A South-of-the-Border Birth Story

Alexandria is now two weeks old, so I hope that I haven’t forgotten important details.  The good news is that moms recover brain mass after childbirth, so maybe that will help my memory?

First of all, when I became pregnant I was interested in water birth.  Even when I thought I would deliver in the States–it just made sense that it would be more relaxing.  I moved back to Mexico when I was 8 weeks pregnant, and immediately heard about the extremely high cesarean rates in Torreon.  In fact, it was months before I met anyone who had delivered naturally.  At 90% c-section, I knew we needed to do something.  I met woman after woman who would tell me, “I wanted to deliver naturally, but the baby’s heart rate dropped.”  Or maybe, “I wanted to deliver naturally, but the doctor said my pelvis was too small.”  There was always a reason for why they had to have a c-section.  (Interestingly enough, none of the women breastfeed either–they “didn’t have enough of a supply…”)  At our appointment for our 4-D ultrasound, the doctor said, “It’s really easier on us and the mom if we do a cesarean.”  I couldn’t believe that everyone just accepted c-sections as if they were a normal part of giving birth!

My husband found the doula and her birthing classes online, and we began to attend classes at five months.  Quite frankly, the classes weren’t very helpful.  The information in the classes wasn’t new to us, but I can understand why it is important for these women here–women who’ve been told for years that their bodies are incapable of delivering babies naturally.  We watched videos on YouTube to prepare for our birth, and that was part of my undoing.  Warning: The videos online aren’t of long labors.  They are of women who seem to push babies out as if it’s an everyday occurrence.  One woman actually said, “I don’t feel like I’ve given birth.  That was the easiest thing to do.”  That was my inspirational video I watched as I counted contractions.  Big mistake.

Friday morning, March 15th, I woke up with contractions.  I had awakened with several that morning, but returned to sleeping.  At around 8, I actually got up and went to the bathroom.  I was so excited to see a bloody show, and I knew that our precious baby would be joining us soon.

That day Victor’s new friend from school wanted to take him to a couple of places in Torreon.  I agreed to tag-a-long, and I am glad I did!  It was distracting to say the least!  We visited with his family and finally, Victor and I ended up at the mall to eat around mid-day.  My contractions had continued that morning, but they were 20 minutes apart.  My belly was still high, and I was told that when the baby dropped I would know it was time.  I knew it was time–but the baby never dropped…

I ate a good lunch because I was hungry.  And by the time we left the restaurant at around 2, my contractions were more steady.  They were still around 10 minutes apart.  But it was like clockwork.  I went home, and we began preparing for our baby’s arrival.

I could tell my husband was nervous.  He had been so attentive during my entire pregnancy, and now he busied around the house.  He cleaned and moved things, but mainly ignored me.  I spent the time making a labor playlist of music that I thought would be relaxing.  That was of course in between contractions, which I kept track of on a contractions calculator online.  I skyped with my Mom, and at one point she mentioned that maybe it was time to call the doula and doctor.  My contractions were about three in 10 minutes or every 3-4 minutes apart.

My contractions were getting stronger and they were pretty steady when my doula came around 7.  But shortly there after, they seemed to slow down a bit.  They were strong, and my back was really hurting.  During a contraction I practiced everything I had read online: deep breathing, swaying hips, visualization, moaning, bending over to take the pressure off, and my husband began applying pressure on my lower back.  The doula said that the contractions weren’t close enough together, but she and my husband set up our room for the baby’s birth.  I eyed that birthing pool with great anticipation…

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My doctor arrived around 9, and I was incredibly disappointed when she said I was one centimeter dilated.  What!?  But my contractions were close!  My body was hurting!  I was so tired already!

She and the doula left and said they would return in a couple of hours.  They instructed me to keep track of my contractions and just let it happen.  I was happy to have one of my friends join us, and she kept track of contractions while my husband took care of me.  We heated a rice bag in the microwave, and the heat really helped the contractions too.  They returned around 12 or 1 in the morning.  The doctor checked my progress again: 3 centimeters.  At that point, I was ready to cry.

