“Does it hurt, momma?” A sweet, innocent question from my youngest. The weight of my daughter tugged my shirt down a little bit allowing my scar to peek out. As she asked this question, she was touching it gently, trying hard not to cause pain. I gave her a little squeeze and told her that I’m OK. My daughter’s light touch on my scar didn’t hurt me. But sometimes what it represents does. Sometimes just a dull ache and sometimes a sharp, shooting pain. But for my kids’ sake, they don’t need to know that.

I’ve had this scar for as long as I can remember. Very few people knew me before I acquired my zipper, the scar that runs down the center of my chest. When I was born, it was discovered that I had several heart conditions. I was fighting for my life before it had barely begun. It hurts that during the middle of the night, I was whisked away from my parents and transferred to a different hospital. I underwent my first open heart surgery at just a week old.

When I was 10, I was going to my annual cardiologist appointment. I didn’t mind these appointments. Especially because my mom treated me to a chocolate shake afterwards. After that particular appointment, I was asked to go back to the waiting room because they needed to talk to my mom alone. That hurt because I had a hunch I knew what was being discussed and I wouldn’t like it. I was right. Another surgery. My second open heart surgery happened the summer I was 10 years old. It hurt when I was too weak to do a simple task like opening the bathroom door. My brothers and sisters laughed, but that didn’t hurt. Siblings laugh and poke fun, so it was a welcomed bit of normalcy during that time. Waking up in the hospital feeling scared and confused hurt. Blood draws hurt, especially the ones in the middle of the night, not that I was getting good sleep anyway. My cracked chest hurt. It hurt to cough and even worse to laugh. It hurt when I learned my roommate in the hospital didn’t survive.

My third open heart surgery was as an adult—a newlywed. We found out about surgery a month before our wedding. It hurt that what was supposed to be one of the most exciting times of our lives was tainted with worry. We had our wedding and I was determined to be seen as a beautiful bride and not a sick one. One month later, I went under the knife and our promise to each other to be there for sickness and health was put to the test. Right before I was being wheeled away to the sterile operating room, it was time to say goodbye. That was brutal. I hugged my new husband and hoped and prayed it wasn’t for the last time. That really hurt.

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Recovery was hard and so much hurt during that time. The NG tube hurt being placed and taken out. The wires being ripped out hurt. Walking the halls hurt—I knew I had to do it but it left me completely drained. Learning my friend’s elderly grandpa left the hospital before I did despite having surgery the same time hurt (my ego more than physical pain). As the youngest patient on the floor, I thought it would be easier on me. Looking at myself in the mirror hurt and literally made me sick.

It hurts to know I might have to do this again. This time as a mom. I don’t want my kids to see me hurt.

But you know what hurts the most? If I didn’t go through the hurt and pain, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have this sweet girl asking if my scar hurts. I wouldn’t have my other kids or my husband. I wouldn’t know all the goodness there is. I would have missed out on so much. I wouldn’t be me. I’d be nothing but a distant memory. When I think of all the chocolate shakes, the cuddles with my children, date nights, family vacations (from when I was a kid to now with my own kids) and all those ordinary moments . . . I realize I wasn’t lying to my little girl. It doesn’t hurt.

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