It’s a lot on our bodies

Our hair is getting longer. Both of us. Sweaty curls, plastered against her head, and wispy, thin tree trunk strands, standing on end, reaching up and away. Some of each. And myself. Length wanting of explanation. Tangles I can’t get out.

Sweat is a lot on our bodies.

Knots are a lot on our bodies.

I hope my daughter’s fever has broken.  She has been sleeping on me for well over two hours, longer than her normal nap time. She is so, so sweaty.  

I’m proud of her. I’m really, really proud of her.  It was her first major fever, the highest she’d ever had before. It did not come with a cold or other symptoms, so I wasn’t panicking.  She was generally happy: playing, eating, eliminating, and sleeping well for the two days that I treated it.  Then, this morning, it was higher. Fuck. 104.4. Her eyes were glassy. I called the doctor. We went in. She’s fine, she doesn’t have any treatable infection, and we just have to wait out her normal, healthy immune reaction to a probable virus.  I looked at her as she suffered, and I look at her now as she rests to recover, and I see how much of a strain it was on her.

A fever is a lot on our bodies.

It worked. Her body worked. I mean, that’s what’s supposed to happen, right?  An invader comes in, and something kicks into gear to fight it off. She is draped so heavily on me, as if she just finished a long battle. In the doctor’s office, the comment was made that it looked like it finally got to her. Fighting for two days on a level you don’t even have control over will wear out a person, especially a small person still managing to keep up her energy and her spirits that whole time. I’m so proud of her. She handled it. She did something she had never done before. I tried to help. I did the usual: taking her temperature, giving her food, drink, medicine, and comfort. I held her skin to mine.. that little body was so hot.  I wanted my body to know she was fighting. I wanted my milk to respond to her. My body teaching her, working with her. And we won.  

Fighting an attack is a lot on our bodies.

That same skin is so cool now, it feels like a different baby is in my arms. I suspect she is different, because she is stronger.  If we keep trying, maybe experiences in life can keep us on a path of growth.

Persistence is a lot on our bodies.

I just wrote to a friend who is in her last weeks of pregnancy.  The aches, the discomfort, the mystery of the future all came back to me. The feeling of having a person kick you painfully from the inside of your body.  Truly, it was nothing short of wondrous. The wondrously tiring experience of having your body support two people at once. Experiencing it for the first time, we marvel at the unforgettable process. Our bodies taught their bodies how to be.

Pregnancy is a lot on our bodies.

After my daughter was born I was shaking. My arms and hands, my face, my legs, they all felt as if I were shivering, even though I wasn’t cold. Every so often all my muscles would jerk. I told the nurse. Her response was that my body had just been through a lot, more than I realized.  That statement has stuck with me. We begin the process of responding to another human.

Childbirth is a lot on our bodies.

Babies cry after they are born. Everything has just changed, They make faces, they kick and root, they try to suck; they’ve practiced the first essential skills, the basics, they need for living on the outside.  They’ve just transitioned to an unfamiliar place, and their senses long for what nature has programmed them to require.  A mother’s touch, her scent, her voice, her heart, her breast. They are immediate comfort to start what will be a long journey.

Coming into the world is a lot on our bodies.

I get really, really hungry as a nursing mother. The truth is, I have a huge appetite anyway, so it really brings me into a seemingly endless search-for-food mode.  Honestly, it is worse than pregnancy.  It’s hard to keep feeling like you want to eat. It’s hard to stop eating.  There’s emotion behind it.  Guilt, worry, enjoyment, satiation, body concerns.

Sustenance is a lot on our bodies.

I’m watching a television show, something which hasn’t happened in a while.  Discussing it with a friend, we touched on a central topic: body image.  I still judge myself, and I still judge others.  Revelations about accepting myself don’t always stick. Ideals about all of us being equal seem to fall away, like a Cheshire cat, when there is a more interesting comment to voice.  Concentrating on how our own bodies should look or work, and snarling when they don’t do so, is a way of fitting in, even when it hurts.

Judgement is a lot on our bodies.

The way our bodies change is hard.  Currently I have seen how a baby changes from birth through their first year.  In my professional life, I worked with elderly and disabled patients.  The metamorphosis our bodies go through is phenomenal.  At each stage, it becomes a reexamination of our abilities. With knowledge of our abilities comes the challenge of utilizing them.  Somehow, in all of that, lies a self-perceived identity.  Our worth to ourselves wavers in those identities, in those actions and abilities, and in those bodies.

Development is a lot on our bodies.

A lot of people push themselves physically.  We run, climb mountains, stay up all night, drink. We try to make ourselves perfect by doing everything right, or maybe we head the other way and fail to care for ourselves at all. We are beat up either way. Often absent from our daily lives is a focus on what is happening to us and what we are doing to ourselves. For years we may continue in this way.

We are a lot on our bodies.

At the end, there is you. I’ve had the valuable experience of being with two of the closest people in the world to me while they died. An adequate description of what that connection is would be tough to explain. It affects you both. Hearing is the last sense to go. I talked to them, I played music, I held their hands.  After a while, they could no longer respond; it became the last response to end what had begun at birth.  We cannot describe how we start to breathe as we cannot describe how we then struggle to breathe. What we experience as our skin mottles, as our organs shut down, or even as the morphine drips down into our veins, is a mystery.  It is something else that occurs on a level we do not control.  

Death is a lot on our bodies.

A lot is hard on our bodies and our minds.  A lot of things add up to, well, a lot.  Maybe they aren’t even that hard, because our bodies are equipped to handle it all. They certainly aren’t impossible, they are simply a lot. From the cellular struggles we don’t notice, to the personal and interpersonal trials we mull over in our minds and lose sleep over, sometimes we do not fully comprehend how strained and stressed our physical matter has become.  We do not fully understand the complexity, or how incredible it all is.  

Life is a lot on our bodies. From sweaty hair to painful memories, from tough knots to sighs of relief, from birth all the way through death, may we get stronger and increase our immunity along the way, and realize at each step that existence signifies something for us. May we contribute whatever it is that we are able to bring to it.

Take care as your recover from life.  Time passes, our hair grows longer. The sweaty baby is still sleeping, but maybe not for long.


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