I live for days like yesterday.
Early mornings spent packing ice chests and loading the trailer. Stopping halfway to gas up the quads. Feeling the biggest smile come to life as our Jeep crosses pavement to dirt. Jumping out of the car and taking a deep breath. Feeling the sun warm every inch of your body. Looking out to see miles of dirt, bushes, trees, and mountains.
My husband and I share a love for the desert, and all things desert. We love camping, riding our quads, and taking out the Jeep. We love the desert silence that is only broken by the sound of dirt bikes and quads zipping around in the distance.
We were looking forward to yesterday. For the first time in a long time, both of our quads were working, and we were ready to ride together.
One of our favorite places to go is the El Mirage Dry Lake Bed. Speeding through flat surface, feeling the wind hit your face, and leaving a dust trail behind you.
I hopped on my quad and hit that lake bed full speed ahead! Although the sun shined bright, the air was still a little crisp. It’s exhilarating. You feel alive. You feel free. I picked up speed and just screamed with joy as I glided across that lake bed.
My husband and I picked a hill in the distance, and asked my sisters to time us on how long it took to get there and back. We wanted speed! Steven had mentioned that it is a little scary to drive up that hill in his manual quad, but with my automatic quad… “You can do it,” he said.
We get to the hill. The paths up the hill appear rocky, but manageable. I find one that I think I can do, and I give my husband a thumbs up. I’m feeling brave, and I’m going for it.
He heads up the path I chose, and I follow suit. He zips on up, making it look easy. Just as I’m about to reach the top, my left front tire slides a large rock and throws my quad to the right. I immediately pull my brake, and am stopped sideways on this hill. It’s too steep and rocky to roll backwards. It’s too steep and rocky to make a turn and head down the hill. I stay there feeling a little panicked and starting to curse myself for believing this was something I could do.
“This is what happens when you start feeling brave, Al. Something goes wrong every time.”
Eventually, my husband realizes that I didn’t make it to the top of the hill with him, and starts walking down to find me stuck sideways. He makes his way to me, making me nervous as his feet slide a bit down the hill. He takes over my hand on the brake, has me get off and asks me to head up the hill to watch his quad.
I run up the hill praying that he can handle the situation safe and sound. After what seemed like forever (the entire trip to the hill and back only lasted 40 minutes), I see him on my quad at the bottom of the hill finding another path to make his way up to me. I let out a sigh of relief!
We sit together on our quads, take a picture, and enjoy the spectacular views. This is why we love riding!
Later in the day, my husband begs me to try riding his manual quad. I’m repeatedly telling him, “No, I can’t do it.” This coming from the girl whose father and husband have tried to teach her to drive a manual car, and have both given up hope.
“If I can’t drive a manual car, how do you expect me to drive a manual quad?”
“You can do it,” my husband responded.
After my nephew kept pulling my arm toward the quad and my sisters riled me up to do it, I finally hopped on and awaited his instructions. To my surprise, I was able to maneuver from stop to start pretty well… much better than in a car!
It was an amazing day. One of those days that rejuvenates your spirit and frees your mind. A beautiful day spent with beautiful loved ones.
I wish the evening was as kind to me.
At home later that night, with my family now gone and Steven visiting his buddies, I opened my email to find one from Forever Footprints, the organization hosting the Inland Empire Walk to Remember that we will be participating in later this month.
My heart sank when I opened that list to verify our name. I immediately teared up when I scrolled to find, “Baby Rodriguez”, spelled correctly amidst hundreds of other names of little ones gone too soon.
Then, the guilt set in.
How could I have enjoyed my day so much? How could I have felt so free and happy? I shouldn’t even be on a quad right now. I should be seven months pregnant.
As my husband and I laid down for bed, I rolled over to his side, laid my head on his chest, and wept. He held me and said, “It’s crazy that we will miss someone for as long as we have to.”
To all the other mommies and daddies living without their babies…
It’s okay to have amazing days. It’s okay to feel okay. Enjoy those moments. Breathe them in. Take in your beautiful surroundings and smile. Look up to God with thanks for mountains and sun and desert air.
It’s okay to have heartbreaking days. It’s okay to not feel okay. Go through those moments. Breathe them in. Turn to the support around you and cry as much as you need to. Look up to God with thanks for the gifts you have on this Earth, and the precious gifts he has waiting for you in Heaven.
I’m beginning to realize that living without my baby will be a life of highs and lows… sometimes in the same day. Everything we do for the rest of our lives will be tied to our baby. Yesterday, it was that I shouldn’t be on a quad, because I should be seven months pregnant. In December, it will be that I should be at the hospital delivering our baby. Then the time will come where I should be watching our baby’s first steps, hearing their first word, enrolling them in preschool, watching their school performances, watching them graduate middle school… the list is endless.
My encouragement to myself today and to others who know this feeling all too well:
You may get stuck on the mountain on the way up, but the view will be spectacular when you do get there.
Feel the highs and lows.
You may cry yourself to sleep heartbroken and feeling like you can’t possibly handle another day, but the next morning you will hear your husband’s voice… “You can do it.”