Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Most Perfect Imperfection

(This is a re-post from an previous blog of mine.)

perfect: complete in all respects; without defect or omission; sound; flawless*
imperfections: a shortcoming; defect; fault; blemish*

Being a perfectionist came in handy in many regards as a busy, child-less professional. I’ve always had high standards and I used my need and desire for things to be ‘just so’ to help me succeed in life.

I now consider myself a recovering perfectionist.

You see, I have spent nearly my entire life trying to be perfect. I know I am not alone in this attempt. I have tried to be the perfect daughter, perfect friend, perfect sister, perfect granddaughter, perfect student, perfect employee, perfect manager, perfect businesswoman, perfect wife, and eventually, perfect mother. Frankly, I have tried to be the perfect person. Constantly attempting to know what I needed to say and do to be seen as 'perfect' or the best by those around me. Not that I wasn't necessarily real or honest (although sometimes I was neither), but rather more of an enigma. Shifting, molding and camouflaging to be what I thought others wanted me to be.

I have made huge strides in challenging my past perfectionism behavior (thanks to a great deal of my own personal growth and coaching training for my business), but I still find myself sometimes slipping into my hold habits of wanting to please others before being true to myself. So it comes as no surprise to me that the Universe dealt me the most 'perfect' situation to test my life lesson of letting go of perfectionism.

Lindsay Campbell Taggart was born with one little ear. One normal. One not normal. One perfect. One not perfect.

I can remember the moment that the nurse showed us her ear after she was delivered. I was still on an adrenaline high from birthing our little girl that, really, it all seems like a dream. "I need to show you a few things about your baby," the nurse said. "As you can see, one of her ears is different...."

Honestly, I don't remember anything else she said after that. I just remember looking at my baby and then looking at my husband and asking him repeatedly, "Is she okay? Is she okay?"

He told me "yes" while he kissed my forehead. I am sure he was trying to convince himself just has much as he was trying to convince me. Over the next few hours, with the excitement of family visiting, Lindsay meeting her big sister and the ear being conveniently hidden behind the tiny, striped hospital-issued hat, I seemed to forget that my baby was not perfect.

The next morning I was harshly reminded as the woman responsible for providing my newborn with her hearing test tells us, "we will only be able to test the ear that's not weird."

Gulp. What? Did I just hear someone call my baby weird? Why my mommy instincts didn't kick in to defend my precious child, I don't know. Perhaps it was the exhaustion. Perhaps it was shock. Perhaps it was denial. Whatever it was, it gave me a taste of what may be in store for us.

The emotions around my baby not being born 'perfect' really didn't hit me until a few days after bringing her home from the hospital. I was sitting on the couch nursing when I looked down, saw my daughter's "lucky ear" (as it was so sweetly named by her grandparents, similar to Nemo's lucky fin) and started sobbing.

Unless you have been a mother yourself, you can not imagine the magnitude of grief felt when you realize that YOUR BABY WAS NOT BORN PERFECT. I know; there are people out there dealing with much worse things. I know the rational and logical side that things "could have been worse." But sometimes you have to deal with the emotion before you can get to the rational side. No matter what you tell yourself or no matter what others tell you, everyone EXPECTS and hopes their baby will be born perfect.

Jump forward two and a half years. I came to realize (rather quickly I must say) over Lindsay's life that we got just what we asked for: a happy and healthy child. In fact, I think (and I admit this is a biased opinion) that she is one of the happiest and healthiest kids around. You will often find her smiling from ear to ear, proud of whatever trick she just mastered or just simply thrilled that you walked into the room.

It has become easy to nearly forget about her ear. She has been diagnosed with a moderate to severe hearing loss on that side, but there has been no indication that it is negatively impacting her development. In fact, during her last speech evaluation at 24 months they told us she was talking at the level expected for a 36-month-old. I mention that not to brag (okay, maybe a little bit), but to make the point that despite what we were originally told or thought, she has already exceeded medical expectations. It's obvious that she is growing, developing and thriving and shows all signs of hearing the world around her just as she should.

I’ll admit, every once in awhile it still hits me and I find myself crying over my daughter’s 'imperfection'. Like the time we met with the craniofacial plastic surgeon to talk about options for both removing the skin tag on Lindsay's face and fixing her little, lucky ear. Perhaps I was more surprised by the reality of what correcting (and I use that word loosely) either of them would entail. Without going into all the detail, let's just say words such as, "arm splints," "multiple surgeries," cartilage from the rib," and "incisions" were thrown out.

And here is my point. My husband and I both left that appointment with the same Knowing. Now is not the time to do anything to "correct" Lindsay's skin tag or ear. As my husband so sweetly said, "What if this is just the way Lindsay is supposed to be?"

My thought exactly. Considering that any of the surgeries would be for cosmetic purposes only, what would I be telling my daughter? "You are not good enough with your imperfection. You were born just they way you were supposed to be...except for your weird ear. Trying to be perfect is better than just being who you are?"

Instead, at this moment, I want my daughter to know that the affirmations I said to her while she was inside me are true.

We are connected. And you are whole. And I love you just as you are. My most perfect imperfection.

*Definitions courtesy of Webster's New World Dictionary, Third Edition

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