Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Hike

Even though her calves are burning, and her desire is somewhat nonexistent, she pushes on, takes forks she’s never taken, gets a little lost and ends up in an area she hasn’t hiked before. She only planned an hour, but it takes her at least an hour and half because of the detour.

She has learned to enjoy hiking in the desert mountain preserves. It has become something she usually looks forward to. Time to herself, time outside, time to think, time to be quiet. 

About a year before, she began driving her youngest son 3-4 days a week to a preschool for blind children. And while the drive forced her to get out of the house, a blessing in itself, it also meant she would be on the highway for an hour every morning and every afternoon. And since she couldn't bring herself to drive an additional two hours all the way home and back to school after dropping him off, she decided to investigate ways to spend her time on that side of town.

At first, she went to McDonalds, or Starbucks or Chick-fil-A, but usually McDonalds, buy something that wasn't good for her and use their air conditioning and free wifi. But after a while, her waistline protested. Or her clothes did. Anyway, it wasn't working out.

She also tried shopping. Not go-to-the-store-because-you-have-a-list-and-need-something shopping, but go-to-the-store-and-browse-to-see-what-you-need shopping. Target, Costco, the mall, etc....all within a 10 minute drive of the school, and she could always find something she needed. This time, however, it wasn't her waistline protesting, but her bank account. (Although, there are definitely some tasty eats in those places so maybe the waistline was making noise too).

Forced to start looking for free, low calorie things to do, she began to split her time between public parks and public libraries depending on the weather and her mood. Both had things going for them. The parks had shade or sun and the sounds of nature, a cooling breeze or warm heat during certain months, an opportunity to hike up a trail or take a nap under a tree. The library had free air conditioning, free wifi, usually a quiet atmosphere (depending on if there was a children's book reading there on that day or not which usually resulted in screaming and crying children for about an hour before it started), and clean bathrooms. Sometimes she did both in one day.

On this particular morning, she decided to hike for an hour and end with a trip to the library. The sky was blue, the air warm and cool at the same time, morning temperatures ambient, literally perfect conditions.

As she climbed out of the car after luckily scoring one of the few remaining parking spaces, she could tell the hike was not going to be easy. It had been a while, and her legs were being lazy. She even struggled to convince her mind it was a good idea. She rubbed a little sunscreen on her neck and chest, put on sunglasses (she had accidentally left her hat at home), grabbed her bottle of lukewarm "iced" tea and phone, checked to make sure her valuables were at least underneath something, and closed the car door. She pressed the lock button on her key fob twice to make the car horn honk, ensuring it was locked.

She put her keys in her left pocket and her phone in her right. She carried her tea bottle with two fingers from her right hand and headed to the path leading to the trail. No earphones, no music, no audio book. Just the sound of her feet on the rocks and dirt.

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. She loves the methodic sound of her shoes on the gravel, the scratching scurry of a lizard across her path, the panicked rustle of birds in the scrubby shrubs, the occasional sound of voices in the distance assuring her while she is alone, she is not alone. 

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. She knows as she walks on this rough, loose, uneven gravel, and in other places over the hard, weathered, tilted sharp bed rock that her balance is being improved. She pays attention to how her body responds to the misstep of a foot or the slight twisting of an ankle as her system accommodates the terrain. She might be sore the first few days back, but her body will recover and be stronger the more consistently she returns. All the little turns and twists in her feet translate up her body working minute muscles here and there. Everything working together to keep her on her feet.

She has a preference for this particular desert mountain preserve. She feels strangely safe here over other places. She can be alone and not see anyone for most of the hike even though the parking lot is full. She has felt calm and happy here, as well as sad or angry. She has felt peace that can't be understood, and she has worked through raging emotions. She has confronted God here. And He has confronted her.

She thinks about how this past year her life has been a series of rough and tumble missteps, how she has tripped and recovered over and over again. Her ability to regain her emotional balance improving with time and practice. While not knowing when the next patch of gravel might slide out from under her or a sharp rock might throw her off her path, she feels more confident now than before that she might be ok.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Her First Two Pregnancies {Choosing Life: Chapter 2}

She already had two amazing and beautiful boys, ages 10 and 8. Both boy’s genders were surprises since she and her husband chose to wait until they were born to find out their sex. And each one, of course, had their own unique birth story.

