Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat as often as necessary.

I forgot to breathe once, for about six weeks.

Thinking back, I must have been breathing a little bit, because I did not die. But they were short, shallow, almost imperceptible breaths.

Six weeks is a long time to forget to breathe, you say. And you are right. My breathless period began with a long, intense, dehydrating, painful labor and continued with each intense, painful day of my newborn son's crying, fussing and non-sleeping life.

The turning point came when my husband had to leave town on a business trip. As we drove the hour to the airport, the baby--who of course hated his car seat--cried while I tried to amuse him.

After my husband waved goodbye, the baby and I were both crying.

Before long, I pulled myself together, but my son did not. He kept right on screaming as I gripped the steering wheel and steeled myself for the long ride home.

When we were about halfway there, I took an exit with the intention of stopping for a bathroom break. But as I pulled off the highway, a miracle occurred and the baby fell asleep. Now I had to decide whether it was worth it to wake him up so that I could use the bathroom. Definitely not worth it. I drove right past the gas station.

Since I was already off the interstate, I decided to take the scenic route home, which meant that I was driving toward the setting sun. And let me tell you, it was a glorious sunset. The sky was ablaze with reds and oranges and yellows.

That's when I took my deep breath. The first one I'd taken in six weeks. I inhaled, and exhaled, and enjoyed the beauty of the setting sun. At that moment I realized just how tense I had become while caring for that tense, needy little baby. There was no way I could keep up that intensity, and there was no need to. I was participating in a marathon, not a sprint. I needed to relax. I needed to breathe.

Eventually the sun went down and the baby woke up and we returned home and the intensity resumed. After adding two more kids we still experience our fair share of tense moments, and I take plenty of short, shallow breaths. But whenever I manage to think about it, I try to stop and breathe deeply. It makes me feel so much better, and I handle those stressful situations so much more effectively when I'm not tense myself.

So, if you are feeling stressed out, try this: Stop. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.

1 comment:

Cristina said...

This one really struck me. Why is it when we need to breathe is when we don't? I often find myself holding my breath instead of breathing in and diving into the moment. Today I did see an amazing sunset--so I was present. Yeah!