The agony of parenthood

I’ve found lots of aspects of parenthood hard. Sleep deprivation in the early days (and even now occasionally); the never-ending demands of small people who think you exist solely for their purpose; the losing bits of myself slowly over time….the list goes on….

But, by far the hardest part of parenthood is seeing your child hurt or worried and only being able to stand by, holding their hand, and hoping that you are helping in some small way. The absolute agony of not being able to make things easier or less painful is just overwhelming. Even now, after 13 years of practice, I find this the worst thing.

A and I were back at the L&D today for another orthodontic appointment. We were both 99% certain that today was the day that train tracks were going on. Last appointment, back in October, we left with the instructions to “get that last wobbly tooth out and we’ll be good to go”. Well, the tooth came out, with a bit of help and a lot of screaming at the dentists – another extraction as the new one was growing through the old one and the old one was fragmenting. How can one child be so unlucky with their teeth?  – and the new one has started to properly appear. So, we were both a little disappointed (OK a lot disappointed) when we were told that it all looks good and next time the train tracks will be going on. Shame. But there was more to come.

The consultant then went on to explain that they will need to use some mini-screws. Excuse me? Screws? I don’t think I follow you.. Yes, mini-screws that go into the bone between the teeth, allowing them (the ortho team) to “encourage” the bottom, currently impacted, teeth to grow up and into position. Sorry, I’m still processing the word ‘screws’. Actual screws? Made of metal with sharp pointy bits? In her mouth? I hope, in vain, that my face didn’t show the horror I was feeling in my entire body. It was very hard to ask the questions I wanted to ask as A was sitting right there and I couldn’t bear to make her any more worried than she already was by hearing me say things like “will it hurt?” and “SCREWS????? SCREWS?!!!! How do you get them in there?” So, we were given a leaflet and told to make an appointment with the clerk. At which point A went very pale and said she felt sick. My poor little chick.

We managed to get back to the car and I tried to calm her down. Clearly she was going through a gamut of emotions – fear, disappointment, fear, worry, more fear. I tried to convince her that this was a better outcome than we had anticipated when she was first seen at the hospital – back then it seemed inevitable that she would need surgery – and that the consultant has trained for years and does this sort of thing every day. I tried the old ‘mum favourite’ of “try not to worry about it yet, it’s ages away” (the next available appointment is in May) – and that she should try and put it out of her mind. Yeah right.

She finally stopped feeling sick and said she wanted to go to school. I wanted to take her home and sit and cuddle her for the rest of the day. So, I dropped her off and went home to read the leaflet. Unfortunately, 10am is not an acceptable time to have a large vodka so I had to read it with just a decaf coffee to calm me. I’m still trying to put it out of my mind – it if was meant to be reassuring then they really need to work on it. A LOT. Far too many statistics about how often the screws break during insertion, and how many fail and break mid-treatment. So, I have hidden it in the diary along with the appointment card. And I am going to try and take my own advice and not think about it.

I hope that I can be brave for her and help her when the date comes around. I would take her place in a heartbeat and wish with all my being that she didn’t have to go through this. She got the gist of the conversation (if you can call me mumbling incoherently at the consultant a conversation) and knows that there will be needles involved. She’s a brave girl but she has had enough extractions to know that I will be lying if I tell her that it won’t hurt. And, I won’t lie to her. There’s one thing (probably the only thing) that I have stuck to as a parent and that was my vow to always tell my kids the truth – normally in a softly padded, age-appropriate manner, but truth nonetheless. But, I won’t show her the leaflet. That is my horror and mine alone. (Although, I might force K to look at it later.)

So, the agony of the standing and watching while your child is upset and scared and in pain goes on. Can I put a positive spin on this one? Perhaps she will be a braver person because of it. Perhaps she will be so pleased when she looks back in ten years time with her perfect teeth and that it was all worthwhile. I just hope that she will know how much I love her and that I will hold her hand for as long as she needs and will never leave her side.

Let’s wait and see.



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