Illustration: Rebekah Nichols, Photo: Johnny Miller
The Ebb and Flow
I'd been taking a beating in the white water for nearly an hour without catching a single wave. Feeling rubbery and weak from fighting the surf, I was just about to give up and head for the beach when I saw a massive swell coming, and thought, "I'd better take it—"knowing that if I didn't, I'd get punched in the face by another wall of foamy water. I paddled harder and stood up before the sheer force of nature shot me forward like a rocket, down the face of a ten-foot wave.
As it propelled me to shore, I felt a sense of calm that I hadn't experienced in the two months since I'd suffered a miscarriage, on the morning of my 35th birthday. There had been spotting and cramping that sent me to the hospital, and before I knew it, no more baby. At the time, I was only five weeks along, but once you know you're pregnant, there's no taking it back—that feeling of looking forward, of investment, of dreaming about who this tiny person could be. As a pit of sadness formed deep within me, I scrambled to escape, plunging myself into demanding work projects and travel in hopes that I'd find peace in distraction. I didn't.
That is, until I was 200 meters from shore, alone. As the ever-shifting ocean rocked me, I felt cradled by the waves, each one a fresh opportunity to find beauty in the natural progression of things. It became the unexpected lesson of my surf trip off the northwest coast of Costa Rica: how to get back up after being knocked down, again and again.
When I returned home to San Francisco, I learned I was pregnant again. In our living room now hangs a photo of me coming down the face of that double-overhead wave, which my husband laughingly calls the moment of conception—and I realize that's exactly how it felt. It was the recognition of ebb and flow, and the need to always keep moving.