When our daughter lay in the ICU on her second day of being alive in the world, we stood above her bed and asked her to breathe. Her small hands were strapped to the bed because she was already so strong she nearly ripped out her breathing tube. (Somehow, though, she kept making a Buddhist mudra with her fingers and held it.) Her feet were tangled up in cords and covered in bandaids where the wonderful nurses took another vial of blood for tests to see what was keeping her from breathing. As soon as the nurses and doctors finished, Danny and I went back to holding hands over her isolette, leaning down to kiss any place on her face we could find without breathing tube, feeding tube, or tape keeping both of them attached to her.
We watched her, touched her, sang to her, and read stories to her. We tried to never leave her bedside. And every few moments, we leaned our faces down and said, in our sweetest voices, “Breathe, sweetie. Breathe. You know how to do it. You can. Just breathe.”
I promised myself that if she lived, I would get this tattoo.
She started breathing. She got her breathing tube out on Danny’s birthday. “Best present I ever got,” he says. By my birthday, she was home with us.
And now, she’s alive. This girl? She’s tough. After all she has been through, she tumbles and comes up laughing. She’s talking up a storm, saying thank you after meals, reading under the dining room table completely absorbed. She’s active and in love with life, jumping on the bed as much as she can, her eyes wide open, her legs strong.