Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How Do I Talk About Surgery With Michael?

My mom will be having surgery on Friday and I'm trying to figure out what I should and shouldn't say to Michael about it. She is having a hysterectomy, and the procedure will be done robotically so there will not be a big abdominal incision. I will be taking time off from work to care for her and to watch Michael since she is his daycare provider.

I haven't really given this much thought. If it was anyone else, I wouldn't bother to explain what is going on, however I realized that because she is his daycare provider, there are some things he will need to understand. The first thing he needs to understand is why my mom won't be watching him. When she went on vacation, he was fine with not seeing her for a week, but because I will be caring for both of them, he will be seeing her. I don't know if this will be an issue or not, but I want to be prepared to deal with anything that might come up.

I think the most difficult part of this for Michael will be the fact that he's used to rough housing with my mom, climbing on her, and just in general being crazy around her. Clearly, this will not be acceptable until she has recovered. How do I make him understand that he needs to be gentle with my mom? If she had a visible "boo boo" I think we could just show him, however that won't be the case. I want to make him understand, but I don't want to scare him. I have no idea how to do this.

I'm also concerned that my very technical way of handling things like this could also be upsetting to Michael. For example, the fact that I think it's a good idea to show a 3.5 year old an abdominal incision to demonstrate why he needs to be gentle may indicate that I don't have the best barometer for handling this without upsetting Michael.

So, any suggestions on things I can say to help Michael understand what's going on without freaking him out would be welcomed. I could probably also use some advice on things I shouldn't say or do as well. (I'm guessing that getting out the anatomy book and showing Michael pictures of what they are going to remove isn't a good idea either.) Hmm...this is one area that being a geek probably isn't helpful.

The good news is that the surgery is being done because her pelvic floor muscles are...um...nonexistent, not because there is any concern of the big C. (Do your Kegels ladies! Do your Kegels.)

Also, related good news, she got the results from her mole biopsies last night. Everything looks fine. Thank you to everyone who kept her in your thoughts and prayers.


Maria said...

No advice, just sending hopeful thoughts to your family.

Steph said...

My only advice would be to try and keep it simple. If there is any way to relate her "owie" to something where he has been hurt it might help him remember to be gentle with her. And, so glad you got good results on her biopsy. What a relief.

LauraC said...

Glad to hear the biopsies came back fine! I have been thinking about her!

We recently went through this with Nate and Alex because of my biopsies on my stomach. I could NOT rough house, no picking them up, etc. I'm a firm believer in The Truth so we told them exactly what happened and I let them see my stitches and bruises.

Anyway we told them ahead of time that I got a lot of sunburns bc I didn't wear my sunscreen. And so the doctor had to cut a piece of my skin and I would have a really bad boo boo. They had to be really nice, no fighting, give me lots of hugs, etc.

You might worry that you are scaring them but I think being upfront with them helped a lot. We answered about a million why questions but they were really thoughtful - can I hug you yet mommy? Are your stitches better? I think it's all in the delivery. If you say it with confidence and know he will be okay, then he will take it as fact.

We did have to talk about boundaries when they asked to see my stitches on the school playground!

MyWorld said...

Could you possibly put a large bandage on your Mom's stomach and show that to him and tell him that's it? He may not need to see the actual incision, but just seeing the bandage may help him to correlate it in his head.

Anonymous said...

MyWorld and Laura both make really good points. An external visual might be helpful...not so much because telling him about her uterus is too much information, but because it might be a little too abstract for him, since it isn't visible.

I'm also a firm believer in The Truth. It's a completely different circumstance than your mother's surgery, but the best analogy I can think of: when we had to put Nina's cat to sleep a couple of months ago, we were upfront about everything - not graphic, but not sugar coated, either. She was even in the room petting him when he was given the sedative that precedes the lethal injection. I think my husband took her out of the room at that point so that she wouldn't see him cry.

London said...

I'll be praying for your mom. We've been having the same problem getting Batman to not be so rough around me now that I'm pregnant, he seemed to catch on pretty quickly. Hopefully Michael will do the same.

Mel said...

I think it is fine to handle this the geeky way. Of course, you know Michael's personality and what he can handle. Analese totally knows what my c/s scar is. She saw the incision and every time I have my clothes off in front of her, she reminisces about the time that Dr. Emily cut Mariele out of me. She even saw the video (and it is one of her fave things to watch on my computer LOL!). I think you should certainly emphasize the "boo-boo" aspect and that you mom's boo-boo will be tender and he needs to be gentle and take care of her. Give him as much truth as you think he can handle. I see nothing wrong with an anatomy lesson if he would be interested in that.

JenFen said...

I think you already got the best advice with keeping it simple and not shying away from the truth. We took our cats in to get spayed last week and I told the kids they were having a small operation where the vet will go inside them and make it so they can't have babies and that they will have an ouchie and we will have to be careful with them for a week or so. I then answered all of their questions, showed them the cats shaved bellies when they got home and they were fine with it all.

Of course I completely understand that your mom having surgery and Michael seeing her recover is a whole other level but again simple and truth go a long way.

claudia said...

Your mom may not need as much assistance as you think. The new robotic surgery is amazing. I had it done last December - The DaVinci machine. I was under for six hours because in addition to the hysterectomy they removed 34 lymph nodes and did repair to old abdominal surgeries that had scaring adhesions. I was out of the hospital the next morning-yes the very next morning - and had very little pain. It is fabulous - all done with a computer. My granddaughter the May 2006 baby, who lives with me, was very interested in seeing the 5 tiny scars all around the parameter of my abdomen. My grandson then 5 saw the daVinci machine in action on youtube with his dad. He could describe in detail how the uterus was cut up and removed through the tiny incisions. Michael might be very interested in the process.
Good luck to your mom and tell her it is truly an awesome procedure -- So so much easier recovery than any abdominal surgery I have had in the past.

Stacey said...

I am so happy to hear of her good biopsy results.

I think whatever you decide to do will be fine and Michael will probably end up asking you the questions he needs answered and you'll answer him in the way he needs.

The first thing that came to mind was the Curious George book about when he swallows the puzzle piece. The book drives me nuts, but it does bring up surgery... It could generate a "What do you think the Man with the Yellow Hat had to do special for George when they got home" conversation.

I hope it goes well.

Julie said...

Phew! Glad to hear the biopsy news is good.

As far as the surgery, you have already received some great advice. With my C-section, we explained that Mommy had surgery, she has a big owie in her tummy (the gigantic incision makes it a lot less abstract) and she can't wrestle and pick up big kids, etc. When we told her about all of this, we reassured her that it was only going to be for a couple of weeks until my tummy felt better and that everything would be back to normal in time. We spoke confidently, like there was nothing to worry about, Mommy is fine, will be safe and will get better soon. She has accepted it very well and has been extra gentle with me, almost to the point where she doesn't want to touch me at all for fear of hurting me. I reassure her with lots of hugs and we answer a lot of questions.

Best of luck to your mom! I hope her recovery is quick.