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I labored everywhere in that room and outside as well.  The air outside was cool enough to make me feel fresh, but we labored on the commode, the labor stool, the bed, etc.  I knew that I  should keep standing and moving.  When the doctor checked me the next time, I was only 5-6 centimeters dilated.  The baby was still high in my pansita.  And while I was having contractions and strong labor pains–I could see that the doctor was beginning to worry a little.  She and the doula talked in hushed tones (and spanish) outside the room, and I just put them out of my mind.

My doula doesn’t really get the chance to do her job very often due to the suspicions that people seem to have about birthing here.  She was eager to try out everything on me.   She tried to change my breathing–I resisted.  She tried to tell me to squat–and I told her that I tried it.  It didn’t feel so good.  She rubbed incense oil under my husband’s nose, and was heading for mine.  I informed her that it smelled bad.  She finally backed off and let me do my thing.

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My friend and my husband took turns pressing on my lower back, and I was finally allowed to labor in the birthing pool.  It was amazing.  I felt my pain cut in half.  Someone began pouring water on my lower back as I stayed on my hands and knees to encourage the baby to rotate her head.  I moved back and forth in the water, and the doctor encouraged me to begin pushing through contractions to see if we could move her down.  I remember falling asleep in between contractions on the edge of the pool, then being awakened in an abrupt and unpleasant way as surges of pain shot through my back.  I don’t remember feeling the contractions anywhere else–just the back pain.

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I got out of the pool, and labored more on the birthing stool.  The doctor laid down on the floor in front of me with a light (similar to what a mechanic would use to see inside an engine) to help her see.  At this point, I had a cervical lip.  At least from what I can tell that is what it was–the doctor said the baby had descended some, but that my part of my cervix was keeping her head from moving more.  She began trying to push the cervix out-of-the-way when I had contractions, instructing me to push (although I still didn’t have the “urge” to do so).  The pain was horrible.  I remember actually screaming at that point.  I also aimed the scream for the doctor’s ear so that she would know the pain she was inflicting upon me.

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The last few hours were more of a blur–and I don’t remember many details.  I remember laboring more in the pool.  Throwing up.  
Getting out for the doctor to try to break my water (I was 10 centimeters dilated at this point, but my water still hadn’t broken.)  I labor more in the water–and I began squatting in the pool to push.  My husband joined me, and I was basically sitting on his bent legs as we squatted together.  Victor wrapped his arms around me, and when I pushed, he squeezed with all his might.  I remember the doctor remarking on how the baby was moving down finally–and how he was helping us accomplish this.  The doctor checked me again and my water had broken–she rotated the baby’s head at that point with much discomfort!  They continued to monitor the baby’s heart-rate, and I would wait in anticipation to hear that she was strong.   I would reach down and feel for her head as often as I could.  When I finally felt the baby’s head, I did cry.  How amazing!

The urge to push was something that I had read about in the months leading up to my labor, but I was unprepared for how it would really feel.  I wanted to take it easy, but my body was in auto drive.  I would push on contractions with my team saying, “Push! Push!  You got it!  Breath!”  Then I would say, “I can’t.”  This wasn’t me giving up–it was my way of saying the contraction was over and I needed rest.  My doctor was amazing, and I just focused on her face (which was almost always calm).  She encouraged me to relax, breath, and wait for another contraction.

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When the pediatrician showed up, I was at the end of my labor.  I remember him telling me to sit back against Victor so that I didn’t tear. (We were using the birthing stool in the pool at this point.)  He also was the only one who kept telling me to push the baby out when I didn’t have contractions.  “Don’t let the head back inside,” he said.  Even in my sleepless state I knew that he was wrong.  Victor and I really worked together at the end.  I would nudge his arms and say, “Ready?”  And we would push (that was me) and squeeze (that was him) at the same time.  When the baby arrived, there was no break between pushing her head and the rest of the body.  That’s what I prepared for because that’s what I saw on videos.  Women would wait for more contractions with a baby head hanging out of their bodies.  Not my little girl–she shot out into the water like a bullet!

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I felt so relieved.  They laid her on my chest and I felt this pulling down below.  It was strange–as if the cord was too short.  I remember the doctor saying maybe that is why the baby didn’t move down–her cord was keeping her up.  I don’t know if there’s any truth in that, but it made sense at that moment when her cord was tugging at me.  Victor was immediately concerned about her breathing, but she cried a quick and mightly bellow.  I was shocked to see how much vernix she had covering her body.  For some reason, I expected all that to be gone.  I forgot about it and kissed her head–then quickly remember and tried to wipe my mouth off.  Ick!

