Thursday, April 19, 2012

On the Subject of Challenge

          noun /'CHalenj/
                1. A call to take part in a contest or competition
                     - he accepted the challenge
                2. A task or situation that tests someone's abilities 
                     - the ridge is a challenge for experienced climbers

     Challenge is a funny thing, what may be simple daily tasks to one person, could be the most momentous challenge to another. For example, running class III-IV whitewater is a delightful daily task to me, and is often a huge hurdling and frightening challenge to my customers. On the flip side of that coin though, what challenges me the most, would likely surprise many of my rafting customers. I often find simple things challenging, like organizing my desk, keeping track of important paperwork, returning phone calls, putting away the folded laundry, getting my oil changed... simple things. Simple things that I suck at. Backing trailers down long narrow crowded ramps or round cramped corners... easy! Cooking for a hungry crowd of 16 on a beach in the wilderness... easy! Standing up in front of large crowds singing the innermost vulnerability of my soul and fiddling until my finger tips blister... easy! 

     Yesterday though, I found myself facing one of my greatest challenges, trusting western medicine. I have come to learn over the years, that western medicine has it's place, particularly in the realm of surgery. I mean, I'm one of those crazy hippies that gathers herbs in the fall to make tinctures and salves for the year. I run to the health food store for homeopathics instead of the Dr.'s office for antibiotics. I used to loath western medicine... until it saved my life, and the life of my daughter. At this point, I would like to insert a passage from my birth story...

(Day three of labor.)  We arrived at the hospital around 7:30 and Joanna soon thereafter. I remember standing and swiveling in the entryway with Alex and Alycia, still holding the hot water bottle on my back, not really believing where I was, while my Mom parked the car. The nurses were nice, though a bit taken aback when I refused any kind of IV or anything without seeing the doctor first. I wouldn’t lay down either, I wanted to swivel. 

    When the doctor came in and checked me, he said that I was only two cm dilated. I muttered “sphincter law” and rolled my eyes, not surprised in the least by the doctors finding. Walking into that hospital was so scary, my body reacted about as drastically as it could, closing off, fear of danger, keep baby safe inside... The doctor did an ultrasound, and said that there was no amniotic fluid left, and that baby was posterior.

     Then… he said something that made me angry, he said “This baby is just simply too big for your pelvis.” I spat “Bull Sh*t!” at him vemenously , and pointed at Alycia, “You see that woman there! She pushed out a ten pound posterior baby and has half the pelvis I do!” “Congratulations” he nodded at her dryly, and gave me a look that said “OK, my reason may have been BS, but you still need a c-section, no if’s and’s or but’s. Do I really have to explain it to you?” I asked for a minute, and he obliged.

     At that point my mom got in my face and yammered ceaselessly, I had to yell at her to stop so I could hear what Alycia and Joanna had to say. Alycia didn’t have to say anything, the look on her face said it all. Joanna patiently explained to me about the absence of amniotic fluid and the cervical regression, no time to re-dialate... and said in simple words that, No, at that point I did not have a choice. Alex mentioned his grandmothers dry birth, which had left her brain damaged. I think it came as a surprise to me, I was still so set on having a vaginal birth, that I hadn’t even let the thought of c-section cross my mind. 

     The next moment was the single most difficult moment of my entire life. Everything that had come before was insignificant to the momentous challenge of finding acceptance, to consent to having my belly cut open. The long labor, the Olympic pushing, crazy class V+ rapids, being deported from the UK… every challenge my life had seen up until that point, all paled in comparison to that one small moment. I burst into screaming sobbing tears, I collapsed into someone’s arms, I don’t know whose, and cried and screamed and sobbed and cried and cried and cried.

