I’m sure there’s a writing metaphor in this somewhere, but mostly it’s about the Olympics and hospitals. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The last time the Summer Olympics rolled around I had been in the hospital for fifteen long, terrifying, sleepless days. I was there for the duration of my pregnancy, which I was told could end at any second – or go on for another 16 weeks. So, either way, it felt like time had stopped and was just eating away at me. I couldn’t leave my bed and so I just laid there and wept and watched Million Dollar Listing and desperately missed my kids and learned everything there is to know about IVs and tocolytics and insurance companies and which nurses drink coffee at 3 am and which ones are less than deft with bedding changes.
And then… the Olympics started.
I watched the opening ceremonies amidst beeps and tests and nurse visits, while my husband sat with me and tried to get a bit of work done. I emailed my best friend and we made fun of how bored all the dignitaries looked. Watching the opening ceremonies was the first thing that had almost distracted me enough to slow the constant panic of my failing pregnancy.
I had been like a woman hanging desperately from a crumbling cliff, and then the Olympics suddenly offered me a little chink in the stone – a perfect place to wedge my fingers and rest for a bit. I clung to this little chink in time like nobody’s business. When I woke up the next morning, I flipped on the TV and watched nearly every second of every televised Olympic event. I watched the athletes just swimming and swimming or running and running or water polo-ing and water polo-ing. And I told myself, while our situations were very, very different, I could learn that kind of endurance, too. These people were going to put their bodies through huge extremes over the next two weeks – and if they could do it, I could too.
So while I stayed immobile in bed and watched everything, I would makes deals with myself – just stay pregnant until the 100m breaststroke finals. Or, just wait to see who wins the gold for Men’s horizontal bar and then the contractions can take over. Just keep going one more event, one more hour, one more day…
And in the midst of close calls and ultrasounds and stadol and clogged IVs, I never turned that damn TV off. I was obsessed with watching these people push their bodies to the limit as I pushed mine to its own kind of limit.
I would wonder what life would be like in four years when the next Summer Olympics rolled around. Would I still think of that time in the hospital? Would I have three living children? How would life be different? How would *I* be different? The questions haunted me through floor events and sprints and hurdles, but I kept watching, grateful for the distraction.
And then… two weeks later, I was still in the same bed, still pregnant. I had pushed myself all the way to the end of the show. The closing ceremonies began – and just like that, so did my contractions. I missed most of the ceremonies because of frantic nurse visits, doctor pages, and room changes.
The next morning my son was born. He was twelve weeks early, weighed only two pounds, but had functioning lungs (which was, you know, a goal met). My endurance test had ended, but his was just beginning.
Would I have made it those extra two critical weeks without having something to distract me? My son’s lungs depended on that extra time, and I depended on the Olympics to get me through it. It sounds ridiculous to say out loud, and yet… I’ve always been pretty competitive and I do really well with deadlines.
Today, he’s a thriving nearly-four-year-old. I did not succumb to septicemia or other terrifying prognostications. And the Olympics begin anew. Those two weeks were an endurance test for me, and the coming months and years were so very hard. But now here we are.
Do I still think of that time in the hospital? Obviously. Do I have three living children? I do, though it was touch and go more times than I’d like to count during this four year span. How is life different now? Perspective is everything. How am *I* different? I have pulled myself up from a crumbling cliff and bear both the scars and rewards from it.
Tonight, I plan to sit on the couch with my husband, all three kids, a bowl of popcorn and a hearty helping of perspective. For the kids it will be an endurance test of mama hugs and kisses.
For me? It will be lovely.