We've had a bit of an up and down few weeks here in the Figueroa household. Chase is scheduled for a minor outpatient surgery next week at a children's hospital in Portland.
It's a very minor surgery, something the doctors perform all the time, but that doesn't lessen my anxiety about putting my tiny sweet baby under anesthesia.
I'm also anxious about the whole hospital experience in general. I've had a few interactions with medical professionals as they interact with my kids, and there often seems to be one consistency: they treat children as if they are not people yet. I hear things like, "Oh, he's just a baby, he won't even remember this." I see doctors and nurses touching him, moving his body without telling him, speaking about him as if he were incapable of knowing anything that was going on.
Yes, my son is a baby.
He is also a person.
He was born a person, with fully formed thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
While Chase cannot walk or talk yet, it doesn't mean he doesn't understand. While he won't remember most of these experiences and interactions as a baby, it doesn't mean it won't shape him and mold him as a person.
And most of all - babies UNDERSTAND. They have such higher ability to understand our language, spoken and body, than we give them credit for. And all because we just don't treat them as real people.
Let me tell you a couple ways I know how babies understand.
When Chase was less than 24 hours old, he needed a foot prick to test his blood. I remember clearly with Cole the same procedure - done in a harsh office environment, with a nurse who treated it as a day-to-day, matter of fact situation. She was sympathetic but detached, moving Cole's body as if he were a brain dead medical patient. And Cole screamed, cried bloody murder. It was heartbreaking to watch. With Chase, however, our midwife performed the same procedure while he was in my arms nursing, wrapped warmly in a blanket. She took the time to tell Chase about the poke, warned him when it was about to happen - and Chase DIDN'T cry. Not a whimper, not a tear.
Example two: The landing on our stairs has a large picture window looking out to the yard. During the day, the sun streams right through the window. Every time I took Chase up and down the stairs for a diaper or clothes change, I'd tell him, "It's going to be bright now, close your eyes!" And you know what? By the time he was three weeks old, when he heard me say that, he would close his eyes, even before the sunlight hit them.
There's a lot to be said for kids living up to the expectations we have for them. And if we treat our babies respectfully, the way we would like to be treated, so much confusion and frustration can be eliminated.
I always think about how I'd like to be treated if I were suddenly paralyzed, unable to move or talk. I'd love for someone to tell me each medical procedure that was about to happen to me. I'd want to be prepared for anything that was going on.
So my job when we're in the hospital with Chase is to advocate for him. To treat him as a person and let him know exactly what is happening, each step, so there are as few stressful surprises as possible. And while he won't remember any of it, I'll know that I did my job as a mama as best I could, caring for his body and his mind.