As I type this there’s a cup of Italian ice and a giant glass of water on the table beside me. I don’t want anything to do with either of them. I’ll put off the Italian ice a few more minutes, say I’m waiting for it to soften. That’ll buy me some time; maybe my throat will be healed by then.
From this procedure I got rid of two tonsils and I gained one worry wrinkle right between my eyebrows. Every time I eat or drink or even contemplate swallowing, that line gets just a little deeper.
The most stressful part of my tonsillectomy recovery (aside from following the national news) has been eating. Swallowing hurts so badly. To compare it to swallowing broken glass or hot pokers is insufficient, because the act of swallowing is so painful that it is not akin to swallowing at all. It doesn’t feel like I’m swallowing something sharp, it feels like the act of flexing whatever muscles power my esophagus will simultaneously tear them open.
When people tell you they loved ice cream or popsicles after their tonsillectomy, what they really meant was, “Ice cream didn’t kill me, it only made me cry.”
To make it worse, I really, really want to eat. I’m so hungry. I knew that eating would be a challenge, but I thought it’d be like when you have the stomach bug. You can’t eat, but it’s fine because you don’t want to eat. This isn’t like that. I’m desperate to eat. I have dreams about sandwiches. When my family eats dinner I have to leave the room because I can’t stand it.
At this stage of my recovery, the process of eating long, drawn-out, multi-step routine. It starts with me opening the refrigerator with dread, builds in drama, and ends with a double lutz and a triple salchow. And then I have to wait for it to cool down, because I can’t eat warm foods.
Imagine the hemming and hawing, the sighing, the complaining. And then FINALLY I sit down. And every time, every single time, and I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME, Anna appears. She cocks her head to the side and says, “What you having, Mommy?”
My shoulders slump in response. I’m having a giant bowl of pain and sorrow, ok, Anna?
“I getting a spoon, ok? I be right back, ok? No eat it all, ok, Mommy?”
And just like that, my she’s on my lap.
I tense up because it’s so stressful to eat, it really is. And having a toddler on my lap only adds to the stress. I just want to eat my tiny, room-temperature bites in peace.
But Anna does not care what I want. She seems me sitting at the table as an invitation to go grab a spoon. It doesn’t matter what I’m eating; she’ll eat anything oatmeal to sautéed spinach as long as she’s on my lap.
Once I’m resigned to my eating buddy, we take turns taking bites. She labels bites “BIG ones!” or “baby ones!” We say “mmmm” together, and she almost always makes us do a fork-clinking cheers.
And just like that, my complicated, stressful routine has given way to giggling and snuggling. It turns out that a toddler on my lap is exactly what I needed.