A Time for Comfort Food & Running

The smell of fresh baked, oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies wafted through the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) every afternoon at  three o’clock. I sat there in the mother’s room expressing milk for my preemie son for the fifth time that day when I first discovered this daily bit of tasty comfort. After completing my milk maid duties, I took great comfort in enjoying two, whole, soft, chewy delicious cookies, and washing it down with a small carton of whole milk that accompanied every cookie delivery.

Over our three month stay in the NICU watching our son grow and develop into a full fledged baby, I took comfort in the daily  cookies-milk ritual with no regard for nutrition. It wasn’t about nutrition. Well, maybe it was a little about nutrition. I did revel in the fact that generating and expressing as much milk as possible for my little guy was the only thing I could focus on and my body needed hearty, whole, and real nutrients to do that. My afternoon ritual was literally feeding my journey through this uncertain and changing time. Cookies and milk were a small delight to my day and there was no shame in needing them.

Eventually, I cut back to one cookie then, no cookie, and went back to two-percent milk. My natural instinct is to stay at some sort of equilibrium. I was born a dietitian you see, and these things come naturally when I pay attention to what I need and what I am working towards.

Eric came home from the hospital in December of 2006. After two months at home and no cookies, running was calling me back. In fact it was running that brought ME back to me. I am so well-trained in the science and art of nutritious behavior that it is my normal. I am also so well-trained to the ritual and habit of being active that my body began asking me back to that natural equilibrium as well.

I remember so clearly stepping out the door of our San Francisco flat in the Richmond district wear running clothes. At this point I hadn’t been out of the house much let alone on a run. I surprised my neighbor who said to me with a sigh of relief, “Oooh, sooo good to see things getting back to normal.” It was normal for him to see me run-ready. Off I went, ten whole blocks before I was huffing and puffing. It had been at least seven months since I had much physical activity other than walking to and from the hospital and expressing milk. Running had not felt like this since I began running for the first time at age twelve! I was starting over and I was grateful. In fact, I was so full of gratitude for legs that moved, lungs that could breath in air, and blood to transport oxygen to my muscles that running was now more than I function of getting in shape. It was a practice of gratitude for being right where I was. I began running up the big hill into the Presidio once a day, probably no more than one mile out and back. At the top, I would breathe, give thanks, then stretch maybe add some push-ups to the mix and charge back down the hill. Sometimes on the way back I would be so flooded with gratitude tears would stream down my face literally while I was running.

Cookies and milk rebuilt my strength. Running brought me back to me, overflowing with gratitude for the strength to face the big mountain climbs.



Crash-course Introduction to the Uncertainty of Parenthood

Ten years ago today my first son Eric, was born.  That day was a crash-course introduction to faith, hope, and love despite uncertainty.  Anxiety, worry, and obsessive compulsive disorder run deep in my gene pool. It wasn’t long after Eric’s early arrival that I realized my mountain of OCD behaviors provided me a false sense of security. They also sucked valuable time and energy away from being present, honest, and available to the people most important to me.

Ever since accepting that no amount of hand-washing or towel folding was going to protect me from all the might go wrong, I have faced the daily challenge of taking care of all those scary feelings involved in parenting.  The challenge is more than worth it because on the other side of those scary feelings I have found joy and strength beyond measure, and I want more of that for me and my family.

In 2006, Labor Day took on new meaning for me. I was twenty-six weeks into what seemed to be an uncomfortable pregnancy when I went into early labor. No amount of perfectly folded clothing or carefully counted calories was going to stop this from happening. Early labor was happening and I had no control over it.  A healthy gestation is no less than thirty-eight weeks pregnant, which meant Eric arrived fourteen weeks too early. 

Ten years later, it is hardly surprising that he was premature, a micro-preemie weighing 860 grams ( 1 pound 10 ounces). I documented our journey here and, I go back often enough to regain confidence in humanity. The people in our lives showed up in waves of love, compassion, and support that moves me to this day. The comments section of web log remind me that even when we feel isolated and alone, we just aren’t.

The specialists tell me it was likely a combination of factors that lead to his early arrival such as my incompetent cervix and over-active uterus, in other words, my body had an attitude problem. I believe however, that Eric’s personality and temperament were also a contributing factors. He was born an eager, early riser. He starts every day that way. It is remarkable and enviable how wide awake and ready to do something he is. From earlier days of him hollering, “Hey, Momma” from his crib to today’s pounce-followed by feet thumping across the floor – to our room he is always full of energy, questions, and enthusiasm for the day ahead. It is beautiful to behold. It also requires me to consume much coffee and train for ultra-marathons just to be able to keep up with him. It is a good thing that next to spending time with him, coffee drinking and running are two of my favorite activities.

Happy Birthday to my miracle who has no idea how much of a miracle he is – just as it should be. I love you.

In honor of this month I will be sharing random preemie thoughts that inspire me still in the next few posts. Stay tuned.