“Resting” 12×12, oil on canvas Bid Now SOLD
I received Katie’s story last week and have been mulling it over ever since. Katie and I were childhood friends. She, Robyn (tomato painting), and I spent most of junior high days finding rides between each others houses.
When I moved back to Mandeville, Katie was one of the first people from my past that I ran into, and, therefore, one of the first people I lied to about why I had moved back. I mention it because now it seems funny, absurd. Now I not only tell people why I live where I do, but I write about it on a blog anyone can see. How’s that for progress?
Katie and I have been crossing paths a lot lately. She has a daughter close in age to my son. I see pictures on facebook and when I drop off Ezra at the daycare at the gym, sometimes little Emmaline is there too; in fact, I saw her smiling face the day I received the story from Katie. It was confirmation that I had something important to do (keep reading;))
What you don’t know by watching someone from afar is what’s taking place in their minds and hearts, the struggles and disappointments, fears and worries. We all look happy when we smile, and facebook is full of smiling faces.
What Katie wrote was beautiful and profound and I’ve been eager to share it.
Katie’s Story in her Own Words
So, I read your request for a story entailing a pivotal moment in one’s life, when it was first posted. I remember reading it and thinking, I know exactly what I’d write, but then that was it– I didn’t write. My thoughts automatically went to the “my story isn’t that exciting” or “how could a painting come of it?” so I scrolled on. Then you posted your first painting, and I thought, “Wow! That’s a really beautiful painting, and an even more beautiful write-up to go with it. I should write my story.” And then I didn’t. After a few days of this, I couldn’t seem to get it out of my head. And, of course being the person that I am, I’ve started to question my own intentions for writing the story: Am I trying to raise awareness? Am I looking for sympathy? Am I thinking that my ‘moment’ is way more interesting than it really is? And so tonight, as I sit here typing away when I should be sleeping, I’ve decided to jump right in and hope that some sort of healing, awareness, and even thankfulness (on my part) comes from it.
In October of 2011, I found out that I was pregnant. It was a milestone that my husband and I had planned, and had very much looked forward to. We had already been blessed with one smart and sweet little boy, and we couldn’t wait to meet the newest little one set to arrive in early June. My pregnancy went very smoothly (and very quickly due to chasing a toddler around every second of every day). And so came the day, May 30 2012, that I was to go in for my second C-section. Everything went very smoothly, and before we knew it my husband was peeking over the drape in anticipation to announce to me that we now had a tiny baby GIRL! I finally had my Emmaline; the name that I had longed to call my daughter for way too many years to count.
Emmaline and Daddy were whisked off to the nursery while I got to finish the boring stuff and then got wheeled into the recovery room only to wait anxiously to finally get to hold my little girl. I finally heard the loud rumble of the nurse pushing the cart down the hall and I knew that cart was for me. When she picked up that little, tiny bundle and handed her to me, it was simply overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to have my kangaroo time with her and finally feel her sweet little body pressed against mine. We immediately attempted to nurse, but she just wasn’t latching quite right. We tried a few more times before relenting and using a small medicine cup to pour some colostrum into her mouth. I was a bit defeated but sure that we’d get it the next time. My nursing experience with my son was effortless, so I just chalked it up to something that we’d have to work on. That whole morning was a blur, but the next moment that I remember will forever be etched into my brain. It’s not my pivotal moment, but it’s probably the second most pivotal moment of my life. My husband and mom had gone downstairs to eat lunch, and my sister was being the awesome woman that she is and loving on me. Emmaline was in the nursery for one of the many things that they have to do/check on that first day. In walks the newborn doctor who introduces himself and promptly sits on the end of my bed. There was no, “she’s beautiful” or “everything looks great,” instead he looks at me and says, “Your daughter has a cleft. She will need surgery…not now, but in the future. There are many resources for clefts. Blah. Blah. Blah” I couldn’t even focus on the words that he was saying. Just a couple of hours earlier I had given birth to a beautiful little girl and now this man was telling me that something was wrong with her. That my little, tiny 6 pound 5 ounce miracle needed surgery. All I kept thinking in my head was, “Cleft? She has a cleft? Am I crazy? She looked perfectly fine to me. Does he have the right baby?” So many thoughts and so many emotions were running through me. I remember nodding to everything he was saying, even though I had no idea what I was nodding to. And I felt the warm tears running down my face uncontrollably. Helpless is what I felt. Completely helpless.
And so the days went on. Emmaline was never able to nurse due to the cleft. We had special preemie bottles that I had to cut the nipples of, just so I could feed her. I pumped every two to three hours, everyday, for eight months straight until my body could give me no more. We visited several doctors. And we waited.
We waited and waited until that day when she was 10 ½ months old and it was time for her surgery. We were very happy to find the Cleft Team at Children’s Hospital. They are amazing. And so the day was finally here for us to hand our sweet, fun, and sassy little girl over to the nurse and watch her walk away leaving us behind…reeling on the inside, and also thanking God that it was only a cleft palate that we were here to fix. The surgery went very well…the recovery not so much. Those 24 hours were definitely the hardest of my life. Holding a baby, who is in pain, who is coming out of anesthesia, who is confused, and who is bleeding from the mouth more than one would think is safe, is gut wrenching. I remember holding her when she was crying and bleeding and I was just crying because there wasn’t a thing that I could do. Again, helpless. And then, just like that, at almost exactly 24 hours from when it all began, it all started to get better. My sweet girl was back.
And so life went on, and there came a day a few months later when I was sitting in a bible study and the leader was talking about worrying. More specifically, worrying about “tomorrow” instead of focusing on today. She referenced Matthew 6:34, and it hit me like a load of bricks. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself,” I had missed it. I had “missed” all of it. And there lies my pivotal moment. I wanted to sob, right there in front of all of these other women, I wanted to cry ugly tears! For 10 ½ months I had focused on “tomorrow”. I had focused so hard on that surgery and getting it over with, that I had missed “today”. I had wanted so badly for the surgery to be behind us that I was overlooking the beauty of everyday. It was a raw realization for me, and one that still makes my cry. I had let my fear and anxiety lead me for a year, and in the process I didn’t get the chance to revel in the moments of pure baby love. From that day onward, I made it a point to try and tell myself to live; live right now. To get on the floor and play trucks with my son or to turn on the music and dance and twirl with my daughter. It’s a hard thing to do when you feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions all at once, but it’s worth it. It’s worth every second of hugging and laughing and snuggling and singing and loving.”
Today’s painting , once again, references that scripture that perhaps started my bird paintings and the one that spoke to Katie in the bible study she describes.
In its full context:
“Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life? And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?” It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
This gentle bird is a reminder to live now instead of waiting to live.
But some people don’t really have that option. This story made me want to make a contribution to those children with cleft palates or cleft lips for whom surgery is not a readily available option.
When I discussed this with Katie, she said, “Knowing that Em would never be able to nurse, was very difficult for me, but knowing that I had access to a pump that would allow me to feed my child hit me hard. There are so many children all over the world who die from clefts simply because they can’t nurse, and there’s no other way to keep them nourished.”
So this painting is on sale, but for auction this time, and I will donate half the proceeds to Operation Smile. The bidding starts at $100.00. One surgery for a child in need costs $240.00, and I’m hoping we get close. The donation will be made in Emmaline’s name. Please share this with anyone you think might be interested.
And, of course, many thanks to Katie for sharing her beautiful story.