My team allowed us a little time before clamping the cord.  Not as much time as I wanted, but in those moments, it wasn’t really what I was concerned about.  They took Alex to clean and test–and I moved to the bed to deliver the placenta and be checked.  I didn’t want to keep (or eat) the placenta, but I did want to see what it looked like.  Unfortunately, I soon forgot about that too.  I did have some tearing, and I figured it was because I pushed when I didn’t have contractions at the end.  I also wonder if we rushed things a bit, but I’m not REALLY complaining about that.  Alexandria was born 24 hours after I had awakened with a bloody show and contractions.

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Birthing at home was an amazing experience   I was never tempted by drugs or epidurals–because I knew they weren’t possible options.  Everyone left us alone after they cleaned and packed up.  That day was one of the most relaxing days I can remember.  I had a perfect baby, and no one interrupted our little family.  We slept in our own bed and chatted online with friends and family.  I had no doctors or nurses coming in my room to bother me.  No one took my daughter away for shots, tests, etc.  I had her with me the whole time.  The pediatrician did come back by that afternoon to see how Ale was doing, but he may have been there five minutes.  I can’t imagine giving birth in a hospital after something like that.  Furthermore, my recovery was amazingly quick!  I rested as much as I could at my mama’s urging–but I was able to move and walk around by the next day with little irritation.

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I read about how empowered women feel after giving birth.  It’s totally true.  I skyped with a friend who said, “You did it!”  Just those three words made me feel so accomplished.  I did do it!  I labored and gave birth to an amazing little girl.  AND I did it with no drugs clouding up our systems.  It makes me feel more amazing as time goes on–and really helps me with breastfeeding as well.  Yes, this hurts–but I can do this.  It’s the way God made my body, and my little girl will benefit greatly from my milk!

My Mamaw would say, “Every ol’ crow thinks her’s is the blackest…” But Alexandria Irene really is perfect.  At birth she was 3.600 kilos (7lbs 9oz) and 51 centimeters (20 inches) long.  She has a head full of black hair and eyes full of wonder.  I am filled with awe every time I look at her.

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Being A Mom

Family picture March 2013

Wow.

No one told me how hard it is to be a mom.  I am guessing that’s because it’s totally worth it–so moms just ignore the fact that time has gone out the window.  They put on the same smelly clothes (baby doesn’t mind), and slap on more lanolin.

Or they climb on a plane and spend spring break consoling their grown daughter on her ability to produce milk…

I’ve barely been on the computer–much less on my blog updating everyone on life.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re learning how to live.  I have quoted my Mamaw before, “You haven’t lived until you have children.”  And I reckon she’s right.  Although my mom and husband have pulled out the stops to keep me breathing–short of hooking me up to a liquids line.

I guess she said that, because it’s  hard to  describe how it really feels to have children.

I feel like upon bonding with my little girl, part of me became incomplete.  Now, she has to be there for me to feel whole.  It scares the heck out of me, to be honest.  I lay beside her, and stare at her sleeping–close to tears, waiting for her to need me.  When I finally sleep, the slightest movement or whimper wakes me up in a state of panic.  The best night of sleep I had was last night–in my mom’s bed.  I think I must have slept harder knowing she was there to take care of Alexandria.  Her sad/upset face breaks my heart in two, and when she smiles, I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

There’s nothing like nursing her (even when it’s hurting).  She stares up at me with big brown eyes.  As she drifts off to sleep, her eyes open and close quickly as she attempts to figure out sleepy-time.  Her little hands have become more controlled in two short weeks, and she curls one up on my chest.  The other is tucked away.  Sometimes she holds my fingers as I guide her to her source of life and happiness.  Her body relaxes, and there she goes again: stealing my heart away.

I try to share her with her Papi and her Grandmama.  Daddy comes to get her for diaper time without a word from me.  He stands by as I give her bath, singing to her describing my actions, unconsciously mimicking my mama.  Papi likes to carry her around too–and I refrain from warning him to watch her head, hold her tighter, or comfort her whimpers.  I have selfishly watched him feed her from a bottle for a week, as I had to pump my right pecho to allow it to recover.  Today we took back feedings–and I proudly listen to her swallow loudly, gulping as much leche as she could.

