The Tooth Fairy Needs to Bring Me a Drink

posted by Momo Fali on February 19, 2013

Yesterday afternoon, my 10 year old son had six teeth pulled. Because my kid is special, this had to be done by the Chief of Dentistry at our local pediatric hospital. When I say, “special” I mean that my son has bigger medical bills than your son.

Thanks to anxiety, gagging, reflux and a heart condition, this meant general anesthesia for the eighth time. I have always said that watching him get wheeled away to surgery is the hardest part. I was wrong.

Yesterday, the hospital staff gave me the option of joining my son in the operating room until he was asleep. I had never done it before and I was one part happy to be there to comfort him and one part curious about what he has experienced many times while his dad and I have been down the hall drinking waiting room coffee.

I donned something akin to the bunny suit from A Christmas Story, only it was blue and didn’t have ears, and followed the gurney through the heavy OR doors. What happened next is something I will never forget. Hint: It wasn’t a Red Ryder BB Gun.

Once transferred to the operating table, my son began to shake and cry and FLAT OUT refused to breathe the laughing gas coming through his strawberry scented mask. I knew this wasn’t going to go down as planned and when the nurse told me to show him how easy it was, and whispered for me to pretend to breathe into the tube, I would be lying if I didn’t think about taking a gigantic whiff.

Instead I tried to calm my son as four people held him to the table and forced the mask to his face. I placed my head directly in front of his and held his hands tight as I kept repeating, “You’re okay. You’re doing a great job. Good boy.” Over and over and over, for the eternity it took to get him to sleep.

His eyes had fear in them that I hope no parent ever has to see in the eyes of their child and as he tried to yell, “Mommy!” from under the mask, my heart broke into a million pieces. I calmly continued, “It’s okay. I’m right here. You’re doing a great job.” It was like watching a death scene in a movie, only it was real life and I was letting these people suffocate my son.

In less than 30 seconds, his grip on my fingers loosened and they laid him back gently. I picked up the Matchbox car he had thrown across the room and found his glasses that I was sure would be crumpled and smashed, but were actually intact. Then I went to the other side of the OR doors and took off my bunny suit and promptly began crying. I didn’t stop until the doctor came to talk to us.

Today my boy is playing, eating Jell-o like it’s his business, and marveling that the Tooth Fairy left him $20 and let him keep his bag o’ teeth.

But mostly, he’s just getting annoyed at how often I keep grabbing him for extra tight hugs.


  • Christina

    I had a similar experience with Cordy when she had dental surgery. You’re right, that frightened look in their eyes and the cries of “Mommy!” are so very hard to block from your mind. Reading your story reawakened all of the memories of our experience.

    But I’m so glad it went well and he’s feeling good today! That tooth fairy is pretty generous with $20 and getting to keep the teeth. Too bad she didn’t leave a bottle of Jack under your pillow for your own trauma. 🙂

  • erin margolin

    your sweet, amazing boy. love this. and love YOU. you are an amazing mom. i can imagine how hard this must’ve been only b/c Izzy has had surgeries and she was little….and it was terrifying. I’m relieved it’s over and that jello is his friend today!

    I played the tooth fairy last night myself—but only one tooth and it came out as Izzy was eating an apple. Nowhere near as traumatic as what your little man went through.

    But I still need a drink!!!

  • Liz

    We’ve gone through this with our middle girl (the only one of all four of our children to have gone under the knife, several times) watching her “go under” was the worse thing ever. Unless, you count the time when she was 10: she woke up and started screaming because she did not recognize her father. Yeah, that was pretty bad. (((hugs)))

    • Momo Fali

      Ohmygosh, Liz!

  • Elaine A.

    The only thing close to this I had to experience was when my oldest had to have a blood draw at 5 years old. I thought I was going to completely lose my shit while he lost his. But somehow we both made it through.

    I would have cried too. This mothering thing is really hard sometimes. Have a drink for me too!

    • Momo Fali

      Yes, blood draws are no fun. I once danced around the lab as my son got his blood drawn because it kept him from crying. I danced and sang. In the lab. You have to be a little bit crazy to be a parent and you have to be willing to prove it.

  • Lara K

    I had this experience too, with our 18 month old before her dental procedure at Children’s. For weeks we had “practiced” putting a little mask over our faces and breathing, so she wouldn’t be scared. But still, she was terrified and fought like a lion! It was awful. Seeing her go so limp was awful, too. I bawled afterward. The good thing is that she seemed to remember none of it! Oy. I sure do. 🙁

  • Toni

    Oh Momo…..
    The only thing I can even compare it to is when my daughters were in labor…I hate it, there’s ALWAYS that moment when they turned their begging eyes on me and screamed “MOMMY Do SOMETHING-MAKE IT STOP!!” I was secretly thrilled when my youngest had her 2nd child far far away in PA. And wouldn’t you know it…she called me through The. Whole. Thing…… It was worse than being there because I couldn’t physically comfort her! Glad you are both allright! Please tell “Capt Adam” I said “Great Job!” Love you guys!

