“Mommy,” my six-year-old says to me as he stands over the toilet. “There is a big bubble on my penis.”
“Heh?” I say. “A big what on your what now?”
“A bubble. On my penis”
So I go over to take a look, and am astounded to find what looks like an adult sized left testicle – kudos to my kid for saying “penis,” and not, like, wee wee (though I thought it was awesome when he came up with “pointer” all by himself at age 2ish, and I mourn “pointer’s” passing to be replaced by anatomically correct terms), but he actually meant testicle. It’s a double mom fail: 1) I failed to teach him the difference between penis and testicles; and 2) I’ve been giving him regular baths right along and never noticed that his left one has apparently been exponentially increasing in size.
After a brief talk, we determine that it doesn’t hurt and that sometimes, it’s bigger than others. I’m thinking I know what this is, even though my experience with penises and testicles, especially six-year-old ones, is limited. I have a friend who’s a pediatrician, so I text her asking if she’d mind a penis pic being sent (that’s actually not the term I used, but I feel funny putting the term I did use out there in relation to my kid because I feel like it might be inappropriate and possibly frowned upon), and she actually says she doesn’t mind (she must be used to crazy parents), and when she looks at it, she confirms what I had been thinking: Munchkin has a hernia.
I tell hubby that we gotta take Munchkin to the doctor to check on the lump, and unfortunately, Munchkin overhears me. He’s a very conscientious child, and that is not to say anxious. No, you know what, I’m gonna say it, he’s an anxious child, and at the time this all was happening, he was going through a phase where he was very concerned with death and dismemberment, and other forms of bodily harm and injury.
Like, we had gone on vacation that year, and there was a man who didn’t have an arm staying at the same hotel. Oh. My. Goodness. My son was so affected. “Why doesn’t that man have an arm?” “What happened to his arm?” “Where did he lose his arm?” “Can kids lose their arms?” “I don’t think I want to be a policeman because I might lose an arm…” I tried to tell him that clearly, the man without the arm is doing well, because he looks happy, and he’s here with his beautiful family, but it was to no avail, we could not stop talking about it all week. And wouldn’t you believe it, on our last night we went out to a nice dinner, and guess who they sat next to us? Yup. I was basically using my body as a shield to keep Munchkin from seeing the man and saying something stupid. It was quite the ordeal.
So, when he overheard that I was concerned with his “bubble,” and that he had to go to the doctor, he was immediately all wound up about the possibility of something bad happening to his nether-region. “Why do I need a doctor? Is it because something bad is going to happen? What is going to happen?” And every day he’d ask me when his doctor’s appointment would be, and if I think the “bubble” can kill him.
The day of the doctor’s visit arrives. It’s a female pediatric surgeon, and I love her immediately, because she talks to my kid the way I talk to him: like a grownup, with big words.
“We’ve got a bubble on our testicle,” I tell her.
“I see,” she says with a straight face.
“It’s not always out,” Munchkin says. “It’s only sometimes out.”
“Well, let’s see if it’s out now,” she says.
She confirms that this is a hernia, and that he will need surgery to correct the situation. She explains the operation to me in medical terms (I told her that I’m a doctor. Why do I always feel like such as asshole saying that?).
Then, she turns to him, sitting up on that examination table, and says, “Do you have any questions?”
Munchkin very seriously says, “What bad things can happen during the surgery?”
The surgeon explains that it’s very unlikely, but there could be some bleeding or infection, or a reaction to anesthesia.
Munchkin nods, and then says, again, very seriously, “What bad things can happen if I don’t have the surgery?”
The surgeon explains that probably nothing, but the “bubble” could get stuck and hurt a lot, and it could get progressively more uncomfortable to walk around.
I’m sitting there thinking, this kid is asking more intelligent questions than some of my grown up patients! And I don’t even know whether to be proud or scared or what, since he’s clearly probably smarter than I.
Satisfied with the explanation, Munchkin says, “Ok, I’m ready, let’s book the surgery.”
Well, he probably didn’t say “book the surgery,” but he might as well have, because he did hop off the examination table, and briskly lead the team out to the scheduler’s desk. I’m still gathering my things and frantically stuffing papers in my purse, and he’s already seated in front of the secretary, and I could have sworn that he was signing consents. Even the surgeon’s trainee, who up until then had maintained perfect decorum, had to laugh.
The offer us a few dates, and he picks the closest one, next Thursday, and I say to him, “Are you sure you want that day? That weekend, you have a birthday party, and graduation from karate, and you’ll probably have to miss those things if you have the surgery. Are you sure you don’t want to postpone it?”
He says, “Oh, please, let’s not postpone it, I want to have the surgery because I don’t want anything bad to happen.”
Like, seriously? Who is this kid?
And it’s not the first time he leaves me somewhat speechless. Most recently, when he found out we were moving, and he’d have to switch schools, I was agonizing about how he’d be upset, but he said, “Okay. It’s time for a change.” Who says that?
And then, just like that, he’s a kid again. After eating a giant bag of ketttle corn, he bounces off walls for about an hour and the passes out in the middle of his Spanish lesson that afternoon, head down on the table. Whattayagonnado.
The surgery went fine, by the way; I think it was worse for me. Watching my little old man’s face as he was put out with a mask was distressing, I realized as I walked out of the OR on rubbery legs, and watching him wake up and crying “ouchie, ouchie” in the PACU was really upsetting, even though he didn’t remember it after being properly medicated.
I feel like it’s always harder on the mom… When Munchkin was a baby, and I had just gone back to work, I accidentally caught a glimpse of a baby of the same age in the OR, and almost fainted. One of our techs saw me, and said, “Funny how things change when you’re a mom, eh?” I never thought I’d turn into such a delicate flower.
Munchkin, though, he did fine. He marched in, got rolled out, and the next day was out on the playground already, showing off his battle scars and refusing to skip a beat. Mommy got a talking to by daddy though, for allowing this and not being firm enough. But I figure, kids know what they’re doing. If he were in pain, he wouldn’t have wanted to go to the playground.
How about that kid, though?? He’s 7 going on 37, I swear to God. How did I get so lucky? (poo poo poo, spit three times and knock on wood)
-Sasha Retana, MD. Originally posted at https://andwhynotshesaid.com/