It has been three years this month since your Failure to Thrive diagnosis. Failure to Thrive. Failure to Thrive. Failure to Thrive. With tears streaming down my face, I listened to these words leave the doctor's mouth quickly followed by a list of possible causes, several of them fatal. The label was yours, but it felt like my fault. Failure to Mother. Failure to Feed. Failure to Know What Was Wrong.
I was given the gift of a precious, perfect baby, and I had failed you. You weren't gaining weight, so I deserved to feel every ounce of guilt, shame, and fear I took upon myself that day in the doctor's office. I had carried you inside of my body--carrying this pain and the burden of figuring it out and fixing it and then feeling terrible for it for the rest of my life seemed like the natural response.
I let it bury me, and even after we had figured it out and you were blooming beautifully, I stayed in the dark. I knew in my head the light was there again, but I couldn't get my eyes to adjust. I couldn't forgive myself for what you had gone through even though you had long forgotten it.
Your sister was born last summer, and I watched you love her with joy radiating from every bit of your tiny body. You stared at her and pet her and kissed her and tried to make her laugh, your mouth open wide and your eyes shining. You just loved her, without reservation or fear of what could happen to her. When we took our first photo as a family of four (five counting the pup) in the fall, you looked at it and said, "Mama, you were so happy." I was smiling with my teeth showing, something several family members had pointed out I quit doing in the last few years, and it was the first thing you noticed. You then went on to make goofy faces to try to make me laugh. "Will you be happy again?"
In that moment you gave me permission to heal completely. You shifted my top priority from protecting your fragile physical health to encouraging your emotional well-being, and you allowed me to feed off of it, too. Your happiness at seeing me happy is something I've been carrying into every day since then.
My loved ones have told me I "fixed" you hundreds of times in the last few years while trying to encourage me to move forward with my life. But I think I needed to hear it from you.
You fixed me, too, baby girl.