     To this day, that one moment, that split second of acceptance, is still the greatest challenge I have ever faced. In a world where women schedule c-sections by choice, (finding it less frightening than the prospect of labor?) I found out at that moment, that it was my greatest fear. The three day labor was the easy part. Accepting that I needed a c-section? The most difficult thing I have ever done. 
my bionic ankle
     A year and a half later, I got to face the fear of surgery again, this time I accomplished it with much more grace. I broke my ankle, broke it good, dislocated and shattered it actually. I was under anesthesia for a full four hours while my ankle was jigsaw puzzled back together with titanium. That time though, my fear going into surgery was subdued by gratitude, gratitude to be alive in todays day and age, when what once would have been an amputee limb, is now so simply bionic. Western medicine may lack in whole care, prevention, and addressing base line issues, but I came to the realization through experience, that they have got the surgery thing down pat, they are damn good at it. It still scares the crap out of me though. 
     So yesterday... yesterday was challenging. Yesterday my daughter had surgery. Nothing invasive, it was dental surgery actually, but she was under full anesthesia, and I was scared. I was sick to my stomach all day. I had been wringing my hands over this for weeks. I think I'm finally over it today now that she is %100 back to her normal bubbly self. But wow, it definitely "tested my ability..." my ability to be calm and confidant in front of her, to be her steadfast support, my ability to have faith. Faith in the anesthesiologist, the dentist, the RN, Charlottes constitution, the anesthesiologist... she's so little, it has to be such a minor margin for error anesthetizing a 33 lb toddler! Gaaah!
Waiting to go into the OR
      Tempering my fear, in flesh & blood, my ever present & patient life partner Alan is himself a miracle of modern medicine. He survived (and thrived!) open heart surgery at 13 months old, in 1983. His simple presence brought me much needed perspective. Oral surgery is (unfortunately) a common event for toddlers today, and the emotions I experienced during Charlottes anesthetization could never even begin to hold a candle to what his mother went though, I can't imagine what that must have been like. I don't mean to invalidate my feelings, that thought just helped me to keep them in check, a tool of perspective to help me meet my challenge.
     We succeeded! Everyone was very impressed with Charlotte, she never cried or fussed, and was very brave! They even told me I did great while holding her hand and talking to her while she fell asleep (!?) Do most parents freak out about this? Not act calm & collected? The last thing I wanted to do was let on to Charlotte that I was scared! Apparently I'm decent at maintaining a facade anyways. One way or another, we did it.
     When Charlotte woke up, she said "I was having a really silly dream." Then she guzzled apple juice like there was no tomorrow. There was no puking on the (normally pukey) drive back up stream through the windy canyon. (Just once in the parking lot before we even left.) She slept allot, was groggy & wobbly when up, (couldn't understand why she had no balance to run along the river side cobbles when we stopped for lunch in the canyon,) but ate & drank like the hunger of the world was upon her, & woke up this morning right as rain. Whew! Heavy unburdening sigh of relief! 
    OK, so challenge, having harangued about my personal challenge with trusting western medicine and confronting surgery, I feel it's time to move on to other challenges. Parenting! Ah ha! The ever constant challenge of parenting!
     So, monday night, we went to roll session, it had been a couple of weeks since we had last been. First Charlotte was sick, then I was sick... bleh, missed two of the last four sessions of the season! Anyways, yeah, it had been a while, & Charlotte was distracted. So here is where Charlottes challenges come into play. Paddling is not a challenge for her, she is a great little paddler, an absolute natural! Focusing however, is a Huge challenge for her (at times.) When focused, she accomplishes Amazing things! Sometimes though, focus is as far a reach as Jupiter. Now here is where my parenting challenge enters... cognitively I am aware of the fact that she is merely four years old, but being a non normal four year old, it is easy to forget this. She surprises me so often that my expectations of her have grown to meet this raised bar of hers. Then, when she acts like a perfectly normal toddler, I am at a loss as to how to act. 
A happy stoked & focused little paddler!
     I'm not trying to talk her up or be an overly proud parent or anything, I am simply confessing some of my bigger parenting challenges. Roll session, like skiing, is so amazingly fun for both of us when she is focused (and she often is.) We giggle and cheer, she blows me away with and revels in her progress. This is the Charlotte that I have learned to interact positively with. Now you would think that I could adapt to spacey hyper toddler interactions, but here is where I fail hardcore. Why can't I just let her splash around and goof off? What's the big deal? So what if she needs to run around and scream?
     We took a parenting class last fall, I know that sounds weird, but it really was incredible. (We were super bummed when the class ended mid-winter.) It's called Love & Logic, and it makes so much sense! What a simple, functional model... yet so hard to remember to do. We are all programed to our specific defaults, and even though I can hear myself speaking the wrong choice of words to her and am aware of my full on Love & Logic fail, the default miscommunication still comes right on out full force. Ouch. 
     Boundaries, I'm terrible about setting boundaries, and she knows it. Age four has brought on an immense amount of willfulness, she wants to know where her boundaries are... I never defined them for her. We are all struggling with this current challenge. Some aspects of parenting I find easy, cooing and cuddling away tears of any kind, (interestingly enough, coping with tears is Alan's biggest  parenting challenge,) creative play, reading stories, arts & crafts. I have no problem taking Rapunzel or Snow White with me to the grocery store, but splashing and day dreaming during rolls session? Blasphemy! Ug, of course it's fine. It's perfectly normal and acceptable. Henceforth, I hereby challenge myself to effectively, positively, and lovingly parent even in the most hyper, defiant, and down right challenging temper tantrum toddler moments my daughter can produce! 

     PS. A bit of a funny foot note here, ironically enough, this particular blog article has been exceptionally challenging to post! Between two of us and two days, we have finally managed to mitigate the bizarre text and color issues occurring (we think,) from having copied and pasted certain parts of the article, such as the challenge definition and birth story excerpt. Weird. On the subject of (ever present) challenge!  

1 comment:

  1. I understand the fear of modern medicine too but it does have a time and place. I never take aspirin or anything I don't absolutely have to take! Definatley herbs, chinese medicine, supplements :) I had a labor kind of similiar- 72 hour long, I did not have to have a c-section but I think the only thing that prevented me from having to was getting a epidural, which was really scary for me. Being in labor that long without being allowed to eat food and being in pain and not being able to sleep was'nt helping me progress. Once I got the epidural I was able to sleep and progress to being able to have a vaginal birth. I would feel the same way if my daughter was going into surgery! So you are not alone I think other parents would be freaked out and scared too. I know I would be! It's true, things can happen, most of the time everything is just fine but in reality with any surgery or medicine or procedure there can be complications and serious ones. But majority of the time things turn out fine. I am glad your daughter did so well with the surgery!