My Christmas Isn’t Going According to Plan — How You Doin’?

I have to type this fast before my kid throws up again.

I should be using my time to make cinnamon rolls since Christmas is tomorrow, but cinnamon rolls require standing, and OMG I JUST WANT TO SIT A MINUTE.

Our Christmas isn’t going according to plan.

It’s OK. Truly. I’ve been doing this parenting gig long enough that I can flex with change like a ninja. Like a superhero who can slow time to dodge machine gun fire. Like a contortionist-turned-master-thief avoiding the impenetrable grid of laser beams in the private bank vault of the nefarious (but unbelievably hot) villain. Change of plans? Yippee ki yay, mother effer. Do your worst.

Abby came home from college, and, to thank her, I took her to get a tonsillectomy. After repetitive strep throat this fall, doctors’ recommendations over several years, and, rounding down, 58 billion texts that read, “My throat hurts,” and “What do I doooooooo,” and “I’m dying for reals this time,” she was finally willing to have surgery.

I mean, she was willing until she wasn’t.

The day before surgery, Abby was all, “NOPE. Not gonna do it. It’s going to be horrible. I’m going to have Every Complication. Cancel it, please.”

And I said, “NOPE. Not canceling. This will improve your quality of life. Your tonsils are HUGE from all the scar tissue you’ve accumulated. It’s a miracle you haven’t choked on those suckers. The complications are rare. It’ll hurt like the fiery furnace of hell for two weeks. Then you’ll be better. It’s TOTALLY WORTH IT.”

She went into surgery Wednesday. Everything was fine. JUST AS I SAID IT WOULD BE. 

On Thursday, she started hemorrhaging. 

I’ll spare you the details because not all of you are planning to see Anna and the Apocalypse — the newly released, heartwarming Christmas zombie horror musical — but if we had a few undead and more singing, it was basically the same, gore-wise.

In the end, Abby was rushed into emergency surgery at midnight and lost enough blood to be offered a transfusion (7.2 g/dL hemoglobin count for those of you keeping track at home). I sat in the surgery waiting room — locked and deserted for the night — under the dim emergency lights, wearing the dirty sweats and shirt I’d pulled from my bathroom floor, sans bra, which were the closest clothes to grab when I rushed her to the hospital earlier that evening.

“The complications are rare,” I’d said.

“It’ll be totally worth it,” I’d said.

And here we are, four days later, while she channels all her energy into making new blood — she turned the transfusion down as soon as she heard the words “there are rarely complications” 🙄 — and I channel mine into rather ineffective attempts to keep her pain and nausea under control.

So our Christmas is a little different than normal. We canceled our Christmas Eve plans. The extended family is on hold. The candlelight service at church was minus a few Woolseys. I’m going to stick with a festive wardrobe rotation of dirty clothes from my bathroom floor. God knows if the annual cinnamon rolls are going to make an appearance. And tomorrow, I’m hoping Santa brings me a shower and a coffee IV drip. 

But you know what? I really do have everything I want. First, my nephew didn’t die. And now my daughter didn’t either. And I don’t say that flippantly. I mean it to my toes. 

Greg just took the healthy children to a movie. I’m home on Abby Watch, feeding her Gogurt and narcotics. In a bit, I’m going to snuggle up in a fuzzy blanket with a mug of Rooibos tea and watch an episode of Harlots while waiting for Santa to come. That seems jolly.

And then in the morning Love and Light will be born anew. 

Dawn will come as relentlessly as the Dark before it.

If we’re lucky, we’ll remember for a day to look for the Divine in Unlikely Places. The face of a baby born in a stable. The trembling hands of a weary mama. The father who makes the impossible choice to race for asylum in a foreign land, hoping his child will live. The pagan astrologers who see what the religious cannot; that Love has been made flesh and dwells among us; that Hope is worth the long journey; that those who see Truth find it; and that Light will lead us to Joy, even if we have to take the long way ‘round. 

And so tonight I wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas — especially if, like me, it’s not at all the way you planned it. 

