Wednesday, April 25, 2018

2018 Athens Marathon Race Report

When you are running a marathon, you start looking at the weather forecast 10 days in advance, and obsessively click refresh with an ever increasing frequency as the week goes on, especially when it calls for thunderstorms the way it did the morning of this year's Athens Marathon.  I couldn't care less about running in the rain, but if 4 months of training goes down the drain due to a race cancellation, I'd have been pretty disappointed.  But all we could do was carry on and hope for the best, and that's exactly what we did.  We were ready to partake in Ohio's oldest consecutively running marathon experience, which promised to be a flat and fast course perfect for Boston qualifiers (not for me!)

Grandma, who was taking both kids on their first ever overnight, decided at the last minute that she'd pick up the kids one day early and take them back home with her, so Chad and I had an impromptu date night (At Wolf's Ridge Brewery) - our first ever without worrying about bedtime since Laurel was born!  We probably drank more than is advisable two days before a marathon, but you've got to make hay while the sun shines!  And without the kids around, it was the least stressful packing and planning experience ever!  
Shit you don't get to do with kids around!!

Can you taste the freedom!?

We got on the road around 9:00 and made it to Athens around 10:15.  A friend had recommended Donkey Coffee so we tried that out and bought some beans to take back home with us as a souvenir.  Then we roamed around campus a bit, and lolled about quietly in the sun, without a care in the world and feeling a bit freer than we thought we ought to.  We decided to take a walk and look for the cherry blossoms which were apparently in bloom, but we got lost and ended up in the middle of a giant student street/drinking party, and I have never felt so out of place!  Then we made our way to Casa Nueva, an Athens local food institution, to meet up with our buddy Noah who was also running the marathon.  Afterwards, we went to pick up our packets at the Ohio Valley Running Company store, where I snagged some amazing shoes for $30 (!), and then made our way to our Air B&B about 5 minutes outside of town.  

My amazing $30 shoes!

We unpacked and dallied about trying to figure out where to eat.  After looking at the website, we thought we'd give Avalanche pizza a try.  The pictures on Google reviews looked *amazing* and the menu said Food Network had voted them the "best pizza in the USA", so we had high hopes.  I don't know if we caught them on a bad day or what, but I think Chad, Noah, and I all agreed that it was some of the shittiest pizza we'd had in a long time and we were sorely disappointed in our pre-race dinner.  I also had had high hopes for an appetizer called Mount Carb-o-more, but it was some still half-frozen soggy fries on top of some shitty, shitty cheesy bread.  Chad was feeling the effects of our previous night's escapades (or so we thought) and we were all pretty tired and needed to get a good night of sleep.  All evening he kept saying he wasn't really hungry and felt bloated and just generally not great.  Regardless, no one else had problems falling asleep, but it took me a while to turn my mind off.  The bed at the B&B was less than comfortable, so of course that contributed to the pre-race jitters.

Donkey Coffee!  Nitro brew!

Casa Nueva!

The disappointing Mt. Carb-o-More, I had high hopes for thee!

The race didn't start until 8:00, and with it being a smaller race, we were able to sleep in until 6:00, which we are definitely not used to!  Chad woke up and said that he still wasn't hungry, and felt bloated and his stomach felt off, but otherwise fine.  I had a croissant and some iced coffee for breakfast.  The weather was quite nice - mid-50s, cool and overcast.  It seemed both the the rain and thunderstorms were supposed to hold off until later in the morning, so we all felt optimistic.  We milled about for about an hour, and left for the race around 7:00,  where we got a free parking spot (yay Sunday) about ONE BLOCK from the start line!!!  That has NEVER happened before!  We found the porta-potties, and used them one last time.  Then I looked for some of my running buddies (Go MRTT!!) I had trained with all season, and got a photo with them.  Then we milled about a bit more and Chad got some good video with our new Go Pro that we had bought 2 days before the race.  I'm sure no one else would enjoy the footage, but I have loved watching our pre-race conversations!!  Everett also asked to watch it this morning, so after breakfast, we all sat around the kitchen table watching our own pre-race footage - we're an exciting family, I gotta tell ya!  I had heard from other veterans of the race that there wasn't a lot of fanfare at the start of the race, and that pretty much the only way you knew it had started was that people in front of you started running. Not so this year!  We were all quite shocked when some military people set off some sort of loud boom to signify the start of the race.  We ran about 7-8 blocks through the small city streets of Athens and soon enough we were on the bike path.

My first mile was in the 9:00s, and although I didn't have an exact goal in mind, my PR marathon pace was a 10:40, so I knew that was way too fast and reined it in.  I fell into a fairly comfortable 10:00 minute pace and decided to hang out there and see what happened.  The first several miles of the course was great because I knew several people running the half marathon and was waiting for them to come back so I could cheer for them on the out and back course.  Eventually I fell in with an older guy (60s) who was reportedly undertrained but had run 30+ marathons and was doing intervals based on his heart rate to make up for his lack of training.  We chatted for a bit in the spitting rain whenever he would catch up to me during a running interval.  Eventually, around mile 8, I fell in with a group of 5-6 people and ran happily with them for 2-3 miles.  There was a guy who had driven down from Toronto, and another guy who had run 60+ marathons, as well as a woman who had run 8 and was pacing her friend's, for whom it was her first.  I told her a bike path alone in the woods was a hell of a first marathon to run!  Running with people was a great way to pass the time, but they were holding steady at just under 10:00 minute miles, so I knew I had to pull off of the pack, and from that point on, I focused on staying in the mid 10:00s.  Eventually, after passing the half marathon turn around and seeing Chad and Noah coming back the opposite direction on the out and back course, things got solitary pretty quickly.  With the half runners weeded out, the pack was extremely thin, and there were brief times when I couldn't see anyone in front of me.  

