I’m sitting on the airplane trying to think the healthiest thoughts and while all of my kids are engrossed in newly released movies, I have one of the first quiet moments to myself to process this experience.
Ryan was my only baby born in the birth center where I work. It was truly a beautiful experience that allowed me the opportunity to understand what the hundreds of birthing people I had already helped in the birth center felt. I was so grateful. In the moments after he was born, I had a few euphoric minutes where the world around him and me disappeared and I was enveloped in the miracle of bringing new life into the world.
*Now I will pause and say that I had complicated births with Veronica and Joe and love them equally and have nothing against epidurals or hospitals. I needed them both and am so grateful for them.*
When I tried to feed Ryan for the first time, one of the midwives heard a funny noise he was making and examined him. He had a hidden complete cleft palate. Knowing what I know, my world was completely turned upside down. We immediately felt panic that he had a heart defect or other unseen complications. He also had a strange rash which concerned the smart clinicians in my life. We went through weeks of uncertainty- one doctor told us that he had all of the characteristics of a genetic condition which meant he would have juvenile arthritis and would never be allowed to play contact sports among other complications such as hearing loss and vision problems. We waited 12 long weeks before that test miraculously came back negative. Feeding him was terrifying. He turned blue often even though he was stable. It was 2008. During our crisis on Cordova road, the stock market crashed.
My pediatrician asked me how my mood was. I had a difficult toddler (but now a really a mostly lovely teen) and a child with a challenging birth defect. I was keeping my head above water. He suggested I try therapy.
Since I am a midwife and recommend this to nearly everyone, it made perfect sense that I should enter into a therapeutic relationship.
I don’t remember much about therapy, except that I sure did need it. I do remember one specific thing the therapist made me do. She made me tell my birth story. And I told her about those euphoric moments. And the extra special thing about those euphoric moments was that a dear nurse friend of mine had dropped in the birth room right at the moment I was birthing. And without a plan, she snapped a picture of me and Ryan while I was in that sacred bubble. The incredible thing about this part of the story is that she is in her 60s and so it wasn’t like the rest of us who take a picture of every moment (see the 50 previous blog posts;). I feel like it was actually a small gift from God to me.
So. The therapist told me that in the turmoil of my life, I had to print that picture, frame it and look at it to bring me back to that moment of peace and euphoria. And that would help carry me through.
And it did. And he is healthy, and strong and smart and sees and hears well (maybe doesn’t always listen well) and I will say he is a great little basketball player who enjoys physical contact in sports and sometimes too much with his brother.
And although I don’t even know where that picture is today (I should find it), the therapist was right. It carried me. I mean so did John and our families and friends and faith- they all deserve credit too.
So that’s what I’m doing again. February 27. I was virtually training with my friend Melissa for my Bratislava half marathon. She gave me a goal of 19 miles for the week and I knew we were going to have an adventure-filled weekend so I needed to get a long run in.
I set out to see a new route and crossed the Danube. Once I crossed, I saw a path along the Danube in some woods. Sadly, anxiety occasionally grips me on runs and thoughts of being on a long run in the woods in a foreign country with virtually no other people around turned me to another path.
There are bike paths everywhere. You could live there without a car pretty easily and wow am I sad I didn’t get to explore on a bike. Anyways, I headed out on the bike path.
I went under the space ship bridge and thought about how we had plans to have a fancy dinner there sometime in May with our American friends to send off Bratislava in style.
As I started to really get away from the city, I noticed a cement building and a sign. I stopped and read about it. It was a 1937 bunker fortification to protect the Czechoslovakian border. Wow. That sunk in.
I kept running and then slowly realized, “ha, I’m probably in Austria now?” I thought that was so cool so I snapped a bunch of pictures and happily headed on thinking about how excited I would be to tell Melissa.
I remember thinking that the run even felt good (let’s be honest, most runs don’t feel GOOD). I was so infinitely grateful for the time with my family and all the things that were going well in this adventure. I had some moments of euphoria.
So. There it is. I can be my own therapist for now and print this picture off. (I do know I’ll need talk therapy at some point).
I don’t pretend to know for a second what it is like to flee a war but between all the history we learned and the actual experience of taking my kids on foot across borders, my heart aches for those who have.
And we have hard weeks ahead of us. I’m afraid that I will contract (or have already contracted) coronavirus. I’m afraid my kids or John will. I’m also afraid that anyone I know and love will also contract it.
So I hope to march, with that picture in hand, through the next 14 plus days. Using prayer and the unbelievable support and love from our community to carry us through. I’ll be grateful every day that we don’t have a fever or cough. I will be strong and brave if the symptoms come and have faith that we will endure.
I am pleading with those in my circle to practice strict social distancing. We have lived it in Europe and know what is definitely coming in the US. It will save the lives of those we love. (One of the first things I saw once my phone came back to life is that my friend, who also has Type 1, has been diagnosed with Covid-19. He’s doing well- but how scary).
For now, I am thanking every single flight attendant, all who are Austrian, for risking their health to get planes full of Americans home.
I’m grateful that there are so few passengers coughing (incredibly few for a normal March!). And I am enjoying Joe’s super loud giggles at the Angry birds movie (we aren’t in Slovakia anymore-he can be loud!)
Once we landed, we received texts from our friends that they had gotten through customs and health screenings about an hour earlier much easier than the stories from yesterday at O’Hare. We took another sigh of relief.
In Joe’s health screen, he told them that his passport has his middle name incorrect. 😶 But we all were fever-free and made it through.
We felt like the safest choice for us was to get out of the airport rather than to fly to Pgh. We made it to the car rental center and rented a giant SUV- hilarious since we haven’t driven since we left the states.
We are settled in a rural hotel tonight in Indiana, making sure to have nearly no contact with others. Everyone is exhausted. We plan to get to an Airbnb and self-quarantine in pgh tomorrow until we can get back into our house on Friday.
I want to remember that Ryan, during maybe the most stressful period on the re-entry to the US, asked me to bend down and told me quietly, “thanks mom for working so hard to get us home safely.” Later, V put her arm around me and said, “mom, you’re handling this stress well.”
Joe, who has been holding up as well as a 7 year old can, shot straight up from his sleep in the SUV and said, “Am I dead?” Lol. No son, we are in Indiana that’s all. ❤️