Essays

An Odd Retreat

Sometimes, life doesn’t turn out as we plan.

In fact, sometimes our intentions and our reality are so far apart they might as well be on different planets.

That’s the sort of situation I’m finding myself in right now. I’m pregnant with my second child, and after our first was born prematurely, we had high hopes for a normal, healthy, low stress, full term sort of pregnancy. Instead, today is day 18 of hospital bedrest for me due to extremely high blood pressure. Given my history with my first pregnancy (severe pre-ecclampsia and HELLP syndrome, at 27 weeks gestation), my medical team decided that staying here for careful monitoring was the way to go.

This is not at all the typical pregnancy experience we’d hoped for.

So, here I sit in my little room. It’s mostly quiet over here in the ante-partum unit, though they started a construction project down the hall in labor & delivery earlier this week, which means a little extra noise off and on during the day.

In many respects, it’s like an expensive retreat center – a minimum number of intrusions from the outside world, and very few things required of me, beyond sitting here. There are lots of encouragements to relax. Meals are brought to me, my bed linens are changed for me, fresh towels are brought each morning. If I want more ice water, or a snack, I just pick up the phone and ask.

It is challenging to remain positive through this experience, but as time goes on, more and more I’m tryring to use this time to my advantage. It’s a time to think, to write, to contemplate all the changes coming to our lives this year, between the new baby and the coming end of many of my son’s medical issues. It’s time to get back into a regular practice of meditation. It’s time to figure out what’s important to me, and what it’s going to take to put those things first. It’s been a good time for fairly mindless hand-work – knitting, mending a few things, and the like.

Mostly, it’s time to take care of me and focus on my needs – to be present and mindful of myself and my relationship with the universe.

I’ve started creating a little altar here, with plans to move it to the NICU when the baby is born – we’re all pretty sure that I will not make it to full term, so at least some NICU time will be in the cards. But at least I have time to think about that – with my first child, things happened so quickly (all things considered) that there wasn’t time to think ahead.

I don’t recommend this as a way to get yourself a spiritual retreat – there are far less expensive alternatives. But I think many of us would benefit from the time to stop and think. Have you considered setting aside a day, or even a weekend, to take a break from the world and focus on you and your spiritual journey?

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