With love… and waving in the dark



P.S. How you doin’?

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24 responses to “My Christmas Isn’t Going According to Plan — How You Doin’?”

  1. Poor Abby! I had a tonsillectomy over Christmas break as a 21-year-old college senior (I won’t share how long ago that was). While the surgery was well worth it in the end, it was EXCRUCIATING at the time – worse than two c-sections and passing a kidney stone all rolled into one – and I did NOT have any complications! I hope she’s now well on the road to recovery – blessings to you both and Happy New Year!

  2. Waving in the dark. My son has had some viral infection since the day after Christmas—not a big deal but it changed all our plans. No visiting the 90 year old grands, no visiting with friends, and no family hike (ok, that last one was my pipe dream, but a woman can dream, can’t she?). I hope Abby is feeling stronger. And hopefully she’ll remember your care and not your advice! How would you know she’d be the rare one to have problems afterward? She’s just unique, that’s what it is. Also, one highlight of our Christmas? I made your cinnamon rolls—our family tradition—and they were the best I’ve ever made. Definitely better than Easter’s total disaster batch. And Definitely contributed to my 5-lb weight gain (which adds to the 10 or more I’ve picked up this year), but they were worth it, especially considering that the rest of “break” hasn’t gone as planned. Maybe you can have some before Abby returns to Hawaii—a place you’ll definitely have to visit soon to make sure she’s recovering well! 🙂

  3. Oh poor Abby and how scary for all of you. I had many months of worsening symptoms as a teenager and finally was diagnoed with anemia – hemoglobin count of 7. I remember my doctor called us at home on a friday night with the results he was so shocked (after condescendingly dismissing all of my concerns but doing blood work because my grandmother insisted). Anyhoo, I declined the blood transfusion too and eventually had a robust hg count of 14 again. If I were her I wouldn’t climb stairs, blow dry hair, open an oven door, stand quickly or for too long, etc. – all things that made my vision go black and start to pass out. Wishing Abby quick blood making capabilities and that she still wants to come home and see you next Christmas break. 😉

  4. Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. Take your time this holiday and pamper her like crazy.

    Our son just came home from his first semester in college (he’s studying abroad so we haven’t seen him since August), and because both he and I misread his flight itinerary, he nearly missed his connection in Chicago!

    The upside to that is he realized he needs to be a little more up on his own travel details, and appreciates his momma a little more, as much as he professes to be an “adult.”

    Merry Christmas!

  5. Sending you a million hugs from Australia, where we have survived Christmas and made it to Boxing Day, with only one swimming pool head injury (minor, not even an egg on his head, don’t know what all the crying was about), and only one non-swimmer falling in the deep end and learning Mama Is Right, and swimming pools are not places that should be ran around (run around? I don’t know, neither looks right).
    I wish I was closer so I could bring you some cinnamon rolls, making those, and reading the whole blog post is one of my favourite Christmas traditions, which, unfortunately I haven’t done this year either. Hope Abby recovers quickly, I know the pain of repeated tonsillitis xxx

  6. Sending you Light and Love and all the magic in the world! You’re doing awesome, mama — just keep on keepin’ on. And this’ll be one for the history books. 😉 xoxo

  7. You’ll look back on this and laugh, says everybody, but the reality is nobody ever does look back and laugh. Blessings of the season to you and your family. You might mention to the Universe that it can stop sending you Life Lessons because you got it.

  8. Oh Beth, so glad both daughter and nephew are on the mend. Waving back to you on this day we celebrate God’s indescribable gift.

  9. And over your shoulder is future you Watching, remembering, sniffing all the necks and supporting your guarding Angle! Hang in there! From one mom to another Ninja’s got nothing on us!!
    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year,
    and Speedy recoveries!!!

  10. My Christmas is going pretty much according to plan, which is to say, I spent an hour or so yesterday crying over a lost friendship. I’m feeling guilty every time I see people’s tree pictures with piles of presents under them because we’ve got one little package for each of my boys (and seriously, it’s totally misplaced guilt because we ARE giving them money because they’re teens with dreams of big $ items to save for, but the guilt comes every year like clockwork). And my jeans are already tight. So yeah, per plan.