I started to feel somewhat tired and get that "Man, I'd like to be done" feeling right around mile 13 or so.  But then some guy tried to slowly and cautiously pass me and turned my competitiveness back on - I didn't let him pass me then and he trailed me for probably 6-7 miles before finally falling off.  At that point, a little after half way, I made it my goal to slowly pick off runners ahead of me, which really served a two-fold purpose. One: to keep me moving forward at a quicker pace and Two: just to keep my mind focused on a small bite goal and to stave off monotony and pain.  Things started to get tough a bit earlier on than usual in this race, maybe around mile 16 or so, but I just stayed focused on each mile and getting through it.  At each marker, I'd count down how many miles left to go, or celebrate when I had only single digit miles left to run, or hit the 20 mile mark. It began to rain, which was of little significance to me with the exception of it making my phone more difficult to use (i.e. change songs when necessary.)  As time wore on, the pain started seeping into my being.  As is often the case on longer runs, I remember looking around and seeing the beauty of the place I was in, and then in this other set apart place, feeling the pain of my body, as if there were two juxtaposed experiences taking place separately at the same time, but still all jumbled together.  It's been a difficult training year for me, endurance-wise, so this has been the quintessence of the long run to me: the separate feeling of beauty and pain existing in the same place.  As I tired and fatigued, a deep "not-caring" seeped into my bones and the task at hand seems endless.  Again though, as I watched the miles slowly and painfully tick by, I kept an eye on my time, and all signs were pointing to a time record.  Unless something blew up drastically in the back end, I was going to PR, and not by a few seconds, but by a few minutes.

As I entered into the 20 miles realm, I made constant and continuous bargains with myself, as people around me started to walk - bargaining with themselves as well, as people often do in the back 6 of a marathon (though a few passed with relative ease and confidence).  The desire to stop grew and grew, the pain was evident on my face, and I groaned audibly several times.  A few times I tried walking for a few seconds, but knowing how far I had left to go, and what my target was, it was a useless task and I woman-ed up and kept moving along at a constant, slow and steady pace.  I stayed in the 10:00s until mile 24, when I dipped down to an 11:30 minute mile, but managed to improve every mile from there, with an 11:18, then and 11:10, and the final stretch after that was finished back in 10:00 realm (10:53). Finally, I could see the buildings of Athens on the horizon and knew the finish was near-by, though at that moment in time there was no "near" and "far," rather ALL was far until it simply wasn't, until it was over.  My Garmin was ahead by about three-tenths of a mile, which was annoying because there's nothing like re-calibrating your expectations in the last few miles when every tenth of a mile is it's own special chamber of hell!  Somewhere between mile 25 and 26, I noticed a sharp-ish pain in my upper right leg every time I put my foot down.  I vaguely registered this pain as an injury, but in the moment, it was just an additional singular pain in an entire orchestra of suffering!  Finally, I knew I was around the corner from the finish, as I passed the 26 mile sign, but I COULD NOT see the stadium.  What trickery was this!?  We were sheparded off the bike path through a patch of grass and across a lane of traffic and into the magically appearing stadium, where I gathered my pain and put it aside, fully relishing the victory lap that I knew was mine!  I yelled, I cheered, I crossed with gusto and pride and finally, FINALLY, I stopped running!!  My official time was 4:37:04 (for an average pace of 10:35). (Though my Garmin says 26:40 and an average pace of 10:30, oh well...)

Minutes later, I rejoined with Chad and Noah.  Chad had realized that something was wrong around the 8 mile mark and ran his worst race in the entire race history.  He finished only TEN MINUTES ahead of me!  He usually finishes an hour ahead of me, and that he finished at all that day is a feat unto itself.  It took him almost a week for food to be appetizing to him and to return to his normal self.  Noah finished TWO seconds shy of a PR.  My previous three marathon times had been within 30 seconds of each other, but two marathons run within one second of each other is something else!  And the only down-side of our great parking spot next to the start line is that it was about 3/4 of a mile from the finish line, so we had to walk back to the car.  After we went back to the B&B and got showered up, we headed out to Jackie O's for lunch and sampled some beers and a burger.  Then we went to Little Fish Brewery, where we also tried a beer or two, and got some po'boys to go from the on-site food truck.  It was almost 6:00 by the time we made it back to the B&B for the evening, which is the only downside to the late start time of the marathon - I didn't even finish until 12:30 and we didn't get started on lunch til about 2:30.  We laid around the B&B for the remainder of the evening and watched Three Billboards, recommended to us by Noah, and then sat around discussing it.  All in all (for me anyways!  Maybe not so much for Chad, sadly), it was a great race weekend!

Jackie O's

Little Fish!

One final note I'll add about my apparent injury.  After the race, of course our legs were all pretty sore, but I felt the soreness was minimal all things considered.  Stairs were painful but manageable, and it was only a few days before I was able to descend with little to no pain at all.  The main concern was my upper right thigh, which hurt to put weight on it.  Walking isn't so bad, but any specific weight bearing is not fun.  I (stupidly?) signed up to run the Cap City Half Marathon two weeks after the main marathon, and this time around I guess it just wasn't in the cards, which I'm really disappointed about.  I've been taking a wait and see attitude, but even yoga (specifically weight bearing poses like crescent lunge) hurts.  I took a week off from any type of exercise (though in the fall I was back to running 4 days later), and have felt confident only to try the elliptical.  Today, 10 days after the marathon, I tried to jog for a few seconds on the treadmill and it just was not happening.  I had been holding out hope to at least walk the quarter marathon on Saturday, but then I thought "What is the point, really?"  I think I'll just take it easy that morning, wake up easy, and take the kids down to spectate the finish line, at which point I will collect my $105 anti-victory beer and Pappa John's pizza at 10:00 in the morning!!  The other thing I'll do is look up a sports medicine doctor to get a professional opinion on what I'm dealing with and go from there.  The spring racing season, hell just the spring RUNNING season, is upon us finally and I'm stuck inside a gym running on a machine like a rat.  That's okay though!  It was a great weekend and I wouldn't change a thing except for Chad's stomach bug and my injury!!
Enjoying some souvenirs from Little Fish Brewery 10 days out from the race :)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Ruminations of the Future (Homeschooling)

A lot has happened since I last updated the blog - we have been through a lot in the past couple years...from dealing with Laurel May's medical issues, me changing careers, buying a house, and Chad finishing up his undergraduate degree.  I feel like each of those things could require their own reflection and summation, but as of now, I'm looking forward and have been thinking about setting my intention, both individually and as a family.

