Motherhood is the definition of helplessness. I always thought that moms had all the power. And while they ARE superwomen, there is nothing like a sick child or an accident that you can’t fix to remind you that you are not in control. My youngest was diagnosed with scoliosis in August. I have spent the last 4 months learning that once again, I cannot fix, change, mastermind, coordinate or bargain our way out of this challenge. There have been very few weeks since the diagnosis that we have not been in a doctor’s office getting new imaging, fitting for her brace or learning a new aspect of care to withstand the pain.
This is not my first rodeo with health concerns and my kids. I have learned and advocated and researched and studied before. I have become a non-licensed expert in areas that I previously knew nothing about. But unlike some other challenges, this one seemed to hit me in new ways of hurting. My Gator is my physically strong one. Her will is equally as powerful. There is something about those that are wired to throw caution to the wind in a sport that gives the appearance of invincibility. That’s my girl.
Standing 6’+ in shoes, she is now looking down on me. Her shoulders are broad enough to stand on. Her feet are more like flippers. And her hands: we all agree that those fingers are just freaky long. But her spine, that is another story. It has 3 curves. It causes her rib cage to be displaced. Her low back comes out from her hips sideways, which we now understand is why she has had hip pain for 3 years. On the surface her body looks so strong, but growing has been hard on the part of her skeleton that supports the core – literally.
In November, she was at swim practice and lost feeling in legs and feet. Some tingling is not unusual. That is part of the journey of pain management, but this was different. We had to go back to the drawing board for more imaging. We found some additional complications in her low back. She sat out her November meet, in hopes that she could be strong enough to complete at her last age group championship meet in December. That meet was this past weekend.
To say that I lacked “peace” in the last few weeks would be an understatement. I was mildly psychotic – trying to ice and massage and give her relief. She was not able to train like she wanted. On more than one night, we sat in tears of frustration. Peace is defined as “a state of tranquility or quiet.” That is not what we have been throwing down around Team Hilbrich. We have been more like anti-peace. Chaos. Fear. We braced for the worst this weekend. In a direct quote from the 14 year-old, we “prepared for the shit show.” Both sets of grandparents traveled with us because we were going to celebrate the simple fact that she was in the water. She was swimming and that had to be the joy. It had to.
She swam a smaller schedule that she wanted to. She even scratched (swimmer speak for elected not to swim) one event during the meet. Every time she went off the block, I felt pain shoot up my own back in sympathy. It was hard to watch, but weirdly, peaceful. She is so happy on the pool deck. I am happy with a latte and a biography in the same way that she comes alive cheering for her teammates and joking with her coach.
After a race, her feet have nerve pain. She describes it like feeling as if they are asleep. Depending on the length and the intensity of the swim, it can be more severe. She swam 2 events each day. After the first event, she would get in the cool down pool and then return to her chair. This is the position that she would assume to help her feet regain full feeling for the next race. It struck me as I watched her, that this was her peace. She knows how to prepare by reestablishing her strength.
I wonder how many of us need that kind of Advent peace today? Do you know what your soul requires to return to a place of tranquility and quiet? I admire and love the fact that not only does she know it, but she also practices it. She stays close to her place of comfort and strength and intentionally engages in the actions that produce healing. Even when she knows that she cannot practice “fully”, she gets in the water for at least 2 hours everyday. She exercises her core and rolls her muscles. She wears her brace 18 hours a day. She does everything she knows to do to set herself up for success. That’s how we find peace. We do the things that we know can fill our soul (and mind and body).
Oh, and she swam 3 best times and finished 2nd in her favorite event. It was hardly the shit show that I worried about. That’s what I get for choosing not to lean in. May we cling tight to the journey of peace this week.