The nurse walks up to me and hands me a blue hair cover and helps me into a long blue surgical gown. He looks over at my child sitting on my husbands lap and says, "Ok buddy, let's go."
Hand in hand we follow the nurse through the maze of hallways. I give my son's hand the secret three squeeze signal we have for saying I love you and I get four back. I love you too.
This time it's different. This time we are here voluntarily. This time he is walking to the operating room. This time it's not life or death. These are the things I keep repeating to myself.
One more turn (why is this place such a bloody maze?), a press of the big silver button on the wall, and the doors open to the surgical suite. The anaesthetist, whom we met earlier, is there and ready for him. Two nurses are prepping the large table of tools that look like a stainless steel version of a mechanics workbench and I am momentarily taken back to my own surgery twenty years ago.
"Ok, Buddy, hop up onto this bed." That's the nurse again.
I can see by the look in my child's eyes that reality has finally hit him. This is happening. He starts to panic and cry. He won't give them his hand to start the IV and they have to pry it away from his chest. I have to hold him still on the bed. I repeat, I have to pin my child down on an operating table, while two people try to put a large needle in his arm. He's screaming and refusing the sickly sweet strawberry scented nitrous oxide mask. I don't blame him, it is gross.
I am not panicking. At least not outwardly. I've done this before. I've been in an OR with my eldest child three times now. I know the drill. I CHOOSE this role, every time. My husband offers to be the one to take him in, and every time I tell him no, it has to be me.
They get the IV in on the first try, but he is still screaming. The large syringe full of white liquid comes into my view and I know the moment in nigh. The anaesthetist attaches it to the IV and gives a small push. 3... 2.... 1..., he is out.
That moment right there. That's it. He stops crying, his eyes close and his body goes limp. The nurse puts her hand on my back and says, "I'll walk you out now Mom." and somehow I walk out of the room without looking back.
That is the bravest thing I have ever done. And it doesn't matter how many times I have to do it, that moment never changes, and it becomes my bravest moment over and over and over again.
And then I stop breathing. That last conscious breath (his? mine?) stays caught in my throat...
Until I see his eyes on me once again and feel his small hand in mine giving me the I Love You squeeze.
I love you too Baby. I love you too.