Wrote this on a voicememo, during a walk at the beginning of winter break. It’s not edited and I hadn’t planned on writing it out-it’s a rambler-but find it interesting to see some of the honesty in my reflections when speaking versus writing. Anyway, here’s some thoughts from the end of 2017:
When I think about 2017, there’s the obvious themes: the pregnancy, the birthing the baby, the baby. But if I was to come up with a word for the year, you know, the way Time Magazine does their 2017 themes, I think it has to be: walks. It’s kind of odd that my word for the year is a form of exercise. Aside from walking, this has been my worst year for physical fitness ever. I can count the number of yoga classes I went to on one hand, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t run a single mile. But walking? I’ve got that in spades.
Together, Diego and I have logged hundreds of miles in our little neighborhood. Walking provided me with pretty much everything I needed post-baby.
And when I think about the course of the year, moments where I walked, punctuated some of the biggest, most important moments, along with some of the quietest, most symbolic.
I think about the walk David and I took around the reservoir in Tracy before I went into labor. It was unseasonably warm, I was wearing a dress with sleeves, and I started to worry I didn’t have enough water. But it was a beautiful walk, and I wondered, is this the last walk we’ll go on before we become parents? And it was.
I often think of the walk we went on the night before, after making grilled cheese and tomato soup, walking around our neighborhood, thinking, this is the place we’ll bring our baby back to, this will be his new home.
I think about the walks I would go on while pregnant that winter. And they got slower, and slower, and slower, as I got bigger and bigger and bigger.
There’s the walk David and I went on around the nurse’s station, while I was in labor, before I got the epidural. I wanted to be sure to walk before I wasn’t very mobile, and we walked laps around that station. It was still early, I wasn’t in a lot of pain, and I almost wanted to run-I was so excited to finally have this baby.
And then I didn’t walk for a while.
Until after Diego, after the C-section. My mom and I took my first walk together, post-surgery. Again around the nurse’s station, though this time, much slower. My legs, swollen to the size of tree trunks, I couldn’t even stand up perfectly straight. I was incredibly uncomfortable, and still in pain. I couldn’t help but wonder, is this worth it? Is this how my life will be?
And then we brought that sweet baby home and hunkered down in the living room for…basically the rest of 2017.
But seriously, those first few days, the baby blues hit me pretty hard. It took a few days for my milk to come in, I was angry, I was hormonal, and at my core, incredibly joyous, but still, having a pretty wild time. I remember a week after Diego was born, feeling incredibly anxious and frustrated, and my dad and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Though, around the neighborhood is pretty generous, I was still in a lot pain, and we just walked to the end of the street. I was still wearing a long sweater/bathrobe thing, and we just made it to the street and walked back, because that’s all I could do. But it felt so good to finally be outside.
And then, like my favorite fortune cookie once said, it can’t rain all the time. Things got a lot brighter, any my love for Diego grew even deeper.
David and I took our first walk with Diego, as a family of three. It was pretty wild, putting him in that carseat, in the stroller, and walking through our incredibly vibrantly green neighborhood, in the middle of a spring weekend. We showed him off to the neighbors, and I felt great. I had my baby, I was walking, I showered, I even blow dried my hair. It was amazing to finally feel like a person again. I wanted to run back to that person, who a week-ish earlier was hobbled up in the hospital, not even sure if she could take a shower. I wanted to tell her: it’s going to be fine! You can do this. You can keep walking. You got it.
And then things got a lot less dramatic, and the walks got really fun. For four months I was on parental leave, and it was just David, Diego and I, cocooned in our little home, learning how to become a family.
I think about those four months a lot. They were hard, they were tiring, but they were also pretty magical. David and I have never spent that much time, just together, focused on our family and our relationship, without a lot of distractions. It was so special.
Some days felt very long. I remember calling David in the afternoon saying, I need to talk to a grown up. He won’t. stop. crying. I’m losing my mind. And David would calm me down, and we would go for a walk.
