Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Like Mother, Like Son...or Maybe Not.

I'm not what you'd call a "fan" of the dentist. I didn't mind going when I was a kid, really. My dentist was a kind old gentleman who'd been cleaning my parents' teeth for years. He had some stray nose hairs I remember staring at while he dug around in my mouth with his pudgy fingers (in the days before rubber gloves), but other than that, I had no complaints.

And then in high school, I had to have my wisdom teeth extracted. They were impacted and all kinds of fun stuff and the decision was made that I'd be put under general anesthesia in the hospital for the extraction as opposed to having it done in the office. Having had no experiences with surgery before, I had no fear--I had nothing to compare it to and no images in my head of what the prep and aftermath would look or feel like.

So lying in the hospital bed, waiting to be wheeled in to the OR, a kind-hearted nurse with the best of intentions comes up to me and says, "Okay, honey, so later on tonight when you're at home, you might throw up and it will be really dark. Don't worry; it's just because you're going to end up swallowing a lot of blood and that will make the vomit darker than you're used to." Um. Used to??? Used to???!!! I'm NOT used to vomiting. Ever.

I think I've mentioned here before that one of my biggest fears in life is vomiting. I once stopped eating for more than a month except for chicken broth and toast because I saw another kid puke and was so freaked out by it that I couldn't bear to run the risk of throwing up by having food in my stomach to throw up. A smidgen twisted, but it made perfect sense to me at the time.

So hearing "you're going to throw up later" moments before being put under general anesthesia for the first time ever may have caused a wee bit of anxiety for me. And by "wee bit of anxiety", I am referring to trying to get up off of the table right before being wheeled in, saying "I don't want to do this," and I think now, looking back, I was mid-panic attack when the anesthesiologist told me to start counting backwards from 100. Rather than count, I clearly recall saying, "I can't breathe. I can't breathe," and then poof. Sleepy land.

I woke up in recovery fairly certain that I had in fact died, what with the whole not being able to breathe thing. Coming out of the fog, everything in the recovery room was white, cloud-like, from the warm white sheets wrapped around me, to the white walls, to the white gauze packing my face. It could certainly have been heaven. Yup. Dead. Went in for some little tooth business. Came out. Dead. Which? In my mind at the time, probably would have been fine with me IF I could be certain that there was no vomiting in heaven.

I heard my dad's voice, and knew that last I checked, he had in fact been alive, so that meant to me that perhaps I wasn't in heaven, but just in a really bright and plainly decorated recovery room. And was alive. And was going to go home and vomit. Blood.

Oh. My. God. I remember the fear of that night so vividly. There was no sleeping. I never vomited, not even once, but the fear of it made me so nauseous that I shook in my bed most of the night, wide awake and waiting. And crazy ass vomiting fears aside, recovering from the extraction was paaaaainful. The only other serious pain I'd had in my life up to that point was menstrual cramps. And holy moly, I had those. Like pass-out-from-the-pain cramps. You can see that I have a wicked high pain threshold, right? Yeah. I'm tough. This was like the worst menstrual cramps ever, but in the back of my mouth. Good times.

It was routine and uneventful, medically speaking, but it forever changed how I felt about going to the dentist. I continued to go every six months until I was off my parent's insurance (because I'm super independent and my mom kept making appointments for me until I graduated college. Thanks, mommy!). After that, though, and since, I have been spotty at best, in my trips to the dentist. I'm kind of like the woman in the 1-800-DENTIST commercial who mocks the 1-800-DENTIST guy in the elevator, who can't understand why she needs to go to a dentist. Yeah. I'm responsible like that. I know I need to go more often. And I will. But this isn't about me (contrary to the fact that you've been reading about me since I started this post).

But as a mother, I HAVE to bring my kid. So I did. Today. I took some deep breaths, promised myself I wouldn't pass my own anxiety on to Ethan and off we went. I envisioned much screaming, fearful eyes under the bright lights and tears. I envisioned Ethan looking at me like "why why why would you do this to meeeeee," and a dentist who would throw her hands up and say, "I can't work with him if he's going to be this worked up."

File this under "Mama drama over-reaction" (and I know, that file is WAY full at this point), but the kid had a bona fide blast at the dentist. LOVED it. She had toys for him to play with while she and I chatted. Then she invited Ethan to climb up into her space-ship chair and introduced him to Mr. Tickle (the polishing brush) and talked about sugar-bugs and how she was going to check for them in his mouth. He was full-on AWESOME and I've never been prouder.

There were even x-rays and he did well with those, too. XRAYS! He did gag once on the bite-plate, but even that didn't deter him from enjoying himself. He smiled as the tech replaced the bite plate and zipped another xray picture. Who IS this child?! On the way home he said, "I liked the dentist, mommy!" and later in the day spent time prying my mouth open and "checking for sugar bugs" in my teeth.

So fine; he's got a tiny shallow cavity on one of his front teeth--we're going back in a few weeks so the dentist can buff it out and put a small white filling over it. I brush his teeth a little too hard, so I've made his gums a bit sensitive and have to practice brushing more gently. Other than that, he's in tip-top shape. And if this makes any sense, I am a little less afraid of going back to the dentist myself now.


Becca said...

I am a dentist avoider. Or at least I was until Ryan and I finally got up the courage to go after not going in five years (since our mommies made our appointments, heh). And then I went and she said "Do you want me to buff out these coffee stains?" and I was like "Those come off?" and then I almost passed out from the happy when I looked in the mirror. Also, they didn't hassle me about flossing and I got to watch TV for thirty minutes, uninterrupted. I can't wait to go back.

Glad Ethan had a good time! I have to take Charlie soon too.

Linsey said...

OMG! The picture of him with the magnetic shield-vest-thing is SO cute... he is all head & crocs!

Emi said...

I am so glad it was a good experience for both of you..They are so much cooler now for kids than when we were kids..

Sarah said...

He is the cutest, as usual :)