On a personal and unrelated note to the rest of this rumination, as I've trained for 2 marathons since having Laurel (one completed and one about to happen), I've noticed training sessions that used to be "hard but doable" are now utterly brutal.  I've been thinking about the toll childbearing and child caring has taken on my body.  My comfortable training pace has slowed considerably, maybe 1-2 minutes per mile and I don't know if I've "lost my mojo," or if I lost some of my training during the time I was pregnant with Laurel and the year after she was born that I spent mostly pumping and never, ever working out.  It's hard to see your body not perform the way it once used to, and I've been coming to terms with the fact that accepting a new normal (at least for now) may be the best path forward.  Further, in light of the toll my long training runs seem to take on me, I've been wondering if the marathon is a goal I should even be striving for these days.  I really want weekends to be an enjoyable time for us to spend together as a family exploring and seeing the world together, and scheduling long training runs between Chad and me, and being tired from exertion just seems to be getting in the way of that.  I think about how running is supposed to be "something I do for me," but I've come to realize that if I am always viewing the weekend runs with trepidation or reluctance, it may be time to scale back.  Running the point of utter exhaustion has felt like I'm missing the mark in self care.  Besides, I haven't even done any half marathons since about six months after Everett was born, and I think it'd be fun to focus on those for a while, to take the pressure off.  We're about to find out anyways, because I'll be running the Cap City Half Marathon at the end of April, two weeks after the Athens Full Marathon!!

As for other goals I've been mulling over for future, a big one is the education of my children, which is almost too big to encapsulate in one journal entry, as there are so many facets to it that I think about on a daily basis.  

When I think about what I want for my children in terms of their education, the main thing is that they grow up with a thirst for knowledge and learning, free from the confines of the institutional system and the toll it takes on both body and mind.  I don't want my children to sit in a classroom all day, being told to be quiet, sit still, and make sure they answer the questions in the right way, the way that they must if they intend to take the required state and national testing.  I don't want my children to live for grades and tests, no, I don't even want those to be words in their vernacular.  I want them to see the world as their classroom, and for them to be free to follow their desires to learn in whatever direction they see fit.  Should they have learning differences, their constitution will not be bent to fit a system, perhaps giving them drugs to help them sit still or concentrate, rather I hope to help them learn in a way that they will naturally thrive.  It is not the fault of the system, per se, as systems are meant to be the most to the most number of people, but never the most to any one person.  I see it as my responsibility to be the best to my people.  

Another main motivating factor in choosing to keep my children out of conventional schooling is that I also do not, frankly, want them to be a part of mainstream culture.  I loathe consumerism, the keeping up with the Joneses, and I especially loathe the idea of lunch time politics, where popularity is always at play.  My children will never be bullied, and my daughter will never have her bra strap snapped, or her ass grabbed in the busy hallway of class changes.  And they will never feel they have to skip meals or adhere to a certain body standard to fit in, because we will celebrate them as they are.  And certainly, I want to raise my daughter and my son both to be able to navigate outside the heavy glass ceiling of conventional society...the one in which, for example, only approximately 12% of both undergraduates and graduates at the school of engineering are women (at OSU specifically but similar statistics probably follow nationwide), because that type of disparity doesn't happen in a bubble, it happens in the everyday microaggressions (as well as macro-aggressions) of our toxic society.  

Further, as I have deepened into the role at home of caretaker and provider, I have strengthened my resolve that my children, as other animals, are meant to remain close to their parents from early childhood through adolescence.  Chad and I often remark how it could have been, almost was, him who ended up taking the role I have now taken on - I don't really care which parent it is, but I want my children to be surrounded closely and firmly by family as they make their way into adulthood.  Now, I don't pretend to know everything my children have yet to learn, and I intend, excitedly, to learn right along with them, and sometimes support them as they surpass me in certain areas.  I don't see myself as their teacher, per se, but more a steward of their knowledge.  As long as we as a family can keep the spark of yearning for knowledge alive, I have no fear that our children can soar to whatever heights they want to.  An education is not a means to the highest paying job, the biggest house, the most expensive car (and in fact we strive away from these things).  No, I won't measure the success of my children by whether they measure higher than me on the stick of prosperity.  I just want them to lead lives of contentment, whatever that means for them.

In choosing this different path, there are a lot of things I worry about: privilege, not supporting public schools (which is kind of like privilege), and unintentionally hurting or concerning others.  I worry about the inherent privilege I know that comes along with this choice.   I know that not everyone has the ability to choose this path.  I look around me in the working class neighborhood in which we live and know there's a lot of people who probably want a good number of things for their children and their families, but that lack of resources will keep them from ever hoping to attain those goals.  I worry about what opting out of public schools means about my personal micro and macro ethics.  Many fierce education advocates would say that opting out of the public system is irresponsible, and again is a signifier of my privilege.  Opting in would be throwing my hat into the system to try and keep it chugging along for the betterment of society.  When all those who have the privilege of opting out do so, what does that do to the system that contains in the end, only those on the bottom end of things...those most in need.  Anyways, I am in no way myself personally knowledgeable about education politics and policy, but I do admit to see some flaws in my personal choice to opt out, especially when my political and ethical views are pretty firmly socialist.  Finally, every time I tell someone I plan to homeschool (or unschool, rather), I worry that maybe they will think it an indictment on themselves in some way.  Often, when you choose a route less taken, people tend to see your choice as a sort of anti-affirmation of their choices, which...I don't know.  The only thing I can say to that is that, the world is a diverse place made up of people who make a hundred different choices.  In the end, in most ares I feel passionate about (childbirth, feminism, food systems, etc.), I've spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I think what it comes down to in the end is "Did you feel you had a choice?" "Were there options?"  No one path is the end-all and be-all, it's the idea that there are many choices out there to take, and that we can all respect, support, and celebrate each other on our many splendid journeys. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Laurel May's Birth Story

The following is the birth story of my little girl, Laurel May, a story that I will love and cherish forever.

