I was born “broken”.
I came into the world on March 9, 1979, weighing just over two pounds. My mother had developed preeclampsia and I arrived several weeks earlier than anticipated; I was so tiny that my father could fit his wedding band around my arm. Among the medical problems that I endured, I developed hydrocephalus (or the buildup of excess spinal fluid around the brain). Almost immediately I was transported to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York because they had a pediatric neurological department that could treat me. It was there that I underwent surgery to have a shunt implanted in order to re-route the wayward spinal fluid and relieve the pressure on my brain.
Interestingly enough, the number one song on the Billboard charts that week was “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. I see this not as a coincidence but rather a direct sign from God, even though by the time I discovered this fact I had long since grown up. But it didn’t surprise me in the least, because despite everything I endured as a result of my premature birth, I ultimately did survive. I learned to crawl, walk, and run. I attended school. I made friends, and enjoyed birthday parties. I learned to drive, graduated high school, and entered the workforce. I developed a passion for writing and photography, and learned that I see the world differently than others.
Different became my normal – and it is definitely good. Throughout my childhood and my life, my parents simply accepted my brokenness as our normal. Hospitals, neurologists, brain surgeries, and CAT scans were our normal. Dealing with annoying doctors and learning how to know when my shunt was malfunctioning was our normal. And through it all, my parents loved me and always took care of me.
One very touching example of how my parents truly embraced my brokenness right from the very beginning is a story my father has told me many times over the years. As he tells it, I was in the process of being put into the ambulance to be transported to Columbia Presbyterian in New York when he was met in the hallway by both of my grandmothers. They had not yet seen me and didn’t know all of the details surrounding my arrival, and were eager for details. As my father was walking with them, he very matter-of-factly announces, “They’re putting Sabrina in the ambulance now to take her to Columbia Presbyterian.” Several seconds pass by before he realizes that he’s still walking but that my grandmothers are no longer walking beside him. He turns around to see them standing several feet away, with looks of confusion on their faces.
“Sabrina?” they ask him. “Who is that?”
“That’s what we named the baby,” my father answers them. “Her name is Sabrina.”
I have to admit that I love hearing that story because it shows me that despite all of the fear, uncertainty, and complications surrounding my birth, my parents still took the time to choose a name for me, and embraced me for the person that I was – brokenness and everything.
It’s now been more than twenty years since my last shunt surgery, and although the potential for a problem is never far from my mind, I don’t let it scare me. Instead, I’ve embraced my brokenness and the beauty found in it and have begun to seriously consider writing a book about my experiences. After all, God gave me this life and my passion for writing, and now I want to share both with the world.
Sabrina Steyling is a writer and blogger from New Jersey who also enjoys reading, photography, and scrapbooking in her spare time. Her articles and essays have appeared in several local publications and on Patch.com. Connect with Sabrina on Facebook and Twitter, and also check out her website on Wordpress.