For you, Jenn, for showing me how to be brave.
– – – – –
There’s a tiny little tube running through her nose, down into her distended belly. An IV sits in her arm, a tiny little gauge for her tiny little veins. She’s not wearing a shirt, because she can’t get all the tubes through her sleeves. It doesn’t matter, really. She doesn’t need one here.
There’s a headband on that head though, of course. Those curls can hardly be contained without one and hey, a girl needs her pretties no matter where she is.
Tigger sits next to her, as he always does. He’s walked (hopped?) every step of this journey with her. If she goes somewhere, so does he, and no one’s going to tell her different. The hospital bed dwarfs her little frame. And though there are elephants on the wall, Snoopy on the scrubs, and crayons in the bedside table, a pediatric unit is still no place for a child. No hospital ever is. She is brave, that little girl. My niece, Reese, she’s so brave.
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”
I used to be so grateful that Reese didn’t know that it could be another way. That there was both sick and there was well, that there was both up and there was down. I knew that someday, another child was going to try to tell her that she was flawed. That someday, she was going to know that it could be “better.” That someday, Reese was going to realize that she’s had to be stronger and tougher than the kids that surround her. That someday, she was going to know that she was different.
I look at her now, and that someday has arrived, and all I can think is that there is no one, not a single one, who could hear her story or look at her life and deny that she is brave. I sure can’t.
But I would suggest this.
What if being a mama is the bravest thing of all?
That’s the other story all woven up in this battle of faith and hope and fight. That’s the story we never hear about, the story no one talks about, because she’s far too busy championing the child that needs her the most.
There’s a mama in that story who smiles at that little girl, holding her hand, while the nurses hold her down.
There’s a mama in that story who tells the nurses to leave, when at last, her little girl sleeps.
There’s a mama in that story who tap-tap-taps her foot in the waiting room, waiting for the “she’s okay” from her baby girl’s surgeon.
And there’s a mama in the hall, exhausted, weary, weeping, when the nurse stops, looks her in the eye, and tells her “You are so brave.”
She is brave, that mama. My sister, Jenn, she’s so brave. All of those mamas – is it you? Because if it is, I’m speaking to you too. You are all so very brave.
Do you know what all of us are learning while we sit and watch all of you be so brave? That there is nothing stronger than a mama’s desire to see her child be well – because my God, I’ve never seen anyone fight so hard for something they love. That sometimes, we have to let people hurt our kids – because where there is hurting, there is healing. That sometimes, we have to tell our kids that that it’s going to be okay, even when it isn’t – because you know the challenges, they’ll refine them and shape them in ways you never could.
Having a child, it truly means putting your heart into a tiny little body, sending it off into the world to be hurt, to be bruised, but to thrive. To live. And parents, those men and women privileged to be called mama and daddy, sometimes the very best thing, the only thing, they can do for that life is get out of the way.
I used to look at you and wonder why any of you did it. How any of you did it. If bravery is a necessity for mamahood, how does anyone know they are brave enough before they begin?
Do you know how important your story is, mama? Do you know how much you have taught me?
Sometimes, I think I owe my girls to you.
When I heard that first heartbeat, I knew. All the things you showed me, I knew in an instant they were true. Every good day, every bad day, they’re all worth it. That child, well or not, you would choose them a thousand times over again. One day of joy with a child, it’ll fill you in ways nothing else can. And the bravery? It just shows up – and then it thumps right along with that first tiny heartbeat, following those little feet in whatever direction life takes them.
All of that, I watched you and I watched her, and together, even on the hardest days, you showed me all of that. You showed me that I could do it. You showed me that they are worth it. You showed me that even in making the choice to be a mama, I was brave enough already.
How can I, how can any of us, ever tell you thank you enough for all of that?
So to each one of you mamas, well done. Thank you for showing me your strength. Thank you for showing me it’s worth it. Thank you for being so brave.