As Memorial Day Monday rolled around, I started to feel increasingly anticipatory, as the baby’s due date was on Friday, June 03.  Because Everett had arrived three and a half weeks early we never had any chance to anticipate his birth, so every moment of the final three weeks of pregnancy was new and unknown territory for me.  As my belly and ankles swelled to previously unseen levels, I felt antsy and restless, tired of being so large that rolling over in the night or getting out of bed to pee was a major and uncomfortable undertaking.  All throughout the last month of my pregnancy I had been having frequent and intense Braxton Hicks contractions, with a few actual contractions thrown in here or there, but no additional real signs that labor was nearing. 

On Memorial Day, Monday, however, I started to feel that labor might be underway soon.  I was very tired, getting more irritable and swollen by the day, but mostly I was starting to have more period-like cramping in my low abdomen, on top of the constant and long lasting (think 2-3 minutes) Braxton Hicks contractions.  In the morning we went to Oakland Park Nursery to buy flowers, and one rogue contraction was intense enough that I had to sit down and want to rest.  Monday afternoon and evening continued uneventfully, but Tuesday morning, I again felt the twinges in my stomach.  Nothing consistent or timetable, and nothing to make me think “Aha, this is it!” but enough to make me think “Oh, any time now.”  I spent the day resting and conserving my energy.  By the afternoon and evening, I was back to feeling just cranky and irritable, but wasn’t feeling any more tightening in my abdomen.  In the evening, we ate dinner on the front porch, I soaked my extremely swollen feet in cool water while Everett and Chad rode bikes up and down the street, and later Chad and I watched an episode of Call the Midwife before retiring to bed around 11:00.
Our last appointment with the CHOICE midwives,
about 6 hours before I went into labor.

Chad and Everett zoom while I watch from the porch...
about 4 and a half hours before I go into labor!
We laid down and Chad was out cold in minutes, but I lay there thinking for a bit, and sometime around 11:30 I felt a tightening in my abdomen, which I commonly felt at some point in the night.  Usually when it happened, my first thought would be “Ugh.  Whatever, if I’m woken up by another one in 10 minutes, then I’ll know something is up, but otherwise, I’m chalking this up to pre-labor.”  But for some reason, this time when I felt the small wave, my heart quickened and I also felt a wave of adrenaline with the thought of “Oh my god!  Is this it!?”  I lay there wired as hell, waiting.  Sure enough, I felt another wave a few minutes later.  My suspicions aroused, I lay there, waiting, still.  And again, I felt another small wave.  By this point I thought that I had better download a contraction timer app on my phone.  Around 12:15, I started timing the contractions and they were coming every two minutes or so for about a minute to a minute and thirty seconds, fast and consistent but still weak enough.  I kept debating in my head over whether or not to try to get some rest, knowing that if things were rolling, they might pick up quickly.  I got out of bed and sat on the birth ball, walked the hallway, went and admired my full stomach for what might be the last time in our full length mirror, and went downstairs to grab a Kind bar.  All the while, I was timing contractions at a consistent rate of every two minutes for about a minute to a minute and a half each.  A little before 1:00 AM, I tried to lay down and rest, but laying down made the otherwise manageable contractions quite painful.  Armed with all the evidence, I decided that I was indeed in labor and went and woke Chad up around 1:00 AM.

Just around 12:50 am before I had awoken Chad.
I'm saying "Is this it?  Last pregnant photo?"

Moving from the bedroom into the media room, Chad and I assessed the situation and discussed what to do.  We decided to call our midwife, Mandy around 1:30 AM.  She suggested that I hop in the shower and see if the contractions got any more intense or not, the warm water may help create stronger contractions, and then call her back and let her know how things were going.  I dawdled and put off getting in the shower, walking around and pacing.  Chad started to get Everett’s diapers and clothes ready for a possible trip to Nonna’s while I continued timing contractions.  Probably around 2:45, I got in the shower for a few minutes, and got back out, not really sure if anything was moving forward or not.  At some point Everett woke up and we tried several times to put him back to sleep, but he was restless and awake and Chad was spending time in bed with him trying to get him to rest.  I hadn’t bothered to call the midwife back yet, thinking that I didn’t want to bother her if nothing was progressing.  In fact, just around 3:00 AM I was starting to have visions of a long drawn out 40-hour labor, ending in an exhausted trip to the hospital.

Mandy texted at 3:15 and said “Still up?  Any change?” to which I responded “Contractions are still every 2-4 minutes and lasting about 1:30 minutes and fairly intense…Not really sure if things are progressing or not.”  She responded “Have they gotten any more intense since they began?” And I started to text a response to her, but at that moment I realized that the contractions were getting stronger, stronger to the point where I grimaced and wanted to lean on Chad who was in the other room with Everett.  I thought to myself “Why am I sitting here texting my midwife at 3:15 in the morning when I’m having regularly intense contractions!?  I’m going to call her to let her know it’s time to come over and at least check my progress.” Which is exactly what I did.  Then I went in to get Chad and said “We need to call your mom to come take care of Everett because things are getting more intense and I need you!”  Chad got out of bed, threw Everett into a sling on his back, and called his mom at 3:30 AM. He finished getting Everett’s bags ready and waited for Mandy and Marilyn to show up, as I continued pacing and timing my contractions.

