Feeling Fear, Dentist Drills and Autism

With a swift motion, the anesthesiologist pulled Ian onto his lap and faced him out towards me. He folded Ian’s arms across his chest and held his arms and hands in place to try to prevent Ian from getting down. Ian let him know that wasn’t his idea with a verbal “Eeeeyyyyy”

Please take the mask with the blue rim and place it over his mouth” he asked his assistant.

I knelt in front of Ian and let him know I would be with him through the entire procedure.

The assistant placed the blue-rimmed mask over his mouth and I watched as Ian processed what was happening. He didn’t seem so sure about breathing the strange smelling air coming in through the mask.

Then he surrendered.

The doctor spoke words in his ear of candy canes with red stripes and dogs running through grass and my hand rested on his leg letting him know I was there.

Within 30 seconds, Ian’s body started to relax and his eyelids began to droop. The gas was doing its job. Ian’s body was letting go.

I noticed I didn’t feel very comfortable. It was a strange sensation watching my son go to sleep so quickly.

I recognized it. Fear. I surrendered and the sensation moved through my body.

Another few breaths and we’ll move him to the table.” said the doctor.

As he and his assistant moved him, Ian’s head rolled sideways with absolutely no support and they gently and swiftly placed his sedated body on the table. There was no reason for me to linger. I didn’t need to see the next steps of preparing his body for the procedure.

I walked into the waiting area, sat down and breathed. Fear, swelled again in my body and moved through like a wave. I could hear the voices of the doctors as they began to do the job of cleaning Ian’s teeth and taking x-rays.

This is the process of a dental procedure for a child with autism.

At one point, the office assistant came in to have me sign some paperwork. I could feel my mind wanting the distraction but my body said no, stay with the feeling. I heard her words move through the air and I tried to process them then I just surrendered and let her know I would talk with her later.

As I sit and type this, I continue to check in with my body and ask “what am I feeling?” I stay with it even though my mind wants to run away. The sensation moves through. I then check in with the present moment to find there is nothing. This is big.

There is nothing to fear. It is my thoughts that create the fear.

In this moment, Ian peacefully sleeps in the chair while the dentist skillfully cleans his teeth and fills his cavities. I hear the anesthesiologist chatting with the dentist, the drill spinning, and sounds of suction. I hear all the normal sounds from a dentist office.

The emotions come. Fear, gratitude, love. I feel them move through my body. I sit in this chair. I breathe. Soon I will be asked to go back and hold Ian as he wakes. All is well.