I watched my Mama leave us today at the airport, and I cried.  I cried because of my own needs, but also with a strange new awareness for what she’s warned me of:  a mama’s love for her baby.  A piece of her heart gone from her body–keeping her from feeling completely complete.
Mom and Me

A photo from convention 2010

My Milkshake Brings All the Babies to the Yard

Moving past day one and two of breastfeeding–and my worries continue…

The baby seemed SO hungry!  She would cry and root around, and cry and root around.  I nursed her yesterday as much as I could with hopes of bringing in the elusive 72 hour milk.  I googled, “How do I know when my milk is in?.  Don’t bother.  It doesn’t tell you much.  What it does let you know is that Mom was right: Women everywhere apparently worry about this.  Some women say their milk doesn’t even come until 7 days!  Aagh!

The doctor gave me some comfort when she told me that the baby was latched on well.  But then she said, “If you need formula, don’t feel bad!” Strangely enough, formula hasn’t been tempting.  I just keep telling myself that God made my body, and I have all the tools I need to feed my baby.  And then I pray earnestly because I worry that I am starving Alexandria.

Victor was equally concerned yesterday–although that was probably my fault.  He would say, “She is so hungry because she doesn’t have enough milk!”  Then he would bring me water and food.  When he came home from school last night, he had an extra pep in his step.  He said, “Honey, you’re going to have so much milk!  Look what I brought you!” Then he proceeded to pull out of his bag our supper and three cans of beer.  Three different cans of beer, because he has no idea what I would like.

Apparently, he talked to his sister on the phone while at school.  She called to check to see how the baby was.  “Oh, she’s fine except she’s hungry because Jania doesn’t have enough milk.” Thanks, Love.  She told him that it was normal, and again mentioned formula.  Then his new friend (whom he just met last week) told him to get me beer.  I didn’t really have the heart to tell my husband that he doesn’t have to tell everyone my lactation problems…

I worried extra because Ale hadn’t peed or pooped all day.  All the information (which I shouldn’t have read in the first place) tells you to worry if there is a lack of waste.  So…worry is all I did!  My solution was to take her diaper off.  (We’re using the disposables that someone bought me while she’s new, and really they’re too absorbent.)  Before bed, I stripped her down and wrapped her in a blanket.  We nursed while going to sleep (which was amazing), but were awakened in the middle of the night.  I reached over to grab her, and encountered a laguna in the middle of the bed.  Phrase number one I never thought I would say, “Yay!  Honey, she peed all over the bed!”

Victor was equally excited, and playfully scolded her for all the extra work that she made him do in the middle of the night.  We moved to the other bedroom, but honestly, we were both so happy that she was eating and peeing, that we just talked in between her feedings rather than take advantage of sleep time.  Victor even started the laundry.  At one point, he had been gone a while, and I came out to see him mopping.  Turns out that worrying about her was really taking a toll on the two of us.  I gloried in being awakened every two hours to her rooting for chichi–especially when I realized that the hardness I was feeling must be my milk.  Her satisfied face makes the excruciating pain worthwhile, and my husband even said, “Now she’s sleeping because she isn’t so hungry!”

And the fun continues.  After a night of nursing upon demand, I was so happy to see her little face this morning looking at me like I was her own personal milk jug.  We’ve nursed all day, and it has paid off!  Phrase number two I never thought I would say happened midway through the day.  “Hooray!  That’s the biggest poop ever!”   I even saved it so Papi can see.  He’s going to be so proud.

Breastfeeding Woes of a New Mommy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlexandria asleep on a pillow in my lap–after hours (literally) of nursing/suckling.

Only when you have a home-birth can you be this relaxed to post an update the day your daughter is born… Man, that sounds weird.  I have a daughter?

Today was the day!  Alexandria Irene joined us after a day and night of waiting!  Funny–today was in between my day 2 choice for her birth, and my day 3 choice: St. Paddy’s Day.  I can still count her as my little good luck charm though.  I just hope her stubbornness through her birth is foreshadowing of a lifetime to come!

Wow.  Can we just pause for a moment and laugh at the fact that I wrote this three days ago.  Then promptly got caught up in my baby’s needs and was unable to post anything.  For three days…

She’s perfect, by the way.