4:00 am on the dot and waiting for Nonna to arrive.
Everett is saying "Seriously guys!?"

Mandy showed up around 3:45 and even though it’s not necessarily their standard of care, I asked her to check my cervix to see how far I was dilated.  I hadn’t felt the need for a vaginal exam in the weeks or days up to this point, but now that labor was firmly under way, I needed a way marker.  She checked me, found that I was 7 centimeters dilated, and said “I thought you might be pulling something like this!”  Uh yeah, so I guess it was a good thing I called her after all!  Marilyn showed up around 4:00 AM, I went downstairs to say hello and see off Everett, carefully timing my descent down the stairs in between contractions, which were coming fast, steady, and strong at this point.  Mandy brought in all of her stuff for the birth and our media room was magically transformed from an office/living room area into a (very comfortable) birthing room.  She called our other midwife Tanya, who probably showed up around 4:15.  They sat in the hallway and talked in very low tones, staying out of our way as my labor continued to progress.

By 4:30, the contractions were starting to become unbearable.  I sat on the bed and rested in between and stood and leaned against Chad during each forceful tightening of my lower stomach.  I had made a decision early on to focus on my breathing and work quietly though the contractions, and I had been doing great with this, but it was becoming more and more difficult to keep the breaths deep and mindful.  The midwives sat and waited while I intermittently sat and then stood and clung to Chad in pain.  I remember seeing Mandy sitting at our desk going over notes from our file and Tanya pulling a Foxfire book off our bookshelf and thumbing through it while she sat on the birthing ball.  There was a feeling of waiting and passing time in the air.  I was working hard at this point, but there wasn’t a lot anyone else could do except wait and offer encouragement when necessary.  I remember once I joked to Tanya “Where is my orgasmic birth experience!?” (Which Ina May Gaskin talks about in her books) and she laughed and said “Ha! You’ve been cheated!”  At another point I remember clinging on to Chad and looking at Mandy with a look of desperation in my eyes, to which she responded that I was doing great, to relax my shoulders, and breath through it.  Then she suggested that I get in the shower to see if that would help ease my contractions at all.  I did get in the shower, but right around that time I started feeling the urge to push, so she made me get out so she could check whether I was fully dilated before I started pushing.  She checked and said I was fully effaced and could push at any time.  She also suggested that my waters might break soon and that I go sit on the toilet since it would be a good place to get my body in position for pushing anyways.  I went and sat on the toilet and with Chad standing in the doorway of the bathroom watching me, my bowels forcefully extracted themselves at the same moment that my water forcefully broke.  It was a moment that was equal parts gross, impressive, and eternally memorable.  About this time, I remember thinking thoughts such as “Goodbye Dignity, goodbye, it was nice knowing you!  Bye….” 

4:15 am - about an hour and a half before birth!

Husband and wife laboring together.
 So grateful for this image...
Chad supporting me through a contraction around 5:15 am - only 30 minutes to go!

At this point it was probably around 5:00 AM and we were in fever pitch, the most difficult and painful part of labor, with a few contractions that were almost unbearable.  Time seemed to be dragging on painfully slow, but I knew that when you get to the point where you think you can’t stand it or carry on any longer, you’re really almost there, and so I was.  Those few unbearable contractions passed and I began to feel the urge to really push.  I stood in the middle of the room, leaning against Chad, and pushing, with the midwives saying “Move to the bed and get on your knees!”  I remember not 100% understanding the meaning of the words they were saying even though I could hear them, and also not 100% believing IN the words they were saying.  But they persisted, saying “Get on the bed!  Kneel on your knees!  It’s a better position for pushing and you will have more of your weight supported!”  Warily, I fumbled through what they told me and ended up on the bed, on my knees, with my arms around Chad’s shoulders.  At that moment I didn’t care about blowing out candles across the room, tiny pushes, or even perineal tears.  With great intense and terrible pressure pushing down in my pelvis, I bore down and pushed as hard as I could.  I could tell that the head was born and waited for confirmation and approval to push again from the midwives.  This was the climax to a night’s worth of work, we were almost there, and no one was sitting idle waiting now.  The midwives gave me the go ahead and I pushed again, birthing the body this time.  A great gush of fluids came out and so did the baby, with Tanya catching it.  The gush was so overwhelming and I called out saying “Is this normal!?”  They assured me that it was and with that at 5:47 in the morning of June 1st the newest addition to our family had officially been born!  But the story wasn’t quite over yet… 

Tanya then said something about how the cord was very short.  I was still kneeling on my knees, hanging on to Chad, and hadn’t yet really seen the baby yet, but the midwives were doing something below, I started to get anxious and asked if everything was okay.  They said that it was, but they just needed to figure out what we were going to do with the baby and me while waiting for the placenta to be delivered.  I asked if it was a boy or a girl and no one knew yet!  I think in the end I might have been the one to exclaim that it was a girl, but I really can’t remember.  Tanya somehow transferred the baby through my knees and handed her to Chad, while they instructed me how to put my legs and lay back, all the while taking care of the baby not to pull the cord.  I remember at one point Chad started to pull the baby up and I said “Don’t move her!  The cord is short, leave her where she is!”  Finally, I was situated in a laying down position and sweet little Laurel May was placed on my stomach while we waited for the placenta to be delivered.  I did so wish to hold her though and after 15 or so minutes they said that they thought the cord had stopped pulsing and that we could go ahead and cut it even though the placenta hadn’t been delivered yet.  Yes!!  FINALLY I got to hold my baby to my chest!  A few minutes later the placenta was delivered, and we checked it out.  It was kind of gross looking, but impressive, I suppose.  After a bit, I nursed Laurel, the midwives went downstairs to do some paper work, get us some food and juice, and then leave Chad, Laurel, and I to our golden hour.

