The sobs do not let up for a good half hour. 40 minutes. He weeps uncontrollably. "How could I let them take him away?" his sobs shout. "How could I let them stick him with needles?" they demand. They accuse me in no uncertain terms. "How could I let them put him under? And how could I not be there when he woke up from surgery?"
I rock, rock, rock the damn rocker like I'm riding a bucking bronco. Finally, he begins to calm. This is the day I've been dreading forever. It's not his fault. Entirely my decision that he has undergone surgery. His blocked tear duct was supposed to mend itself by the time he turned a year old. The doctors showed me how to push the creamy goop out of his eye, in the hopes of healing without surgery. But at 18 months, he still awoke with the lid crusted closed, puss weeping out of the duct all day. His little hands perpetually rubbing it such that his eyelid became raw and red. I decided to pursue the alternative option: minor surgery.
I know it was the right decision, but no one described to me the feeling of watching them walk him away from me to the operating room on his own, oblivious of what lies ahead. Strangers taking him. No one told me how the seconds would feel like hours sitting there in the waiting room. No one told me how fear increases exponentially along with the terrors of one's imagination: what if they give him too much anaesthetic? Would he die? Could they accidentally blind him? Stupid, irrational fears flying through his mama's head while he is unconscious. I almost cannot breathe sitting there alone drinking cold coffee. Not caring that the sandwich I packed is now stale, tasteless. Who can eat? Why did I do this to him? I am a cruel, thoughtless mommy to make him go in there alone so young and have them strap him down. Stick him with needles. Maybe we should have waited...
This moment, I can honestly say, is perhaps the first time since before he was born I have felt so acutely the absence of a spouse. I accept I'm a single parent. I don't think about it much. Generally, I don't have time to dwell on it. I just handle it. There's no self-pity involved or anything. It was my decision to pursue motherhood on my own. I'm a strong person. I'm his rock. But this moment. Sitting here in the waiting room. I am a puddle. Powerless. Vulnerable. How I long for a hand to hold mine at this moment, to reassure me. To comfort me. To share the burden of missing him, worrying over him. I'm a wreck. A total fucking mess, sitting here. What have I done to my poor little boy making such a huge decision on his behalf?
His hysteria when I arrive in recovery only exacerbates my guilt.
After an hour we are transferred to another recovery room and I lie back on the hospital bed as he clings to me, his sobs starting to slow, to quieten. Gradually they become softer, more infrequent, as exhaustion and stress surrender to slumber. He curls his body as close to mine as he possibly can and the catches in breath finally morph to tiny, purring snores. We lie there for another hour before I gently remove the hospital's striped pajamas and dress him for the stroll home.
Post surgery. Finally asleep.
His nose continues to bleed, a normal symptom of this particular surgery. He is drowsy walking around the kitchen. Still unstable, like a drunken sailor, weaving around the legs of the table. But he is smiling and giggling, giddy to be home again.
This is the first time his right eye has been clear since he was born. I note that his eyelashes are shorter on that lid. They have not had the chance to spread and grow as long and lush as those on the left eyelid. Perhaps now they'll have their chance to bloom.
Tonight I let him fall asleep in my bed, intent on assuring him I won't abandon him anytime soon again.
The next morning he wakes. His right nostril is crusted with blood, but his right eye is clear and his little fingers touch it momentarily in surprise. He realizes he does not need to finger the crust from his lashes. He opens both eyes no problem. He can see. All the stress of the previous day is worth it somehow.
I look deep into his irises, smile and say, "hi." He repeats it back to me. This is the first time ever he says "hi" back. It is as though he is acknowledging that this is the first moment he feels fully present. He can see out of both eyes. He is invincible. "Hi," he whispers shyly, smiling up at me. As if to say, "I see you now. You're my mama. Hi!"
My throat catches. "Gimme a kiss," I say. He throws his arms round my neck and touches his forehead to my lips. The blood from his nostril marks my breast. It's territorial.
"You are mine," it says.
"Don't leave me again, Mama," it says.
It says, "I forgive you."
"You made the right decision."
"Thank you," it says.
My lips form those two words, too, as they kiss the top of his pate.
"Thank you," they whisper.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Clean pair of eyes.
Music: David Gray, A Clean Pair of Eyes