Sometimes, what breaks us is what seals our heart together; what we nearly lose, is what helps us treasure what we always had.
Perhaps what we dread most, is what we most need. And what we try all our lives to run away from, is what runs us down and calls us to live.
As I held our baby, sleeping like a kitten in my arms, as I was wheeled on a creaky wheelchair down the colorful corridors of the busy hospital, tears dammed behind my eyes as I feared what would happen next.
Recurrent fevers. Anxious nights. Nursing her to sleep in busy paediatric clinics. Rushing back to work. Rushing back to the clinic. Bad news. “Your baby might have a renal abnormality.”
Renal. Abnormality.
As I held our little kitten, all I could think of was what the senior pediatrician and the nurses at the hospital kept telling me, “She’s such a special little girl.”
They kept saying how special you were. You weren’t just “another girl”.
You see, when you were born, Mama was ecstatic. You were the perfect baby. Easy to carry in the womb. Easy to deliver in a record-time home birth, with just four minutes of pushing without pain relief . You slept through the night in just days.
Then, Mama brought you out to get some sunshine, but walked, unbeknownst to us, into insidious snares. Whenever we went out as a family, some stranger would poke a nose into our way and say, “Another girl?”
Another: used to refer to an additional person or thing of the same type as one already mentioned or known about; one more; a further.
Like it was a bad thing.
And if Mama didn’t run fast enough, I’d be asked, “So you must be thinking of trying for a third, no?”
“It’s good to have a boy and a girl.”
“Oh, but you NEED to have a boy.”
“A girl? Oh, but she looks just like a little boy.”
And then the worst, “It’s okay, you’re young, you can keep trying.”
Keep trying? For what?
Like our present was a bad thing. How can it be bad to have two of a good thing?
How they stung. Those uninvited words. Were we cursed?
I promise, I always wanted to retort- for you, for us. In my grandest imaginations, my chest and face erupted and ballooned like the hulk and my words spat out like fire from a dragon, and chased them away.
In my dreams, they never dared come back.
But reality was different. No matter how Mama hid, how smart Mama tried to be, they never went away.
They’d trap me- in a lift, at the supermarket counter, in a taxi… and say the same things.
Another. Girl.
Some days, I went home and cried. They never knew, that Mama, too, was a second girl. That while growing up, I once heard a story that my birth had caused great disappointment.
Another. Girl. Is that what other mothers were, are made to hear, too?
Like me, did they have to give away boxes and boxes of unthinking gifts of boys’ clothes, even when we didn’t know and never announced your gender?
That morning, as they wheeled us together to the radiography room, I felt all alone. I was tired, from sleeping on the sofa the night before, as I didn’t want my tossing and turning to keep Papa up.
Consequences of the invasive, radioactive test searching for renal abnormalities flooded through my mind.
At that moment, you were far from “another girl”. A little girl’s birth before yours does not make your birth any less special. You are ours wholly, not a filler- No one is waiting for another birth because of who God made you to be.
“Oh Lord,” I thought, as they told me, “Your baby will scream flat out for about twenty minutes as we catheterize her, pin her down and then inject the radioactive dye to take X-ray images.”
Suddenly, I wanted to go home. I wanted to not know the results. Based on what the pediatrician had told us, it was very likely something was wrong- we were just there to find out to what extent.
Perhaps what we dread most, is what we most need. And what we try all our lives to run away from, is what runs us down and calls us to live.
“Lord, help me,” I said.
Maybe it was my fault. Maybe somehow, during the pregnancy, I did something wrong, didn’t love you enough, and somewhere along the way, it affected your growth. Ah, the lies.
My insides churned when I found out the doctor on-duty was a fresh graduate. Reading my thoughts, he said, “Don’t worry, I do this all day, really.”
The next twenty minutes were a blur. As you were pinned down to the table by three adults, as the X-day plate came clamping down close to your face, as the radioactive dye got shot into you, I held back tears singing the best rendition of “Jesus loves me” I knew to you.
For twenty minutes, as your eyes locked onto mine from under the crevice of the X-Ray plate, you giggled as I sang.
As the test drew to a close, the doctors and nurses looked at me incredulously.
“You have the most remarkable baby,” they said. “She is simply remarkable. We’ve never seen a baby like that.”
And then, “Usually you have to wait four hours for the full report. But I can’t wait to tell you- your baby is normal. Everything is normal.”
In this season of COVID grief, I am learning the same lessons you taught me. That sometimes… what we fear most, picks us to be brave. What we’d never pick for ourselves, picks us to be strong.
Sometimes… we learn what we need to, by journeying through what we least want. What we think would crush us, revives us to live stronger.
What we receive from what the world rejects, often is gold. A special treasure wrapped in God’s breath.
Perhaps, what the world thinks we need, is exactly what we don’t. And what we so desperately think would fix everything, is the last thing we need.
Perhaps, what we feared, was never meant to be feared at all.
I am learning, Esther-Praise, that you are far from “another girl”. Just like Queen Esther in the bible, you have shown the world great courage in the face of darkness; Just as your name says, you’ve learned to praise, and giggle even, in adversity.
For that, we celebrate your life, for being God’s special gift to us- not just another girl, but a queen of tremendous courage and audacious praise.
We may not be able to have that big birthday gathering Mama really wanted to have for you, but we thank God, for the gift of you- for being unashamedly, unabashedly, our girl.
Happy 1st birthday, sweetheart.
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