Obviously there are those who are tempted by the thought of wiping the slate clean, erasing the evidence of the past. However, instead of trying to remove my scars, I would rather wear them as badges of honor and reminders of the lessons life has taught me.
My son was about three, when he ran his finger down the white line from my left ring finger to my wrist. "What's that, Mommy?" I explained what a scar is and even admitted that it was from an old cut. He was too young to need – or even really care about – the whole story.
Someday, however, he'll hear all about the months his dad and I spent as Teaching Parents (house parents with therapeutic duties) at a home of troubled girls. We had the girls that literally had one foot in jail. If they failed our program, there were no more chances. I wasn't hurt by one of the girls – not really – but the accident probably wouldn't have happened if I hadn’t been distracted dealing with a pouting teenager.
It was a tough job. I doubt I'll ever do it again. But, I learned a lot there. I learned a lot about me – about what I can take and how well I can take it. I learned a lot about dealing with people who don't want to listen to you. I learned parenting skills that made the eventual "terrible twos" and other such "difficult" stages more often something to laugh about in the privacy of my room than something to pull my hair out over.
No matter how determined he is, my son's tantrums are complete amateur-hour compared with what I've survived already.
Moving down to the tip of my middle finger of that same hand, and a curved scar traces a smile along the bottom of the fingertip pad. I've certainly been much more careful using sharp knives since I tried to take off the tip of my finger. I was in a rush, getting ready for the Boy's second birthday. Preparations didn't get done any quicker. In fact, my trip to the emergency room actually slowed them down.
The winter I turned five, I had my appendix out. There's no particular lesson to learn from having appendicitis, but my mother and I both learned that my shyness was strong enough to overcome even the most severe of pain.
The doctor was thumping on my stomach and asking, "Does that hurt?"
I would answer in a very small voice, "Yes, sir." As was my habit, I did my best to stay small and unnoticed. He had the diagnosis right, but didn't think it was too advanced, since I wasn't screaming in pain. Good thing he went ahead and did the surgery right away, though, since the appendix burst as it was removed. He told my parents that he had no idea how I could even stand being touched without screaming my head off.
Next to my appendectomy scar lays my C-section scar. I was in hard labor with my son all day, and he was in distress. Emergency surgery was the only answer. I learned that if I'm exhausted, in pain, and on massive amounts of drugs I'll sign a surgery consent without really thinking about it and definitely without reading it.
Then, when it was over, I had a bundle of love to hold in my arms. It's cliche to say that the pain is forgotten once it's all over, but some cliches exist because they are true.
The second C-section was less successful. Because I was post-operative and she was in the NICU, I never even got a chance to hold my daughter while she still lived. Although, I did get to hold her after it was all over.
So, this scar reminds me of joy, and it reminds me of pain, and it reminds me that no matter how far into myself I run away, when I come back my husband will be there waiting for me.
My last major scar runs up my abdomen at a 90-degree angle from the C-section scar. If I were to stand on my head, it would be a capital T.
A year after my daughter died, I was back in surgery having a monster fibroid removed from the top of my uterus. Running my finger down this scar, I am reminded that life moves on. It just keeps happening, so I might as well enjoy the ride and keep moving forward.
Also, as my doctor recently remarked while studying the almost invisible scar, it shows that I heal really well. Which is a good thing, considering how I like to collect scars.