I pulled the tags off my new jeans at the same time smearing baby butt cream across my thigh. The thick, white kind. The impossible to get out of anything kind. As I rubbed and blotted with the closest towel, it only became darker and darker from the jeans dark wash. Shmoly! They aren't kidding about the "this ink could penetrate all lighter fabrics within a ten yard radius" thing. The white spot stayed put and the white washcloth took on a blue tinge. Damn. Damn. Damn. I was forty seconds from this being a bummer start to a potentially otherwise uneventful and ungrateful day, and I thought of Julie. In the last twenty-four hours I've thought a lot about Julie. It is the beginning of the same reaction I had for months after meeting Lynette. I start to feel ungrateful. Upset by petty things, and Lynette would creep into my thoughts.
Lynette lived in a dingy apartment, was on welfare, and was actively dying of liver failure. I sat in her apartment where we were accompanied by her two daughters, twelve and fifteen. I remember staring at them through the visit wondering what kind of life they'd had and imagining the worst.
It took all of my professional self composure to hold it together through the visit. When the sixteen year old split for something she saw as more important, clearly over her mother and her "drama", I taught the twelve year old about when to call 911. "Don't be scared about not knowing what to say. That's not your decision to make. If your gut tells you something's wrong, you just call. Understand?" We then programmed 911 into her phone. As I left, Mom jokingly looks up and says "So. Am I going to die today?" I usually joke back, but not today. "I've been doing this long enough to know that I don't get to call those kinds of shots. Your vital signs are stable."
A few blocks away I pulled over and cried. Things were just a little too close to home. Lynette was the name of the first birth mother who ever contacted us. And while I knew now that her baby was not our baby, and was never intended to be, the harsh reality of what that little girl's life was going to be was overwhelming.
Lynnette's life span would be shortened at best, and most likely from the same diagnosis as my patient. Unless a drug overdose or abusive relationship didn't end her first. I could only imagine the worst, and my worst case scenario would probably fall short of the pain and drama, and just plain nasty, awful junk her baby would be exposed to by the time she was twelve. It was a weird Twilight Zone/ Parallel Universe type of moment- to be in the home, seeing the results and consequences of what we had tried so hard to prevent only a few months earlier.
That was the one and only time I saw that patient. I found out later she died that night. Her daughter called 911.
Over the last three and half years I've tried hard to understand what the whole point to our encounter with Lynette, the birth mother, was. And I still don't really know. There are countless reasons, and so many of them so interconnected and entwined that it's hard to tell where one stops and the other begins. It was one of the greatest lessons of Choice and Free Agency- beyond just a schmancy sounding Sunday School answer I think I could experience, or thought I could experience in this life. But then... To be a participant in another woman using her Choice and Free Agency to choose us to parent Scrunch. It is overwhelming. And sacred.
I think, for me, Compassion is one of the primary reasons we're on this planet. When we have Compassion we are less likely to judge, we have a greater understanding, and a greater capacity to love. Compassion took on a whole different meaning after Lynnette. For as much as I hated her weakness, and most of her choices, I also loved her. No matter what. Something along the lines of Christ-like love. And to love like the Savior means we can be more like Him, just a little at a time. One person at a time.
So you can see how when I heard about Julie, I was moved. It has given me pause. Caused me to reflect and think on something a little more heady than whether or not I should be putting eye liner on my bottom lid or how organic I can make my kid's snacks. I think it is worth the twenty, thirty, or forty minutes you will spend reading and witnessing her story. It hits so close to home on so many levels. Where do I even begin?
I'd love to know what you think/thought. And what you keep thinking. Because if you're anything like me you wont be able to get it out of your head. In which case Darcy's mission will have been accomplished.
See The Julie Project by Darcy Padilla.
Like most of my blog posts or links, this is not for kids unless Mom has checked it out first.
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