This Valentine’s I am remembering Megan and the incredible love she had for her daughter.
When I first met Megan I was extremely skeptical about her ability to care for her newly born daughter Lilly. Megan, 17 and Todd, her boyfriend, also 17 had just brought Lily home from the hospital for the first time. They had no home or apartment of their own, so they were “crashing” with friends. I entered the small apartment just hours after they had been discharged. Four other people were already living in the apartment, which was scantly furnished, yet cluttered and untidy.
My primary interest was in 4 week old Lily, so I squatted down on the floor to meet Lily, as they had no baby furniture/equipment to put her in. She was bundled in blankets on the floor, with an oxygen tube taped to her cheek. Lily had several issues; besides being born with a congenital brain malformation, causing certain parts of her brain not to form, she also was born with a cleft lip and palate. The combination of the brain malformations and the cleft left her with basically a large whole for a mouth and nose and lopsided eyes which she could not see out of. All her nutrition was through a feeding tube. Medically she had severe seizures on a sometimes daily basis, and didn’t enjoy being touched and would scream out when being held.
The reason I was seeing Lily was that she had been given a prognosis of only weeks to live, and I distinctly remember thinking that I hoped, for Megan and Todd’s sake this was true. They were just too overwhelmed. I left that first night thinking a lot about Megan and Todd, both high school drop outs who had enjoyed playing video games during the day and partying at night. They had unexpectedly become pregnant and decided to do the “right” thing and keep the baby. Now they were being expected to do something super human, and care for a dying child who had a distorted face and didn’t like to be cuddled or touched.
Todd didn’t handle it long, and left after about a month at home. Lily, surprisingly thrived in Megan’s care. At my monthly visits, I watched Megan work like a pro, getting the tube feeds ready, administering seizure medications, etc. Even when she’d been up all night due to Lily’s seizures, she spoke to Lily as only a mother could; gently, lovingly, and sweet. The two of them had moved from one friends apartment to another. Although different locations their “home” always looked about the same – always other teenagers at my visits, hanging out playing video games, always evidence of fast food meals, cigarettes and alcohol. But also just as consistent was Megan paying attention to Lily, asking about milestones and telling about little victories in Lily’s head strength and cognition. I could tell when Megan looked at Lily she only saw beauty and possibility.
Lily lived just past her 1st birthday…. Her death was tragic, not because she suffered or had pain as she died, but because over the course of the year, Megan had fallen head over heals in love with Lily. The immature teenager I first met had been transformed by love to become a wise responsible woman. Megan embodied the kind of love that “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”