Two days from now, Hannah will face the first of her surgeries needed to repair her cleft lip and palate. Our household is a mixed bag of emotions. In one breath I can say how truly thankful and grateful I am that we have the honor of providing this life changing surgery for Hannah, but then in the next, I can truthfully admit there is a certain level of grief and mourning happening in our home. We have had to answer some tough questions in our house: "Mommy, why do we have fix Hannah's lip if that is how God made her?" and "I wish we didn't have to change Hannah. She's so cute now!" or "I'm gonna make sure I get lots of clefty kisses from her between now and Tuesday!"
Since the day we got home the most frequently asked question about Hannah has been, "When will you do the surgery?" There was a sense of eager anticipation of getting the ball rolling on her recovery and correcting all that needed to be corrected. In the world's eyes there may be a sense of eagerness and anticipation leading up to Tuesday. But in our eyes, the totally biased eyes, of her parents? We are grieving and longing for more time. One more big, wide smile. One more tongue out moment of concentration. One more giggle about food dribbling out. Another attempt to blow bubbles or the seeds off a dandelion. One more kiss.
Please don't get me wrong. We would never want Hannah to face her life with an unrepaired cleft. Having her surgery will change her life dramatically. She'll be able to speak clearly and have an outward appearance that is more socially accepted. She will have the ability to hear more clearly and get the nutrition she needs. We want her to have all those things and we know the surgery is essential for her to have a lifetime of health. Knowing all this still doesn't remove the ache or the sting of loss. You see, these lips, this face, it is precious to us. It is the only way we've known Hannah and it is the Hannah we laid eyes on in September 2014 and fell in love with. It is likely a large part of the weaving of her story and how she came to be our daughter.
On Tuesday, Hannah will enter the operating room our little Hannah. She will emerge a time later, still our Hannah, but looking unlike anyone we've met before. It will be as though we are meeting all over again. I know the day will come that we will see her smile and the sparkle in her eye and it will just be...her. Who she is. We will adjust. She will adjust. And much of this will all be memory.
So that is what these last few days have been about in our home. We have celebrated her amazingly beautiful little face. We have savored it, taken it all in, and secured as many memories as we possibly can. We cannot forget this little girl, with the wide, uncertain eyes who came to our family so angry and afraid, yet has blossomed into a child whose smile radiates joy. I am stealing as many clefty kisses as she will give. I am taking as many pictures and videos as my phone will hold. So she won't be forgotten. Just as she is. I hope that one day she will look back at all these pictures and see what we see. Our daughter, full of life, and full of beauty.
I assure you, on Monday night there will be tears. Tears of sadness of saying goodbye to something so sweet and precious to us. Tuesday morning there will be tears of uncertainty, but there will be a sense of peace. Peace that the journey is just beginning and that we are so humbly thankful we get to walk through it with her. Precious daughter. Loved. Cherished. No longer alone to fight these battles with no one by her side.
So we spend the next two days painting a canvas of memories with her. Tuesday morning we will kiss her sweet lips one last time and say good-bye to this chapter of our time with her. Soon we will kiss her new beautiful face. Soon her pain will subside to offer what will be the first of her forever smiles. And we will cry. Tears of sadness, tears of mourning and loss, and tears of joy and thankfulness.
So until Tuesday we will be here, with our daughter, just etching it all in.