“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”
I have a picture frame sitting next to my desk that says, "Family- forever, for always, and no matter what." I bought the frame at a 90% off sale for $2 and always thought the saying was sweet, if not a little cliché. The frame sat for over a year and never really conjured up any sentimentality until, on a frozen January evening, I collapsed at my desk to receive a call from my OB concerning my third pregnancy. The doctor was calling with some results about an ultrasound they had performed several weeks earlier, and explained that she needed to refer me to a perinatologist because there appeared to be something seriously wrong with my baby’s brain. They couldn’t really give me any more information than that, and I was left to imagine the worst for another two weeks until I could get in with the specialist. After the conversation ended, I sat paralyzed in the quiet glow of winter until my eyes involuntarily focused on the words on the frame. “Forever, for always, and no matter what.” These words reminded me that it didn’t matter what was wrong with this little person growing inside of me, she was mine. She was literally constructed from my cells, which included the cells from my heart- a heart big and capable enough to love her through any curve ball this life might throw her.
Family is the only institution in which genetic material literally bonds its members together. The relationships within a family can be destructive at times- that’s normal. But the goal of every member of every family should be to strengthen and connect. I can’t imagine a force strong enough to withstand the power a family has against it, if that family is single minded and steadfast. It’s our families that brings us into the world, and if we’re lucky, the ones that bury us when we leave it. If you have ever examined the relationships with your parents, siblings, and your children, consider this- during each pregnancy, the baby leaves behind a part of its self in the mother when born. This material is reabsorbed into the mother’s body, meaning that each subsequent child is made up of cells from both her parents and her older siblings. As the youngest of 6, this reality is disturbing and wonderful. In addition to those I am related to by blood, I feel blessed to be fortified by the physical, emotional, and spiritual glue of the family I don’t share a genetic code with. It’s important to remember that not all relatives stem from the same trunk of a family tree.