterly grubby the next morning. Having some sort of shower, eating some attempt at breakfast from my handbag and brushing my teeth in the shared bathroom. Its one of the reasons I just couldn’t do an overnight festival (portaloos is another reason). I hate that feeling of not being properly clean.
- The endless wait the next morning for the doctors rounds where I can chat with the consultant and find out exactly what went on during the procedure and how long until we are released back into the world
- And then, when the consultant says you can go home the wait for the discharge letter is painful. There is a tangible tension as you wait to hear those 5 little words “ok you can leave now” in the same way that the anticipation to race forms after hearing “on your marks…get set…”
Having said that, much like the memory of half term for teachers by 9.15am on the first day back, it doesn’t take much to forget the time spent in hospital. In my case, usually a couple of nights in my own bed, several large gins and my body weight in cheese (my house has its own time zone too!)
On a side note, its really important to me that I thank the staff and consultants at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool. Not ever operation is as straight forward as Harrys was this time. Not ever Mother is as lucky as me to be able to take their child home again and I know that its incredibly emotive to be trust your child in someone else’s hands but speaking purely for myself and Harrys Dad I have to say that Alder Hey have been outstanding and I am incredibly grateful to them for all that they have done for my boy.