I tend to invite injury on a liturgical schedule, so on the first Sunday of Advent I destroyed three discs in my back. I would like to say I was doing something amazing like throwing a Volkswagen or saving one of my children from an oncoming train. But I was just holding a baby, like I hold one every day, and cleaning up a spill with my foot and a dishtowel, like I clean them up every day. I did not fall, I did not slip, I just stepped on the towel to soak the coffee from the rug and an invisible hockey stick slammed across my back.
The pain was enough to force a phone call, and I carted my kids to the chiropractor three times that first week. Then I carted them to Costco, Whole Foods, Target, the YMCA, and round and round the lake as fast as I could, twice. I took some ibuprofen, I did some yoga. The pain was there, but it didn’t stop me.
When I woke up Saturday morning, six days after the disaster, it stopped me. Pain tore through my right leg like a serrated blade. I hobbled to the bathroom, leaned over the sink and promptly collapsed onto the floor. It was worse than labor, worse than c-sections (where actual knives cut through my body), worse than any pain I had ever felt. I dug through the medicine cabinet for leftover Norco from the last baby and swallowed them as fast as I could. They didn’t do much.
An MRI showed three herniated discs: one with a very large extrusion compressing my S1 nerve root, one with an annular tear, and one herniated and sharing space with a synovial cyst. The source of the pain was obvious, but the cause and course of treatment were unknown.
So I spent all of Advent on drugs, on the couch, in relentless pain. I tried to do the meditate on Mary thing, imagining how miserable it would’ve been to sit on a donkey for days and days while magnificently pregnant. I tried to pray for people with far more gruesome injuries. I tried to be thankful that I still had control of my bowels and bladder, that the miracle of Instacart was a thing, and that my husband was loading laundry and dishes, even if he was doing it completely wrong. I tried to stay calm. I tried to transcend.