Monday, April 19, 2010

26.2-mile-long metaphor

Today is marathon day. And, since it's a Monday in April, that means Boston. The runner's Holy Grail of marathons. If you can make it there . . .

Once upon a time, I really thought I could. A year ago--sheesh, 365 little days ago--I was winding down my marathon training. It was the only fitness plan I could think of to shed the baby weight from E's birth. I was training for a marathon in mid-May. I had several goals, among which was to qualify for Boston.

Another goal was to get pregnant shortly after the marathon, which would make E and Baby #2--dubbed the Deuce, whom we know now as Calla--a mere 20 months apart. Perfect.

I worked my ass off during that training. Sure, I was nursing full time, caring for an infant, existing on sporadic sleep and nutrition. My mileage volume was lower than a previous marathon, but the long runs were longer and more intense. I trained for that sub-3:40, and on a beautiful 22-miler in April, I was feeling pretty confident. I could almost hear the crowd in Boston.

However, my plan was to defer entry to 2011's race, as I was planning to have a newborn for the 2010-today's- running. Heh.

Cut to my marathon day. I'll spare you the nitty-gritty, but at mile 20, the wheels fell off my wagon. I saw the 3:40 pace group pass me, unaware that they were slightly ahead of pace, and all the wind blew right out of my sails. All I could think of was the months of hard work down the drain, and if I truly wanted to run Boston, I was going to have to do this all over again.

And, after all that training, there was no guarantee I'd actually finish in the qualifying time. As every runner knows, anything can happen on race day. I dragged my sorry ass across that finish line, swearing I'd never run another marathon, but knowing deep down I couldn't end on this note.

It is entirely possible that I became pregnant with Calla the night before the marathon. A few weeks post-race, a home test confirmed what I already knew. I couldn't believe our good luck. The spring turned into summer and rolled into fall. I grew bigger and rounder, more exhausted and nervous. My toddler son grew more active and inquisitive, more daring and carefree. How on EARTH was I going to handle two of these little creatures? I remember days where I questioned my sanity. I tried to comfort myself with the knowledge that HEAPS of people do this all the time--many with less support and, frankly, less emotional wherewithal than I had. I could do it. I hoped.

Of course as I grew bigger my son grew older. He learned to walk, talk, run, climb and leap. We bought the "Big Brother" books and size 2T shirts. We discussed mommy's expanding belly, who might be in there, what would happen in a few short months. We met other newborns. E was totally cool with all of it. Often while changing his diaper he'd kick his strong little legs, accidentally grazing my belly., I'd explain, "No kicking, there's a baby in there." Later, when he'd kick, I'd ask, "Why can't we kick?" He'd reply, "No kick baby."

Cut to January 8th, one month before my due date. The day the shit hit the fan, as it were. Every marathoner knows that half a marathon is not 13.1 miles--it's 20 miles. Those last 6.2 are what separate the wheat from the chaff. I always felt the last month of pregnancy, those long 4 weeks, were the same as the 6.2 miles--the true halfway point. And clearly, the wheels fell off yet again at exactly the same spot. In fact, I remember shortly after our worst fears were confirmed wailing, "All those months of hard work! For WHAT?!?!"

But just like that marathon, I had no choice but to gut it out to the finish. Like it or not--I started it, I would finish it. I swore that same oath, with the same intentions.

It's been a disappointing 12 months. There's been many ups, but the downs have been quite significant. What I'm having a tough time swallowing is how we handled Calla's death with E. At the time he was just shy of 19 months of age. I didn't think he'd understand exactly what happened--shit, I wasn't sure he understood the whole baby's-on-the-way thing in the first place. So we just let it pass. We packed up the Big Brother stuff, gave him lots of extra hugs and kisses, told him how much we loved him. He'll never know just how he pulled--well, me at least--through the fire.

I'm sure he knew we were sad. I wonder how his steel-trap mind processed the instant lack of big brother talk. The only indication he gave was during those diaper changes. When he'd start to kick, he'd look his sweet face up at me and say, "No kick baby." After grabbing up the shattered pieces of my heart, I'd say, "No, honey, the baby's gone." After a few times, he'd go to kick and then say, "Baby gone."

Yep. She sure is.

Am I a terrible mother for withholding the single-most significant event in our life as a family? Is he going to need hours of therapy to understand? I truly hope we made the right decision. Maybe it was pure self-preservation. I couldn't bear to hear over and over in his beautiful little voice, "Baby gone, baby dead, Calla gone." I was hearing it enough in MY own voice inside my head. It's not as though we're hiding it. Calla will always be his little sister. She IS, was, and will be part of our family, our collective history. E will know, he will understand. We'll show him pictures, we will explain. But for now, I can't do it.

Marathon day is here. FB status updates reveal excitement and reward for hard work. I'm excited for my friends running today. It's gorgeous. They'll enjoy every historic step. Just like the FB friends whose families are complete, who delivered healthy babies as we sobbed.

Someday, it will be me. I'll cross that finish line with the knowledge I worked my ass off yet again, that I deserve the reward, that I am capable.

1 comment:

  1. You did the absolute right thing with E, you were right to keep him innocent a little longer from the pain and trauma that is part of life. He'll let you know when he's ready, when he's able to understand you'll know. His job - then and now - is to help his mommy and daddy see the good in their lives and remind you that you all still have a bright future ahead.
    We haven't seen each other in years, but I think of you and sweet Calla very often and send joyous healing thoughts your way.