Ellie’s birth was a scheduled c-section. When I arrived at the hospital in the early morning hours of September 24, 2010 I went through the usual protocols- the ultrasound to confirm her position, the IV placement, the forms and releases. They then walked me to the operating room as Brock was instructed to sit in a chair outside while the nurses and anesthesiologists prepared my body for surgery.
Alone, for all intents and purposes, and naked (both literally and figuratively), the skilled team went about their work.
I hunched over my 40 week belly as the nurse held my shoulders and the anesthesiologist began the process to administer the drugs that would remove all feeling from my chest down.
He was the same anesthesiologist I had at the birth of my first daughter. Clearly a veteran of many c-sections, he set me at ease with his kind eyes (the only thing I could see) and his clear tone.
A pause in conversation as he concentrated while inserting the needle in my lower back.
“Well, that needle just bent, let’s try this again” he told me.
And again he tried but again the needle bent while he attempted to puncture my back.
“Mrs. Schmaltz, do you work out a lot?” he asked.
“Well, I only run” I responded. I always felt the need to articulate that I was not an athlete just someone who enjoyed an evening jog five times a week.
“You are strong” he told me. “I’ve had this happen a few times over the years and its always the athletes, always the runners who bend my needles. You are very strong”.
I was stunned.
After the third attempt he punctured through the muscle and less then 45 minutes later our beautiful Ellery Jane was born.
After the excitement of the birth and the feeling in my legs returned, I replayed the conversation with the anesethesiologist for Brock. We both got a chuckle and I never spoke of it with anyone else. But I did replay it for myself many times in the days and weeks after September 24, 2010. In fact I have rewound that moment on almost a daily basis for the last 4 months.
You are strong he told me.
You are an athlete.
I am not the girl who ran cross -country in high school only to gossip with her friends, not because she wanted to truly participate in an athletic endeavor.
I am not the teenager who hated her thighs so much she ducktaped them under her prom dress so she appeared smaller.
I am not the nineteen year old who was so desperate to loose the dreaded freshman 15 that she worked out every morning for hours on end and ate nothing but peanut butter on rice cakes for an entire summer before her sophomore year in college.
I am not the young woman who doubted her worth on her very first “real” job as she sat in the offices of some of america’s most influential DC politicos.
I am not the young mother who was in such a hurry to get back in shape after the birth of her first child that she walked four miles a day with her daughter strapped to her chest in the baby bjorn at only three weeks postpartum causing a six week setback in her recovery.
I am not the middle aged woman who questions whether she will ever love again.
I am strong. Plain and simple.
A strength that emanates from my core.
I will not be ashamed of it.
I will not question whether I am worthy of that title.
I will own it.
When I reflect on the moment three years and four months ago in that operating room, I want to track that doctor down and give him a gigantic hug. I want to tell him what a seemingly mundane comment did do and has continued to do.
It is in those seemingly meaningless moments that we have an opportunity to enormously impact a life. It is with that doctor in mind that I will continue my year of looking up.