By: Martianne Stanger
I was not a year into motherhood when I faced my first surgery as a mom, which, thankfully went smoothly for my child.
Then, through the years, I have navigated several more surgeries for my children and one for my husband, too.
So, you’d think I’d be an old pro at the surgery thing.
Not at all.
Indeed, all past experience and calm went out the window when I recently faced a surgery for myself,
Where I had developed a sense of practiced peace about being the caretaker for a loved on having surgery, the idea of being the one on the table myself brought with it a totally unexpected set of emotions, concerns, and needs.
In fact, in the weeks prior to my surgery, I found myself coming close to canceling it out of sheer concern about “what if”s and “how will I ever”s? Then, post-surgery, I was surprised by just how much energy it takes for a body to complete inner healing even when the worst of the physical pain ceases.
Seriously, I had no idea how tiring a half an hour of tasks I normally would not bat an eyelash at could be.
Luckily, before, during, and after surgery, I have been surrounded by kind-hearted family and friends, who are generous in prayer and practical helps which have made a world of difference for me.
If you know someone headed for surgery to whom you would like to extend comfort and help, following the lead of my loved ones could be worthwhile.
Here are ten things I have been enormously grateful for:
1. Prayer and Well Wishes: This one is sort of a no-brainer, but, calls, private messages, and cards which let me know I was being prayed for and thought of meant a lot. My priest even prayed over me when I asked him for a special appointment for Reconciliation in the days prior to my surgery. His prayers and the prayers of other – especially at the specific time of my surgery – brought me such strength and comfort.
Getting a surprise Get Well card in the mail with further offerings of prayers in it also lifted my spirits on a particularly disheartening recovery day. Personal snail mail is rare these days and can bring such smiles!
2. Cleaning Help: I have multiple shortcomings, and, one of them is my homemaking skills. Although my children and I do chores daily, with everything else that goes on, time for decluttering often gets pushed aside, and “hot spots” and “disaster areas” in my home pile up.
As my surgery neared, I was extra worried about not being able to lift and move things for weeks after surgery and was also concerned about the possibility of having to have caretakers come to my home if the surgeon found things worse inside my body than we hoped they would be.
Knowing this, several friends made time to come to my house in the week prior to my surgery in order to give me a hand clearing some hot spots, going a deep clean of my front room, and attending to sundry tasks that often get let go. This was such a huge gift!
Had friends not come, I may succumbed to worry, but not sustained energy and focus to work on my home. Their compassionate ears, non-judgmental eyes, and helping hands made such a differences to me. Having some surfaces, nooks, and crannies clearer and cleaner before surgery – and having someone to talk and listen to while working – brought me so much peace!
3. Taking my children: The day prior to my surgery, I had to stay home to do a dreaded bowel cleanse. I did not want my children subjected to witnessing any potential discomfort with that, so, kindly, a friend took my children for the day. As I waited for the vile drink I had to down to kick in, knowing that my children were immersed in fun with friends instead of inordinate worry for me brought me calm.
Then, my folks took my children the night before my surgery through the morning two days after it, which allowed me the joy of knowing my children were loved and well-cared for while also allowing my husband to concentrate on caring for me instead of calming or carting around our children.
Better still, while my mom had my children, she asked my sister – who owns a hair shop – for hair appointments for the kids. My sister and her staff were only too happy to gift us with their services, which proved such a blessing. For, in the weeks leading up to my surgery, my boys had been in serious need of haircuts and my daughter a trim, but I had not been able to find time and focus to make such things happen. I was so delighted with my parents’ and sister’s initiative – not only caring for my children, but crossing a task off my post surgery list, too!
And similar gifts kept coming.
After my surgery, a friend swung by to take my children sledding one day, which was such a blessing!
My children had been great about “being stuck” at home, pitching in extra, and caring for me. They understood why I could not take them out and I appreciated their help and consideration, but I also felt badly about the sheer lack of social time and fun my young nursemaids were experiencing. So, I was delighted to have one friend pick them up and other friends join them for fresh air, exercise, and fun on a local sledding hill. (Admittedly, I also relished having some time by myself without having anyone about or feeling like I was burdening anyone.)
4. Dropping by with meals: Both before and after my surgery, friends randomly dropped by with homemade meals for my husband, children, and I to reheat. Better still, they made sure these meals were compliant with our dietary needs. What a blessing to have nutritious, delicious food for easy eats!
5. Delivering groceries: Another of my friends knows that I crave freshly made smoothies packed with produce and that my children enjoy and are capable of making simple, nutritious meals, so she snuck by one morning to drop bags of perfectly picked groceries for us. I was not only grateful for her kindness, but moved by how well she knows my children and me and how she managed to pick out the absolutely perfect foods to restock our pantry, fridge, and freezer.
6. Offering rides: Friends and family called and offered me rides to appointments and children’s activities – sometimes out of the blue. The fact that others anticipated my possible needs before I had even remembered them impressed me and made me feel so loved and looked after!
7. Doing necessary tasks: Of course, one of the biggest storms of the year hit while I was still recovering, so my husband cleared what he could before heading out to work, and my children worked hard on the rest. Offering a gift of service like shoveling, raking, or doing other yard work in season is a wonderful thing!
Another friend kindly dropped and picked up library books for me since I was unable to lift and to drive. What a simple, but important help that was!
8. Being there: My children, husband, family, and friends offered time to me – chatting and checking in in person or via phone and internet.
I cannot express enough how much this meant to me. A happy heart helps a healing body, and my heart was certainly cheered by countless well-timed check-ins.
Seriously, never think that taking a minute – even if all you have is truly a minute – to touch base, offer a hug, or give encouragement is not worth it. I truly found each gift of presence a present to be grateful for.
9. Respecting personal decisions: I am not a big fan of narcotics or even prescription-strength pain relievers, so I opted not to use them once I was home post-surgery. Instead, I used ice, heat, diet choices, and rest in order to ease my way back into fuller health. Some, I know, thought this was crazy, but my husband and those closest to me offered their full support, and I am grateful for this.
Please remember, we each know our bodies well and choose to listen to them in different ways. Respecting personal choices is important
10. Encouraging me to take time: I am not someone who likes to sit nor to take much time for myself. Rather, I am a doer who tends to push through and who got tempted to do too much too soon.
Luckily, I had family and friends teaming up to remind me to take things slowly, allow myself rest, breathe, and listen to my body about pausing days as needed. Their words, reminders, and encouragement have meant so much as I heal.
After my recent surgery, I can attest that surgery, indeed, can sap one’s reserves, so having prayers and practical help mean so much!
If you know someone headed for surgery – especially a first-timer like I was – please consider taking a moment to reach out in support. Efforts big and small can all make such a difference.