Thursday, August 30, 2012

Keeping promises

So, today I got back in the pool. 

I'm letting that sink in a bit, because it feels really monumental to me.  Let me explain.

It's great, of course, to get some exercise in while pregnant and swimming is a lovely low impact way to blahblahblah.  We all know this stuff.  Going for a swim does great things for my el prego self...period.  Duh.

But that's not really why it feels so monumental.  It feels like more because it's a return to something that I loved so much, long before my love for Olivia or Little Man even existed.  Swimming was one of the ways that I proved to myself that I could do things...valuable things with my body.  I spent many years ignoring or purposefully breaking down my body, pretending that I didn't care.  An ignorant, blase approach to my own finite gifts. 

And then I began hurting.  Much of my pain was emotional, but it surfaced physically.  I ached.  I developed skin rashes.  I started weezing and it turned into full blown asthma.  I was allergic to everything.  I avoided stairs and bathing suits and curvy dresses.  Then I started avoiding people and places and, well, life.  It didn't happen over night, but one day I woke up and realized that the most beautiful things about me were in tatters on the floor by my feet, grey and shriveled from misuse.

So, among other things, I started to move.  I bought a pair of running shoes and started running the length of blocks, then 1/4 miles, then a whole mile in a row.  I remember that day.  I remember calling my future husband...whom I literally had just met the week before...and confided in him that I just ran a full mile in a row without stopping and I was so proud.  And he didn't think I was a loser.  I knew he was the one.  I could be broken in front of him and he would be proud of the pieces because he could see the whole. 

And it became a journey.  Running went to swimming went to biking went to triathlons.  Short ones went to medium ones went to long ones.  I found so many of my limits during the process.  Most were imaginary, and I figured out how to get around them.  Others were real, and I learned to swallow my pride, reframe, and refocus.  It stopped being about moving rather early in the process.  It was my conduit, my method of transformation.  The irony?  I'm not terribly good at it.  I'm generally last in everything.  I've ended more races than I can count after the volunteers have broken down the finish line.  I've passed innumerable water stations packed up and done for the day.  But it was important for me and I appreciate it.

And then we tried to get pregnant and it didn't work.  And much of my time became about finding the right doctor, getting on the right protocol, and timing meds and visits to help us be parents.  Infertility turned into IVF turned into a high risk pregnancy.  There was no space for me to keep up with my old lifestyle.  Technically I could have, but it would have broken me.  I have learned how much I have to give and know now to stay inside that boundary.  Not for safety, just because I don't want to live on that ledge anymore.  I don't have to anymore.

Then I happily focused on Olivia.  Perhaps to my own detriment, I turned all eyes on her and her development and happiness.  I managed our household.  I started a new job.  I learned how to become a working mother.  It was decidedly without grace, but I kept it all together and came out the other side as a pretty good mom.

And then we were back.  Back in the stirrups.  Told by the doc not to wait -- IVF immediately.  Do not collect $200 or regain your emotional footing.  Certainly do not get back to running again.  IVF turned into our second miracle baby.  And for about a week we were in heaven...amazed to have this good fortune.  But then it was low betas.  And then an enlarged yolk sac.  Weekly discussions of imminent miscarriage.  Chart notes that read "grave" and "guarded prognosis."

Funny.  At the time, we thought that was the worst it could get.

We made it through all of this -- genetic testing, diagnosis of CHD, preparations for open heart surgery -- because of our marriage.  It's a good one.  Solid to its core and we both work hard at that. 

But...this whole time...I've focused elsewhere.  I've known what's good for me, what nurtures me and makes me feel proud and empowered, but I've ignored it.  Failed to make the time and priority.  Grabbing that "everyone comes before mommy" cliche by the hand and pretending that it looks good on me.

It doesn't.  And I'm starting to learn that I don't have to be the cliche if I don't want to. 

So, getting into the pool this morning was important.  Staring at my alarm at 5 AM and wishing I could just sleep a little more...but not...was about getting back to me.  Getting back to the person who was willing to go out on a limb and make promises to herself and keep them.  I used to do that all the time.  It helped define the edges of my character.  It helped me be me without apology. 

This morning I kept my promise and it felt good. 

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