To my daughter,
I’ve been thinking about miracles lately. It’s nearly all I think about.
You see, daily, often multiple times a day, people reach out to me to use some variation of the phrase “she’s a miracle.”
They’re talking about you.
At 13 days old, you stopped drawing breaths, and your heart ceased to beat. For 10 long minutes, doctors and nurses worked to bring you back from a state of clinical death, while your mother watched from a few feet away, in desperate horror, wondering to herself if she had just held her baby for the very last time.
They woke your organs, if only to give us a chance to prepare ourselves to say goodbye. We were moved into a dark waiting room on the pediatric intensive care unit, where we sat with family and friends, waiting for an answer to what caused this devastating and sudden malady.
I don’t remember how long we sat together waiting for direction and clarity. Could’ve been an hour. Might as well have been forever. When I close my eyes I can still feel the room, and those tense moments spent crying, praying, and leaning on each other like a row of toppled dominos.
A doctor came to us and said the outlook wasn’t good. He gave us the option to make you comfortable in what were likely your last moments, or to attempt a surgery to bypass your damaged heart and see if you might be able to survive while they searched for the cause of your affliction, and determined if that affliction was treatable.
Your mother and I stepped out into the hall to see you. You laid motionless, with greying skin and a swollen chest, while doctors and nurses worked with frantic precision to keep your tiny body comfortable. I looked at your mother and reassured her that we’d be OK. I told her that you belonged to our God. We acknowledged the promise we made nearly ten years earlier to love each other forever, no matter what. We hugged. She wept.
Inside, I was breaking. You were everything she wanted. We have three boys- your incredible brothers, but she felt like she had more love to give, and wanted to raise up a young woman. We tried. We miscarried. The abundance of pain in that loss caught us off guard. In the wake of the struggle following that loss, we agreed as a family to move forward and love each other with all we had.
You had other plans.
You came despite our agreement, and brought with you unquantifiable joy.
Now we were on the verge of losing you.
In my grief and frustration, while holding your mother close, I became lost in thought.
Earlier that day, you had been lying asleep on my chest, and in my impatience to interact with you, I had lifted you to my face to kiss your cheek. Confused by the sound of the kiss and the feel of skin against your face, you immediately began to root around, biting at my nose and cheek in a search for nourishment. Your mother was annoyed with my refusal to let you rest, but in that moment, all I wanted was your attention- to see your large, cloudy grey eyes open and watch you involuntarily stretch your legs and arms to the tune of a long sigh.
I realized then, in that moment of recollection, that you were our miracle.
Your improbable return from the other side did not make you a miracle.
Surviving the heart bypass surgery did not make you a miracle.
Your heart healing weeks ahead of projections did not make you a miracle.
Learning to breathe on your own again while fighting a dependency to painkillers did not make you a miracle.
Brain scans that showed no signs of irreparable cellular death from your time without oxygenated blood did not make you a miracle.
Inspiring an outpouring of love and charity from hundreds of friends, and friends of friends, and strangers did not make you a miracle.
Coming home with us just three weeks after we sat in that dark room awaiting news of your fate did not make you a miracle.
No- you were a miracle before all that. Before you emerged from the womb and we held you for the first time. Before your mother first felt you kick. Before we collectively held our breath, awaiting the images of ultrasound that would show you as a healthy fetus. Before your mother took a test showing that the prior day’s family conversation about our “household and hearts being full” was a tad premature.
You’ve always been a miracle. You didn’t have to come back to us for that to be true.
You’re nearly four months old, and before this, I couldn’t bring myself to write to you. I wanted to impart some type of grandiose wisdom that paid respect to the deep significance of the life-altering event we’d all experienced together, and I was afraid of not being able to do it justice. I’ve resigned myself to acknowledging that I’ll likely never be able to put into words the exact depth of the impact and meaning that experience had on our family, and those supporting us.
Instead, I just wanted you you to know that you taught me, at your worst and most vulnerable, the true meaning of gratitude. You showed me that the value of a life isn’t found in its victories in the face of likely defeat, but instead, in the improbability of existence in the first place.
I beg you to carry the knowledge that you were always our miracle- and further, that everyone, no matter their circumstance, is someone’s miracle. A person’s value is and always was. It’s a value independent of the wonders of modern medicine. It’s a value independent of circumstance. It’s inherent. I hope that you’ll be able to see that value in people, even if they don’t see it in themselves. I pray that you never forget your own value, and that you know it’s not dependent upon your already absurd perseverance resumé.
We love you. Welcome home,