After an uneventful pregnancy, the only glitch having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes (probably resulting from eating a large bag of Starbursts on the way to the clinic for the test), her firstborn, Michael, decided astonishingly to be born on his due date.

She and her husband had settled in for an evening of movie watching. Having had random contractions all week and being that it was the night before the baby’s due date, she had chosen to lay on the couch with a towel underneath her, just in case.

Her husband pushed play on the DVD player, and they were both thrown into the midst of Saving Private Ryan’s depiction of D-Day. And although the gun shots were loud and intense in the middle of the beach storming scene, they both heard an audible pop that seemed to come from behind them or across the room. She raised herself up on her elbows to see what the sound was and realized her water had broken!

As she sat on the toilet, trying to talk to her nurse midwife on the phone, she was told to come in when she couldn’t talk through the pain. They left almost immediately especially since they also lived 45 miles away from the hospital. She sat on towels as her husband sped down the highway, breathing through the pain with every bump in the road and every contraction. She had planned ahead to have an unmedicated birth only because her friend had done it, and she wanted to see if she could do it too. She can be competitive.

They were ushered into the largest birth room, and she proceeded with various activities to help distract and alleviate pain. She went to the bathroom, they did laps in the hallway, she took a warm shower, she rocked in the rocking chair. These kept her busy until the pain became overwhelming. Soon, as she was moaning to herself, hunched over in the rocking chair, she overheard her midwife tell the nurse-in-training that she was in transition.

Transition hurt. And it was surreal. Eventually, the midwife had her climb onto the table so they could check the baby’s progress. Thankfully it was time. Since she chose a natural birth, she had no IV’s, only a monitor around her belly to listen to the baby’s heart.

The room was full of attendants waiting on the arrival of this new little human. She remembers noticing all the random day to day discussions going on around her between agonizing pushes as if they were all sitting in her living room, just hanging out. She kept pushing as instructed, getting tired, but the baby still wouldn’t come out, its head stuck crowning for 25 minutes.

While some of the nurses and attendants seemed to become a little anxious, her nurse midwife assured her everything was okay because the baby’s heart rate was still normal. But not wanting to risk the child being stuck any longer, the midwife finally gave her what was supposed to be a tiny episiotomy. Ouch! Not realizing she didn’t need to push as hard anymore, the last push resulted in a nice 3rd degree tear and an 8 pound 5 ounce, black haired, red faced quiet baby boy. She was amazed it only took 4 hours from the time they first arrived to the hospital.

Having experienced a natural childbirth for all it’s worth, she gave in to her curiosity to see what a medicated childbirth was like with her 2nd child, Jonathan. However, this pregnancy felt very different, and while she doesn’t remember having any diagnoses of something like gestational diabetes again, she often referred to the baby as the anti-Michael. This child just seemed ready to break out, moving more and kicking harder. The baby’s hormones collided with her own causing her to feel depressed and anxious, miserable. She was given an anti-depressant during the last month, but when the due date arrived and the baby didn’t seem to care, she cried on her nurse midwife’s shoulder believing she couldn’t survive one more day.

Having compassion, the midwife met her at the hospital and broke her water. Being induced caused the pain to come on much more quickly and intensely than she remembered when it happened naturally. She couldn’t wait to get an epidural and spent the whole pain free time sleeping. When she woke up, the epidural had almost worn off, and it was time to push.

Again, she had to receive an episiotomy since the scar tissue from the last one wouldn’t let the baby through. And again, she had a lovely 3rd degree tear. But in spite of all this, she got to experience a most amazing national geographic moment. After they put the screaming red faced, blond headed, 7 pound 9 ounce baby boy on her chest, he wiggled and rooted around to nurse almost immediately. With this baby, both she and her husband both felt their family was complete.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Sunday Worth Repeating

Grinning toddler
Abundant sunshine
Cool breeze
Shaded sidewalk
Welcoming church

Worship music
Contemplative offering
Hushed prayer
Heart-full tears
Invitational message

Peaceful landscape
Reflective surface
Dappled light
Dancing pool-cleaner
Warmed skin

Resting child
Outdoor nap
Effective swallowing
Suspended seizures
Joyful laughter

Family dinner
Grilled steak
Spicy potatoes
Talkative teens
Full bellies

Soft touch
Gentle caress
Smiling eyes
Loving heart
Fulfilled desires