Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Most Exquisite Joy and Pain

When people talk about their children, then often say that their most exquisite joys AND pains in life come from dealing with their children and their problems. As this month and year draws to a close, I can attest to this.

I had a feeling that December would be dangerous. But I thought it would be because of the candy, chocolate and sweets and all the negative things that result from making merry with food over the holidays. It wasn't that at all.

It's been a ________ month. I leave the space blank because there are too many adjectives to choose just one. It's been a month of stark contrasts. Ups and downs, highs and lows, despair and joy, anxiety and contentment. To pick even a few descriptive words would not do this month justice.

I know it's been insane because I haven't done half the stuff I usually do in December. I only realized this on Christmas Day, after it was far to late to engage in any traditional, nostalgic activities. I just kind of sat there, stunned by how different this year had been.

There was no baking or treat-making. I didn't read "The House Without a Christmas Tree," a book I've read every year of my life since I was 12 or so. I didn't check out any Christmas books at the library for the kids. We barely made a dent in any of our own huge stash of holiday books.

I didn't watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" or "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," my two favorite Christmas classics. I got to the part in "Christmas Story" where Ralphie has just shattered his glasses shooting his new BB gun. Then something else got in the way. So I missed the "Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra" part. Bummer.

The thing was, I didn't even care. Really. I was sad about those things for about one second, and then I realized the beautiful gift I'd been given instead.

It started with my shoulder surgery on December 9. I spent about three days in a pain med fog. I don't remember much of what anyone said or did during that time. I don't remember anything that my daughter Adrienne told me during those few days. Could I have done anything to help her if I had registered what was going on? She wasn't feeling well and was trying to study for finals and was agitated and anxious.

By the 15th I was feeling good and I was up and around, but then Adrienne snapped, broke down, and crashed, and our whole family was shaken in the aftershocks. Thus began the sleepless nights, the intense worry, and hours of conversations between Darren and me where we sat, sifting, sorting and asking questions.

It is interesting how men and women differ in their approach to crisis. Darren responded by actively trying to define and explain our daughter's problems through research and talking to people. Let's take care of the problem. Let's solve it. Let's get through this.

I would talk to people and then would feel completely overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of the issues. The more talking I did, the more muddled and foggy I felt. Ideas and thoughts bounced around in my head like a pinball, back and forth, over, under, through, and then around all over again. EXQUISITE PAIN.

And like many women might, I wondered how a mother could miss such an elephant in her daughter's closet and proceeded to flog myself with a guilt-infused whip.

Our one commonality was deep love for our daughter, and our desires to make everything better. This time it would take much more than a Band Aid and a kiss. I couldn't pull her into my lap and help her fall to sleep nor could I even be with her for a period of days.

There were the two nights of valium that shut my brain off. It couldn't take being awake anymore.

And the day when she was home with us, back in our house. EXQUISITE JOY. All within a week.

Then Christmas came. We were together. I didn't care about anything other than that.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Surgery Jitters

Hi all,

It's been a good long while. I seemed to have fallen out of the blogosphere and let real life take over for some reason. Don't know exactly why.

So I have this problem shoulder. It's about as trustworthy as me actually following through on my new year's resolutions. I dislocated it AND injured it about 18 months ago when I fell into a rock bed in the middle of the night trying to get to the outhouse on a youth campout. Since then it has been playing games with me. It's very clever.

For example, a year ago it popped out of the socket and I endured five days of serious pain until it was finally put back. It was so far out and had been so long out that I actually had to have general anesthesia in the operating room to get it back in.

I was finally starting to trust it again because it had been behaving so well for an entire year! Then last month it decided to pop out again while I was exercising. See what happens when I try to be good and exercise? I wonder why I even try.

There I am doing the squat machine. POP! "Uh, Lynnette, (my friend and exercise partner) I have just located my shoulder and we need to leave right now and got get it put it back in."

Lynnette drove me to the doctor's and waited with me for nearly two hours until Dr. Mortensen was available to put it back in. By the time she had to leave Darren was there to watch and support and go for pain meds. We thought all was well. While taking an ex-ray to be sure in was in the right place, it popped out again. Dr. Moretensen prescribed some Lortab and said he'd be back in an hour to get it back in--which he did.

An MRI a few days later showed that the ligaments around the Labrum (the socket that holds the bone where it's supposed to be) are all ripped and torn and floating around. We opted to have surgery to repair it in January because it was just going to keep on coming out. I wanted to avoid being laid-up during the holidays.

So last Sunday I was leaning on the bench at breakfast and it popped right back out. "Ha, ha, ha, aren't I funny?" it seemed to say. This time I had to go to the ER to get it put back in because it was Sunday and Dr. Mortensen was probably teaching Gospel Doctrine at church. That took most of Sunday morning. We opted to move up the surgery since the likelihood of it dislocating again randomly was HIGH. Read: dangerously high.

I could just see myself ripping open a gift on Christmas morning, and ripping my shoulder right out of the socket if we didn't take care of it sooner. I didn't want to spend Christmas day in the ER.

People are treating me like a china doll at home and work. My students at work ask me why I'm not wearing my sling. People run to open doors for me. They ask if they can carry things for me. This is nice, but I feel like an old lady. The next thing you know they'll be shouting because they think I'm hard of hearing.

So, Wednesday I go under the knife, whoops, I mean scope. I get to come home the same day if all goes well. I get to wear a sling day and night for 4-6 weeks. I get to have two months of physical therapy after that. Along about April I should be back to normal, though it may be more like June.

I've never had surgery before, but I'm not worried about the surgery or subsequent pain. I am good at dealing with pain. I can tolerate a lot of pain. I had three out of four natural childbirths! (Sorry that was totally irrelevant, but I just needed a brief self-esteem boost!) I am worried, however, about wearing a sling for four to six weeks. I am worried that I will not be able to bear that burden.

It might help to think of some pros in this situation (if there are any). It might be nice to relax before Christmas and just sit around the house, and not run around all crazy and insane. It will be nice to have family and friends available to help. And of course the sooner it's done, the sooner my life goes back to the way it was before my injury. That's a plus.

Lessons I've learned from this:

1. Never get up in the middle of the night to use the outhouse when you are camping with teenagers, not even if you think the dam's about to burst OR FOR ANY OTHER REASON.

2. If you must go, camp right next to the outhouse.

3. Never go to a youth conference that involves camping.

4. Never decorate above your cupboards by pulling yourself up to get stuff up there. Bo-ing! Pop goes the shoulder!

5. Never decorate higher than you can reach.

6. Never decorate.

7. Never do the squat machine at Curves. Only do machines that work the lower body.

6. Never exercise.

7. Never get an ex-ray immediately following your shoulder reduction (put back in the socket procedure).

8. Never lean on the bench during breakfast while you are reaching for a napkin.

9. Above all, never think you can outwit, outmaneuver or manipulate your shoulder in any way. It is going to do exactly what it wants to mess up your life.