By: Barbara Matousek
Three deep red lines wrap around my wrist, and although I’ve tucked them underneath the band of my Polar heart rate monitor, the sweat and constant motion have moved them up on my arm. I’m approaching mile marker 4 and I can hear Freebird blasting from an old country farm house on the right side of County Road 29. I wrapped the red string around my wrist last Tuesday night during an informal gathering for a friend preparing to have her second child. She was less than a week from her due date and her first child had been born two weeks early, so we were all surprised to be sitting there with her, still not knowing whether her second child was a boy or girl.
This wasn’t the first mother blessing I’d been to. My friends had thankfully forced me to have one the week before Eva was born and many of my friends have since had their second child. I’ve witnessed candle burning and feet washing and lavender rubbing. I’ve told stories and presented beads and read excerpts from The Prophet. I’ve listened to prayers and sung songs and visualized easy births and smooth transitions. Every blessing has been different, tailored to the mommy-to-be. During our speeches to Robyn I admitted that I hadn’t brought anything to read and no beads to present, but it was important to me to be there. I told the story of how Robyn had stopped at my house during a training ride last summer, how she had gotten off her bike and clip-clopped in to get some water, the back of her legs wet and covered with the dirt that had spun up at her during her 100+ miles of biking. She was the picture of strength, and she told me she was anxious about her upcoming triathalon. It was hard to believe that someone as strong and prepared and together as Robyn could ever have any doubt that she could do anything.
Before we stood in a circle and wrapped the red string around our wrists one at a time but after we’d all told Robyn how much we admire her strength, she showed us that she still had the string from Joy’s blessing on her wrist. We were sitting in Joy’s living room, her two-week-old daughter quietly asleep in the arms of another mother while Joy made sure we all got sparkling apple juice and homemade berry pie. Robyn told us all how she had accidentally cut through her livestrong bracelet when she cut off the hospital wristband after her son was born 2 and ½ years ago.
“I hadn’t taken it off for 5 years before that,” she said, “And just like that it was gone. I guess it meant I was starting a new chapter of my life.”
I thought about this and how becoming a mother had meant putting so much of my own stuff on hold, how I’d nearly stopped reading and writing and running, how finding any time for myself meant I had to steal it in tiny snippets in between laundry and dishes and diapers changes, how only now, as Eva’s on the verge of turning 18 months old, I’m just starting to return to those little pieces of me that have been scattered.
As County Road 29 becomes Fremont Street, I jog the slight incline and come around the corner on to Main Street. People line the sidewalks and at the top of the hill I can hear them announcing runners’ names as they cross the finish line.
Robyn headed to the hospital the next morning, and I got an email just after midnight telling me that her daughter had been born, that Robyn was once again entering in to another new life chapter.
I push myself faster, the muscles in my calves pulling, my heart pounding strong within my chest, as the distance to the finish closes. I glance down to check the time as I cross the finish line, and once again I see the wet red string around my wrist, a string that reminds me of my friend and her strength and my own determination to make small commitments to myself this year. I have no intention of cutting it any time soon.