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.
No words…just tears of understanding…
Noah has a 3 inch scar where they had to cut into his belly to do the Nissen Fundoplication because of a placement issue with his feeding tube. When they first said they had to do that, I thought nothing of it. “Whatever,” I thought, “he has to have it.” Each time I get him undressed for his bath, I look at the scar and have mixed emotions that I don’t know will ever go away. I’m sad that my baby had to go through that and happy that someone knew how to make his vomiting stop. My nanny keeps telling me to slather it in Mederma, but I’m not sure that I’m doing it for him or for other people so that they don’t have to look at him and think “poor baby!” Noah is strong and happy now that he isn’t quite so sick and I feel like Emmy is too. Plus, with me as his klutzy mom, he was sure to end up with a scar or two eventually!
Thanks for sharing, Vanessa. I love reading these posts!
THIS is brilliant insight: I’m not sure that I’m doing it for him or for other people so that they don’t have to look at him and think “poor baby!”
Thanks for that!
I had the same experience. It makes me cry to hear you talk so candidly about it. I have a rather large scar across my cheek that I got at a very young age in a car accident. As a child, I thought nothing of it either. During my teenage years tho, it was hard. However, as an adult, I know it is a sign that God had something in store for me and kept me around. When I found out that Katelynn would have open heart surgery, the fact that she would have a scar was absolutely the hardest part for me. I broke my heart and I would run my hand over her sweet little unblemished chest and know it wouldn’t stay that way for long. At the same time tho, I could see her struggling to breath and to keep herself alive. When I held my whole baby after her little heart was fixed, I never thought about it again. She was mended. She was whole. She would live. I can’t say I am not crying now thinking back over those times but I can say that it has given me absolute peace because I know just like me, God kept her around and healed her because He has GREAT things in store for her and I can’t wait to see how He does it. Our little guys are fighters and I know your sweet baby will also be able to look back and KNOW she is here for a reason.
This comment is so touching. Thank you for sharing!
I hear you completely about the scar. So many mixed emotions about it. I had never even taken a picture of Tyler’s until last week… and then I posted it on facebook and my blog – I felt like I needed to show it and get it out there for the world to see. It’s a reminder of just how strong my little guy really is! 🙂 And your beautiful little girl is such a strong baby too! They are fighters! 🙂
Beautiful pictures!! His scar looks much lighter than Emmy’s. I can’t wait to meet him in person!
Just the other day I was talking with my dad and I told him that I find comfort in seeing the scar on other CHD children. I actually miss seeing Joey’s scar. I will forever miss Joey, but feel a connection when I see a child’s scar from open heart surgery. I was always so proud of Joey’s scar. Like you said a badge of honor. These kids are so strong. Again, Vanessa, wonderfully worded.
“Turn your scars into stars.” Love you, Jill.
Vanessa, This was a beautiful post. It reminded me of a quote I really like from the book “Little Bee” (a good read, btw): “On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”
What an awesome quote. Thanks for sharing!!
Be Proud of that scar! She proves how tough she is each day and get scar is a symbol of the warrior she is.
Jacob has the same scar, plus the Nissen scar and feeding tube. He is literally scared from collarbone to belly button. His Nissen scar has faded to the point if you don’t know it is there you cannot see it. His heart incision is still red, but it is only 9 weeks old.
These will fade, but his determination gets stronger everyday.
Evert time someone say they are sorry he has been thru so much, I smile and say, “I’m not. This has happened to him because he is a fighter. Someone else might not handle it as well.”
Emmy is an AMAZING little girl with a HUGE story to tell people. Be proud of what she had fought for. 🙂
Thanks for this comment, Julie! Jacob is so sweet. I hope to meet both of you one day. 🙂