A Heart Mom Reflects on a Year of Surgery

Heart mom's story


By Katelyn Stocker

A close group of friends recently asked me to reflect on 2018 and remember the highs and lows as we anticipated the new year. I promptly replied, “Pass!” As soon as they suggested we do this I knew I couldn’t. I wanted to leave the room. I didn’t want to stay for the conversation, because I knew that listening to them would force me to think about my own life.

As we went around the table and I listened to my friends share their deepest reflections, I was so touched. We all had different life circumstances, yet we could relate to each other so personally on an emotional level. We all have highs and lows. We all feel deeply. We all have fear. We are all juggling a million things.

I felt incredibly bad passing on my turn. It’s not that I didn’t want to share. I was not afraid to talk with these women. If I was going to dive into something, this was the group of people I would want to do it with!

I am just not ready to reflect on this year. I might not ever be. These last five years have been incredibly difficult. Two of those years were actually great and difficult. The rest, I have either blocked out, forgotten or am trying to forget. The worst part is that those years include both of my daughters’ first years. 

As a parent of kids with a medical diagnosis you have to be strong, brave and have everything put together. But on the inside, I’m a mess. It’s like how my daughter Maelyn looks totally normal on the outside, but inside, her chest is a total mess. Well, on the outside, I look like a totally normal mom, but on the inside I feel like a mess of emotional scars. Luckily, I have realized that we are all like this. This whole adulting thing is kind of a scam. I think, on the inside, we are all still kids just trying to figure out what we’re doing and how to raise other kids. 

So, if I truly reflect on my year, I see how I struggled to make it. This year was consumed by preparing for surgery, going through the recovery and then trying to be normal again. And I, as the mom, probably did a fine job on the outside, but on the inside I have a lot of scars that I am not ready to deal with.

Did you know that there is such a thing as caregiver PTSD? It’s very real, and probably more common than people think. Watching your child go through surgery is traumatic. That is why I cannot reflect on this year. It’s too hard. Moving forward has already been harder than I expected it to be. I’m not ready to look back.

Just before writing this I was sitting at my desk, stitching together a mini heart pillow for Koko the lovie, my daughter’s toy. Maelyn has been saying that Koko is sick now, and has been bandaging her up and trying to help her feel better. Koko has spent extra time in bed and Maelyn said that she thinks Koko needs a little heart pillow, just like the one she got at the hospital, to help her feel better. Of course I said, “I can help you with that!,” hoping this means that Maelyn is processing what she went through. As I was finishing the pillow, I realized I was sad but relieved that Koko is sick. Maybe once Koko is all better, I can start to heal too. 

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