Day two was really rough.  We started it out by calling my mama crying.  I couldn’t figure out how to get her to wake up, latch on, and try to eat.  All I could think of was that I had wasted an entire day–and that all of the breastfeeding guides, blogs, and advice tell you that you should ensure proper latch within hours of birth.  Every woman in the world feels like this when she starts breastfeeding, Jania.  That’s why so many women quit in the first couple days.  I listened to my Mama (professional breastfeeder), and got to work.

Victor actually did a lot of the work.  I tried to figure out how to hold her, how to hold my chichi, and how to get her connected.  He stood by with a wet washcloth and pestered her awake.  He pulled her lips out for me to make sure she was latching like a fish.  And he told me what a great Mama I was–and that soon it would get easier.  He has fed me (literally) for the last three mornings as I feed our baby.  It must be getting old though, because today I had oatmeal running down my chin.

When I was still expecting, we would laugh because Alexandria would always move at night.  She would be as still as could be during the day, but when I would lay down to sleep–the party began.  She seems to still think this is when Mama and Papi want to play, and talk, and sing…  Last night we went through the same thing over and over.  Her crying and acting like I hadn’t been nursing for an hour.  Me sitting up and attaching her once more.  Her falling asleep.  Me laying her down and trying to close my eyes.  Her waking up and starting all over again.  I just kept telling myself, This is okay.  The more she suckles–the more milk I’ll have.  Let’s hope that’s true–because we’re still waiting…

Early this morning–around three o’clock– I decided I would just go in the other room so at least one of us got some sleep.  Victor came too.  We were talking about how wonderful she is, when he laughed and said, “Remember when we kept waking her up to eat?”   Ha!  Trust my husband to put everything into perspective.

Sugar Pi Honey Bunch

pi shirt

I painted this–the front says, “Miss American π” 

Once I accepted that my baby wasn’t going to act up with the moon, I went ahead and chose my favorite March days for her potential birth.

First up: Pi Day

Oh, math, how I miss you!  Teaching Pi Day was the best part of my first year teaching.  My kids all painted their number on their t-shirts, and we spent the day singing songs, reading Pi books, playing games, and of course, eating pi(e).  What an irrational day in fourth grade!  I had it all planned out last night–if I were to have a Pi baby, I had big plans to dress him in onesies with mathematical jokes!  And birthdays would really be fun!  Poor child would always have to have birthday pi(e) rather than cake, but it would be never ending fun!  We could go on and on for the rest of his life!  Plus, I would sing the best lullabies:  Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, American Pie, etc.

Sigh.  Alas, it’s almost 3 p.m. and this baby doesn’t seem eager to join her mama in celebrating a fun math day.

Guess I’ll hold out for tomorrow–my second day of choice:  The Ides of March.  Beware, baby, beware.

40 Weeks and Smiling (Mostly)

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“It really hasn’t been that bad,” I tell my husband to reassure him.  And it’s true! I mean, I’ve had my fair share of complaints:

  1. Morning sickness until 28 weeks.
  2. Pelvic pain
  3. Dehydration issues (Pregnant+Living in the desert=Not a good combination…)
  4. Rolling over in bed with great effort
  5. Lack of sleep

It’s hard to believe that I am forty weeks, and that I am guaranteed a baby in the next 10-12 days.  I mean, I’ve been counting down since February.  (How silly!  I wish the doctor hadn’t told me that she expected the baby with the full moon!  And the new moon has come and gone too–so I guess this really IS dependent on the baby…)  I’ve been searching in vain for mucus plugs and signs of lactation.  I’ve over-analyzed every single contraction or movement the baby makes!

Darn you, Mexico, for your obligatory 6-weeks-prior-to-due-date-maternity-leave.  And these dreams I’ve had this week are welcome to leave as soon as possible.  For some reason, I’ve had bad dreams.  Usually I am trying to protect the baby.  Even Victor was talking in his sleep last night.  He doesn’t ever do that!  It was kinda funny–both Spanish and English.  “Estamos esperando.  (We are waiting.)  We hope maybe tomorrow.” Funnier still is he must have been dreaming about his family–his Spanish sounds different when he talks to his family.

