My daughter, now three, just had her first major medical experience. After too many ear infections too close together, our doctor decided it was time for surgical intervention. Because my little one also has some pretty significant antibiotic allergies, I finally agreed that it was time to take the next step.

As the day of her surgery approached, I got more and more nervous. I barely slept the night before, which turned out to be quite helpful as I had to deliver my daughter to the doctor at the crack of dawn.

After filling out all the paperwork, the nurses gave my daughter some “sleepy juice” that made her act both tired and silly. I suppose I should have laughed when she tried to pick strawberries off the page of a book, but her wild laughter was more pathetic than funny. I started tearing up in the prep room, so it was no surprise what happened next.

When the nurse took my baby away from me and walked down that blue-white hallway, I felt short of breath. Instead of completely passing out, I thankfully only started sobbing. I did finally pull myself together, just in time for the surgeon to come update me on the procedure.

That was it. It was done that quickly. I nearly ran to the recovery room when they said I could see my girl. I’ll never forget what I saw next.

My poor little sweetie was just waking up from the anesthesia, and her beautiful skin was mottled and pastey. She had red splotches on her cheeks and was drooling. I picked her up immediately with all the wires glowing and tangling around both of us. I felt like I might drop her because she was completely dead weight. But I did not drop her.

I was allowed to hold and rock my drugged baby while she woke up, which was a small blessing. Alternately confused, hysterical and completely passed out, my daughter cycled in and out of consciousness for nearly an hour. Her father sat by as I was fortunate enough to have my arms around my baby girl.

It was heart-wrenching to see my little girl this way. She was out of control and uncomfortable, and there was nothing significant I could do to help. I felt like I did soon after she was born: all I could do was hold her as tightly as I could and sing her favorite lullaby. Which I did, over and over for 45 minutes. I don’t think it helped her, but the repetition soothed me into a semblance of calm.

I couldn’t help but think about how my little girl has already had more pain in her young life than a little girl should feel, and it was just brutal to have to stand by and watch her suffer more. All I could do was be as close to her as possible while she cried, and let her know that she was not alone.

My daughter has recovered from her surgery without much difficulty, thank goodness. And I have high hopes for her health on this side of the procedure. But this experience has made me see how hard it will be to watch my child go through difficult times in her life. Stand by her and tell her she’s not alone; is this all I can ever do as a mother? I suppose so. But I want to do so much more.