The baby with the short cord
patiently waits on mamma's stomach!
First nursing session about 30 minutes post-birth

Foot prints!
8 lbs 4 oz!
After an hour or so, they came back up and asked if I wanted a shower.  I was covered in sweat, blood, meconium, vernix, amniotic fluids, and who knows what all other bodily fluids, so I took full use of the opportunity to get cleaned up.  The midwives checked me and Laurel over, tucked us into bed, and after having determined that all was well, left around 9:00 AM.  Chad and I were free to cuddle with our new little lady for the rest of the day!  Though we were absolutely wracked with exhaustion and we had challenging days and nights ahead of us, we were so thrilled both by how our story unfolded but of course especially by the addition of our new little girl.

Exhausted Dad takes a moment to rest with his new daughter

Mamma baby snuggles

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pregnancy Update: Week 37!

I sit here at my desk on a Monday afternoon in the second story office of my townhouse bouncing on a yoga/birthing ball at 37 weeks 3 days pregnant and it occurs to me that these next few hours, days, weeks (who knows!?) are to be some of the most cherished, ephemeral, perfect, wonderful days of my life.  I sit on the precipice, this fleeting moment in time is the cursor between two worlds, all that was before and all that it will soon become.  Today is the first day of my leave from work, which will continue over the next 12 weeks, and though it’s medically mandated (due to prior experience of pre-term labor) I’ve asked myself several times:  Am I selfish for taking this time before birth to prepare mentally and physically?  Is it really necessary?  Should I be powering through?  I’m well aware that it’s a luxury many don’t have.  But then I remember that my doubts are shaped by living in one of the only countries in the world without mandated maternity leave (with the exception of three states), in a culture that expects women and families to do all and be all without ever skipping a beat or taking their health into consideration.  After doing a little digging around on the internet, I found that women who take 1-3 weeks of rest before delivery are 4 times less likely to have a c-section or other complications, and that helped put my mind at ease.  But more than that, the overwhelming sense of peace I feel surrounding the upcoming days or weeks of preparation, that feeling is what truly informs me that my decision is the right one.  Especially in juxtaposition to the complete and utter stress I’ve been feeling about doing it all-heavily pregnant and working an incredibly stressful job with erratic hours and a long commute (and training a new employee by myself), all while keeping up with housework, meals, and parenting while Chad has been consistently working 50-60 hour weeks for the past several months.  This ability to slow down, contemplate, process, prepare, putter around the house, nest, NAP, fold baby clothes, is so, so, so vital.  And I know in my bones that I’m taking part in a great time-honored piece of the human experience: preparing and waiting for new life to arrive.

In other news and notes, I was able to delve into the preparation for labor, delivery, and birth by a weekend with my family AND a weekend long birth preparation class at Balanced Yoga called Mamaste.  Friday evening, they had a family night and free showing of the movie Babies (which I highly recommend!).   Everett, Chad, and I went, sat on a blanket on the floor, and ate dinner while watching the movie, surrounded by other expectant parents as well as lots of toddlers.  It was a beautiful warm spring evening, with a warm breeze flowing in the windows of the large yoga studio, filled with young and expectant life.  The next day Chad drove Everett to my mom’s house, where he had his very first overnight away from us!!  I relaxed around the house in the morning, and then went to the yoga studio for 3 hours of prenatal class, followed by an hour of prenatal yoga instruction.  I was completely fine all day, but as I lay there at the end of class in shavasana, I thought of my little boy wondering where Mommy and Daddy were at bedtime, feeling lost and alone, and silent tears started to roll down my cheeks.  Hopefully if the yoga instructor saw, she thought that she had just provided me with a really moving yoga practice J  Anyways, it turns out that Everett had an awesome day, slept no worse than he might at home, and missed his parents the appropriate amount – in short, we all survived!  After Saturday’s yoga class, Chad and I went out for a super fancy date night at Angry Bear Kitchen.  We had super fancy cocktails (alcoholic and non-), three appetizers (gratuitous!), delicious entrees, and dessert (or port, if you’re a Chad).  We joked in the beginning about how we felt a little awkward, as though we were on a first date, all over again.  “How does this whole dating thing work?  We can barely remember!”  Somehow we stumbled on and had a truly lovely two-hour dinner full of great food and conversation.

Sunday continued on the weekend of awesome.  Chad went to pick up Everett from Grandma’s house and drove him to Nonna’s house, where the weekend of grandmother fun for Everett would continue while we went to our second day of labor preparation at Balanced Yoga.  The doulas teaching the birth preparation class went over the stages of labor and we practiced some coping techniques.  I wouldn’t say that I necessarily learned a lot…I have had a kid before, have read pretty extensively about labor and birth, and am part of a few mom’s groups where we talk about such things, but it was great to be in a class with several other families who were in the same page in life, sharing and talking about our impending labors and births.  It was especially great to be able to share that time with Chad, so that we could get into the groove together, and I really appreciated the opportunity to practice coping techniques together.  The best part of the weekend seminar was the partners prenatal yoga taught by Abby Dorn.  I have been going to prenatal and baby yoga classes taught by Abby for a long time, and have always enjoyed her instruction, but this class was especially great.  Most of the poses in the class were collaborative poses that employed team work and communication between Chad and me.  It was an amazing experience during which we felt at different turns intimate, silly, collaborative, and unsure.  We felt many of the emotions we might feel during our labor experience, and were able to hone our collaboration and communication while at the same time focusing on restoration and rejuvenation. 