I finally feel like we’re ready to have the baby–after several worries have been taken care of.  The first was money (Isn’t it always?).  When I found out that the Social Security wasn’t going to pay my paycheck for maternity leave I panicked.  What?  How would we survive!?  After 6 weeks, we’ve been assured that my employer is paying the full amount.  Whew!  Thank goodness we started saving–because we’ve had to use it!

Second, I’ve been waiting in vain for my box of goodies from the States to make it.  My sweet friends sent it around a month ago.  I actually dreamed I didn’t have diapers for the baby the other day–as that was one of the items included!  Today I hung the new diapers out on the line, and “the diapers were hung on the clothes line with care–in hopes that sweet baby soon would be there” popped into my mind.

I look forward to my appointment today–as I am eager to hear if we’ve progressed.  Never before have I looked forward to exploration of my nether region by a doctor, but it seems like a lot of change is going on.  Might as well throw in the towel!  Prod away doctor!  As long as the news that comes out of your mouth is good news!  Maybe she’ll tell me that the gas pains and nausea I’ve been feeling is really labor.  That would be amazing after reading all these stories about women who had NO idea they were in labor.  Fat chance.

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And a side view…

The Sticky (inter)Web

One thing I hate about returning to the States is how I see everyone on their phones, iPads, laptops, etc.  They seem so disconnected from each other!  And then I remember I was one of them…   (da da duuummm)

I used to have my iPhone with me everywhere.  I would always have something to do while waiting in traffic or at the doctor’s office.  I could look up recipes in the grocery stores.  I never used real maps–because I didn’t get lost with quick access to maps with the touch of a finger!  I had immediate knowledge of updates on Facebook, and my friends would never have to wait for a response.  In fact, if they were unable to reach me, they worried.

When I cancelled my Facebook, I would aimlessly hold my phone and search for things to do.  In fact, that’s really when I started blogging the most.  I also began tweeting.  In this sense, only the people that I shared my blog with would really know what was going on.  In Mexico I continued to use my trusty iPhone–at Starbucks I could connect to internet and chat with my friends and family.  I could turn on the maps before I left the house, and somehow they still worked to an extent as we traveled around by taxi.  I always had my “camera” and never had to worry about making paper lists when going to the grocery store.

Then my mom graciously took over my contract (and bill) so that I wouldn’t lose the unlimited internet.  While out and about it wasn’t that different–Although I used certain features in Mexico, I didn’t have a network to connect to, so I had been learning to enjoy my surroundings.   Sure, it was a minor adjustment.  I started using my real camera.  We started looking up maps online before we left to head somewhere new.  And I began shopping with a pen and a scratch paper with a nice list of what I needed.

At home, it was more of an adjustment.  Although we have a laptop, Victor could use the iPhone or the other way around when necessary.  Still not a big deal–still feeling superior over the other Americans constantly on their phones.

Then it happened.  Last week, my computer began to act up more than usual.  For one week, I have daily tried to correct the problems that threaten our connection with our families and friends.  And today, I received harsh news: my hard drive is dying.  Oh my word! am I one of those strangers from my homeland? The sad unfortunate creatures who’ve forgotten human connection and the simple way of life I love so much here?  Yep.

I’ve contacted customer service, and they are replacing the hard drive.  But I am fearful that with the death of my laptop, I might actually have to wash the dishes.  And how will I let my mom know when I go into labor?  Even my husband has felt the seriousness of this, “Jania, we need a computer.  What will we do?”

Sigh.  Oh, technology.  Why have you ensnared us in your trappings?

A List Complete!

Four weeks of working on a baby blanket is good for a mama’s well-being.  It gives her something to do each day as she waits on her Mexican baby.  It’s also nice to be able to think of snuggling her little bug inside and cuddling her to pieces.  I did receive inspiration online–and the song is quickly becoming one of my favorites for my elefantito.  YouTube video with song

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Cute little guy, eh?  The best thing is that the whole blanket is made from the same material as my moby (my fake moby…) so it’s super soft!

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Speaking of my baby wrap, that is another check off this mama’s to-do list.  Five meters of material cut into one long strip for tying my baby up–check!  I did let my husband choose the material color (Although I did take the black and grey out of the options–Love and Logic is aplicable to husbands too: give choices you can live with!).  I was pretty happy with his bright-as-the-sunshine yellow!  This baby really will be the happiest baby on the block!

