Hello, Square One. Have we met?

My back is injured again.

After a week of on-and-off back pain, I played soccer Thursday night. Turns out that was a dumb idea. Despite taking lots of breaks, and being pretty careful overall, I did some major damage and I’ve spent the last two days flat on my back — and probably have a few more horizontal days ahead of me.

I’ve decided I’m going to sit out the rest of this soccer season (3 or 4 games) and all of next season. That’ll give me four months away from the activity that is most aggravating to my back. My goal is to not return until I can run onto the field completely pain free.

I went to the doctor on Thursday (before the latest serious injury) to have my back evaluated. He basically said, “you need to stretch your hamstrings”. I’ve been hearing this advice for the past 10 years, and I’ve followed it at times, but it doesn’t seem to help. But, I’m going to try it again. I think my problem is that I’ve haven’t had all aspects of my fitness (weight, flexibility, core strength, conditioning) firing at the same time since, oh, 1996.

The past six months (since I hurt my back in August) have been pretty lame. (Pun! Sorry.) I hope things turn around soon.

Running to Stand Still

I’ve been working hard to get back in shape.  It’s difficult, and it’s not made easier by the fact that I’m just beginning and progress is still hard to see.  I’m not just trying to lose weight — I’m also trying to work my way back from debilitating spasms in my lower back in August, and then a sprained adductor muscle that put me off the soccer team for the rest of the year.  And then before that it was tendonitis in my ankles and then plantar fasciitis.  And before that it was more back problems.
Still, I’m not giving up.  I’ve got my diet under control, but if I don’t also exercise then my back will get worse.  Sitting all day isn’t exactly horrible, but it’s unpleasantly achey.  The simple fact is, I need to exercise just to keep the aches and pains at bay.  And, specifically, I need to run to keep my back in shape.

With that in mind, I went for a run this morning.  I got up extra-early, donned my runners and stepped out.  It felt great, and I was looking forward to catching the sunrise as I came around the far side of Green Lake.

Then, I stepped on a pine cone and sprained my ankle.  Immediately, as I hit the ground, I knew what it meant: no exercise for weeks.

I’m not a capable enough writer to express how frustrating this is.  I was sobbing as I limped back up the path.

I know what it takes to get myself fit again, and I’m eager to put in the time and sweat to make it happen, but I’m stuck in a cycle of injuries that keep knocking me off my stride.

Frustration.  Frustration.  Frustration.

Only So Much You Can Do

Last weekend we went to a reunion of our childbirth class.  There were eight couples there, and we all told the stories of our babies’ births.

About halfway through, we got to a couple who had needed to have a caesarean birth.  The mother was in tears — she was a doula and a childbirth advocate, and she had really, really wanted to experience natural birth firsthand, and listening to the other birth stories had been very difficult.  In her words: “I never even got to feel a contraction”.  Despite that couple’s best efforts, their medical situation ruled out vaginal birth.

I think one of the important lessons of parenting, which this woman had to learn the hard way (and before her child was even born), is that there’s only so much we can do for our children.  We need to accept that we are physically incapable of providing the absolute best, 100% of the time.  We’ll get pretty close, but we’re not perfect people and we’re certainly not perfect parents.  Our skills are finite. Sometimes, we just need to step back and let things happen outside of our control.

I experienced this a few months ago with Ruby.  Late one day, abdominal cramps brought on her worst crying spell ever.  She screamed for about an hour.  I held her and bounced her and changed her and did everything in my power to soothe her, but nothing would work.  In the end, she had calmed down enough to sniffle, sob, and quietly moan while I held her.  I felt powerless — especially at the end, when she was quieter, when I could see the difficult journey she’d just gone through.  I came to realize that despite everything we would like to do for her, Ruby will have to take the lead in battling her own demons.

That brings us to last night, and my final example of the physical limitations of parenting.  Kate’s milk supply has been slowly decreasing, and we’ve been using milk from our freezer cache to make up the difference.  We’ve tried many things to boost Kate’s production.  As the freezer supply has dwindled, we’ve become increasingly aware that supplementing with formula might be the only answer.

We’re now down to about a half-dozen meals in the freezer, and we wanted to try formula before it became an emergency, so last night Kate gave Ruby her first formula bottle.  (Ruby will continue to get the vast majority of her food from Kate; we’re only short about two bottles per week.)

Giving Ruby that bottle of formula made Kate very sad.  She wants to provide Ruby with the superior nutrition of breastmilk.  She has struggled through incredible pain, anxiety, and frustration to provide her milk for Ruby.  In the end, though, she had to accept that there was nothing else she could physically do.  It would have been in Ruby’s best interests to drink nothing but breast milk for as long as possible, but her caloric needs won out over our ideals.  We just need to accept our physical limitations and move on.

(For what it’s worth, Ruby sucked down the formula with her usual gusto and didn’t seem to notice the difference.)