The Invisible Scars: When your child’s hurt becomes your own

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Tears. Lots and lots of tears. And shrieking newborn cries. A new cry. One I hadn’t heard from my five day old baby girl. I ran as fast as my recovering C-section body would allow. I stopped at the top of my stairs. I looked down and saw my husband’s panic stricken, flushed pink cheeked face look back at me. “I’m so sorry, oh my God!” More shrieking cries and soon panic struck over me. Why did I leave her to take a shower? He had our brand new, sweet daughter laying on the floor with each of his hands cradling the sides of her delicate face. He was on his knees and elbows, repeating to her, “Shh. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry, little baby. Shhhhh, I’m sooo sorry…” What in the world did he do to our baby? He dropped her. I know he did. Brain damage? Head trauma? Death? I made it down the stairs in Olympic type speed and swept her right out of his hands.

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?” My heart was in my throat and he was so exasperated that he could barely speak.

“I bit her!”

“You did what?”

“It was an accident…” My post-partum self wanted to throttle his neck. How is it possible to accidently bite someone, especially a newborn? Bullshit.

“YOU CAN”T ACCIDENTALLY BITE SOMEONE!” WTH?

“I…I…I…was trying to take her bib off and…” tears began to billow from his eyes…I was still scared and now pissed.

“….and what???”

“I was using my teeth to detach the Velcro and didn’t realize her earlobe was so close. I think I ripped her earlobe off. I’m so sorry, oh my God. I’m so sorry…”

The expression, “Becoming a parent is like wearing your heart on the outside of your body” rang true for me, just five days into parenting sweet Sophia. My reaction to my husband may have been a little rough, but my fears and anxieties soared because we had to say goodbye to our sweet oldest daughter, Machaela, before we ever had a chance to be parents. We had to plan her funeral before her birth announcements, I was still learning to trust God that I could, indeed, be a mom.

Turns, out, she was fine. It was an accident. Her earlobe remained intact and so did our marriage. I mean what parent doesn’t at some point use their teeth to remove a bib? Little did I know that this new role of parenthood would be a lesson for me to learn how to deal with my own emotions.

We, as a family, have suffered a lot. Living in and out of hospitals and clinics proved to be tough. Watching them tie down your baby to insert a feeding tube into their tiny body is gut wrenching, so is watching them drug and anesthetize your baby to the point of unconsciousness. The fear of “what If they never wake up” wavers in between, “what if I don’t do this and I lose another one?” Decisions had to be made and the pros outweighed the cons. The temporary physical pain seemed more bearable than the pain of the unknown.

Soon I graduated into the next phase of parenthood. Learning how to deal with their emotional hurts: the ones that I can’t see, except for the crocodile tears that my babes shed when their heart hurts so much that they can’t bear it any longer.  The invisible ouchies. The innocent ones. The ones that when they are afflicted with them, they learn how to quiet their soul until a word, a trigger, sight or smell brings it all back up again. It’s what our society calls being “strong.” Then the flood gates open and out of nowhere, after you thought they had a good day, they break down at bed time and tell how their bully won or how they were hurt by someone that they love, ever so much. They learn how their enemy scored another point on them. They learn how to harden their heart and build walls. The enemy moves in, ever so slightly, breaking their spirit a little more and stealing another small piece of their innocence. The small ouchies grow into even bigger monsters… and our littles learn fear. Our littles learn to hide and suppress their thoughts. They learn avoidance and they learn rejection. The complete opposite of what I have tried to teach them.

I cry out to God.

I realized the other day that this pain is greater than any physical pain they have ever encountered.  As I cuddled and hugged my child as she bawled for family members she longed to see, I tried to think of all the comforting things that I could say. It wasn’t much. The real truth hurts and is painful.  The longing to fulfill a role, familial and natural, is being denied and it’s a difficult realization to process.  Her pain and burden became my own as I tried to explain the why’s and why not’s. Difficult. Especially when it’s hard for my own brain to reason. It’s hard to process as a Christian momma, am I wrong?

