Monday, August 17, 2015

Running dedication - Quinn

Running after stillbirth

20 miles for my sweet Quinn. 

20 miles is really far to run.  I woke up quite conflicted about the milestone.  If Quinn were here, I would definitely not be pursuing this goal of running a marathon, and how I would change history to make this the case.  However, facing each day with one daughter in my arms and the other in my heart is my reality.  I laced up my shoes and headed out the door for my 20-mile journey with Quinn.

The morning was bright, sunny, cool, and relatively low in humidity.  I ran through our local park first – this being my favorite because there is so much life in the wooded trail to experience while the rest of the world is still waking up.  I ran by the empty space where Quinn’s tree will go this fall and exited the park, rejoining society on my local streets.

As I approached my first hill, I fought each step of the incline with grit and might.  As my body was challenged with each foot pounding uphill, flashes of Quinn’s delivery shot in and out of my mind.  As the cool breeze brushed my cheeks, I felt Quinn’s chilled face and nose brush up against mine.  I gave a little groan as I pushed up the hill and my labor screams echoed in my ears.   The doctor’s face and words, “We have to get the baby out as soon as possible” ricocheted through my body like an old jumpy black and white movie.  I got to the top and found relief in some level ground.  I gave my head a shake and pushed the volume to my music louder to soften the haunting ringing of alarms that mark the night Quinn’s delivery. 

After making it through the first physical and mental battle, I settled into what I call the “sweet miles.”  These are the early middle miles that just pass by easily – for me, usually miles 5 to 13.  I carried Quinn through miles of town, through a watershed, and past a farm, which was bustling with activity and people.  These “sweet miles” culminated with a long slow uphill on a beautiful empty back road.  I saw countless butterflies and birds soaring freely through the air, and the cicadas were cheering us on the whole time.  I saw snakeskin, rabbits, and gorgeous late-blooming wildflowers. 

In these “sweet miles,” my mind was also peaceful.  I had endearing memories of my pregnancy with Quinn.  I relived the time when I was blissfully unaware of the nightmare that was to come.  The happy days when Josh and I read Riley big sister books and she squealed in delight when feeling her kick.  I remembered exactly how it felt to have Quinn’s bottom roll near my right ribcage.  I pushed a tear away remembering that at least once a day there is a moment when I have a feeling in my abdomen that reminds me of my pregnancy with Quinn.  “Is it her?”  I think for a split second, then my rational side snaps me out of it.  I think of the video I took of Josh when I told him I was pregnant with Quinn, making a mental note to watch it later that night. 

The last 7 miles were what I call my “strong miles.”  The pain started to set-in and I had to be strong – for myself, for Riley, for Quinn.  Up until now, my mind and body had a yin and yang fluidity where my body state was reflected in my mental state, and visa versa.  In this last stage of the run, however, strength trumps all.  I had to turn off my brain from the thinking and the feeling, and just get it done with my body.  I flipped on a screen in my brain that said, “My body is a machine,” and I ran through the remaining hard miles.  If I let myself think too much, my brain would outtalk my body, and I would fall out of the run. 

In running these final miles, I am truly present with Quinn.  I can’t think about the past I wish I had back or the future I’ll never have.  All I have is right now - my mind telling my body to run the hard miles with the Quinn I have now.  I feel her in my heart as she gives me the courage to live on.  I feel her in my eyes as she awakens me to the beauty around me.  I feel her in my legs giving me strength to conquer this physical battle.  I feel her in the breeze that brushes against my face and in the sun that illuminates my body. 

This run, which heals and processes the trauma of her arrival and preserves her memories in my heart, was for her.  It is a symbol of our story.  It is the only way I know how to move forward without her.  She fills me with love and strength as I not only conquer each mile on this run but as I conquer each day that lies ahead without her. 

Running for her, with her, because of her, and in memory of her.  

20 miles for sweet Quinn.

About run to heal:

I run to heal.  It’s where I learn to hold my grief in my heart as love.  It’s where I practice putting one foot in front of another.  It’s where I honor Quinn and other babies who are gone too soon from stillbirth, miscarriage, or neonatal death.  In preparation for my first Mother’s Day as a parent to both a living and dead child, I asked my friends and community to dedicate a workout to Quinn.  This was a powerful, soulful, and healing experience.  I felt lifted up and loved by the community.  I was humbled that so many people carried Quinn’s spirit with them.  I hope to accompany others on their journey after child loss and hold them and their son or daughter in my heart.  It is an opportunity for me to honor their child and learn their story.  Together, we will learn how to put one foot in front of the other and run to heal.  Dedicate a run here

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