Many moments of many days, I feel tired, annoyed with my kids’ tantrums, or like I’m just going through the motions. I’m not a negative person – I’m an extremely happy person and I laugh A LOT because life is infused with moments of complete hilarity, ridiculousness, and pure joy. But some days I look at those really contrived “Blessed” themed posts on Insta or Facebook and I want to gag, wondering if the person posting is REALLY walking around feeling blessed all damn day. I just don’t get it. At least, I didn’t before. Feeling gratitude has always been very much a concerted effort for me. I mean, it’s always there, but it’s hard to feel sometimes. I’ve found I have to be very much in the moment to be truly grateful, and that can be hard to accomplish when surrounded by the chaos of young children or on days when you feel like you just can’t get it together no matter how hard you try.
Just over a week ago, I had a wake up call. It hasn’t changed me (because I don’t think people change overnight), but it’s changed my perspective. I checked myself into the hospital with crippling stomach pain on Wednesday evening, thinking maybe I had gall stones or God forbid gas pains and I’d be sent home with my tail between my legs. Turns out listening to my gut instinct that something just wasn’t right was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. (Our gut instincts are GOOD. Trust them.) After arriving, I had an ultrasound and CAT scan and was quickly seen by the ER doctor. He told me they saw a blockage in my large intestine and that the surgeon would follow up. He left in a rush and I sat there with a fuzzy-morphine-dozy brain thinking, “Surgeon? WTF?” I was so out of it or so in denial I couldn’t figure out why I’d need to talk to a surgeon. Then he arrived a moment later and told me that I had what looked like a twisted intestine and it could be a potentially life threatening condition depending on the severity. He said I needed immediate emergency surgery because they had to see exactly what was going on and repair the damage. Still deep in a morphine stupor, I asked the surgeon if he was sure. (Yes, I had the BALLS or more likely the stupidity to question the professionalism of one of the best surgeons around.) He rolled his eyes, revealing his arrogance (which is a little appreciated in a surgeon about to open you up), repeated the words “life threatening condition” slowly and purposefully, said he was sure, then went on to conference call DC to tell him exactly what was going on. I told them both I needed time to process and decide. He again rolled his eyes and told me not to take my time because this wasn’t elective. I still didn’t succumb. I insisted I needed time.
I didn’t realize the severity of the situation I was in. Yeah, I heard what he said but I didn’t hear it because I didn’t want to. I couldn’t believe what he was saying was true. I’ve been fit and healthy my whole life, I’ve never had surgery never mind been hospitalized for anything. I sat there for literally 3 minutes then my
fear and confusion turned to panic and I rang the ER nurse, asking her what she thought about all of this. I needed another perspective. DC was fueled by fear as was I (plus morphine high) so we weren’t thinking clearly. I’ve watched ER, Grey’s, Scrubs so naturally I know all about surgeons. 😉 I figured because he’s a surgeon he just loves to operate so he’d be partial to that solution. The nurse on call was kind,
compassionate, and understanding of my fear. She gently told me the surgeon was right, that I needed surgery and wasn’t going to be released. She also told me if it were her she’d do it immediately. This hit home so, not even 10 minutes after the surgeon had left, I begged my nurse to find him and bring him back so I could tell him I’d changed my mind. Of course, she returned to tell me that someone else with an even more dire emergency had just arrived so I’d have to wait until 7am. I spent the night on pain killers yet still fitfully tossing and turning and terrified for the next morning. I thought about my kids and couldn’t remember if I’d kissed them goodbye before leaving to drive myself to the hospital. I worried about if they’d be good the next day for the nanny we’d set up the night before. I worried about what the doctors may find when they went in for surgery and hoped it could be just a scope. My life felt like it was unfolding in a way it wasn’t supposed to. I couldn’t understand why this was happening or grasp that it was real. I don’t know if I slept.
Next morning, DC got there minutes before I was wheeled off for surgery. I’d love to say I was stoic and brave but I WAS. NOT. I was terrified, breathing heavy and thinking about my two little boys with tears in my eyes as they put me under. When I awoke, I couldn’t speak or move. I felt paralyzed by pain. DC was at my side squeezing my hand and told me they’d saved my life. That I’d had a strangulated large intestine: it was called a foramen of winslow, was genetic, and was incredibly rare. Essentially, I’d had a massive hernia that my intestines had actually become tangled up in. Over a foot of large intestine had been gangrenous or near gangrene. He reported that the surgeons acted quickly, cut about a 4″ incision from just below my bellybutton up my stomach and removed over a foot of ascending large colon and my appendix (which was also strangled) and repaired the hernia, among other things I’m still struggling to understand. I begged for more morphine and was refused because I was maxed out (I like drugs, okay?) then passed out.
I’m so lucky I had some of the best medical care in South Florida or I could be dealing with a colostomy bag the rest of my life (it was a very real and devastating possibility going into surgery) or
worse, not here. Shockingly, now knowing the severity of the situation that was also a very real possibility. Instead, I’m healing well and even got to return home to my boys after 5 days in hospital to see their sweet, petulant, hilarious, cranky faces every day. My mom flew down the first chance she got and has been waiting hand and foot on me, my boys, and DC. A few f bombs have been thrown (that’s where I get it from) and she says she’ll never get used to tackling my toddler Van for evening diaper changes. DC himself has been my own personal assistant, working well beyond full time hours (for me and his actual work) and still being dad of the year. Every morning this week I’ve woken up in my own bed and have felt truly happy as sunshine beams through my window. When I was in hospital waiting for surgery I thought about my life like a slideshow and asked myself if I was satisfied with how it looked thus far. I felt warm, satisfied, but very much unfinished. I am happy to say I am very much unfinished and have so much more to do here. Since being home, I look at my 7 month old Gunnar’s adorable face as he smiles at me and tears well up as I imagine a life in which he didn’t know his mommy. I just feel complete and utter gratitude like never before. I don’t know how long this feeling of complete gratitude will last but I do think that whenever things get tough, as they very surely will and already have, if I can bring myself back to this place – to this feeling – I will be able to feel gratitude in any moment. As for those posts, now I get it.