We recently embarked on Hummingbird's journey of having an innie navel from an outie navel. At her yearly exam this past summer, our pediatrician detected a teeny tiny hernia and recommended that she have umbilical hernia surgery. I was a bit apprehensive but upon researching the topic, the surgery would be a preventive measure, lessening future complications.
Surgery, huh? Neither of my kids had ever had anything that was serious enough to have surgery. It was great that the surgery would be an outpatient procedure, so no overnight hospital stay. And she would be back to her normal self within a short time frame. I knew that I didn't want to freak her out with my anxiety, so to help us both, I decided to take a more calmer approach.
My approach involved the following:
Talking to her about the procedure:
- Months before the surgery, I explained what would happen. I made sure that I pointed out that she is normal. A lot of kids may feel like something is wrong with them, so it's important to lay the foundation of them being normal. In Hummingbird's case, I explained that there would be a tiny incision/cut in order for the physician to help her belly button grow inward. You'd be amazed at what our kids actually understand! These discussions paid off in the long run, Hummingbird was soon telling everybody about her surgery. She even gave a 2 minute speech at Girl Scouts about growing up to be a "belly button doctor"!
- Before the consultation appointment, we went online to see a picture of the physician who would be doing the surgery. This helped Hummingbird put a face on the person who would be touching her.
- At the physician's recommendation, we took a before picture so that Hummingbird could compare it to the after picture.
- We acknowledged all of the other kids at the physician's office who were having the same procedure done. This made her feel like she was part of a secret group, she felt included instead of isolated.
- Discussed her missing a day of school. I am a stickler for my kids not missing days of school. So, when scheduling this procedure, I made sure to schedule during a school break. The surgery was on a Monday, school was out Monday and Tuesday. I gave her an extra day, Wednesday, just to be sure she was good. With her procedure, recovery time really depends on the kid, Now, trust me, she could have gone back on Monday evening if the school was open at that time!
Talking to her about her fears:
- MonkeyMan and I made sure to acknowledge her feelings. Many parents mask things that a kid would otherwise understand if certain words and voice tones are used. The surgery was REAL and I didn't want to pretend that it wasn't.
- Hummingbird was really worried about feeling the incision being made, that she would be sore afterwards. I confirmed with here that she would be sore but it would subside. I explained that she would be asleep during the actual surgery. Why did I say that?!?!? This, of course, led to an even more terrifying topic: ANESTHESIA!
- Anesthesia was the hardest thing for her to accept. This kid had never had anything more terrifying other than her annual flu shot! I explained that I would be in the room with her while the doctor put a mask on her face, so that all she would have to do is breathe.
Here's what we talked about and what happened on the day of the surgery:
- We let her pick out what blanket or stuffed animals she wanted to bring. This is important because a kid's favorite blanket or stuffed animal can bring a sense of comfort in moments of unrest/confusion/anxiety. Even though this was an outpatient procedure, having those comfort things there in recovery made a difference.
- We asked what Netflix movies she wanted to watch once we got home after the surgery. Somehow, I knew she would relish the idea of being waited on! But this gave her something to look forward to, a time when she would be the center of attention.
- I reassured her that I would be there as she fell asleep. Now, I wish it went as sweatless as the preceding sentence sounds. Hummingbird was overtaken by anxiety as we walked into the procedure room. But I was there holding her hand. Didn't stop her from throwing a few punches at the anesthesiologist when he tried placing the mask over her face! My girl, not going down without a fight! And with one deep breath, she was O-U-T.
- Her dad and his family were there as well. I kept him informed, this was my effort to forge a positive co-parenting opportunity. This helped Hummingbird as well, kids like it when big folks play nice! This surgery was about her well being, not any disagreements we may have had.
Now, here's some major parental to do's to ensure a positive experience:
- Keep it together. Easier said than done. This is key because kids feed off of their parents. If I showed any anxiety or fear, Hummingbird would have picked up on that and reacted the same way.
- Understand every part of the surgery. We have rights that the hospital staff must abide by. Don't be afraid to ask questions, even if you think it's dumb.
- Admit our fears. I was nervous. No one wants to see their kid in pain or discomfort or anxiety ridden. I acknowledged my fears, prayed and felt peace afterwards. My prayers actually started on the day the physician first noticed the teeny tiny hernia. That day, the foundation for a successful surgery and recovery was laid.
One week later, you would never know that Hummingbird had surgery. The innie is healing properly, follow up is in a few weeks. Funny how when she's feeling well, which means she is all over the place, I want peace and quiet. But when's she's not feeling well, I would love to hear the noise...well, maybe just a teeny tiny bit of the noise!
Have you ever experienced any surgeries or sicknesses with your kids? For surgeries, how did you prepare them? For when they're sick, how do you keep their spirits up? How do you take care of yourself during that time?