Finally, around 7:00 PM that evening we got to eat pizza (obvious follow up to yoga) and see our little boy!  I was so happy to see Everett again!  Of course, he had had a BIG BIG weekend and was an exhausted crank monster, so we only saw him for about an hour before shipping him off to dream land, but it was enough just to hear him intermittently sighing from the bedroom while Chad and I hung out in the media room, the next room over.  We ALL slept peacefully and soundly through the night (with the exceptions of my several lumbering trips to the bathroom), which we all sorely needed!!

And that’s the end of the beginning of Week 37 J

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Pregnancy Update: Week 35 Recap!

How far along?  36 weeks tomorrow!!

Total weight gain:  35 pounds so far…let’s see if we can keep this whole thing 40 or under…

Baby’s size/development this week:  OMG, the baby weighs like 6 pounds!!!  Which, is interesting, because Everett was born at 36 weeks 4 days and was 6 pounds 3 ounces J  He followed the curve perfectly…but this blog is about our upcoming baby J

Maternity clothes:  All the clothes I never wore throughout most of my pregnancy because they were too big are the ones I’m wearing now!!  I am a freaking whale!

Miss anything?  Not being achy.  Being able to easily move.  Tying my own shoes easily.  Running.

Food cravings:  I want sweets…but I have sworn them off (except maybe once per week?) in the interest of my health and the baby’s health.  I haven’t had any desserts since Sunday! (That’s 4 days!)

Anything making you queasy or sick?   Nothing in particular.  Earlier in the week someone’s camp fire was making me queasy as well as the smell of pork BBQ simmering on the stove on Tuesday….

Sleep:   I am enjoying every moment of sleep I can get.  The only interruptions are when I get up in the night (several times) to pee, which is always a production.  Since we have a floor bed, which is very low to the ground, it is hard on my pelvic region, which is sore due to the relaxin coursing through my body.  I hoist myself onto my hands and knees and back out of bed, wincing while I go.

Best moment of the week:   Last weekend Chad, Everett, and I had a family weekend and it was really fun!  We went to the farmer’s market, a duck parade at the library, cooked a pork roast, got stuff ready for our midwive’s home visit.  It was a pretty stellar weekend if I say so myself!!

Nursery:  We finally got some boxes out of there and now it looks much better!

Weddings rings on or off?   Off…swelling seems to fluctuate from day to day and I think I won’t bother with rings until the whole thing is over…

Belly Button:   In, of course.

Movement?  Lots of movement!  Baby was quiet over the weekend and I was freaked out, but Monday morning it started up again.  I love to feel those rolls and kicks, it’s the best part of being pregnant! J

Labor signs?   My body is definitely gearing up to head in the direction of labor.  I don’t know how much longer I have left (hopefully several more weeks!!) but I have felt some low abdominal cramps here and there.  I noticed them in the night after I had gotten up to pee and laid back down.  I let myself drift back to sleep and I haven’t really felt anything since then, but every twinge and niggling pain brings trepidation right now.  I know I have to roll with the punches, but I really want this whole thing to play out in the least stressful way possible.  And right now that means avoiding pre-term labor.  Next week at this time, I will start mentally preparing myself to the fact that our new family could grow at any time and actually feel at peace with that eventuality.

Weird pregnancy thing of the week:   I don’t know.  It’s all freaking weird at this point.  The fact that there is a 6 pound human IN MY STOMACH is pretty freaking weird.  Are we completely sure that pregnancy is a natural phenomenon???

Daddy is feeling:   Busy!  Of course now that he’s done with school, shit is hitting the fan at work and he’s been working insane hours!  Tomorrow he has to get up at 4:30 AM and go be on the local news with the Jeni’s Street Treats food truck.  The first interview is at like 6:15 AM and he has to be there and set up before that…of course he’ll be at the shop until after 5:00 PM, because…he’s Chad and he’s crazy.

Mommy is feeling:   Trepidatious.  Expectant.  Excited.  Nervous.  Achy.  Preparatory.  READY TO BE DONE WITH WORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!  With Chad working 50-60 hour weeks, shit blowing up at MY work every day, training a new employee, taking care of a toddler, keeping the house in order, AND trying to get things prepared for the birth of our new baby, I need some mental and physical space to process everything that’s going on.

Workouts this week:  Saturday, Sunday, Monday, we did the 2 mile Walhalla Nature loop J  I’ve taken Tuesday and Wednesday off due to rain and to give my pelvis a chance to rest.  If I do too much, it gets really sore.

Books I'm Reading/Media I'm Ingesting:
Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Breastfeeding.  It’s been a good and interesting refresher J

Looking forward to
·         I found there is a Birth Without Fear mini conference on June 26, so New Baby and I registered and are looking forward to attending together!  It’s only a 3-4 hour event and it’s at a coffee shop right down the street from my house!  I figure it’ll be a perfect official inaugural outing for us.
·         Farmer’s Marketing it up with my family on Saturday morning J  Maybe buying some fresh rhubarb!?

·         Having a family day on Sunday!!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Pregnancy Update: Week 34 Recap!

How far along?  35 weeks today, so I’ll do a recap of week 34.

Total weight gain:  33 pounds so far…

Baby’s size/development this week:  OMG, the little internal parasite is 5 ½ pounds!  That is HUGE.

Maternity clothes:  I bought 4 dresses and a tank top off the Buy/Sell/Trade for $10 and 3 large maternity tees for $6.  God, I love the BST.  I’m so happy because everything is super cute, in good condition, and super cheap.  Not to mention, several of the dresses will be GREAT for nursing in the first couple months postpartum so I feel even better about the money spent.

Miss anything?  At this very moment I am sitting at a desk and I miss being able to sit so that the edge of the desk isn’t cutting into my stomach.  I miss being able to move like a normal person.  I’m so over waddling.  I miss my back not hurting.  I miss glasses of wine.  I miss being able easily to run around after my toddler.

