I have become the master at being fake. I fake a smile when people ask me how I’m doing. I fake it at the hospital when the nurses ask me questions. I shrug my shoulders and smile crookedly in an, “as good as can be expected,” way.
They ask me if I’m happy about the surgery, since the whole hospital knows how annoyed we’ve been about Jackson’s care, and this is all we’ve wanted since day one. I smile and say, “Of course, it will help so much.”
But, each day, I can feel the emotions creeping in. Dread. Fear. Anxiety. Terror. Panic. I can feel them taking over me, and I know I need to find an empty place to be: a bathroom, a running shower, my car. I need to let my body shake, and my tears fall, and my wails out.
Open heart surgery. OPEN. HEART. SURGERY. On my 2.5-month-old. Are you kidding me? Is this for real? Whose life am I living, because it’s certainly not mine? I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t sign my son up for this. Or my daughter. Or my husband. Our family wasn’t supposed to be splintered, with Jackson at the hospital with one parent, and Sydney at home playing hot potato: being watched by one of us, or one of my parents, or my sister.
A man– a human–a flawed human, is going to cut open my precious son’s chest, and expose his heart. He will touch his heart. He will place foreign objects on it and sew it up. And, all I can do is sit in the waiting room and wait. Wait for him to be done, wait for this nightmare to be over.
All of that is what runs through my mind every day when my panic attack comes on. I have a countdown in my head that refuses to leave. It’s as if it is tacked on to the front of my brain, because it’s the last thing I think of at night, and the first thing in the morning. Today, the number is 12. Twelve days until heart surgery. Tomorrow, that number drops to 11.
Eleven days. Eleven days for my stomach ulcer to grow. Eleven days before Jackson goes under the knife yet again.
The attack eventually passes, and I can plaster my fake smile back on and act out my fake enjoyment in the world again. But it’s just the ebb and flow of the darkness, and it will take me over again, eventually.
It always does.