    I’m glad Abby is on the mend. Our neighbor’s 3rd grader had that same complication this past summer. I know it was terrifying for her mother.

    For next year? Have back-up frozen cinnamon rolls in the freezer, that’s my recommendation! (I discovered last year that those are a thing, but foolishly this year I tried to channel my inner Paul Hollywood and make some sort of Swedish Christmas thing. It also went per plan, which is to say, slightly burnt and doughy at the same time.)

    Merry Christmas, and waving in the dark.

  11. We just did the middle of the night hemorrhaging after tonsillectomy last week with my 10 yr old Solidarity Mama. Her hemoglobin didn’t dip quite so low but she’s got a few months of iron supplements ahead of her and she got soooo pale. We did our tonsillectomy because her tonsils were so big she couldn’t/wouldn’t eat half the time and has been steadily losing weight since this summer. Well after that scare she’s down 2 more pounds and looks emaciated. She’s finally eating again and her weight is on the way back up but man it’s been a scary few weeks. Hope Abby feels better soon and it’s all worth it in the end!

  12. This is my first Christmas with my 6 kids in five years, after a nasty, nasty custody battle. My #5 is on day 3 of constant vomiting, my #1 chose to spend Christmas with college friends, we missed church and dinner with family too. I am so grateful to have them. Tomorrow we will play board games in our pjs and watch Emmet Otter and I will snuggle that gross, pukey kid. Then we will call Son #1 and make him ass the phone around so that I can wish all the college kids Merry Christmas.
    Waving in the dark… Sending Love to you, Beth.

  13. Oh, Beth. I am so glad she is okay, but you know she will NEVER let you live this down, right? For the rest of your life, you will be hearing, “Oh yeah Mom, like the time you told me a tonsillectomy would be no big deal?”

    Some years are like that. I remember the one where my dad was in firm denial that he was having a stroke until we all watched him get up from taking communion at the midnight service and lurch like a drunkard back down the aisle. We still had to convince him that he would not be ruining the doctors’ and nurses’ Christmas by going to the hospital NOW NOT ON THE 26TH.

    We are missing one kid this year, though we did get to visit him yesterday. Waving in the dark, my friend.

  14. ((HUGS)) Love you Beth. Glad that Abby is home safe and she’ll feel better soon. Waving in the dark…

  15. Beth I am so glad that Abby is doing better and on the mend, must have been terrifying. Zach and I are also having a Christmas much different than we had planned, horrible case of Mononucleosis and severe tonsillitis with a side of abscess on the back of the tonsils. When you’re up with Abby in the middle of night, I’ll wave to you. Thank the Lord that Abby and Zach will be ok, as well as giving us the strength to make it through this holiday season! Merry Christmas!

    • Jenn that is us this year with our 16 yr old. I was already feeling frazzled when we suddenly had to rush her to Urgent Care cause she felt like her throat was closing up. Thank you Beth for making me thankful no one hemmoraged, recovery may be a slow road. I skipped the transfusion with my ectopic rupture, numbers come up quickly but it takes a little longer to feel like you are on top of it. Hugs to her and you.

  16. Thank you. My 4 year old, beautiful redhead lit her hair on fire in church tonight. Literally. And that is just the last string of events over 13 months time. I know Abby will be ok, and I know you will too, over time. Merry Christmas.

    • Oh dear. That’s always my fear at Christmas Eve services. (I mean, my kids are teens now so I’m pretty sure they are lighting nothing on fire, at least they’d better not be, but I still panic-watch all the little kids around us. God bless the churches who hand out battery candles for the little ones.)

  17. 5 years ago tonight I was sitting with my college freshman following an emergency appendectomy, being ever so grateful that he suffered appendicitis at home, on Christmas Eve, instead of at college, which was 600 miles from home. Love to you!

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