Surgery day was the day I had been dreading for a month. I spent the day and night before spending as much time as possible with Connor - caressing and kissing his head and trying to memorize every nuance of it. I planned and packed and got myself and the family as prepared as I could for surgery and then a possible week with me in the hospital.
Connor had to sense the stress. Before surgery he could eat for the last time at 2am. I, the eternal procrastinator, got finished prepping and in bed after 11pm. I tossed and turned a bit but finally dozed off to have Connor wake up at 1am to eat. After getting back in bed I debated if I should keep my alarm set to feed him again in 45 minutes to make sure he got as much as he could or just let him sleep. I decided on the latter only to have Connor back awake at ~2:15. And he was crankyyy! Because I couldn't just nurse him back to sleep - and didn't want him to spend the night before surgery crying in his bed, I rocked and soothed and consoled, all to no avail. He had to have felt my stress and was stressed out himself. All I kept thinking as he cried in my ear was that I was already exhausted, and had a huge day ahead of us, and could not imagine how I would make it through it all successfully if I truly got no sleep.
Glenn and I took turns trying to get him settled and finally got him back to sleep and back in bed just after 4am. Our alarm went off around 4:30am so that we could get ready and be at the hospital by 6. Glenn must not have been feeling it because he promptly turned the alarm off. I rolled over and opened my eyes thinking that it seemed a bit lighter out than I expected and found that it was 5:34 - about 20 minutes later than we had planned on leaving. Thankfully I was ready to go and with no traffic on 64, Glenn made it to UVA in record time. Though the drive seemed like an eternity. Leaving the house in such a rush only added to my anxiety. I couldn't help but think that I forgot something and was so worried that the way things were going was some sort of sign of how the rest of the day was going to go.
It was such an emotional ride. As we exited the interstate I lost it. I just did not want to do this. Part of me wanted them to tell us we couldn't have surgery that day because we were too late. It was all so overwhelming. They took us right up the the pre-op staging area where they took the last of the info we needed and each team - anesthesiology, plastic surgery & neurosurgery - came in to go over everything and answer any final questions. I didn't want Connor to feel how upset I was, but I was so aware that this was the last time I would see my boy this way. That the blonde hair I loved to stroke was getting ready to be shaved off. That these were the last moments that I would see him in his original state. And there was the part I didn't even acknowledge - that this was a huge surgery, and that there was always the risk that this would be the last time I saw him at all. I had to hand him over and trust that these strangers really were going to take care of him like he was their own. Even writing about it now makes me cry. I was able to pull it together and get through all the questions and then I had to hand him over. I tried to be as happy as I could be - making silly faces and saying a million I love yous - but seeing him carried away felt like my heart being ripped from my chest. A feeling I hope I don't have to experience again.
The waiting was agonizing. They had prepared me that they would put him to sleep first and then do all the prep including his IV's and central line, and that it would take some time before surgery would actually start. They called the waiting room around 9am to let me know that they had begun the actual surgery. It was like reopening a wound - and my worry flared up again. Thankfully we had great friends and family to keep us company. And there was a board showing all the surgeries by number and operating room, color coded to show where they were - pre-op, in surgery, in recovery, etc. It at least gave me something to focus on. But the time seemed to drag on.
As a nursing mom, I also had to find somewhere to pump. So they let me go to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) to the room he would be in, to pump. While I was in there, Dr. Jane, the neurosurgeon - who has to be one of the nicest doctors I've worked with for either of my boys - called my cell phone to update me and let me know that his part of the surgery (the removal) had gone well and that the plastic surgeons were working their magic. He has such a calming demeanor, and reassured me that Connor was doing great, and I could feel myself relax a little. He also told me he thought they'd be done around noon - almost 3 hours sooner than he had previously predicted. That was the boost I needed.
We anxiously watched the board and a little over an hour later saw his color change and got the call that he was out of surgery and we could go see him in the PICU. It took everything I had not to run right up there. I just wanted to get my hands on my boy. When we got to see him he was starting to swell and already looked different - his head was noticeably rounder and he had blood still on his face and what looked like blood tears coming from his eyes. He had monitors on his chest, an IV in his foot and hand and a central line in his neck. In that moment Glenn and I switched roles. He had been so calm and reassuring every time I cried this last month, but then lost it as soon as he saw him. Really everyone did. He was so pitiful looking but for me he was okay and I could kiss him and rub him and all my fears went away. We had finally made it to the other side.