Everyone tells me that these earliest scars are unlikely to last past childhood, but right now, it's really tough not to see your body as a battlefield. Right now (and I know these will go away soon, but not soon enough), you have dozens - and dozens - of tiny little needle pricks from attempted blood draws and IV placements, and your heels are practically raw from sticks to get small blood samples. From operation #1, you've got the big scar from the base of your neck to the bottom of your sternum, a belly button-sized scar from your chest drainage tube, a few scattered tiny holes from a line that went directly into your heart, and a line-shaped scar from your arterial line (basically a giant catheter into the artery in your right wrist). From operation #2, the big chest scar now gets the added flourish of stitches, plus you had two small holes for small drainage tubes between that scar and the previous drainage tube scar. Soon, you'll have a central line placed that shouldn't leave too much of a scar, but it's still something else. That's a total of six, not counting all the tiny scars from stitches holding things in place and all the dot from IVs and other stuff like that.
You know how many scars I have? Three. None of them are longer than, say, a quarter inch. I don't even know where two of them came from, so clearly whatever caused them was unremarkable. Your Dad has a few, most notably a burn scar on his forearm from an unfortunate incident with an iron when he was less than a year old, two tiny scars from a hernia operation when he was four, and most of the rest that haven't faded yet are the result of brushes with your Aunt Erin and Uncle Jeff's cat, Az. You are so much more bad-ass than either of us.
Today, on your one month birthday, I'm back in the original hell of the SCU waiting room. I got to spend a nice chunk of time holding you this morning because the IV that was so hard-won on Wednesday gave out overnight, so today you weren't hooked up to anything in particular. You're consistently impressing the hell out of everyone (not least of which me) by being so calm, easily soothed, and generally good-natured despite everything. Still, another three people failed to get an IV into you this morning, so in order to get you the antibiotics you need and be able to get blood out of you without ten people needing to try (and likely fail) to do so, you're down in the OR right now having a semi-permanent IV put in.
Less than on Wednesday, but still quite a bit, I'm feeling that pit-of-the-stomach aching, flight-or-flight-inducing, protective agony. Of course, I'm overtired, haven't eaten enough, and have the added fun of being by myself because your Dad is home sick. Everyone has told me that this is a quick procedure with a minimal chance of complications, and you should just be in the PICU overnight for observation; that doesn't shut off the impulse to panic. I just have to keep telling myself, again and again, how insanely, super-humanly strong (or whatever) you are.
Strength is clearly a weird thing. I've frequently been called strong for having put up with all the crap that I've had to put up with since we found out what was going to be wrong with you. I'm rocking over five months of "incredible strength," and you know what? I don't feel strong. I don't feel like what I'm doing is the result of any effort or innate ability; I'm just waking up in the morning and doing what I need to do. It's not like I have a choice (short of abandoning you and going to live in some fantasy world where none of this ever happened), so does that really imply strength...or am I just really adept at accepting reality? If that's strength, then my definition is clearly different. In any case, I'm really, REALLY sick of being complimented on the ability to put up with shit without falling apart. Compliment me on my ability to digest efficiently or breathe well - that takes the same amount of intent.
You, on the other hand, clearly have something more going on. My reflex is to call you strong comes from my assumption that strength - physical, internal, or otherwise - is what has carried you this far. Medically, you've been sort of a trainwreck, but you look and act like a healthy baby who is just pissed off about being poked and prodded so much. It's almost impossible to believe that you've looked death in the face (and given a judgmental glare then moved on with your life) at least three times in the month you've been alive. Does that make you especially strong? I sure as hell think so. By the time you're old enough to walk and talk, you'll have survived more than almost anyone I know. You might look like you sauntered through a firing range, but you can still give me an appraising stare, squirm a little, then fall asleep with a vice-like grip on my finger. THAT is strength.