Food cravings:  Just give me a nice brownie or piece of cake with lots of ice cream and whipped cream on top and I’ll be fine.  Still trying to eat like a relatively healthy person though.

Anything making you queasy or sick?   I have started to feel slightly queasy lately.

Sleep:   Sleep is awesome.  I slept so great last night and it was truly wonderful.  I just wish I could do more of it.

Best moment of the week:   There were a lot!
  • Everett’s birthday bash was pretty freaking awesome.  Friday was wonderful spending the day with Chad and Everett.  Things have been so busy lately, we REALLY enjoyed a day with no pressure, no stress, no plans, and nothing in particular to do.
  • Saturday was another great day, with family visiting from both in and out of town.  We went to the Conservatory, walked around German Village, and had dinner at Black Creek Bistro.
  • Picking up my new maternity swag was pretty awesome as well, and I shopped for new nursing bras which I DESPERATELY needed (still waiting on those to show up though!)
  • We also got a new stroller which will be able to accommodate Everett and the new little one, which we were super excited about!
  • I also had my 35 week appointment with the midwives, which Chad was supposed to go to, but ended up having to work open to close. L  I was sad about that!  But the appointment was good though – baby’s head is DOWN, so that was a reason to celebrate!  We discussed more of the birth in detail and things started to feel more real, the excitement for the baby’s imminent arrival is starting to ramp up.

Nursery:  Eh.

Weddings rings on or off?   I was really swollen last week and took my ring off.  I feel LOTS better this week and could probably put it back on, but I think I’ll just forgo the stress and forget about it until after I give birth.

Belly Button:  The belly button of steel is in and shall forever remain so.  

Movement?  All the movement!  Elbows and feet and hiccups!  I also sometimes feel the baby is ramming its head into my pubic bone too, which is particularly jolting.

Labor signs?   So yesterday, at 34 weeks 6 days, I felt the first signs pointing to the fact that labor is just around the corner, how far of course nobody yet knows.  I took the day off work because I woke up feeling super tired and lethargic.  Except for after lunch when I dragged myself out for a slow, leisurely two mile walk, I laid around in bed all day.  Around 4:00, I was getting ready to go pick Everett up in the upcoming hour when I started getting some pretty intense Braxton Hicks contractions and my stomach felt super hard.  The baby also did this thing where it lodged its back firmly against the left side of my stomach and seemed to be pushing out HARD.  I couldn’t tell if it was a contraction or just the baby moving and pushing.  Then I started to feel some low abdominal cramping, much akin to a period pain.  I was all alone, about to pick up Everett, and starting to *freak out.*  I was just praying that it was a false alarm, but the last time I went into labor (a month early), I started by feeling super lethargic for a few days, and then when the contractions started, they came on FAST.  And so did the baby, so I was super concerned that if these were indeed the beginnings of labor, that the baby would arrive in just a few hours and I would be screwed.  I started out to go pick up get Everett and figured I would go get him and take things a step at a time.  I tried to get a hold of Chad and couldn’t (he was in a meeting), which made me freak out even more.  So then I contacted my midwife and she told me that it could be preparatory labor, which is very common at this point in a second pregnancy, but to stop drinking pregnancy tea (which I was drinking at that moment) and to lay down for the rest of the evening.  Given my prior pre-term birth, she wanted to keep a closer eye on me, but didn’t feel any urgent action was necessary.  Chad wasn’t supposed to get home until 7:30 or so, but I got a hold of him around 5:30 and he came right home, made dinner, and was on toddler duty for the night while I lay around upstairs watching the Gilmore Girls.  Once Chad got home and nothing seemed to progress, I felt less stressed, at least in an immediate sense, but I still feel on high guard and will probably remain so for the next two weeks.   I’m just praying I make it to 37 weeks.  NO PRETERM BABY!  NO ASSOCIATED POSSIBLE HEALTH CONCERNS! NO HOSPITAL BIRTH! (Especially since I’m all paid up with my midwives!) …After 37 weeks, the rest is just icing, but I REALLY want to make it at least to 38 weeks, so that I can go to my prenatal yoga seminar and labor preparation with Chad and have a few days at home to relax and get my head in the right space before the arrival of our new one, which holy shit, could be arriving anytime from the next few days to the next five weeks.

Weird pregnancy thing of the week:   See above stupid story.

Daddy is feeling:   Super stressed.  Between finals and papers and work being super insane, things have been rough for him lately.  I think we both deserve a break.

Mommy is feeling:   Yesterday when I went on a nice leisurely walk, I could feel myself turning inwards in a more reflective, contemplative, slowed down world sort of way that I experienced after I gave birth the first time.  Work will be wrapping up soon and the immediate matters of my body and family are starting to take precedent both physically and mentally.  I’m really looking forward to this weekend where Chad, Everett, and I get a chance to spend  it just the three of us for one of the last times evarrr before we become a family of four.  Since shit is getting real and I’ve been woken up to how quickly things are progressing, I have really, really been hit with the strong desire to savor the last few days and weeks of our awesome little threesome.

Workouts this week:  I’ve done the 2 mile Walhalla Loop at least 3-4 times in the past week or so, and it’s been good for my body and spirit, but I’m wondering if I should stop the walks until I hit 37 weeks.  Bah.

Books I'm Reading/Media I'm Ingesting:  I’m on my last season of Gilmore Girls.  I have no idea what I’ll do after that!  Actually, I might read another Ina May Gaskin book I picked up on breastfeeding…it might be a good idea to get my head back in the game again after a 6 month hiatus.  I also need to delve back into the book I’ve been reading (First Bite:  How We Learn to Eat) about food and developing healthy eating habits in our children without going insane (not really sure if I believe this is actually possible).

Looking forward to:  
  • The first Clintonville Farmer’s Market of the year!!!
  • A full weekend off with Everett and Chad!!!
  • Preparing and organizing for the birth on Sunday!!!