Eye surgery – Anxiety and Moms

Eye surgery – Anxiety and Moms

A reason to worry – Eye Surgery

One of my toddlers has Strabismus, technically it’s Alternating Accomodative Esotropia, aka: crossed eyes. It started around 13 months and he was in glasses by 15 months for an astigmatism too (that’s a whole other post). By 18 months the second opinion also recommended surgery. So at 20 months, in an effort to salvage some of his depth perception, he had strabismus surgery to straighten his eyes. We trusted our surgeon and his stats. It’s routine and outpatient surgery with minimal recovery time. We elected to do it at a hospital with a pediatric anesthesiologist. All of these things should have allayed any worries – my husband wasn’t worried. Why should I be worried about some dude cutting some of the tiny muscles around my son’s eye and reattaching them in a slightly different location? What could possibly go wrong?

Two boys in front of a bell
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how crossed his eyes are until I look at pictures. This was the weekend before surgery.

I was a wreck for weeks ahead of time. Pretty much as soon as we scheduled the surgery.

I worried about him catching a cold and not being able to have surgery. We literally went no where he could catch germs for 3 weeks (I’m glad we did, the patient scheduled before him was not cleared for surgery due to a head cold).

Honestly, the thing I actively worried about the most was how in God’s name was I going to wake a toddler up hours before his normal morning, put him in the car for an hour, wait at the hospital for at least two hours, and NOT FEED HIM? He talks. He says, “Food, please.” And if he doesn’t get it soon enough he says, “Food, pleeeeeeeeeeeeez.” And I am a sucker. It takes every ounce of discipline I have to not indulge my toddlers’ every whim. I can’t take the crying, it kills me. And I can’t take the earnestness of their simple requests. I worried myself into a four pack of wine coolers the night before surgery. I was so anxious I couldn’t see the obvious solution. Dada drove him in a separate car. The novelty of that and the great people at the hospital made waiting for surgery easy. I worried for nothing.

Waiting. I brought homework. A potty training book. This was entirely new to me and I spent an hour frantically highlighting and making notes until my husband made me take a walk. The hospital gave us a pager so we would know when it was done. Just like Olive Garden – it was surreal.



The worst part was actually the recovery room

I knew the recovery room was going to be hard. Everyone told me. They used words like: brutal, traumatic, upsetting. We are nicu grads, so I was ready for the IV and the monitoring. But that didn’t make me less anxious. And despite my anxiety, I wasn’t ready for my semi-conscious toddler fighting in my arms for an hour while we tried to keep his IV in and his hands off his face. I was repeatedly told it was usual and predictable. Nothing to do but do it. Eventually he came back to himself and asked for ‘bites’ of a Popsicle. It was my boy again, finally. We were on the road about an hour and a half later. He was a bit grumpy for 18 hours.

Mother and Child
It was bananas to walk into a recovery area and see my baby fighting two nurses and screaming. 

It’s What Moms Do

Someone told me the week before the surgery, “Well of course you are worried. This is a stressful thing. And on top of that it’s what Moms do.” And I agree, we do worry about our kids constantly and forever. But all my anxiety about surgery was about myself. Me having to deal with a hungry cranky toddler. Me waiting, completely out of control in a scary situation. Me having to hold a screaming toddler during recovery. Me. Me. Me. How rarely do parents get to indulge in some good old fashioned selfish anxiety. Most of the time we are shamed into sublimating our fears. It’s not ok to be afraid your life is never going to be the same after a baby, because You GET to have a BABY! Be grateful. It’s not ok to feel anxious about the tolls motherhood takes on your body, because you are a goddess who has the power to make life. Celebrate your earth-mother shape. And all that crap.

And I finally had a GOOD reason to worried. And, not only that, I had permission to be anxious about it. And deep down inside every anxious person is the hope, the feeling, that worrying enough about something will prevent it or make it ok. So anxiety FEELS productive somehow. Worrying was my way to try and control a situation I had little to no control over. I’m not saying I managed my anxiety well. But recognizing that my anxiety was about ME and talking about it helped. Writing about it helps. Organizing my thoughts and really looking at them helps. A celebratory drink helped. Two celebratory drinks helped.

Happily, surgery went well – eyes are straight. Recovery is going smoothly. Everything is great – he still needs his glasses. We are lucky. And it left me reflecting about all the figurative calories I burned stressing about it; and how unusual it is for parents to talk about that selfish kind of anxiety. And ideally, being aware of that variety of anxiety should prompt us to remember ourselves. Because when anxiety makes it hard to live your life, even when it’s justified, it’s a problem. Parents sacrifice constantly for their kids. And usually fail to advocate for themselves. Be good to yourself. Always. You don’t need permission or an excuse. And you don’t have to do it alone. Help is out there if you feel like your anxiety as a parent is taking over. Talk to your doctor, talk to your pediatrician, talk to a psychologist, talk to a psychiatrist. You are not alone. Even if you have a good reason.


Ride home
Six hours (give or take) after we left home we were on our way back and this little champ gave me the tiniest smile.


Pinterest pin for blog post
The rug in the waiting room held infinity for me.



We share in Fort Birthday

10 Replies to “Eye surgery – Anxiety and Moms”

  1. I’d rather have the surgery myself than wait for a child to come out of the operating room. Yoga relaxation breathing helps me some— my children are grown and a mother still has to worry (and now there are the grandchildren)?

  2. This must have been so tough for you. Surgery –even the thought of it– is such a major thing and it’s so life-changing for so many people, but I am so glad that everything went well and he is on the road to recovery!

    Thanks for sharing! x


  3. Such a touching story! I would have felt the exact same way! Our little guys are just amazing beings and we don’t want anything to hurt them. It’s hard to tell if it’s anxiety or just Mama Bear hormones kicking in. No matter what the label is, I believe it’s normal for a caring mother to have such behaviors. But as a psychologist, I do understand that this anxiety is not fun for us or the others around us. Distraction and keeping ourselves busy with more productive things are some good techniques. So glad everything went well!

    1. Thanks- I’ve been stunned at how tightly my heart-strings are tied to my boys in a limbic ‘Mama Bear’ kind of way. I’m a long time auntie and used to say to my nieces and nephews, “Your tears have no power over me.” Hah! when it’s my own, I’m practically a pushover.

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