I’m back, but with baby?

This is a continuation of my recent post about my triumphant(?) postpartum return to hockey. If you haven’t checked it out, jump on over, give a read and why not subscribe while you’re there so you don’t miss anything 😉

So our story picks up where we left off… There I am, on field, feeling a piece of myself floating back from obscurity. For the past 9 months I had often recalled some words I received from a hockey teammate, mother of twins, and deadset hockey legend:

only time you aren’t thinking about the baby is when you are in the thick of a game... “

Photo cred to Rachel Clark and Bron Zanker

I believe these words. I thought my game face would switch on, like a light bulb, bringing with it all the muscle memory of autopilot…until something else was triggered.

Not 5 minutes into the game, the shriek that pierces my consciousness, numbs all other stimuli, and demands my complete attention makes its way through the wind and the rain, to me. But it’s okay; we had a plan. A cousin in charge of babysitting, two sisters-in-law to backup, and 30-something other family members to soothe, entertain, and love on my baby. My favourite book in year 10 was Of Mice and Men. I often reflect on the famous line “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

We had planned for everything to be fine; we have a happy baby who doesn’t mind playing with others, cuddling with others, and exploring his world. We had also started navigating his changing awareness; stranger danger, over stimulation, changing sleep patterns, and he was not going to play ball.

The shriek was quieted by quick thinking babysitters, but only momentarily. I tried to block it out, but I could not.

I sat for a good portion of that first game on the sidelines, breastfeeding in the cold. Too determined that I would make it back on the field to get a better jumper on; too despondent to have hope that I would. I must have looked angry and deflated on the sidelines.

At halftime, we fought; Jonah and I. I was so enraged that he couldn’t hear our baby screaming, annoyed that he didn’t want to come off, but heck, I didn’t want to either. So frustrated that I had 5 minutes of feeling like myself again, just a taste without enough time to get “in the thick of it”.

The second, and the third games were easier. We were better prepared, with a dutiful sister in law strapping into a carrier and walking him away from me. You can bet that I caught myself staring off into the distance to try and find him. Where has she taken him? Is he crying? Is he getting a nap? I hope she’s doing okay.

Those games were a series of fluxes; in and out of the thick of it. In and out of remembering that a part of me was further away than I was comfortable with. In and out of the game I love.

I found myself backing off and shying away more than I was accustomed. Was it my fitness levels? Had my brain forgotten how to be unafraid of the ball? Or has this part of my brain changed too?

If you were not aware, a woman’s brain fundamentally changes during pregnancy, birth, and after birth. Changes forever. It changes how we think, where our focus is, and how our bodies work. It’s not a deleterious change, it’s not a change that prevents us going back to work, or having relationships, but it does change somethings; miniscule things. I found myself on the field wondering whether my brain had been rewired to shy away from a strong-hit ball? I could have trapped that, I thought. Eh, it’s probably just fitness and being out of practice.

The next few days my body ached. The ache of use. The familiar ache of the start of a season after a typically inactive off-season. My fingers ached from gripping the stick and the shock of collision with a ball. My throat felt raspy from rapid breathing, my heart felt full from the final realisation that this break from hockey; it was only temporary.

Photo cred to Rachel Clark and Bron Zanker

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