Updated: Aug 1, 2020
Scars are souvenirs you never lose. The past is never far.
My brother posted a cover of the Goo Goo Doll’s song, “Name” a while back. The lyrics of it have been on repeat in my head since then. One line repeats over and over to me, our scars are souvenirs we never lose. My goodness, do I have some scars today.
When I got married, I had a few scars. I’ve had a few moles removed. I have a scar on my leg from the time a crystal wine glass shattered, sending a shard into me. Various stretch marks embarrassed me. But I’d never had anyone purposefully cut me, never had a major illness that led to scarring.
When we got married, my husband proudly showed me all his scars. He said he didn’t have any tattoos because he didn’t need any. He had scars. (Men.)
Through my pregnancy with Eliana, I received a few new scars. My body responded to pregnancy like I was trying to assault it, fighting me all the way. After she was born, I needed surgery to remove skin cancer that had grown rapidly on my forehead during pregnancy and a ganglion cyst on my wrist that made it difficult to use my right hand at all. Those scars are evidence of the challenges of pregnancy on my body, reminders of how I survived the most difficult thing I’d faced up to that point in my life.
My older children are nearly free from scars on their bodies. The only exception is a small scar on Charlie’s eyebrow from a bad fall when he was two.
The scar above my eyebrow from skin cancer.
But this last year has brought with it significant scarring.
I had a C-section, forever imprinting itself on my body through a small scar that few will ever see. My baby has angry scars on his neck, souvenirs from his battle just to live when he was a newborn.
ECMO scarring – where his skin was sliced open, muscle and skin pulled back, large tubes inserted into secret places in his body where they pumped his blood out, oxygenated it in a large circuit, and pumped it back in his tiny body. The surgeon had a hard time getting the tubes to go in, so he has an extra-fancy scar. IV, umbilical, and PICC line scars mark his body, reminding us of countless blood transfusions and strong medications used to save his life.
Someday when his g-tube is removed, he’ll have a scar on his belly to remind him that at one point in his life, he wasn’t strong enough to sustain his own life by eating enough to survive. He won’t remember how we fought to keep him alive, spending hours every day and night pumping food into him. But we will.
My husband was hit in the head during this time with the bucket of a loader tractor. We headed off to the ER again, trying not to imagine the worst. He has a hefty scar on the top of his head now to remind us to be thankful for the gift of life.
Head meets loader bucket
I have a new scar from the early days of Redmond’s life, battling to keep him alive, stunned by a staph infection that left a deep mark on my body. A large indentation that I’m not sure will ever fill in reminds me of the time when I gave absolutely everything I had to give. It took me right to the edge of myself – sleep deprived, absolutely terrified almost every minute of the day, learning how to tube-feed a new baby, trying to figure out if his congestion and difficulty breathing were worthy of another hospitalization so shortly after we’d come home from 34 days in the NICU, trying to take care of a sick husband and a two and four-year old, and trying to use a breast pump while a spot right under my breast was causing sheer agony from what appeared to be MRSA (a highly contagious, antibiotic-resistant infection).
I love the The Lord of the Rings because the inconsequential hobbits gave everything they had to save the world. If they had failed, all would be lost. I wondered what in my life would ever be that meaningful and important a task for me to accomplish. Before marriage, I tried to set up some difficult things for myself so I could feel that alive.
But during the worst of that time – Easter week, 2017 – I knew what it must have felt like for the hobbits to lay on that rock with lava exploding around them. Sheer exhaustion and soul-changing accomplishment, a willingness to give up their lives, and then the glory of the rescue – it left us all on the edge of our seats. Tolkien created it in his characters, but in real life it cannot be manufactured.
It may be better if we never have to live through something like that at all, but when we do we are changed. I didn’t save the world. But I saved a baby boy who is my world. I have a scar that proves it.
My older children bear scars that are invisible, but have worn deep grooves in their hearts. Their parents, who’d never been away from them for more than a couple of days, were suddenly gone for over a month. They were introduced to the idea of untimely death – in a baby. They learned about fear and sickness and hospitals. Recently I overheard my five-year old happily singing to Redmond and the words stunned me. It went something like, “I’m so glad you’re my baby brother and you didn’t get dead. You make Mommy happy and not sad. Please don’t get dead and make Mommy sad.”
And I can’t fix it. I can’t erase those scars from her heart. I can’t force her to stop biting her nails and talking about death. She saw it’s shadow over our door.
My precious three-year old has probably suffered the most. He still gets panicky when he doesn’t know where we are. He has signs of anxiety that break my heart, and all I know to do is pray. Dear Jesus, please comfort his heart and soothe his soul. Please help me to see him, protect his heart, and make him feel safe and secure.
Scars are souvenirs we never lose. The past is never far.
But did you lose yourself somewhere out there?
We didn’t lose ourselves though; we found ourselves. I found a part of myself that was broken, healed through the pain. Things that have been fuzzy for years are crystal clear. I know what I want, what I don’t want, and I’m not afraid to say it. I will fight for my children. I will stand up for myself. I will do what needs to be done, whether anyone agrees with me or not. This life I’ve been given is my responsibility. I won’t turn over my responsibility to anyone else because I’m too weak to handle it. I will be strong enough to work it out.
What that looks like these days is advocating for my children. I won’t stand by while they’re exposed to any more horrors. I won’t let anyone put needles into them without a good reason – one that I understand. I won’t let anyone else tell me who they are or what they can/can’t do. The uncertain young woman who tried to accommodate everyone else while wrestling with what’s important to her is gone.
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I’ll take my scars without complaint or shame. They’ve made me who I am. I am a mother who won’t give up on her children, a wife who won’t give up on her husband, and a follower of Christ who won’t be deceived.
I’d like to know: How have your scars changed you?