Rugby I understand. On Saturday mornings I stand out on a field in short shorts, just begging the other team to try to catch me and knock me down, daring them to try to get by me. I do this with the understanding that it will hurt: my muscles, my lungs. I do this knowing I am smaller than most, and much, much smaller than I feel.
But the pain is real and tangible. And that is something I can wrap my throbbing head around.
* * *
On Tuesday I had a panic attack. Or something that sounds like what a panic attack is. It started in the morning with me knowing I had 30 papers to grade. Actually, now that I'm trying to tell you about it, I can't really remember how things went down. I'll just say that on my days off from school I get nothing done. My days off go like this: get up around 8 or 9 (I try to sleep in). Mindy gets up around 10. She pumps her boobs. I drink coffee. It's 11 by the time that's done. Mindy's mom comes to the house. I've made breakfast once or twice. We get to the NICU by 11:30 or 12. Then it's time for lunch. We go out because I haven't been very good about grocery shopping lately and people keep asking us to lunch or dinner. Lunch is done by 2:00 or 2:30. We come home. Mindy pumps some more. We return phone calls and emails. I go to rugby practice or I make dinner or we go out to eat. Then it's 7:00 and we sit and watch shitty t.v. then it's time for bed.
On the days I teach I get up at 6 and don't get home until 4. Then it's time for dinner and then bed.
* * *
A scrawny knee flying into my crotch caused it to be bruised and swollen; my ear got smacked when I got tackled. I'm even wondering if I have slightly bruised ribs from running into my own teammate. My knees are scraped, of course. I played rugby Saturday.
Every part of me hurts. Finally. It's a relief for the pain to take over my muscles now, and not just my brain. This kind of pain is what I'm used to. It's familiar, it means that I had a good time, it means I'm still alive.
* * *
Another thing that made me freak out is people. They're everywhere: calling, texting, emailing, showing up to my house. Mindy went into the hospital March 4. In the hospital nurses come in every two hours to check on you or give meds or whatever. Even through the night. Mindy and I are used to quiet. We're used to sitting on our couch, surrounded by cats, watching PBS. So, the 2.5 weeks in the hospital were annoying, with all the people.
Then she was out of the hospital and her mom was here. I love my mother-in-law, but to always have someone around drives me crazy. I'm an only child who needs a lot of alone time. She was gone for less than a week, and for less than a week Mindy and I enjoyed each others' company. I made dinner. We cuddled. We cried and laughed and planned.
Then my mother-in-law came back and is just in the process of leaving as we speak. So, another reason I freaked out last Tuesday was because of the the people. 5 weeks of having other people in our relationship.
Another reason? Platitudes. Tons of them, well meaning but ultimately mind numbing, crazy making or too dramatic.
1. Just take it day by day
2. god gives special babies to special people
3. god only gives you what you can handle
4. miracles happen every day
5. you're going through hell
6. having a baby changes your life forever
7. you don't know what love is until you've had a child
8. think positive thoughts
you get the idea. I know, I know, everyone just means well and everyone wishes he could help in his own way. You're wondering what I might say to someone in this same situation? It's exactly what a good friend said to me, "This shit is fucked up." And that is the truest and most helpful thing anyone has said.
A friend drove in from Texas to give me beer, bread pockets stuffed with meat and onions, and roughly 4 hours of a listening ear. Then she left. It was perfect.
* * *
Saturday, when I saw the knee coming toward my crotch, there was nothing I could do to avoid it. I mean, I saw it coming, but it was all so fast, and no, it wasn't on purpose. I tackled her. We fell to the ground. There is a moment in a rugby tackle, if you do it correctly, where you are lying with your head on her hip, your arms still wrapped around her legs, several people standing over you fighting for the ball. It was in that moment that I lay still, letting the pain wash over me until it burned my ears.
Not one person on the other team felt sorry for me. It was a beautiful, perfect day.