Callie and I were in the checkout line at Target the other day and I looked behind me. I haven’t seen him in 10 years. He looked the same as he did that day in the hospital. I wondered how it was possible he could look the same when I have changed so much?
We were huddled around her incubator. It had been three days since Callie’s open heart surgery. She had only been born four days prior. She had a three inch scar that covered her tiny little chest. She was hooked to a million tubes and wires and had a respirator to help her breathe. She had a feeding tube in her nose that went down her throat to help her eat. Each breath was a struggle for her. She didn’t cry and the nurses told us it probably took too much energy for her. She had reddish blonde hair and bright blue eyes. In short, she was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. We were told we were going to meet with a specialist about her leg that day because they had noticed that her left leg was shorter than her right. The specialist walked in and picked up her chart. He scanned through it and when it got to the maternal history page he looked up.
“You have diabetes? Well, that’s why she has all the issues that she does. “
He didn’t know that I started to sob as my husband pushed him out the door of our room in the NICU. He didn’t know that I could hear my husband yelling at him through my wrenching sobs. He didn’t know that they had told us the day of Callie’s open heart surgery that she probably would not make it through the surgery much less survive the following weeks. He didn’t know that we had just been given our miracle only to be told we might have to tell her goodbye. He didn’t know.
He didn’t know that when I was in second grade my teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up and my answer was “a mother.” He didn’t know that my teacher asked me the question again and my response was the same. I wanted to be a mother more than anything in the world. He didn’t know that I had been told by doctors my whole life that it would be very unlikely that I would be able to get pregnant much less be healthy enough to carry the baby to full term. He didn’t know that I had boyfriends break up with me because they wanted to have kids and there was a chance my diabetes wouldn’t let me. He didn’t know that both James and I cried tears of joy when we found out we were pregnant. He didn’t know that James would leave me little notes “from” the baby that told me I was going to be a good Mommy and they couldn’t wait to meet me. He didn’t know that I had a special onesie made that said “Daddy’s Newest Recruit” and surprised James with it. He didn’t know that we picked the name Callie because it meant “Beautiful” and that her middle name was Grace because she would become our saving grace. He didn’t know that Callie would kick extra hard if I listened to hip hop music in the car and that she would start to kick really hard if she heard her Daddy’s voice. He didn’t know that we would both put our hands on my tummy at night and tell her “good night.” He didn’t know that we painted her room a sunny shade of yellow called “Pooh Bear’s Tummy Yellow.” He didn’t know that I saw my doctor weekly, texted him almost every day, and did everything in my power to be as healthy as I could be during my pregnancy. He didn’t know that I had the lowest A1C of my life during my pregnancy. He didn’t know that at every ultra sound the doctors were pleased with our progress and expected me to be able to go full term. He didn’t know how proud I was of that.
He didn’t know that with that small interaction he destroyed my world. He didn’t know that he shattered my heart into a million pieces and that I still hear that statement in my darkest days. He didn’t know that he confirmed my worst fears and to this day I still feel my heart clench when people ask why Callie has the issues that they do. He didn’t know that sometimes I hate myself because I might be the reason my daughter has the challenges that she does. He didn’t know that I ask myself “I’m her mother…how could I not protect her from this?” He doesn’t know that in that moment I have never hated my diabetes more in my entire life. He didn’t know the grief that still hits me at random moments. He didn’t know that I would have traded places with her a million times over. He didn’t know that I would have taken on every single burden that she would have to bear to make it up to her. He didn’t know that.
He also didn’t know that my daughter was a fighter. He didn’t know that about her mama either. He didn’t know that she would break every limit that the doctors had put on her. He didn’t know that she survived her heart surgery. He didn’t know that she survived her second one too. He didn’t know that we spent 3 months in the NICU with her. He didn’t know that she learned to walk with her prosthetic in two days when the doctors told us it would take a few weeks. He didn’t know that she now walks, runs, swims, and rides her horse, Jazzy. He didn’t know that her quiet spirit and shy smile light up the lives of people who know her. He didn’t know that despite every odd, she’s here and flourishing. He didn’t know that in that moment, I promised myself that I would help her shatter any glass ceiling in her life. He didn’t know that I would spend my life protecting hers. He didn’t know that I would teach her that kindness and compassion are more important than being the fastest or the “best” at something. He didn’t know that Callie would redefine what “strong” and “beautiful” means. He didn’t know that I made a promise to Callie to take the best care of myself so I could be there for her. He didn’t know I wouldn’t let my diabetes rob her of any time with her mama. He didn’t know that I push myself harder and everything I do is for her. He didn’t know that we would later be told that it was probably a genetic anomaly and we would see a specialist to begin testing. He didn’t know that we would have an incredible tribe. He didn’t know that she would have a light about her—one that suggests she will change the world. He didn’t know that.
I didn’t say anything to him. Instead, I looked at my little miracle.