Well, for the last couple of weeks, I'm pretty sure I've come as close as a man can come to experiencing childbirth. It started about a month ago, when I went white water rafting with my brother-in-law Patrick, and some friends from work. We had a fantastic time, and the river was running higher than I've ever seen. We were just coming down the last couple miles of the south fork of the Payette river in central Idaho when the biggest rapid I've ever seen sucked us under. The next couple minutes are a little fuzzy- I remember gulping in air as soon as I finally broke the surface of the river, and being scared to exhale, because I wasn't sure when I'd get another breath. We survived, and the only casualties were two of the rafting paddles. We were euphoric afterwards- like we cheated death, and I was laughing and joking and relishing the memory of a great rafting trip.
This is the exact spot that we got sucked into the river. Apparently somebody named Brent died here?
South Fork of the Payette River, Idaho
The river was running an impressive 6000 cubic ft/sec of water.
The next day, I was feeling pretty stiff, but that was to be expected. Everything happened so fast, I very well could have hyperextended my spine, or hit some large rocks, or gotten twisted around funny... I wasn't sure, and I'm a 26 year old kid, so I figured I'd just take a couple Ibuprofen and be healed in a day or two. Well, after a week with a mildly stiff back, I realized there was an added twinge of pain in there. Right in the center of my spine, I felt a little bite of pain when I twisted to check my blind spot driving in the car. The worst was checking my blind spot while hunched over on my motorcycle on my daily 20 minute commute to and from work.
At some point, I realized that every day my back hurt a little worse, and a little worse, and a little worse. Then one day, I woke up and realized I had crossed the line. I was in genuine, debilitating pain. The next day, it was even worse. I went to my doctor, who ordered a few x-rays of my spine. He couldn't find anything structurally wrong with it, so he concluded it was a muscle problem, and referred me to a physical therapist. I started physical therapy, but the next day my back hurt so badly I couldn't wait until my next session, and went to see a chiropractor. The chiropractor tried to give me an adjustment after a look at my x-rays, but the next day presented a new kind of pain- spasms. By this point the back pain was at like a 5 or 6 out of 10 on the pain scale, but the spasms were an instant 10 out of 10. Fortunately they only lasted for 2 or 3 seconds at a time. I persevered with the physical therapy and chiropractic visits, and every day was more painful. Spasms became more frequent. Today, I was supposed to be watching Holland while Emma got a haircut. Emma said she'd take the baby, and Holland would nap, so I could just lay there and relax my back. Right about the time that Holland woke up from her nap a series of muscle spasms struck so hard I couldn't stand. I collapsed onto the floor and started screaming and crying and gagging. I couldn't breathe, and I was scaring Holland. That beautiful little girl gave me a sweet little kiss, told me it was going to be ok, took off her own pull-up panties, and pooped on her little training toilet like the little adult she is. When Emma walked in the door I was still screaming. Emma is a true champion among wives- she managed to clean up Holland, load the car, and drag me into the passenger's seat and drive me to the nearest emergency room. Now, I have bottles of painkillers, muscle relaxers, and other drugs I can't pronounce. I was given a shot of morphine straight to the muscle, and I'm at my absolute limit. I'm floating between a narcotic-induced haze and 9 out of 10 on the pain scale, without even a diagnosis in sight.
The comparison to having a baby is a little bit of a joke, but I have noticed some similarities. When I can't breath, it sounds just like labor breathing- rapid and shallow. When the muscle spasm hits, I sound just like I'm having a contraction, and I'm willing to bet the pain is on par with a particularly violent contraction. I'm constantly asking Emma to do little things for me that I can't get up to do for myself, and it feels like the tables have really turned from a few months ago, when Emma was at her most pregnant.
This experience is ongoing, and I have no idea when or how this will get fixed. It's significant for a lot of reasons, which I think are important enough to list, because these are genuine life lessons I don't know how I would have experienced otherwise.
- I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've cried, for any reason, since getting married to Emma. None of them were because of physical pain. In the last couple of days, I've felt like I was back in elementary school, crying because I have no way to cope with it how I'm feeling.
- I can definitely count on one hand the number of times I've had a priesthood blessing since getting married to Emma. None of them were because of physical pain. I'm so grateful for the blessing I was given by some members of my church a couple days ago. From the start of this pain, I wanted so badly to turn to God for help, but sometimes crying out to God in a moment of crisis almost demands an instant reply, and I think God rarely delivers instant replies. This blessing helped validate my need for God to respond to my pleas in my moment of crisis, which is a rare and valuable spiritual experience.
- Ever since this pain started preventing me from doing everyday chores around the house, I've been noticing just how much Emma was already doing for our family, and how much more she's taking on now that she has 3 babies to care for, instead of the usual 2. She is truly an inspiration, and I can't imagine going through any of this without her. I've been so vulnerable in front of her throughout this process, physically pathetic and crying all the time. It speaks volumes that I can trust her enough to be this weak in front of her, and that she doesn't betray that trust by making me feel like less of a husband or father just because I'm prevented from fulfilling those duties right now. I've never loved her more than right now, when I'm about sniffing back tears and biting my tongue through the 50th muscle spasm since I started typing this post.
- My little girls mean the world to me. Every glance of Holland's smile has been fiercely precious to me over the last few days. Every little grunt Irelyn snorts out reminds me that I would give up anything to be healthy enough to hold them close to me. To help Holland potty train, and cradle Irelyn as she smiles up at me. Being unable to even stand today brought about a dozen missed opportunities to be there for my girls, and when I'm healthy again, I don't want to waste a second of life ignoring them or letting them down.