May 2, 2014


Before the word "selfie" was even a word, I took this picture of me and Abby.

And it changed my life.

Four months earlier, Abby fell off of a chair in our living room.  It was her 2nd birthday and I had set out a folding chair, ignored the flash-thought that she might climb up and it could collapse, and was showing our student apartment to my mom and grandmother who were visiting for the big birthday.  And then I heard the sound of chair and precious little baby hitting the desperately hard linoleum-over-concrete floor. I ran to find Abby breathing in that long breath before the wail, but the wail did not come.  Her lips turned blue, teeth shuddered, eyes rolled back, and she fell limp in my arms.   "Oh God, No. No. My baby. Please breathe, please Abby, breathe."  The following scene was an absolute blur of handing Abby to Matthew, phoning paramedics, and running straight out the front door hearing the words, calm and slow, and in my own voice in my head: "so this is how my baby is going to die." And then this prayer, to God who was at the top of an impossibly high chasm, I at the bottom: "Lord, I know I cannot bargain with you for her life. But, Please Please do not take away my baby. Please let her live."

She did live. Thank you, Lord, for the the rest of my life, thank you.  But I had been so broken by the trauma of what was probably a handful of seconds that I experienced things I had never known before: panic attacks, anxiety, depression.  I wasn't hungry anymore. I couldn't sleep well. I cried a lot, especially in the mornings (because that was when Matthew would leave for class, and I would be alone with Abby again. Vulnerable, alone, afraid of something happening to her. Afraid of having a panic attack. Afraid of everything).  One morning as a panic attack began, I sat at our desk and prayed for God's help. "Where are you? I need you to show me that you hear me, that you are real."  And then from her bedroom, Abby sang out a song I'd never heard her sing and hadn't taught her, as far as I could recall: "Jesus loves me, this I know..."  I think God just answered me through her little voice.

And then four months after the fall, me weighing a scary 107 pounds, forcing myself to take Abby outside to play in the beautiful Davis sun, I took this picture of my darling girl hugging me, the smell of the geranium blooms in her hand, strong.  But I didn't feel the force of the moment until later, when I LOOKED at the picture.

Look at us! Look at HER! She is ALIVE!  We are alive, and look at us outside and smiling!

Oh, the recognition of life and the mirror held up in pixels that insisted on speaking louder than color and light to my soul:  your baby girl is alive today, and you are her momma, and you can live and breathe, right now.

That was the moment I woke up from a horrible, sleep walking nightmare.  Not the moment I was cured of panic or anxiety, no that is a longer walk. But it was the moment I was born into the rest of my life, raw and unprotected by the coping strategies, perfectionism, and too-safe version of reality I had known before.  And even though I thought I still needed all of that, it was crushed beyond repairing. I couldn't go back to the way life was before she fell, but I could go forward into the terrifying and beautiful world of the life ahead.

I had proof we were already living in that life.

I think this will be my favorite selfie ever.

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