Scarred For Life

I have a scar. Actually, I have lots of scars, mostly resulting from an active and adventurous childhood. I’m re-discovering them now — on my chin, my nose, both of my knees, my fingers and hands, my upper abdomen. And sure, I can recall the injuries and the circumstances surrounding most of them, and they were certainly eventful at the time: an emergency surgery in infancy, a scooter accident when I was four or five, a leg-shaving experiment gone awry at age ten, a check to the face during a particularly heated lacrosse practice…

I remember the rock that split open the skin on my kneecap when I was a skinny, tow-headed five year-old running down the wooded hill at our lake house to deliver a package to a neighbor. Aside from the severe burning from the cavernous wound, I experienced immediate anxiety, thinking that showing a grown-up the blood streaming down my skinny little shin would send me to get stitches. So, I kept it a secret.  A secret until my grandmother wanted to know who was dripping blood on the brown and yellow linoleum floor. I had to fess up. I had hoped the dried blood would blend in and go unnoticed. 

I also recall the scar on my chin that I got, only four years ago, while on a road trip with a co-worker. We had stopped at Dunkin Donuts to grab coffee and bagels, and as I was getting out of the car, the corner of the door of her Honda Fit, scraped the lower half of my face, leaving a small bruise and a gash below my lower lip. The stickiness of the emanating blood caused the brown recycled napkins to adhere to my face. That was just embarrassing, not to mention the stinging that annoyed me for an hour or so. 

But these scars are nothing compared to the “big one.” It is in fact the biggest one, both in length and in significance. It’s special. Much more emotional. Much more traumatizing. And much more joyous. Both the joy and the trauma wake me up every morning. Every morning. Twice. Twice a morning. 

Some mornings, they’re both in good moods, eager to start the day. Eager to see me. And hug me. And offer big smiles as they begin to map out their plans for the day. Only one does so verbally. The other points and coos or gurgles. We don’t really get much out of him except “uh-oh.” Over and over again. Lots of uh-ohs. 

Other mornings, they’re both in bad moods. Nate, almost three and equally tow-headed with brown eyes, is hungry and he desperately has to pee. But he can’t quite figure out how to unzip the zipper on his Lightning McQueen pajamas, so he’s jumpy and irritable. Sam, eleven months old, also fiercely hungry, might be crying as he leans over his crib, bothered by the poop that oozes from his diaper, caking the inside of his pajamas, but also by the fact that no one responded immediately to his first “I’m-awake-look-at-me” squeal, and fat tears pour from his bright blue eyes. Most mornings, one is joyous while the other delivers me some trauma. Less than an hour later, those mood assignments are likely to flip flop at least twice. And by the end of the day — a very, very long day for me, by the way — we, all three of us, are likely to hit every single nuance of every single emotion… and mood… and sentiment on the full Spectrum of Emotions, Moods, and Sentiments. 

Two different Caesarian sections, two years apart. Actually, one year, eleven months and seventeen days apart. But who’s counting? They both yielded boys. Tiny, pink, and scrawny, each only six pounds and nine ounces. But despite their puny little statures — although growing bigger every day, thanks to peanut butter and Pop Tarts! — my life has been transformed.

The surgeries that caused the scars were shocking. I experienced fever, exhaustion, pain (thank you, Percocet and morphine!), and all sorts of intestinal issues. One doctor even refused to let me eat for four days. Talk about trauma! 

And then there were months of sleep deprivation. Also shocking and tortuous — not to get political here, but there are valid reasons this is used by the CIA as a means of forcing terror suspects into submission. It’s gruesomely unpleasant. And my pre-pregnancy body? Will I ever get that back? Not nearly as devastating of course, but still mildly distressing at times.

Yet I wake up every morning. Whether I’m ready or not, I have to wake up. There is no choice. Gone is the concept of sleeping in. Weekends no longer mean a mid-morning trip to the gym, raking leaves whenever we get around to it, an impromptu dinner with friends. Instead it’s a frantic and messy breakfast; a missed nap — probably because he has new teeth coming in and the culminating pain makes it too dreadful to lie still; cleaning up feces and vomit that are never my own; a bloodied knee and a violent combination of tears and snot; and husband and wife practically tripping over one another to make a trip to the grocery store (“I think we’re out of popsicles and we really, really, really need them [in January]. I’ll be right back!”), desperate for some mental quiet, or at least, confirmation that the real world continues to turn outside of our frenzied, middle class suburban home. Time is no longer my own.  

And the uncertainty. There’s always been uncertainty. Before the scars, it was whether to go to happy hour or to the gym on my way home from work. Or is my husband annoyed with me because I bought the wrong kind of Listerine? Dammit, I can never remember whether he likes the turquoise or the teal. Before Nate and Sam were born, this would have led to an evening of walking on eggshells, followed by an apology from me, feeling like a failure as a wife. Now, post-op, there’s no time for newlywed misunderstandings and squabbling over various shades of blue-green combinations; it’s 3 AM and I’m asking myself why the baby’s crying. Is he still hungry? Thirsty? Uncomfortable? Scared? Is it possible for babies to be scared of the dark? Is he mad at me? Is God mad at me? 

And what about Nate? Is he eating enough? Getting enough protein? Fiber? Why doesn’t he like blueberries anymore? Is it weird that he only gets to V when he recites the alphabet? Did he just say shit? Is he too materialistic? He doesn’t really need those Legos, does he? Does being a narcissist at age two make him an actual sociopath? Does he have friends? Why is he always yelling? Does he play outside enough? Do his teachers like him? Do we read enough? Is he too young for Harry Potter? What about Kafka? What is that rash? Is that carseat really that safe? Do fruit snacks cause cancer? Does he watch too much TV? Is he a bully? Why can’t he stand on one foot? Is that poop — or chocolate? How much do boarding schools cost anyway? Always: am I doing the right thing? I don’t even care whether I buy the right Listerine anymore. Fuck Listerine.

Regardless, I drag my weary legs to the floor to race matchbox cars just “once more” before nap time. Because one of them said “please.” Because they’re both so cute. Because it’s easier than resisting. Because I love them both. Unconditionally — even if for no other reason than because they came from my body. And because I’m responsible for theirs, cleaning up their bloodied knees, probably to be eventually dotted with scars.