The Rockwood Files: Daughter has the wow-factor

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Three-year-old Kate had her annual check-up a few weeks ago. I expected a good report because she has been blessed with good health – good appetite, few illnesses, and more energy than I can keep up with most days. There was one thing, though, I needed to mention to the doctor. Though she has a slender frame and is only 3-years-old, my little girl snores like a big, burly truck driver with a wicked case of sleep apnea.

Our doctor told Kate to open wide, and he peered inside her mouth with his tiny light.

“Wow!” he said. “It takes a lot to impress me, but that impresses me.”

I felt my stomach tighten because part of me knew that one of the words you don’t want to hear your doctor say is “Wow.” Doctors see so many people and are so familiar with what’s ordinary and what’s not, that a word like “Wow” quickly puts you into the “not-so-ordinary” category.

He waved me over so I could get a look at what he was seeing. I’m no doctor but what I saw definitely didn’t look right. Her tonsils, although not infected, were HUGE. They looked like two fleshy boulders crowding a skinny tube, leaving only a narrow space between them.

The doctor picked up the phone and called the Ear, Nose and Throat specialist to make Kate an appointment. One week later, we were sitting in his office. I told him about the burly truck driver snoring. Then he turned on his little light and asked Kate to “Say ahh.” Can you guess what he said next?

“Wow!” Then, as if maybe he couldn’t quite believe it, he scooted closer to her and peered inside for another long moment. Then he added, “Good gracious!”

(Every Southerner knows that “good gracious” is a slightly softer way of saying “Yikes!” or “Yowzah!” both of which are not good things when they’re coming from your specialist.)

He turned to me and said with conviction, “Those need to come out.” There was no “maybe” or “think it over.” He was certain, and, after hearing two trusted doctors say the exact same thing, I was certain, too. We scheduled the surgery for the following week, and the doctor said she’d stay in the hospital for one night. None of us wanted to take a chance on Kate getting an infection that would cause those already huge tonsils to swell and close the tiny breathing space between them.

So there was nothing left to do besides pack an overnight bag, clear my schedule for that week, and – what was that other thing? Oh yeah, WORRY. Because when a doctor tells a Mama Bear that she’s going to have to send her cub into an operating room, that’s what we do. We worry.

I was glad I only had a week to stew about it even though I knew all the worrying was pointless. I felt good about the doctor and his experience. I knew the hospital was top-notch. Most of all, I knew that ultimately God would be the one watching over her.

But a mother’s worry reflex is stubborn and hard to control. So I was pretty uptight when we arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. the day of the surgery. Kate, on the other hand, was holding up just fine. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps she’ll have a future in medicine because doctor’s appointments and even vaccinations don’t seem to upset her. She’s one of those strange kids who wants to watch the injection go into her thigh and never lets out one of those piercing wails I heard so often from her older brothers when they were her age.

After she was prepped for surgery, that heart-wrenching moment arrived. The surgical team wheeled her off toward the operating room, and Tom and I stood there helpless and watched her go. There were definitely some tears as she disappeared around the corner – but they were mine and not brave little Kate’s.

It was one of those moments that remind you just how much we parents rely on the illusion of control to get through the day. We figure if we do everything we’re supposed to do and are careful and cautious, our kids will be just fine. But there are things and moments that are out of our control. There are times when we have to stand by helplessly and pray it will all be okay.

Thankfully, it was all okay. Less than an hour or so after she was wheeled away, the doctor met us in the waiting room with a great report. Our little girl would be waking up soon, minus the big scary tonsils. We practically sprinted up to the pediatric floor to hold her.

It has been a week since her surgery, and I’m happy to be back in control of something I can actually do – which is dole out popsicles, pudding and yogurt as often as she wants it. And when she falls asleep at night, I sit beside her and marvel at how easy it is now – how quiet and even her breathing has berockwoodheadshot2010compressed.jpgcome. In fact, it made me say “Wow.”

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.