My oldest had her wisdom teeth extracted yesterday morning–a much preferable way of describing the process by which she now has four oozing holes in her jawbone.
As she has never had to undergo a surgery before (for which I am unspeakably grateful), she was a little nervous about the whole prospect. I wasn’t too worried about it (of course, I’m not the one left with the oozing holes). I realized, however, that we might be in for a long weekend when the nurse sat down next to me in the waiting room after the surgery was complete.
“It went great,” she assured me confidently, handing me a small plastic bag containing post-op instructions, a baggie of gauze pads, a can of chicken noodle soup and a snack pack of chocolate pudding. “She’s got gauze in her mouth right now, but you’ll want to change that out when you get home. Moisten the gauze a little before she puts it in. And don’t let her use a straw or drink anything carbonated,” she warned. “Dry socket is worse than natural childbirth.” I chuckled at the joke, but quickly wiped the smile off my face as I realized she wasn’t kidding. “I should know,” she solemnly assured me. “I’ve experienced both.” Holy cow. I clutched my oral surgery goody bag a little tighter and made for the exit.
Per the nurse’s instructions, I drove to the entrance and waited for them to wheel out my girl. The nurse had mentioned that girls tend to respond to the surgery with more emotion than boys, so I braced myself for potential weepiness and prayerfully rebuked full-on emotional meltdown, at least until we had reached the safe confines of home. Moments later my baby emerged, slumped in a wheelchair with an expression of bleary-eyed consternation. Stumps of gauze protruded from both corners of her mouth, giving her the appearance of a sedated walrus.
With the delicate transfer from wheelchair to minivan accomplished, we headed home. I cautiously watched out of the corner of my eye as she patted carefully at the gauze, then her bottom lip. “Mmff mfff mf mmmfffff?”
“What, sweetie?” I rubbed her leg nervously and tried to push the phrase “dry socket” out of my mind.
“Mmff mfff mf mmmfffff?” She poked more insistently at her numb bottom lip. Ahhhh—a lightbulb.
“Yes, babe,” I said reassuringly. “That’s your lip.”
Unappeased and dopey from the anesthetic, she swiped at tears and delicately fingered the stumps of gauze in her mouth. I mulled over the plethora of unpleasant words I had seen on the post-op info page: “oozing,” “blood clot,” “wound area.” Cripes. As we pulled up to the house, she issued another unintelligible phrase, impatiently adjusted the gauze and managed to utter, “My breath smells like poop.” She giggled miserably and swiped at another tear. OK—sense of humor intact. We’ll survive.
There’s not much that most of us are less prepared for than motherhood. It’s as true today, as I Google “Tips to avoid dry socket,” as it was16 years ago when that first pink bundle was laid in my arms. I knew it instantly: all those carefully underlined paragraphs in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” would be woefully inadequate preparation for my crash landing onto the shore of Motherhood—an uncultivated new world of sleep deprivation, physical discomfort and emotional exhaustion. Fast-forward 16 years and three more bundles, and I am happy to report that I have established an amicable relationship with the inhabitants of this land, who have accepted me as their leader and generally only foment rebellion when asked to scrub toilets or when dinner involves more than one vegetable side dish.
Because I’m a little further along on the road of motherhood than some of my friends, and because all of my kids are potty trained and none of their names have shown up on the Frisco police blotter (yet), I am sometimes consulted for mothering wisdom. This is dicey. If motherhood has taught me anything after 16 years it is that I don’t know much (OK, I have mastered the French braid. And I make a mean snickerdoodle). In mothering, however, as in pretty much every area of life, I think that wisdom is best displayed through a posture of humility. The reality is that yesterday’s Miley Cyrus can quickly become today’s . . . well, Miley Cyrus. As far as parenting goes, we are wise to remember that we’re all just a salvia bong and a few YouTube videos away from becoming Billy Ray.