Sailing the World (Pregnant)
Even adventurers get the blues
(page 1 of 2)
When your 8-foot dinghy strikes a sandbar in the middle of the Bay of La Paz, it is not a life-or-death moment. To the casual observer, it would seem like our boat was simply floating in the water, since the sandbar is not visible from the shore, but smack dab in the middle of the bay is a gigantic dune of submerged sand, and our little boat had run aground on it.
It was early morning and the Coromuel winds were still blowing white-capped waves that sloshed the starboard side where I sat holding my four-month-old. Eric laughed and started pushing off of the sand with a spare oar. He had misjudged the usual passage we motored over each morning in our shallow-drafted dinghy. In a few moments he would shove us off. Heck, we could have probably stepped out onto the sand in the middle of the bay and walked our boat a few feet over, but none of this registered. Instead, my toes began to curl and my hands started clenching and unclenching involuntarily. I clamped my teeth together so tightly, I had an aching jaw the rest of the day. Sweat fevered my body, even though the wind was raising goosebumps on my toddler’s arms. I couldn’t breathe. The sky overhead was a giant vise pushing down against my body. I kept my lips in a tight line, instead of opening them into the O shape I wanted to create with an ear-curdling scream.
That panic attack should have been my first sign of impending trouble. When you set sail on a world adventure, there is a fair amount of gallivanting and gadding about that happens on a daily basis. We had decided to leave San Diego for Mexico and commence a world sailing trip, even though we had just recently discovered I was pregnant with baby number two. People have babies in Mexico every day, don’t they? It would be a lark, part of the adventure we had been planning for years.
But even adventurers get the blues, and in my case it wasn’t just a case of the baby blues. When my second baby was six months old, we flew back to San Diego to visit family and renew our Mexican visas. The panic attack in the Bay of La Paz had happened two months earlier, and I was still struggling. Every day was a desperate attempt for normality. Wake up. Wash face. Pull hair back. Put on my “mom uniform” of clothes that fit my postpartum body and a bra and shirt that allowed me to comfortably nurse. Dress the toddler. Clothe the baby. Make food. Visit with friends. Nod and shake your head that you were fine—just tired, thanks.
But I wasn’t okay. And during that trip to San Diego, my family in the States gave me the news that a family member was ill. On top of that, I was dealing with the breakup of close members of my family. Those two items alone are included in the list of what experts say are the 10 most stressful life events. Add moving out of the country on our boat when I was pregnant, giving birth in a foreign country, postpartum health complications, and being away from friends and family, and I just started to crack.
When we got back to Mexico, the heat of a Baja California summer was unbearable. I felt trapped inside our boat, waiting for the heat to dissipate each day. By the end of August, it hadn’t cooled off at all, and my body and my mind were slowly roasting into a ball of oppressive misery. We sailed the boat to Puerto Escondido, Baja’s only true “hurricane hole,” and moored her there to wait out the rest of hurricane season. Realizing I was at a breaking point, we rented an air-conditioned apartment next to the marina and stayed there for seven weeks, waiting out the battery of storms that hit Baja, the Sea of Cortez, and the Pacific coast of Mexico. In quick succession we weathered Tropical Storm Ivo, but even with the air conditioning, the giant freezer, and the unending access to ice cream and the Internet, I kept sinking further into an abyss. A paralyzing unhappiness had settled over me that I couldn’t shake. My brain was like a fog. I started to daydream of running away. Of escape. Of disappearing. I couldn’t bring myself to smile. Nothing brought me joy.