Hiding (Deep) Inside

She’s inside of me.  I know it.  I feel her whispering to come out when I see the people in the park in front of our house.  She was even louder this weekend as the Torréon marathon took place.  We stood on the corner as we walked back to our house and cheered.  Turned out, the taxi couldn’t really make it through the race route–and I was pretty happy about that.

Si, se puede!  I heard a girl on the sidelines yell, Vamos!  “You can do it!” “Let’s go!”  I joined in with the onlookers–clapping and quietly saying, “Good job!” Eventually, I gained my courage and began yelling earnestly in Spanish.  I gave high fives to the runners who held out their hands to me, and I cheered especially for the runners who looked like they wanted to quit.

A marathon here isn’t quite the same as the races I’ve participated in and observed in the States.  One of the best things about running a race is how you feel as strangers tell you how strong you are.  I remember quite vividly going to my siblings’ cross country and track competitions as a child.  They were both quite good, but my brother often would win.  I remember being so proud of him–and now I am even more proud because of a lesson that he taught me.

After the race was over for him as a competitor, it was far from over for him as a runner.  While other racers would collapse with their team or families–or perhaps jog a little to cool down–my brother would began walking back towards the course.  With each runner who came along, he would have words of encouragement.  “Just a little bit further!” he would say, “You only have about 100 yards!”  Sometimes, he would even jog the last bit with them again, helping them across the line.

I’ve been on the receiving end of his encouragement to keep one foot in front of the other, so I know how valuable those simple words are.  When I lived with him and his little family for a short 5 months,  he began his campaign to turn me into a runner.  I had no idea, or I may have protested more.  It started with just a tiny jog/walk.  While I had been active playing soccer and jogging during high school, the previous couple years couldn’t be described the same.  I remember that first day like it was yesterday:  It wasn’t even a half a mile–and I couldn’t do it.  I was winded.  I was out of shape.  I was exhausted.  I was embarrassed.  Joe never said a word about any of that.

Instead, he timed us.  And out we went again the next day.  This time, the goal was just to go a little further.  Time wasn’t the issue.  And the next day–the same.  He bought me a little notebook that week, and we began a journal together.  In the front, he drew a graph, “I am just going to go up to six miles,” he said, “but we probably won’t get there.  It’s just goes that far.”  I readily agreed, appreciating his consideration.  He encouraged me to write how I felt after each run, the time of day, how long the run was, where the run was, etc.

The following months he would (almost daily) ask, “You want to go run?”  When I would groan or make excuses, he would say, “Well, you can stay here–but I am going to go run if you want to come too.”  I couldn’t refuse him!  He cajoled me into running the same way my mom could guilt me into doing household chores.  They would both tell you that wasn’t their intention, but maybe that’s why it works!

Little by little, our runs became longer.  But never easier–not really.  Because my brother is a runner–but he has the heart of a teacher.  He could sense when I needed a real break.  He could sense when I needed a challenge.  And never was there a run without words of encouragement.  He added speed drills (on hills), and cross-country trails (through grassy neighborhoods).  He taught me how to hold my body while running down hills to avoid stitches, he helped me concentrate on my breathing, and occasionally, we would sing cadences on a particularly difficult hill (dubbed Killer Hill).

By the end of the summer together, we ran six miles (sneaky, sneaky) in under 10 minutes a mile.  This was amazing.  That first 1/2 mile took me over 15 minutes (18 if my memory serves me correctly).  We ran–and never did I use music.  I had my brother to help me along…

My brother turned me into a runner.

I wish I could say that I kept up his training.  Because every time I think of running–I know it’s going to be like that first week in Omaha. Horrible.  Awful.  Discouraging.  But, because of those months with my brother, I know that it will get better.  I will get faster.  And I can do it.

Sometimes I think of how much I hate it–I mean, really!  I don’t want to go run–that’s why I am thinking of 15 other things to do!  Then, the jog is over, and I feel accomplished.  And I hear my brother’s voice in my ear the whole time, “You can do it, Nino!  Just jog to that light pole.  Now, everything you got all the way home!  It’s all downhill–let your body carry you there!” 

She’s in there.  And she’s coming out soon.  No, not my baby, but that runner that has been a lazy bum for the last two years.  Sigh.