I can’t sleep because I have smelly saliva pouring out of my mouth. Sound gross? Yup! All part of the humbling journey of jaw surgery. Bloody, bruised, swollen but blessed.
Jaw surgery… it was 15 years ago that I heard that words spoken by my dentist. One of my jaws was longer than the other which affected my bite, muscles (I had TMJ) and overall appearance. I was college student just barely making rent and eating. Braces, never mind surgery, were out of the question.
Maybe when I am a nurse…
Then maybe when I am a teacher…
Finally it was when I became Forest’s wife that the surgery and orthodontics became possible. Less than a month after our wedding day Forest started calling me his “teenage wife”. Metal mouth. And so the journey began.
I was the kind of wife who started thinking about babies as soon as we got married. Forest was a little more patient and he had my upcoming surgery on his side. Pregnant? No surgery.
“You’ll have to wait about a year” the doctor said. That was fine. Enough time to go to China and enjoy newlywed stuff.
The year came and went my casual inquiries at the orthodontist became anxious pleas, “when will I be ready for surgery?”
Finally my teeth were ready but the doctor was not. “At least another year on the wait list they said”. I remember crying a lot that day.
So we made a decision and Elaina Rose Joy arrived. And I pushed surgery to the very back of my mind.
As my teeth started to demineralize and my gums were sore from 2+years of metal another decision had to be made. Continue waiting or braces off and live with the bite? Other concerns were my history with facial trauma. After being assaulted with a broken nose any injury to my face (even getting a filling or wisdom tooth removal) triggers anxiety and more recently vomiting. Also there was Elaina to care for. Could I breastfeed still? Who would care for her? What if Forest is back at work by the time the surgery happens?
Usually I make decisions in haste and anxiety with a lot of back and forth and feelings. This time I felt led to research and plan and pray and trust and wait for clues.
My dentist who had no profit to make from the surgery advised me to go through with it. “All of your efforts would be a waste”. “Brush, brush, brush and use this special mouth wash”.
We switched to a surgeon with a shorter waitlist and as it turned out a little more expertise.
Family in China donated the majority of the funds.
Elaina kept growing into a happy healthy girl who would be able to deal with the process as a 10 month old.
Forest’s extended paternity leave lasts until the end of August allowing time to care for me and Elaina.
And so last Wednesday I found myself at Delta hospital getting ready to be cut open.
The words “minor day surgery” filled me with great optimism for recovery. We dropped Elaina off at my sister’s planning to pick her up later that afternoon and carry on with life albeit with a lot more rest and self care tasks.
I woke up with a continuous small trickle of blood from my mouth that I had to constantly mop up or swallow and a huge marshmallow face that triggered painful memories. I feel silly thinking back on my naïveté but without it I may not have had the courage to face the surgery.
It is times like these when family is golden. My family and Forest’s parents surround our little girl with love for two days so her scary looking mama could get some sleep and recover.
It was so hard to leave Elaina but ultimately very good. She struggled but also thrived and Forest and I had much needed quiet couple time. Parenting is such a paradox. I constantly want to be closer to my daughter and also have space. It is a delicate dynamic dance every day.
I ended up back at hospital a few hours after leaving with vomiting and thus no way for pain relief. A call to my retired ER doctor uncle helped us decide to go back (I have too many tales of 5 hour waits and gruff nurses in ER waiting rooms). But I was welcomed with open arms and quickly treated with iv meds and those beloved warm blankets.
After a night at hospital and a night at home we are all together again now. Elaina happily greeted us and quickly resumed her love for Mama’s milk and crawling all over the house. It was peaceful with Forest but we are not a family anymore without her.
My face is looking more normal every day. It’s weird how I could look in the mirror with dried blood oozed bandages, bruises and swelling and say with confidence “you are beautiful”. I couldn’t say that as well when my face was pristine. I had to face the wounds to see the value.
Well, thanks for reading and helping me process and progress. Love to all.
“My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah”
Psalms 62:5-8 NKJV