How a trip to the hospital with my son made me 'grow up'

Kinderling News & Features

Shevonne Hunt is the host of Kinderling Conversation.

I’ll be 42 this year, but inside I still feel about 30.

When my Mum was 30 she had three children already and had started building her own home.

I’ve had, like many of my generation, a delayed adolescence. But if there’s one thing that has pushed me forward on the path to adulthood, it’s having children.

I was reminded of this last week, when I took my son to hospital to get his tonsils and adenoids removed.

Up until this point I’d only been to hospital with someone else looking after me. My mum, dad or husband.

This time, as I held his little hand in mine, I felt nervous and overwhelmed.

I felt vulnerable when I wanted to feel strong. This was bigger than a cut finger I could kiss and put a Band-Aid on. More powerful than any lullabies I could sing to calm his frightened heart. The sterile halls and fluorescent lights felt foreign and I was a bit lost.

It’s not that I didn’t trust his doctors, or the wonderful staff at the hospital. As I navigated my way to sign him in I realised it was something else.

All the times I’d had an accident, or been to hospital, my parents had been there to guide me through it. Growing up I never questioned that they had everything in hand. If they were there, I knew everything would be okay.

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Now it was my turn to do that for my son. I had to hold my shit together so that he would feel safe. And I wasn’t at all sure I could do that.

Surprisingly the time before the operation was fun. We don’t get a lot of time alone together (it’s often shared with his older sister) so he had my undivided attention, and we both enjoyed that.

I joked with him as we waited to go into theatre, asking if I looked funny with the pink cap on my head, and telling him about the Darth Vader mask that would help him sleep.  

Holding his little face when that mask was on, and seeing him in distress as the anesthetic took effect… well. That was another thing entirely. I thought if I kept telling him that I was there, that would be enough, he would feel safe. The nurses assured me that he wouldn’t remember anything, which is something.

Even writing that makes me teary. I cried on my way back to the room, when he couldn’t see.

That night as I slept beside him, I thought about how lucky I was that this was elective surgery. How lucky I am that this is short-term pain for long-term benefit. How lucky I am to live in Australia with a first-rate medical system.

Different things in life force us to grow up. For some it comes early, and for others (like me) it comes late.

Having children has made me grow up. It’s shown me what it means to sacrifice the small things - like sleep ins, privacy, or eating your breakfast in peace, to the more profound understanding of being responsible for another life. Growing up, for me, has been learning to live with the knowledge that there are two little hearts that hold my happiness in every beat they take.

My own parents have always been superheroes to me. Stoic, strong and there for me regardless of the situation. I have always felt safe while they are in the world.

Before we went to hospital, I wasn’t sure that I could measure up to what I had as a child. But now I see that it’s all part of the process of growing up. Even if for me, it’s come a little late.