And we would walk, and walk and walk around the neighborhood. This is also when I fell in love with podcasts. I felt very isolated. The cocoon of home was warm and comforting, but it was also incredibly isolating. And I couldn’t call friends in the middle of a work day. So, I became friends with the pods. And thank goodness for them. At a time when I felt pretty disconnected from a rapidly changing and horrifying 2017, they helped me feel like I wasn’t totally alone, I wasn’t just a mom who didn’t know what was going on, but I was still informed and still a part of the world.
Together, we would walk to campus. I would lay Diego down on the grass, in the middle of the green and sit back, and smugly smile, as students and staff walked by and admired my sweet, squirmy baby in the spring sunshine.
Desperate to interact with other people, we would “go out to lunch,” which basically consisted of the UOP dining hall where I was probably the weird mom with a baby, or my favorite, Gians, for a turkey sandwich. I remember feeling a little happy when they memorized my order. Something of a sense of community, of a regular somewhere. I also loved walking to get coffee in the morning. As someone who wondered what it was like not to have to be anywhere, to just relax and enjoy, it was pretty cool to be a mom, going to Starbucks, hanging out with my baby, eating a croissant, not worrying about the calories because I was constantly breastfeeding, and just soaking it all up.
And then it was summer and it got hot. Too hot to walk. Sometimes we would scoot out in the mornings, but after that, it was pretty rough. And that, frankly, drove me crazy. I grew very frustrated at Stockton, living in the Central Valley, and the overwhelmingly oppressive heat. I craved fall, when we could walk again.
And then fall arrived, and with it, Diego starting daycare, David starting a new job, my commute and return to work, and honestly, general chaos. Fall was very, very hard. With a baby who already didn’t like sleeping…the transition to all the logistical challenges and energy sappers, took a lot out of me.
One small blessing in disguise, with all of the logistical craziness, is the fact that David and I only have one car. Who knows how long we’ll keep this up, but we decided a long time ago, we wanted to try to be a one car family for as long as possible. But, with two parents, alternating long commutes and teleworking days, this can create a pretty intense logistical challenge. Thankfully, our daycare is in our neighborhood, about ¾ of a mile away. Perfect for a walk.
So, my saving grace this fall became the walks to drop Diego off and pick him up. My commuting days were tough for many reasons, but one was that I missed that time, those morning walks. The helped me set the day, clear my mind, and wake up on the (many, many) mornings when I had not slept much the night before. The fresh air gave me a shot of energy to face the day.
But my favorite walks are the ones in the afternoon. Picking Diego up, especially once he became acclimated and he actually seemed happy to see me, and walking home. Not to sugar coat everything, the walks could be very challenging. Stockton, get your act together and get some curb cuts. But, the time together was precious.
And so, I learned to love those walks. I would stretch them out, we would walk past our house, sometimes we would go for an early evening coffee, or to the sweet children’s boutique and pick up some clothes, or back up to campus. Those walks became my meditation, my escape, time to clear my head, totally unplug and recharge.
They served that purpose on the weekends, too. Have I mentioned that Diego is not a great sleeper or a great napper? And so, on many weekends, when he needed a nap, in fact, as I’m recording this voice memo, right now, we would walk. And walk. Up Clarendon, past the beautiful homes that reminded me of something out of Pride and Prejudice, down Kensington and up to campus, where we would see the leaves change in the fall. And the sun would set in the evening, creating little slivers of sunshine during foggy afternoons. Some evenings Diego rode in the Ergo, and we would walk just after dusk. This month it was particularly pretty, as we admired the Christmas lights in the neighborhood.
I know he’s getting bigger. And the days of Ergo walks, at least the forward facing ones, I don’t know how long those will go on for. And I don’t know how many more walks up to campus we have. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of wonderful walks in the future. But this time, of him being a baby, and napping in the stroller, I don’t know how much longer that will last. Honestly, I’m ok with it. I’ve been very tired and I would love for him to nap in the crib, I would love for him to sleep a little longer.
But in the year of 2017, a year filled with chaos and hardship and heartbreak across the world, these walks became my solace. My time to clear my head. And look down in that little stroller, and see those sweet cheeks looking back up at me. His incredible blue eyes. I marvel at the fact that this baby is ours, we made it through this year, and we’ll just keep on walking together.