When I was pregnant with my first child, my sisters (14 at the time) decided that the baby needed a nickname, since they couldn’t very well call the baby ‘it’, or the impersonal, ‘the baby’. So, a new family tradition began. Baby Bump number one became Angel, Baby Bump number two became Princess, and Baby Bump number 3 became Sunshine.
Fast forward to the end of Sunshine’s pregnancy, June 24, 2004.
Strapped to a table
curtain separating me from my body,
feeling scared and disjointed.
The doctor brings out my baby, and a flurry of activity erupts. I look at my husband, Manny, and he’s beaming. I begin to relax. Then I hear the words…
Again, I look to Manny for his reaction. I see confusion, fear. I start to panic. I’m too caught up in the increased activity.
The nurses and a new doctor are all around my little one at the tiny table they laid her on. After a few minutes, the doctor tells me that her heart isn’t working correctly and they have to send her to NICU. She’s brought to me to give her a quick kiss as they whisk her out of the room.
My eyes are greedy to take her in the hot second that she’s there. She has her father’s skin tone, hair color and the biggest eyes I’ve ever seen on an infant. She’s beautiful!
Rebeka is taken by helicopter to Miami Children’s Hospital. She is in NICU for 38 days. Flat lines three times. She has three holes in her heart. Develops asthma, severe acid reflux from the heart meds. My little girl has joined us on Earth equipped with a team of nine specialists! She comes home, only to go back a month and a half later for open heart surgery. And through it all, is the calm peace that she’s going to be OK.
Then, one day, as I’m holding Rebeka, she looks at me and smiles. I’ve waiting over six months for a smile from her. I burst into tears. I hold her to my chest and cry like I’m mourning. And I am. I am mourning the first six months of my child’s life. Between diagnosis, treatments, appointments, surgery and nights that I was too afraid to sleep, for the fear of finding Rebeka not breathing in the morning, I have never stopped to really think about the miracle in my arms. Doctors prognosis’ of what she’ll never be able to do, of preparing us “in case she doesn’t make it”, all the emergency room visits, all the hospitalizations. They have all robbed me.
Rebeka brings a strength and courage with her. To see her tiny frame take it all and still take a breath; to have her chest split open and heal in three days; to watch her struggle to drink milk and still get a whole bottle down. Everything I take for granted, my Becky has to fight to do. And she does it like a champ.
She is determined, never quits. She is unconditionally loving, always positive. Sweetness personified. Has instincts sharp as a razor, she can feel you out in a heartbeat. Her smile and her actions bring instant happiness. Courageous. Strong. Innocent. Pure.
There are things Rebeka might never do. I don’t worry about those things, let the doctors worry. I’m too busy praising God for the wonderful accomplishments she has had through Him so far! She inspires me to live fuller, love deeper, laugh more often. She has taught me to live each moment like it was our last one.
Seven years later, I sit and watch my Becky twirl and dance. I watch her interact with her siblings and her friends, the joy on their faces and the love in their eyes. Her nickname, Sunshine, could not be more accurate. She brings Sunshine into everyone’s life that is in contact with her. She makes days brighter. And as October approaches, and the Down Syndrome Awareness sign goes up on my garage door, I think about the most important lesson she has taught me.