What is your earliest memory?
Often people can recall a moment around 5-years old. Imagine that there was a time in your life when you could recall an even earlier memory, even as back to the day you were born.
Wayne Dyer in his book, Memories of Heaven, capture stories of toddlers sharing experiences from their past (including past lives and before being born). While I am intrigued by these stories, I did not appreciate (nor believe) that a toddler could remember their birth. Until this past week that is…..
Allow me to share this intimate reflection that has since expanded my understanding.
I was reflecting on my daughter’s birth over several days. I initially understood this flow of memories as a subconscious healing. Visiting hospitals over the past two months for different family members also impacted this reflection, as well as her recent birthday about a month ago.
My wife, Suzie, had a very difficult delivery. There was a short period of time when she felt that something was wrong, and it was. As her doctor said shortly after the surgery, “with a different team of doctors and nurses, the results may very well be different.”
My daughter, Shea, spent several days in the NICU, and for the ten hours that followed, Shea and her mother were separated. About two hours after Shea was born, I was allowed to see her. I entered the NICU to hear a baby screaming. It was my daughter, although I did not realize it. (This was a very good thing given the concerns were her lungs. As I spent the next few days on the unit, I learned that the silence from the other children reflected the unknown and the harsh realities for many/most of the families.)
After I washed my hands and arms, I approached Shea who was in a small plastic “bed.” Tubes wrapped her 7.6 pound body, and as all parents experience, that first encounter is surreal. As I looked at Shea, I repeated the words that I said so often when talking to her in her mother’s womb: “You are so cute.”
As I said those words, she grabbed my finger. And she stopped crying. Behind me I heard the nurse’s voice saying, “she knows her father’s voice.”
Fast forward to this past Wednesday. I was changing Shea’s diaper, and I shared our first encounter. I repeated the words, “you are so cute,” and Shea proceeded to nuzzle her tiny head into my arm. About ten seconds later, she emerged and her eyes were watery. It felt as if she remembered the encounter. We smiled at each other, and soon she asked to “play.”
Could she, two years later, remember this first encounter? For the past few days, I sat with this possibility. In my gut and in my heart, I find the answer to be yes. This intimate moment, and especially the watery glare of her eyes confirmed that this experience was not just held within my heart, but hers as well.
She was pulled from her parents, especially her mother. All that she knew was no more. Then she heard my familiar voice, and maybe even felt my love. It meant survival and it meant safety.
I understand how as we grow, we too are socialized and our earliest memories become shoved away. The Fruedian in me never takes these formative years for granted, but in moments like this, I understand it even more.
I am also challenged to re-assess why this memory resurfaced in the first place. I shared earlier that I thought it was a form of healing, impacted by recent visits to the hospital and my daughter’s birthday. Perhaps!
Or, could this resurfacing be a part of a spiritual experience. Did these memories resurface in a way that was so strong that it kept me up at night, that it moved me to share this experience with Shea? Was this all a grand scheme to lead to this encounter that not only strengthened our bond, and that not only gave me healing, but it also reveals more into the human soul that I appreciated.
I share this as it sits heavy in my heart. I marvel at this memory. I also hope in writing it, this allows for this experience to live a little longer in my soul, keeping me attuned to the spiritual world, and the movement of the Holy Spirit in all of our lives as we are more interconnected than we could ever imagine.