Surgery day for my Indiana is not far away. The day she was diagnosed it felt far, especially when we were told “6 months old”. It felt far when the tentative date was August 5th of this year. It even felt far when the surgery date was changed and finalized for July 22nd. It’s July 11th and the day is almost over. Now I can feel it breathing down my neck and I wonder, where did the time go?
I find myself dressing Indiana less in clothes and more of her just hanging around in a diaper. Sitting down with her on the floor after a few minutes of tummy time, my eyes locked onto her chest. I traced where I’d assume the scalpel would make its first cut. Feeling the smooth baby skin under my finger, I imagined how it would soon be a bumpy, red scar post surgery.
“My perfect skin!” My mom used to joke on days leading up to my first tattoo; that I was ruining her baby girl’s skin. A hummingbird in black ink sits on a moderately large chunk of my left side. Forever. And I always teased back that it was “my temple, I decorate how I please.”
Now I look at my almost 3 month old’s chest and am finding myself suddenly thinking the exact same thing. If my daughters ever decided to get tattoos (as long as the placement is tasteful) I would be open to it. Like I said to my mom, “my body, my temple, I decorate how I please.” But I am struggling with this; maybe because it’s an unexpected “decoration” with a darker tone. I tried adjusting my thinking process and this is what I’ve come up with so far.
Like a tattoo, she’ll have that surgery scar forever on her chest. Like a tattoo it will fade over time, but never truly go away. I wonder when she tries on a bathing suit, if she’ll treat it like it’s nothing or feel uncomfortable showing it off. Will she be angry about why she has it? Will she feel isolated because most of her peers are not in the “zipper club”? Will she have survivor’s guilt when there are many angel warriors out there that CHD stole from families?
Will she understand that she has endured more in her short life than most adults have their entire life? Will she feel empowered knowing that she survived open-heart surgery? Will she be proud of how far she has gotten, defying the odds?
I hope when she looks at that scar, Indie doesn’t see an ugly, bumpy raw reminder of a broken heart. I hope she sees a tiger stripe, a war wound earned by fighting as hard as she does. I hope when she looks at it, she sees a warrior’s mark. That she is a badass little girl that joined the ranks of so many other boys and girls who (hopefully) grow up as men and women.
Congenital heart defects are mean and play dirty. They try to break down hearts and will leave scars on the body. They will test people at the very best of their ability to fight this battle. CHD invades the body temple and forces you to decorate despite not asking for any of this.
Indiana, to you and all the warriors out there, I say wear the scar proudly. Don’t be afraid to be open with it. Show the world how strong, how resilient you are and how far you’ve come. You have been given a life long battle and if you come out of it with a tiger stripe or two… You are all so brave with being given such a heavy burden and I commend all of you that live in it. I praise you. I am honored to be your mother, to take care of you and love you in your lifetime. I am humbled by the stories that are given to me to share and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
Decorate that temple. Wear that tiger stripe proudly. Share your story.
I will always be so proud of you and will love you no matter what goes on your body.
Keep your heart strong.