Sarah Kate has a scar running lengthwise up her back from surgery on her spinal cord in January of 2006. I told myself when it first healed that she was only three years old; eventually it would fade and be barely noticeable. Five years later, it’s still several inches long and, in a word, ugly. The procedure was done by one of the leading pediatric neurosurgeons in the country, but you would never know it by looking at the skin running vertically up my daughter’s spine. In some places, the white line is thin and flush with the undamaged skin around it. In other areas, it is rough, gaping, and makes me think of how a wound dressed in the field during wartime must look.
Over the past five years, Sarah Kate has worn a variety of different swimsuits. Some of those have been classic one-piece tank suits, while others were modest two-piece bikinis. When we’ve gone to the pool or beach, I’ve noticed people sneaking glances at her long, jagged scar. I can almost hear the questions they ask in their minds. No doubt, they also take note of how her heels don’t quite touch the ground when she walks barefoot, and how her gait isn’t quite the same as that of other children.
Sarah Kate is aware of the scar, referring to it from time to time as her “surgery”, but, mercifully, she is spared from having to look at it on a daily basis. I’m sure there may come a time when it makes her self-conscious – a day when she wants her back covered at any cost – but that day hasn’t arrived, and I’m grateful for that.
Although the scar may be unattractive in appearance, it is also a tangible reminder of how far she has come – of all that she has faced and conquered. It’s a tribute to the tenacious spirit of a little girl who was born fighting and has never, in eight years, stopped fighting. It’s the big ugly scar that I, her mother, don’t mind so much because I know that letting her go under the knife that one Big Scary time probably prevented other less scary, but more painful, surgeries down the road. Last but not least, that scar helped my baby girl to put away her walker, cast aside her canes, and take her first independent steps.
That ugly scar is beautiful to me.