Updated: Aug 1
Perfect little arms and legs, a sweet little belly button, fingers that can pick up anything, and a fluffy little head – things that delight me every day as I look at my daughter. Her legs and ankles are getting stronger, allowing her to walk around objects as long as she holds on. Her two little teeth flash when her face lights up in a smile. Her eyes have turned brown and she has thick, light brown eyelashes. She kisses me with her mouth wide open, often getting in a little lick. I cherish the grossness of her sloppy kisses.
She has a good appetite and eats just about anything I give her. She stopped eating baby food months ago, preferring whatever we’re eating instead. She eats with gusto, shoving little bits of food in her mouth, somehow chewing it up, and making happy noises when new flavors are experienced. But when she’s full, she turns her little head and holds up her hand. That’s it. No more. No apologies to the chef, no concern that there’s still food on her plate. I’m amazed by how her perfect little body works, letting her know when she’s full and making no allowance for gluttony.
Yes, I’m calling my child perfect. Absolutely perfect.
I make no apologies for it. She is an amazing mystery I will never comprehend – how she grew inside me, gained weight and formed beautifully all while I vomited and vomited and vomited. While I laid on the couch and wanted to die, she grew. And then she was out and an entirely separate person, and I was FREE! It’s all too weird to understand.
A childhood friend of mine was also growing a child in her womb while my Eliana was forming in mine. My friend was also doing all she could to nurture new life, to pray for her unborn daughter, and to stand in amazement at the things that were happening to her.
But while I was planning a nursery, she was planning a funeral.
While I was greedily soaking up the perfect little spine I saw on the ultrasound, she was hearing words like “Truncus Arteriosus, Atrial Septal Defect, Cleft lip/palate, and Cystic Kidneys.” Her precious daughter, Abbie Ann, was not perfect. She had Trisomy 13 Syndrome, a genetic disorder that caused her to never get to see the face of her loving parents. They lost her before she was ready to be born.
My friend posted regular updates on Facebook, asking us all to pray for a miracle as she and her husband gave their child every chance to live. I prayed, begging God to heal her daughter, begging God to give her peace. I felt so selfish and small, clinging to the amazing news that my own miracle was healthy and whole. While she dealt gracefully with horrific news, I sobbed in frustration that I couldn’t stop throwing up, wondering if I’d ever feel normal again.
I made a decision. Abbie Ann would never be forgotten by me. Her short life would not go without meaning.
When I look at my daughter, I often think of Abbie Ann. Eliana has a body that works exactly as it should, a mind that is sharp and alert, and a personality that charms. When she was born, I didn’t hope to see unusual beauty, a particular feature, or a color of hair. I hoped for health and wholeness. I was told she was beautiful. I didn’t see it. She was simply my healthy, whole daughter, free from disease, free from pain.
Some day this perfect girl will look in the mirror, and because she is human she will somehow be disappointed by what she sees. She will tell me she wishes she had a different-looking (fill-in-the-blank). And I will smile and tell her she’s perfect. When she rolls her eyes at me (you know she will), I will tell her the story of Abbie Ann. I will tell her how much Abbie Ann’s mommy wishes she could hear her say something so frivolous as her nose is too big (or whatever). I want her to look in the mirror and see wonder – breath-taking, glorious health. Perfection.
I’m not encouraging vanity. It’s the opposite, really. I’m encouraging her to think beyond the pettiness of concern with having just the right face or body or hair to fit in with today’s ever-changing standards of beauty. I’m encouraging her to live in the skin she was given, to behold the wonder of a body that works exactly as it should, and to give thanks to God for the miracle of life.
If our bodies function normally, shouldn’t we all throw up our arms in thanksgiving to God for the gift of perfection? Shouldn’t we praise and sing in wonder and joy?
It’s one of the greatest gifts I can think to give my daughter. I won’t be the mother who encourages vanity. I’ll be the one who reminds her of the great gift of health and wholeness, perfection, she has received. She’ll be hearing me encourage her to go out and make the most of this precious gift.
Psalm 139:13-16a NKJV
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
My friend, Maribeth Johnson, has been a pillar of godliness and grace through her difficult loss. She has allowed God to minister to others through her personal tragedy, and she is pressing forward into all God has given her to do. Again, we are expecting new babies around the same time. This time she has heard the beautiful, priceless words – healthy and whole – from the doctors regarding this new life. I rejoice with her and thank God for second chances. She is an extremely talented singer and is about to release a new album. I encourage you to like her page on Facebook and support her when the new album is released.
You can find her at https://www.facebook.com/maribethjohnsonmusic.
Photo Credit: Bliss Photography, https://www.facebook.com/BlissfulPhoto
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