I’m Not Ready Yet

Once my doctors find our next step – an open lung biopsy – things begin to move quickly.  I receive a call from the surgical nurse, giving me a date and instructions for pre-operation preparation and arrival:  Have no food or drink after midnight the night before, take no medications that morning, remove all nail polish.  Grabbing a pen, I attempt to capture the flow of all this information,  “Do you have any questions?” she asks at the end of the call.  “Uh, yes,” the words finally arrive, following slow and foggy thoughts, “I’m nursing my son.  How much breast milk should I pump and store in advance to ensure he does not ingest any medicine?”  

She pauses for some time, and I assume she is doing some calculating.  “Dear,” she finally says, gently, “I don’t think you understand.  That is just not possible.  Anesthesia of this sort may stay in your system for days, even weeks or months; and you will be on strong pain medication after your surgery.  You have to stop nursing your baby.”

I likely answer, “Okay.  Thank you,” before returning the phone to its cradle.  But all I remember saying is “I’m not ready yet.”  I whisper it at first, contemplating my son as he grasps brightly colored wooden blocks on the carpet at my feet.  I kneel to touch his soft head, his feathery blond hair growing warm with the excitement of his play.  Glancing up at me he smiles, then immediately creases gather on his forehead.  Curious, he touches my face, and then he notices the tears that fill my eyes.

“I’m not ready yet.”  I continue to repeat the words, as though they are a mantra of sorts.

They will become the refrain consistently floating through my head in the coming weeks.  When I sing my son to sleep each night, they find their way into whatever melody I chant.  As I lie awake staring at the ceiling, they arise in sobs.  They vibrate as the consistent backbeat during countless conversations with doctors who attempt to create a prognosis and with family members unable to accept that prognosis.  

I’m not ready yet.