I have to be honest. Before Emmy had heart surgery, I was really worried about the scar. Baby skin is so pure and soft. It symbolizes newness and promise and possibility. Whenever they show diaper commercials on tv, they zoom in on the baby’s chubby, soft, flawless skin.
Babies aren’t hardened adults with tough skin yet. They don’t know about the world and its difficulties. So the idea of cutting into Emmy’s gentle skin just slayed me.
Plus, I’m squeamish. I can faint at the sight of blood or anything resembling an open wound. When I was in middle school, I cut my finger in Woodshop class. I looked down at the blood and fainted, falling backwards and hitting my head on a metal filing cabinet. I was taken to the emergency room for the major gash in the back of my head, not the tiny cut on my finger.
So I was nervous. But I was desperate to be there for Emmy and not let my embarrassing squeamishness get in the way.
When Emmy first came home from the hospital, I was so happy to have her home that I felt like I shouldn’t care about the scar. My head told me to just be thankful that she was alive. But every time I glanced at the scar, I thought I was going to faint. From what I’ve seen of other kids, Emmy’s scar is particularly noticeable. Her surgery was back in May, and the scar still looks reddish pink. (Don’t worry — she doesn’t have an infection.) I think it’s because she was on life support for almost a week, and her chest remained open during that time. It didn’t heal as cleanly and quickly as some other scars I’ve seen.
Also, when she first came home, every time I looked at the scar, it brought back a rush of emotions. It reminded of the tough time she had after heart surgery and the fact that she almost didn’t make it. I felt like I was reliving it again and again and again. Those feelings have subsided a bit with time, although I can still go back to that hospital room in my mind with a word or a smell or the sight of an ID badge that says “Parent Pass.”
Emmy, on the other hand, seems quite comfortable with her scar! She points to it and say “boo boo.” She lifts up her shirt for people to see. One woman remarked that she seems proud of it. I hope she is. She sure earned it.
I want her to be proud of it as she gets older too. When we’re young, scars can be a badge of honor. And later in life, we can get more self-conscious. I have a scar over my eye from when I fell on my lunchbox as a kid. I never thought twice about it until I got older and started to critically examine my face in the mirror. “That needs to be plucked…that doesn’t look good…and, oh jeez, that scar…”
I hope I can continue to foster Emmy’s pride in her scar. A nurse recently said that she doesn’t like the term “congenital heart defect” because it attaches a negative connotation to something that kids should actually be proud of. They don’t have the scar because they’re defective. They have it because they are downright amazing.
I joined a group on Facebook called “Mended Little Hearts” for families of children with Congenital Heart Defects. Every time they post a picture of a little boy or girl and I see that scar peeking out from the top of a shirt, I feel an instant connection with a stranger.
“Emmy has that too,” I think.
The scar didn’t mar her skin like I feared it would. It didn’t take away from her beautiful, soft, gentle baby self. She still is my snuggly sweet little girl, full of promise and possibility. And now she has a badge of courage too.