Physiology

[I’m feeling sentimental, so here’s a little something that I wrote four years ago shortly after I met my husband, KJ. Free time and internet connectivity are both sparse right now, so I won’t be writing anything new for a couple more weeks.]


We are just chemistry, the Wilderness First Responder instructor said repeatedly. Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out; the blood becomes acidic and basic, its pH signaling the brain to monitor the drive to breathe. Oxygen transported by hemoglobin, exchanged through narrow capillaries to perfuse the organs. The vital signs are a window to the critical systems. They tell us the status of the respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems, the processes necessary to sustain life… 

If a patient has no pulse after a sudden trauma or fall, we are not required to begin CPR. This means the aorta has been ripped from the heart, its one-and-a-half-inch diameter emptying the body’s entire volume of blood into the interstitial body cavity in seconds. Death is instantaneous… 

The body is built to protect itself. The organs most susceptible to bleeding are protected by the ribcage—lungs, heart, liver, spleen. But there are exceptions: a little lobe of the liver hangs down below the ribs unprotected, where a sharp jab or well-placed blow can cause fatal internal bleeding… 

The first time we kissed, I felt KJ’s heart pounding rapidly in his chest. I was aware of the adrenaline surging through his sympathetic nervous system. My heart was pounding too, but his was more exposed, an offer of vulnerability, and it calmed me. I rested my head against his shoulder and watched the buttons on his shirt dance like puppets on the strings of his heartbeat, a rhythm so intense that it echoed through me.

The next night I lay in his arms, his cardiac muscle thumping gently below my ear at 70 or 80 beats per minute. It gave me immeasurable comfort, this pulse of life, a glimpse into his critical systems. I wanted to disappear into the curve of his sternum, my hand captured there between his hand and his heart. His fingertips stroked my shoulder as our feet touched gently, sending sparks to my limbic system. The tender lobe of my liver felt more and more exposed.

We are just chemistry. What are these rivers flowing through me, painting a strange and beautiful landscape? They take my breath away, altering my respiration unconsciously. When I think of KJ, my blood becomes acidic from too little carbon dioxide. I don’t realize it until my brain kicks in automatically to correct my breathing.

Exciting, but scary. To hand myself to someone, the unguarded lobe of my liver at his mercy. How can he not be scared? How can he open his heart to me, that tender juncture of smooth cardiac muscle and aorta so easily broken and spilled? Be gentle, I want to say. I am tender through and through.

Advertisements

Made with love

I’m a mom of a toddler. How did that happen? My daughter AJ is now a walking, tantrum-throwing one-year-old. She babbles up a storm, communicates with gestures and sign language, can follow directions, and plays in so many creative ways. Every day she understands more, expresses more, and becomes more like herself. Before I know it, she’ll be graduating from college and I’ll be looking at her newborn photos and saying, “how did my baby grow up so fast?”

Baby AJ is the best person I’ve ever met. I think my husband is pretty great, but I still look at the two of us and wonder how we could have made such a wonderful person. AJ is so happy, curious, and full of love. Her giggles and squeaks are the most joyous sounds in the world. She gives the most wonderful hugs, and she smells like pure love.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have such bittersweet nostalgia for her newborn days. It makes me cry to look at photos of her when she was younger because I hardly had time to enjoy each stage. Back then, I didn’t know what a wonderful person she was going to become. I didn’t know how much I was going to love her. I loved her as much as I possibly could imagine, but I could not imagine as much love then as I can now. My capacity for love grows each day the more I get to know her and the person she is.

When I was pregnant, I remember thinking that I needed to savor the experience of having her in my belly, because I knew there would be days ahead when I would wish to experience it again. Not just to be pregnant again, but to be pregnant with her again. Now that I know who she is and what she is like, I wish I could carry her inside me again, close to my heart, cozy and safe. I wish I could go back and cuddle little newborn AJ with the knowledge of how fleeting that time was and what an amazing little girl she would become. It seems so unfair that time only moves in the forward direction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA