It was a thud that made one’s insides go dead at once.
“Blood! Blood!” Cliff yelled.
Blood dripped down her face, mouth and nostrils. Her eyelids closed.
Time froze. The thud, then wails, echoed down the hallway and bounced off the walls.
Blood was everywhere.
“The bleeding’s stopped. It’ll be all right, it doesn’t need the hospital, right?”
I wanted to believe it. The unforgiving wound sliced across her little forehead in between her eyebrows and just above her upper lip.
“Yes,” I said, in grand denial, while texting my mentor, who had headed his hospital’s Emergency department for years. I knew I was losing sound judgement.
“Yes, need stitches at the hospital. Likely very deep,” came the reply.
Through it all, our little trooper sang to herself. I laughed through my tears, wholeheartedly thankful for a timely delivery parcel at the doorstep which held under wraps a little under-the-sea sunhat.
“Open, Mama, open!” She said in the car, her forehead wound gaping. “Oh look, fishies! And octopus! I love my hat, Mama.”
Blood dripped down the bridge of her nose.
“Sarah-Faith, we are going to the hospital, OK? It’s a cool place. Mama used to work there. You wanna see where Mama used to work?”
“OH MY GOD,” were the first words I was greeted with at the Emergency department when they saw our child.
“Wait for Dr S.” Was my mentor’s text. “I’ve sorted it all out for you.”
With blood on her cheeks too by now, our little monkey was jumping up and down the sofa at the Emergency department, bringing a smile to all the other anxious parents.
An elaborate hand-scrawled family portrait at the back of a patient information sheet by Mama later, an immaculate woman, impeccably dressed, waltzed through the door.
Immediately, I knew she was who we needed.
It could have been a medical officer on call, or an intern on duty.
But there at the door, no doubt by God’s gracious mercies, was…
“Hi, I’m Dr S. I’m a plastic surgeon. I got called. Pleasure to be here. Wow, thanks for bringing her in.”
A moment later, “It’s a wound dowe to the bone. Overnight stay. Do you have insurance? Scar therapy for the next six months.”
The night was a blur. While Papa held little Sarah-Faith in his arms to sleep at the hospital, a teary-eyed Mama brought Baby EP back home and slept, if only a little, on the living room sofa.
We asked a few close friends to pray with us, for any emotional, physical or mental trauma to be erased.
“Will there be a terrible scar? On her face?” Was the most common question.
A scar. Would there be one? A thick long ugly gash right in the middle of her eyebrows and above her lip for the rest of her life?
Perhaps it was naïveté. Perhaps it was God’s grace. But the thought did not cross my mind then.
“I’m glad she’s alive and that her eyes and nose and brain are okay!” Was my honest reply.
The next week was one of medications, careful baths, meticulous dressing changes. As I unpeeled the dressing each time, the angry wound with unsightly stitches glared at me. I would try hard to smile, and always said, ” Wow look! It’s healing so well! You are beautiful, sweetheart.”
It pierced my heart, but not nearly as painfully as the incident at the playground a few weeks ago, when little Sarah-Faith bounced guilelessly into the sophisticated social minefield of a group of older girls.
In the middle of the circle, was a little pile of glittery, cutesy, sparkly Smiggley things. She watched attentively, taking in everything. Suddenly understanding how “it” worked, she went to her little toy bike, popped the seat up and took out, among her secret stash of things, her special, most prized toy- her little precious, pink pingpong ball.
Cupping it in her little hands, she walked over to the girls and gracefully offered it.
My heart sank to my gut.
I knew- the worst was about to unfold.
In slow motion, I saw her unstoppable bounciness suddenly quieten, her countenance fall.
No one batted an eyelid to see her.
Amidst the glittery, cutesy, sparkly, Smiggle-huddle, my Sarah-Faith and her little pingpong ball was invisible. Clearly, she was not one of them.
Tears welled up in my eyes as she took a step back, motioned for me to sit down, and then slumped her little body deep into my chest and tummy. Like a stone on a sandbag, she sank deep into me.
“Are you okay, sweetheart?”
“Are you sad?”
“Why won’t they talk to me, Mama?”
“Do you feel sad, sweetie?”
A tiny nod.
My heart broke into a million pieces.
“Its all right, Sarah-Faith. Mama’s proud of you sharing. Come, let’s go home.”
But she wouldn’t. All she wanted was to sit on me and watch the party unfold, as if still quietly hoping that someone would invite her, would count her pingpong ball, and her worthy.
Finally, the ring leader came over.
“Oh look,” she grabbed the ball. “ A magical egg.”
Sarah-Faith’s eyes lit up. Her hopes rose.
But then the ring leader tossed it, like a disposable tissue.
The pingpong ball rolled away. Sarah-Faith ran after it, her heels dug deep into the groud like marks on my heart.
In the days after the surgery, as my heart ached at the swollen, angry wound and as I gingerly changed the dressing twice a day, every day, I learned an important lesson.
That as a parent, as much as I want to, I have not the power to protect my child from suffering, in this broken, fallen world.
As much as I want to convince myself, I must be naive to think there will be no scar at all.
But what I can do, what I can learn to do better every day, is journey with my child and teach her to heal well. Help her process the trauma, dress the wound if needed, protect it from infection. All this, with the outcome of a well-healed wound. All this, to help our children scar well.
As much as I am troubled by the impact that a superficial scar could leave on the self esteem of a young lady, I am even more aware of the deeper, unseen wounds inflicted by a world growing in darkness.
My role as a parent then, in that in-between space of hurting and healing, is a commitment to restoration, through gentle and patient journeying.
After the relief of the surgery, I did not at all foresee the intensive scar treatment that would follow- three different creams three times a day, scar tape that had to be carefully trimmed and washed, and another cream to be applied twice a day, plus regular doctor appointments and 3-weekly light therapy. As I coaxed and encouraged a strong-willed toddler to allow me to do what I needed to, God revealed to me the gentle patience, tender love and tenacious commitment I needed to help my child heal.
Someone else like the surgeon might be able to stitch her up, but only I, her Mama, could journey with her through weeks and months of intensive treatment, every day, a few times a day.
And with all my best efforts, trust that God would heal her.
That evening after the playground incident, as I tucked Sarah-Faith
to bed, I said, rather clumsily, “Sweetheart, sometimes it may not feel good to not be a part of a group. It’s okay to feel sad. But Mama is here with you, okay? We’ll pray to God for good friends, here and in the mission field. Let’s pray together.”
“I be a big girl soon, Mama. Then I can play with the big girls.”
“Yes you will, my dear. And you will remember to play with the little ones.”
Months have passed since the incident, and Cliff now tells me in wonder that he can hardly see her scar when the tape is removed.
I may not be able to stop you from falling and getting hurt, but I will be ready to help you heal, my child.
Mama, too, is learning from you, to scar well.