Friday, February 18, 2011

Birth Day

"Mommy, what does 'birth' mean?" -

this one of the questions posed by my children as we walked to the library.  We had been to the park on an unseasonably warm day, but the February chill still present in the wind, along with the mass of middle-schoolers invading our calm play, pushed us on to our next endeavor.  My daughter's birthday was coming up, and so I shared with them the story of her birth.

It is still easy to recall the conflicting feelings surrounding her birth.  It wasn't that long ago, and the memories are strong.  My doctor had performed some internal maneuvers at a weekly appointment with the assurance they'd help the baby to arrive by the 40th week.  They worked a little too well for me; contractions began soon after leaving the doctor's office.  The same thing happened with my first child, so I left, knowing that my baby could soon be born.

A couple of mornings later, the morning of my baby's birth, I visited the gym, praying that my steady treadmill walking would help to transform the weak contractions into effective ones.  My next stop was the grocery store.  I loaded up, hoping that I would not have to go there again for a few weeks.  After unpacking the groceries and showering, I noticed that the contractions were indeed much stronger.  I called Dave, who promised to be home soon, and made arrangements with the doctor's office.

The pain, now increasing at each contraction, prompted us to drive directly to the hospital.  The waiting there was awful.  "It's a busy day for babies," we were told.  And so I paced the triage waiting room, pushing on furniture, wishing that I was there to visit a new baby and not to deliver one.  It was forty-five minutes later when they called my name.  At that point, I was unable to respond to the litany of registration questions.  My water broke, my body feeling and sounding like a bottle of liquid being poured out.  Finally, some attention.  I'm fully dilated.  Heart monitors on.  Baby's heart not beating fast enough.

We were rushed to a delivery room.  I felt like I was on one of those TV medical dramas, me with my own suspenseful story.  Doctors and nurses crowded around me.  The on-call doc calmly informed me that the baby wasn't getting enough air; they would need to do an emergency C-section if I couldn't push the baby out in the next few minutes.  "Do it for your baby!" someone called out.  My mind was still processing what was actually happening.  It was all so fast.  Much faster than the first time.  Too fast.

I remembered my doctor's advice during my first delivery.  "Lori, direct all of your energy-your sounds, your thoughts, your movement - your life - into your push."  And I pushed.  I was scared.  I wasn't sure that I could do it for my baby.  But I did.  And quickly, it was over.  She was breathing and beautiful - a daughter named Natalie.

Isn't this how birth is?  Any pregnant mother wishes for an easy delivery, the baby sliding through the birth canal and out into the world in one steady, and easy, fluid motion.  Oh, that it would be graceful, and flowing, and beautiful.  Like a dancer, summoning her talent and confidence to perform a routine that she's practiced hundreds of times.  She's flawless.  She was made for this.  Or like water, streaming gently over a waterfall.  The weight of gravity pulls it into beauty.  It's following the laws of nature.  But more often, the birthing process is more like the one I experienced three years ago: physically and emotionally strenuous, too slow and too fast, eliciting insecurity and fear, requiring the aid of loved ones and experienced others, resulting in something, or someone...exquisite.

How do I explain this to a child?

Andrew and Natalie, if you read this some day, I want you to know that birth marks the beginning of something new.  When I think about birth, I think of life and beauty.  But in reality, birth can be quite messy.  Often, there is lots of preparation, growth, and waiting before the actual birthing process even begins.  The process itself can be both short and long, exhilarating and boring, peaceful and painful.  Keep on going; don't stop; push through.  Your Dad and I will hope for you and pray for you and love you, as will your other family members and friends.  And God will be your provider and your help, don't leave Him out of things.  That which is being born is worth any sacrifice and trouble.  It - or he or she - is glorious.

Photo by Matthew Lester

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Super Bowl 10K, Take Two

On Sunday, I ran my first race since the marathon.  Some runners enter races for fun or for friendship.  Some enter races to keep themselves on task or to achieve a goal.  Some runners entered this race to win special Super Bowl 10K wool socks, gifts awarded to the top 100 runners.  My sister, husband, and I joked about using "socks" as our running mantra, repeating it during the race to inspire ourselves to pick up the pace. 

We found parking, jogged over to the short (yay!) port-a-potty lines, and arrived at the starting line with time to spare.  A sunny, relatively warm morning consoled us when they announced that the course route was revised, due to ice, and would consist of 2 out-and-back loops.  After a few additional race instructions, we heard the bullhorn and took off, looking out for each other and trying to avoid that nasty ice!

Energy and excitement quickly turned to fatigue after climbing the first hill, my tingling legs telling me that my early race pace was too swift for me to sustain.   Additional discouragement came at the hands, or rather legs, of my sister.  We ran together for a short while.  Comparing her nearly non-existent breathing with my very loud heaving, I decided that I wouldn't be able to keep up with her for the whole race.  I watched her pull away from me, her athletic frame clothed in bright pink, weaving effortlessly through the crowd of the other front-runners who were undoubtedly dreaming of those socks.

I passed the half-way point in 22 minutes, a pretty solid time for me.  But instead of finding pleasure and strength in this small achievement, I continued to focus on my tired body and my struggle to keep up with my sister.  At one point, realizing that I was feeling miserable, I decided that I should just slow down and enjoy the race - enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery and people.  But my misery was due to the activity in my head, and not so much the activity going on in the rest of my body.  For me, slowing down wasn't the answer.

Can I rewrite this story and create a new memory of this race?  In the rewritten story, much of the actual details of the race stay the same - beautiful race day, hilly and somewhat icy race route, lots of eager runners.  I finish in 45:21, behind my sister and my husband.  I do well enough to earn a coveted pair of socks.  But in my new story, I speak kind words to myself as I run.  I focus on my body's amazing ability to run at a quick pace over several miles.  I am thankful for my health.  I clap, trying to encourage the other tired runners.  I am genuinely happy for my husband and my sister; I am glad for those who race by me.  I marvel at their achievement.

In my new story, I am pleased with my performance; I am pleased with myself.