To the parents in the hospital waiting room

I saw you sitting there this morning.  Holding your child as you waited to get checked in, trying to smile and keep your baby cheerful so he wouldn’t be nervous.  I saw you as you were called back over and over. Please fill out these forms. Do you have any questions? Let’s check your child’s vitals. Do you have any questions? It’s time for pre-op, please come this way. I saw you grab your stuff, roll your stroller or pick up your child.  I saw the nervous determination on your face. I could hear your inner voice. I hate this. Why does it have to be this way? We’re going to get through this.

check-in

I saw you in pre-op. The wait was so long, although you could see the nurses and doctors working around you. There were so many kids there, all with their own stories, their own hurts and their own fears. I saw you smile through the worry as your child laughed at a nurse blowing bubbles. I saw the gratitude on your face that she was being so compassionate when your son refused to wear the hospital’s gown.

preop

Nurses came by, anesthesiologists and doctors dropped in. All were nice, all tried to put you at ease, all smiled at your child. What a cute kid! Do you have any questions? No. I just want to leave and take my child home. I want to have never had to come here. All you said was, no, no questions.

preop-rocking

I saw you rocking your baby, trying to keep both of you calm in such an unfamiliar environment. I saw your husband rub your daughter’s back, and try to distract her with a funny video on his phone.

After what seemed like both forever and too short of time, they came to take your little one away. I saw the struggle on your face. That last tight hug, that last kiss as you handed your child to a stranger. It didn’t matter that the nurse had a smile on her face – you didn’t know her. She wasn’t you. You were no longer in control. I saw you hold the tears back when you heard a cry, then grab your husband’s hand.

I saw you watch until the last moment as they walked your baby away. Then you turned, gathered your things, and walked to the waiting room.

I saw you sit. You arranged your bags and your child’s things just so. You bowed your head in prayer, and then you sat. There was nothing left to do.

I saw you try to distract yourself by talking to other people in the waiting room. I saw you try to rest, try to read and try to not stare at the surgery screen. I saw the hope leap in your eyes every time someone with scrubs would walk in, then quietly die when they called someone else’s name. I saw you look out the window or text on your phone as you continued to wait.

hobbes-waiting2

readingwaiting-sleepingwaiting-toy

When they finally called your name, I saw you hurry to the doctor to talk. I saw you nod and hold your husband’s hand. I saw you grab your stuff and leave again with intense relief and anticipation on your face.

You made your way to recovery where you could finally see your child again. It didn’t matter what the outcome of the surgery was at the moment, you were only focused on holding that warm little body close to you. You nodded at the instructions. Do you have any questions? You examined the lines and tubes and sensors attached to your kid and hugged him closer. You rocked and rocked and rocked.

recovery-close-up

As you were finally released to go home you looked back at the waiting room. You looked at the kind faces of the hospital staff, the children in wheel chairs and the parents with determined looks on their faces. I see you, you thought. You’re going to get through this.

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