For our last Wellness Wednesday of the month, Rachel is sharing a deeply personal story about a childhood trauma that’s affected her life. When I first read her story, I couldn’t believe what had happened to her because looking at her now, she comes across as an accomplished, confident, and stunningly beautiful woman. I would’ve never guessed that there was long history of pain and struggle behind her.
But that’s what I love most about our Behaviorists and about all women. We can come from completely different backgrounds, experience completely different struggles, and have completely different views of the world, but in the end, none of those differences matter. By embracing these stories—our own and those of our fellow women—we gain the strength, wisdom, and compassion necessary for inspiring change.
Read on to find out more about Rachel’s personal journey and why she’s now able to fully embrace her adventuresome spirit.
This is a story of how my life was changed, before I could walk or talk, when all I knew was how to smile, cry, and open my baby eyes.
Ten years after completing high school, my father decided to enroll at the University of North Texas (UNT) as a full-time student, while my mother worked to support them. Their hope was that a college degree would open the doors of opportunity, provide a stable income for their future family and set an example for their children.
During his junior year, my parents found out they were having their first child—me.
I was born in October and my dad was scheduled to graduate in May of the following year, which meant my mom needed to return to work until the spring. They began searching for someone to watch after me while they were away during the day.
As typical first-time parents, they interviewed prospective candidates extensively, made sure to call references, and of course, sought the advice and guidance of family and friends to ensure they were making the wisest possible choice. They selected a mature sitter whose specialty was caring for newborns.
But the very first time my parents ever left me, when I was four weeks old, my life and my family’s life changed forever.
My caretaker had been instructed to gently warm the small bottle of breast milk by placing it under warm, running water or in a bowl of warm water—so as to not become too hot and to preserve the beneficial properties of the breast milk. However, she was accustomed to using boiling water and because the small bottle only contained a few ounces of breast milk, it immediately toppled over. While holding me in her arms, she picked up the pot of water to pour it in the sink and retrieve the bottle of milk, but in her haste, the boiling water spilled directly onto my left leg.
My cloth diaper and sock immediately stuck to the burned area and unfortunately, the sitter’s first reaction was to remove them. I include this part of the story, in case others encounter a similar situation. The proper protocol is to run cool water over the burned area (if water isn’t available, any cold, drinkable fluid can be used) or hold a clean, cold cloth on the burn (source).
Because burns are easily infected, I spent the next week of my life in isolation at the hospital, where it was determined that my burns were 2nd and 3rd degree. I received regular doses of morphine to control the pain and my first surgery was scheduled for Day 4 of my hospital stay.
My parents never left my side, asked lots of questions, and learned all they could about the treatment of burns. Naturally, they were fraught with fear, but they had to trust that the doctors and medical staff were doing all they could to provide the best possible care for their precious baby girl.
Over the next 18 years, several additional surgeries were required, and I learned that I’m not a fan of hospitals, anesthesia, or the removal of stitches and staples! Physically, I still bear the scars of that fateful day, though they are permanent, they are much improved and the incisions are less noticeable.
Growing up, it was all very difficult—the scars, the surgeries, the crutches, the compression garments, the questions. But with my incredible doctor, my faith, and the support from my wonderful family, I’ve healed and it’s part of what made me into the woman I am today.
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” – Amy Bloom
I believe God has a specific plan for each of us. As a result of this terrible accident, it led my parents straight to the doors of the nearest church, and as my mom has told me, “We were seeking a relationship with the one and only Healer and Protector, capable of always watching over you.”
Although there were times when I wondered, “Why did it happen to me?” or “Why were the burns so bad?” My faith gave me the strength, courage, confidence, and ability to see my scars as a reminder of what really matters in life and how grateful I am to be healthy and alive.
When I participated in the Miss Kansas USA pageant in 2014, many people advised me to cover my scars up with makeup. “It won’t look good onstage.” “Cover them so no one sees.” Though those words deeply hurt, I chose not to listen, not to cover my scars, because they’re a part of me. Something others may see as a flaw—my battle scars—made me a stronger and more beautiful as a woman. They’re part of my story.
It was the first time I’d ever participated in a pageant, and I placed in the Top 5, among women who had been competing for years. Although I didn’t take the crown, I don’t believe my scars were to blame. It didn’t cripple my chances. Truth be told, every woman has a battle scar or two, whether visible or not. Our imperfections make us unique and tell our story. I’m proud of mine.
To Every Woman
Regardless of your looks, your scars, your past, your waistline or calorie intake, your mistakes, or anything else you think may make you less than perfect, remember that none of us are perfect. Embrace your imperfections, because they make you, you.
“Someone will always be prettier. Someone will always be smarter. Someone will always be younger. But they will never be you.” – Anonymous
And though I still get questions about my leg, I try to remember that people aren’t intending to be impolite or insensitive. Instead, I’m able to show them that my imperfections make me confidently and perfectly imperfect.
Celebrate whatever it is that makes you different, embrace your quirks, your scars or beauty marks. I share my story with you to encourage all of us to look at our imperfections differently. They are what make you, you. And no one else can ever be that.
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen