Thursday, October 6, 2011

These Hands

Nothing has ever come easy for my girls.  Born more than 10 weeks prematurely they weighed 2lbs each when they were born.  They spent their first few months in the hospital;  tubes, needles, wires.  Monitors  incessantly beeping.  Sometimes the monitors became frenzied, a baby was crashing.  Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists.  Hand washing, the smell of disinfectant.   All my girls have scars from their time in the NICU on their hands and feet.  Their physical tolerance from pain is unusual and I've been told it's due to the "programming" their little nervous systems endured from their first couple of months.  Sometimes I'm like, "seriously, that had to hurt."  It's made them tough.  Tough in many ways.

Upon discharge from the hospital we entered the realm known as "early childhood intervention."  Occupational therapy, developmental therapy, speech and language and, of course, physical therapy.  Everything happened but it took extraordinary effort;  rolling over, grasping, crawling, babbling, first words, walking.  Hours and hours and hours and hours.  When they girls turned 1 we knew Kate was on a different trajectory but that Charlotte and Anna would be okay.  We continued.  Preschool.  More therapy.  Finally, entering kindergarden and the final evaluation.  Charlotte and Anna no longer qualified for services.  They no longer were "disabled."  They were.......okay.

I waited to put them in swim lessons until they were 7.  They probably could have started earlier but, whatever.  Swimming is the only sport they ever wanted to try.  Soccer?  No thanks.  Softball?  No.  "Mom, we want to swim."  Perhaps I was too sensitive to being a "swage" mom (my combination for swim/stage mom) due to my own interest in the sport and maybe I had some PTSD from their early history but last fall we finally began swim lessons.  They did really well through freestyle and backstroke, flip turns and racing starts and then.....breaststroke.

Seriously, what the hell.

According to Wikipedia, the history of the breaststroke goes back to the Stone Age.  Somewhere in Egypt, near Libya, there's a "Cave of Swimmers" with drawings of Fred and Barney doing their best Kitajima impersonation.   It should have stayed in the Stone Age.  Extreme prematurity and a higher-ordered multiple birth wasn't going to conquer us but breaststroke sure as hell was.  Between getting the timing down and the kick.  *sigh*  "The teacher says I'm scissor kicking" they'd tell me.  "Yeah, well keep it in your back pocket for when you really need it like at a World Championship" I'd mutter under my breath.  Honestly, I didn't have a lot constructive to say so I stayed supportive and encouraging.  I took them to the Indy Grand Prix.  I showed them Lochte's tweet from Nationals, his call for help regarding breaststroke.  I told them everyone has a hard time with certain things, everyone has something they really work hard on....even Olympians.  So they worked.  They continued to try.

So this past Monday was report card day.   I could sense their excitement tinged with a hint of apprehension.  Since spring they've stayed in "level 5" while watching others move up.  I told them it didn't matter what level they were in and for how long-what mattered is that they learned the stroke.  Honestly, I saw kids being moved up that weren't ready but I think there was pressure from the parents to move them up (allegedly.)    (Ahem.)  The swim coach had told me the week before that they were moving up but I waited until they came running up to me with their wet report cards clenched in their soaked cold little hands.......

.....The same hands scarred by needles, the same hands that were once so small.  They're bigger hands now.  Stronger.  They're the hands that inspire me and some days lead me to insanity.  They're the hands of my heros who have worked so hard to accomplish what comes so naturally to others......those hands .....are moving onto butterfly now.  

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