  • Shannon

    I could feel my heart pumping in my chest as I read this. That is a terrifying helpless feeling. When my son had to be sedated to have his arm set in the ER, I was in the room. I was there when his breathing slowed from a reaction to the sedatives and watched the doctors and nurses buzz around him urgently with oxygen masks and such. It only lasted a minute, but I just stood there with tears strolling down my cheeks.
    My best to you and your little warrior.

  • Mom Off Meth

    We have only had some tonsils and a few tubes in the ears, but it is awful to watch. You are brave lady. Poor little dude. Glad he is feeling better today.

  • tara

    Oh my god Momo!! This makes me want to give not only you a hug, but also my dad a hug for when I had to go through this. I had 4 teeth pulled when I was 8 and had to be put under. He was always good about keeping me distracted 🙂 But it never occurred to me that he would be freaking out!

  • Sharon Graham

    Oh Diane, I am so sorry. You are such a strong mom. So Glad that your super great kiddo is back and enjoying all the cool snacks. ~Sharon

  • Arnebya

    I’m glad he seems to not recall it but I’m sorry that it’s still so vividly in your mind.

  • Jay - The Dude of the House

    My heart broke as you mentioned the Matchbox car he’d thrown. My son loves his Hot Wheels and takes at least one everywhere he goes, for better or worse. I can only imagine how unhappy your son was to have thrown his beloved die-cast car.

    You handled this hard situation with grace and strength.

  • Melisa

    I can’t even imagine how horrible that was. I bet that even though he wasn’t cooperating, he was happy that his mom was right beside him, though.


  • Kerri

    How awful for you. I would have wanted to take a big whiff too. Boo has been under a few times. Luckily by IV. How brave of you to remain calm and strong when your boy needed you the most

  • Mama D

    So, so sorry you and your son had to go through this! I actually changed dentists after one fixed a cavity in my then 5 year-old’s mouth (just with nitrous oxide) and was totally indifferent to his terror, which I was watching and trying to soothe. And holding down the screaming other son at 2 while the doctor took blood…ye gods. Mothers need medals along with their libation of choice!!!

  • vodkamom

    YOU are incredible.

    and so is he……

  • Tracy @ The UnCoordinated Mommy

    Ugh, my heart breaks for you!! I’ve only experienced a small piece of that, breathing treatments in the hospital with my two year old, and I can’t imagine having to wait through surgery too!!

  • Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing]

    You are insanely strong and I’m insanely proud to call you my friend.

  • Mare

    Oh my gosh, how horrific! Makes you wonder if he’s always done that w/ previous surgeries. You were right to be there and love on him. I’m w/ ya though…sobbing outside the room. God bless you, girl. Hope the little guy heals up with no issues.

  • Tammy

    This reminds me of when my 9 yr old was 3. She had to get some dental work done, and because she had such a strong gag reflex, they had to bring in an anesthesiologist right to the dentist office.
    I hope your son feels better quickly.

  • meleah rebeccah

    Oh, honey. I can’t even begin to imagine. You’re amazing. He’s amazing. Big fat hugs all around!

  • LisaZ

    Those sure don’t look like (deciduous) baby teeth. Check out those roots!!!

  • Tamara

    OMG… that was tough. Way to go mom!

    This brings me back to my Prince’s 12 month shots. Having to brave through your son’s fear is no cake walk. I’m glad you’re alright. lol

  • Rita Arens

    I am having high anxiety just reading this. Way to go, Diane.

  • AlisonH

    I never had to go through that. I did have to go through sitting in the recovery room while other parents’ children came to and they went home, more came in, they went home, more came in, they went home… When was MY kid going to wake up? Man oh man did I get a lot of knitting done that day, something to keep me busy and not crying.

    The doctor afterwards said, with that bad of a reaction that child is not to be given that particular anesthesia ever again.


  • Bon Crowder

    This was heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing it.

    Kate recently broke her collarbone, and we had to do a similar thing when convincing her to lay down for x-rays. It wasn’t near as terrible as your experience, but it was no fun at all.

    Kids in fear of pain… Not the thing kids or parents handle well.

  • Brigid

    When I was in my 20s I had to go under to have a tumor removed. My mom flew down to be with me and the night before told me should brought a ring that I had always coveted (my grandmother’s wedding band) and that she would give it to me after the surgery. It wasn’t until my own kids went under anesthesia that I realized she was pretty much bribing me to make it out OK and that means she was freaking. Kudos to you for doing the tough job of mother with empathy and love, while keeping your sense of humor.

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