Amazing! When Zach was delivered via emergency C-section 24 years ago today, I could have never envisioned the journey we’d all embarked on. When the doctor came from the NICU and told me that Zach had a hole in his lung and they had to place a small tube in his chest, and a breathing tube down his throat, my only question was: “Ok. Will it leave a scar?”
This was just a year and a half after our baby Daughter Alexis died in my arms. And this was just months before I finished nursing school which I’d enrolled in as a response to the devastating loss. I knew what chest tubes and intubation meant. But in that moment, while I lay in a hospital bed and as the doctor was speaking to me, I was not a nurse. I was a mom. And there was no way my convicted heart could allow for news that meant anything more than a scar on my newborn’s tiny little chest. Holy shit was I in shock and denial.
I share this incredibly vulnerable moment because the love we have have for our children can skew reality. And when it comes to the safety of our daughters and sons we don’t think in logical terms, only protective ones. When I learned of the damage to Zach’s tiny body, I didn’t hear: “Your newborn, premature son is on life support and is in grave danger.” All I heard was “He is ALIVE!” And my mind anchored itself there.
Given the excitement of Zach’s start to life, I think we knew Zach would be a force to be reckoned with. That is, if we could learn to ride the wave of our life together and not get crushed by it. I haven’t spent a birthday of Zachary’s away from him since he was born into his 6 week NICU stay, chest and breathing tubes and all, when he burst forth in 1999.
So today is a first. But before delving into today, let’s refer back to a post called “Dammit! Sick Again!” The topic was my frustration towards getting sick again and again, with COVID symptoms that mimic my initial infection from July, 2022. The point of the post was to illustrate that we can miss the sometimes obvious nature of what our bodies are trying to tell us, and we can forget how important it is to surround ourselves with old friends who can comfort us, and also remind us of who we are.
Another observation came up during the development of the “Dammit…” post. Do you recall the mention of a term called: “self-care protocol?” I was sharing that in life coaching we engineer and implement a series of habits and behaviors that, when done consistently, yield the type of hour, day, week, month and life that we would choose for ourselves. I mentioned that if you even knew what the term meant, you were ahead of most of the population.
Circling back to my inability to physically spend Zach’s birthday with him today, I want to call out my discovery that I am finally starting to understand what is meant by “Well-Being” or “Being in Balance” or “Self-Care.” The clarity has come by way of me being sick again. Yes. Again. But only this time, I don’t just have coffee dates, group meetings or dinner plans to miss. I have a whole host of things to miss.
Our family is proudly supporting a high school graduate today as she walks the stage and accepts her earned diploma. Only I’m not there with them. Not only do I miss seeing Zach today, I also miss out on the graduation celebration and the connection that happens when we all come together.
But at the same time, while slightly suffering FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) I am elated. I am joyful and ecstatic because I think I am finally leaning into this self care thing. Generally speaking, I would never miss such a family gathering as today’s graduation, and I certainly would not miss spending Zach’s birthday with him. But I had to make a decision. Should I travel out of town, go to the graduation, the festivities, sleep in a hotel and drive back tomorrow? At least I wouldn’t miss anyone or anything.
But how many people am I exposing to whatever illness I’ve got? How can I move this body into the car let alone into a stadium. Would sleeping in a hotel room actually provide me with rest and recovery?
Answers to these latter questions helped me draw the obvious conclusion: I need to stay home and rest.
And there it is: “I need to stay home and rest” is code for “I know how to, and actually choose to, take care of myself as much of the time as possible.”
And today that meant staying home and not spending Zach’s birthday with him. But its funny. I think I would feel so much worse if I attended these events. I would have been resentful that I felt terrible and had to function. I might have blamed Zach or anyone for that matter, that I was spending my time in misery. I might have even told myself I am weak because I keep getting sick.
But nope. Not me. Not today. Today I am pulling the self-care lever all the way down. I will FaceTime with Zach and the rest of the family. I will enjoy pictures and stories that memorialize the day. And I will also rest. I will hibernate with my blankets, home remedies and plenty of over the counter “DM” meds to help heal me. I will rest, because my mind is at ease. I don’t think maybe I should have done something differently. I simply relax into my body’s cry for rest.
In conclusion, the litmus test for whether or not something is in our own best interest, and in this case, is also an act of self care, is how we feel when we act. The decision to stay home and rest was not an easy one, but it should have been. The relief I felt once I made it confirmed it was the right move for me, for today. And maybe, just maybe by practicing these little acts of self kindness I can get really good at implementing a self care protocol that allows me to listen to myself and my body.
For now I will just give thanks that our miracle of a son has lived 24 years. Like I said initially: Amazing!