I’m still learning. Trying to figure out this road of parenthood. I keep things real, telling them the honest truth according to their ability to process it. Some of my kids know more than my others. Being open and honest is important, but hard. It’s a huge hard, not like the starting of an IV or feeding tube. It’s an invisible hard.

And I cry even louder to God. He cries back.

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17

What are your cries? What are your child’s hurts that have become your own. How do you comfort them, how do you remove the nastiness, or even better, how do you explain it?

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2 thoughts on “The Invisible Scars: When your child’s hurt becomes your own

  1. Hooo boy…I could write forever on this one! All our kids are over 23 yrs old now, and under 32 (4 of them, 2 boys and 2 girls…gender confirmed with each lol).

    So now they are in that adult phase where they are totes individuating from us, and into their own life, self, etc. Remember being that age? When we didn’t even think parents were humans, they were just in their special category called “parents”…sort of like demi-gods…imperfect and obviously so, but also they were clearly impervious to the horrible burdens we faced as young rarely sick totally blessed new adults…and thus just didn’t understand our burdens, worries, happinesses…so why would we bother to share anything with them…RIGHT????

    Sigh…those are the pains that I am carrying now with my kids.

    There is a distance that far surpasses geography…and to be vulnerable here with you, it is partially due to my gender orientation. In two ways: first, the ways it affected everything when it was hidden from us all (including myself) but exerting its inevitable gravity, skewing everything in a particular way like some trees grow when exposed to constant wind…and second, the way it is affecting everything now that it is revealed to us all.

    They are all friendly still, none has “divorced me”…but all have asked distance to process these things, both past and present.

    It is killing me, the silence, the continual going forward without hearing from them, orienting myself to God as yielded as I can be and opening myself to Their Life and Fruitful ways. I miss the constant communication I had from one daughter…the excited recitation of achievements from the other…the deep philosophical abstract discussions with one son and the fun sports oriented convo with the other…

    When I first came out to them, they all were affirming, with the girls far more easily accepting than the boys, because the boys both said they had learned about being a man from me, and now they weren’t certain what it meant to be a man, and I told them that really no one in our culture knows that anyways, cus males are so socialized to be beasts these days…I reassured them that I had sought to lay principles and concepts and character qualities in their hearts that would see them in good stead and didn’t matter what their source was gender-wise…

    …but that was hard, and I get it: how to not wonder if some of our hard times growing up would have been different with a real man for a father, one who worked on cars and hunted and fished and loved to do man-stuff and had man-heart and emotions, and all that…

    …and the girls have talked about how their views of men and expectations of them are so wrenched now…they were looking at men and judging them because they weren’t like me, which is sorta like looking at a guy and wondering why he isn’t like your mom…

    so now there is this distance, this gulf…and oh god I cannot even tell you the tears I have shed, the longing and ache and absence that is in my heart…and the realization that none of this is “my fault”…shall the pot say to the Potter “why have you made me thus?” For I do indeed believe that They created me just so, and for the purpose of helping breakdown the dividing wall of gender in the towering Pauline exhortation: “For in Christ there is neither greek nor jew, male nor female, slave nor free man, but all are one in Him” (or words to that effect).

    But there is always a cost to being a part of that transformation…the freedom riders paid so that others could drink from fountains, and I want to do the analogous quest…but the cost…ahh, my friend you really pinched hard on that lil pimple in my heart and squeezed it…with this post.

    It is a real challenge to not simply condemn myself and blame myself and hate myself…this doesn’t please God at all…but I am tempted to, and worse. Instead though, I know that I share the common ground with all parents, combining regret and hope, satisfaction and loss, and a deep awareness of my inadequacy mixed with Their ability.

    Through it all They are.

    And I will trust Them, lifting my eyes to the mountains, and Their Mountain of Grace from which my help comes.

    Blessings, Darla…and thanks for writing and providing this forum.

    Charissa

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