Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Holidays to you!

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Elias (3 1/2 years) and Marin (2 1/2 months)

Friday, October 21, 2011

And another makes four in the family

This post is long overdue, and for that I apologize.

But without further delay, we are very proud to introduce baby girl Marin Hunter Lowell born on Oct. 3. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 9 ounces and was 20 inches long.

She is a beauty and a blessing in all ways.

I don't have time at the moment to share the birth story, but it will be forthcoming. I promise it is just as exciting and surprising as Elias' birth, and it's fair to say, it was certainly nothing like we expected.

In the meantime, here are some photos of the last few weeks. I apologize for the quality; I've had only my iPhone handy.

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My walk on the False Outer Point Trail the afternoon of Oct. 1. It was beautiful. That night at 2 a.m., I went into labor.

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Fresh Marin, barely 24 hours old.

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Elias is such a proud big brother.

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Sleeping at two weeks old.

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... and my personal favorite ...
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The waiting game

D-day.

It's a recipe for failure. The big due date, that is. A date etched in gold and studded with precious gems, revered so highly that it hovers above a pregnant woman's head for 10 months like the freaking carrot of the gods on the end of a stick. It's scribbled all over medical charts, circled in bright colors on your calendar and set as an all-day event on your iPhone (maybe even with a reminder, as if you'd ever forget).

At the same time, it's easy to dismiss the statistic which states that only 5 percent of women deliver on their due date - especially when I delivered my first born virtually on time.

It's also simple to mentally wave aside the stories from women describing how excruciating it is to wait ... and wait ... and wait. And to hear how many different things they tried to induce labor as the days ticked, ever so slowly, past.

But not anymore. I am one of those women.

Now, five days past my due date and still pregnant, I'm fighting hard to mentally "stay in the game." And it's not an easy game to play.

Rule number one: Stay busy. Folks, after the house is immaculate and the "nesting" urge has worn off due to sheer exhaustion, it's time to get creative. Literally. So, I took up knitting; it's scary. I'm about as adept at knitting as our obese cat Simon is licking his backside.

Rule number two: Do not answer your cell phone or respond to texts. It only invites more correspondence.

Rule number three: Get after it. That's right, it's time to get hiking, walking, jumping or anything else that reminds the body that you are still (for some reason) hauling around at least thirty pounds of extra-ness. Other things that induce labor are highly recommended - though not that castor oil crap. One word: explosive.

Rule number four: Prepare for the worst. Now that the due date is in the past, it's safe and a preservation of sanity to brace for what could mean another two weeks of pregnancy. In reality, what's two more weeks, right? Right.

So, you may ask, how have I been doing with following through with these "rules?"

Oh we've hiked and walked - me often while carrying Elias on my back. I've knitted three and a half hats and a pair of mittens. We cut down some trees in our back yard and somehow convinced the heater to crap out by merely starting up.

But, we've stayed busy. We toured the local fish hatchery with Elias' preschool class. We've taken the dog around the neighborhood and played at the local park. There've been dinners out, homemade dinners in and lots, and lots of playing games and doing crafts.

Today, with the sun blaring in what is likely a fleeting day of sunshine, we headed out for some vitamin D and endorphins (which, I've been told, help induce labor).

Elias, my mom and me hiked the Nugget Falls Trail by the Mendenhall Glacier. Fall was certainly in full bloom as Mount McGinnis rose high into a crystaline sky. It was tipped with fresh snow that faded into the muskeg which blared brigh in crimson and marigold. Alders, now in full yellow, danced along the Mendenhall Lake shoreline and moss glowed bright green after days of rain.

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Even with a belly full of baby, I had a smile on my face. What a day to be alive!

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Some arts and crafts with baking in the background.

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Watching the seal hunt fish at DIPAC fish hatchery.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Trust, even if it means a lot of rain and a little pain

The other day I could have sworn I found webbing between my toes.

Perhaps I’m adapting to the excessive rainfall we’ve recently experienced, or perhaps, it’s another lovely — though rare — symptom of pregnancy.

Who knows; it’s not like I’ve seen much of my feet in a few months anyway.

But getting back to the rain; to say we’ve gotten a lot of it lately is a gross understatement. While most regions measure rainfall in inches, mostly in the single digits, we measure rainfall in feet. Fact: Rainfall in our region nearly outpaces me in height. At 5 feet 2 inches tall, I’ve got only two inches on our yearly average.

I trust Mother Nature, though. Rainfall in Southeast is vital and it all happens for a reason. Moisture nourishes rainforest ecology, it flushes fresh water to the ocean and helps anadromous fish “sniff” their way home. And when we endure a particularly rough and soggy patch, it seems she (I assume Mother Nature is a “she”) rewards Juneauites in one way or another.

This trust in the natural ways of the world extends into pregnancy, as well. Soon, I’ll be rewarded for 10 months of hard work; my due date is nearly here. Before long my body will be swept away into an athletic feat that dances a primitive and instinctual path. No, that path is not necessarily a pleasant one. There’s work — a lot of work — and often a lot of pain. I trust, however, the reward will come and everything associated with labor happens for a reason.

That’s why I’ve chosen prepare for the athletic feat of labor over the course of my pregnancy. I’ve run, hiked, walked, biked, yoga-ed and fished my way to fit. And that’s why I’ve chosen to go the natural route — free of pain medication and unnecessary interventions — the way women have done it for millions of years and the way nature intended.

Through exercise, I learned there are huge benefits that come from bucking long-held beliefs that women should “take it easy” while pregnant. For a while I topped out my running mileage at nearly 35 miles per week. I ran up and down mountains, I captained a skiff and gutted fish, I toted a toddler up and down stairs and I did it all without blinking an eye. As a result, my blood pressure is still within normal ranges, my weight gain is at 32 pounds — right on target — and I’ve experienced a completely healthy pregnancy by all accepted standards.

There are also huge benefits to choosing a natural labor and childbirth. Today’s medical interventions, while commonplace, come with an array of pros and cons. Take the medication Demerol, for example. This medication is used regularly in today’s laboring women, I know because I begrudgingly accepted it during labor with my first child. It is a member of the opiate family and is given to laboring women to “take the edge off.” This alone is the overarching benefit of the medication. In contrast, I counted 13 disadvantages and side effects for both to the mother and child. According to the American Pregnancy Association, mothers who accept medications in the opiate family may suffer from nausea, vomiting, itching, dizziness, sedation, decreased gastric motility, loss of protective airway reflexes and hypoxia due to respiratory depression. Babies of mothers who are given these types of drugs may suffer from central nervous system depression, respiratory depression, impaired early breastfeeding, altered neurological behavior and a decreased ability to regulate body temperature. And those are the known side effects.

As a result of these side effects, the natural course of labor can be disrupted; it is, after all, a finite symphony of hormones and neurological events that kick off and keep labor moving forward.

My labor, like so many others, stalled as a result. This prompted the offering of another drug called Pitocin, which is often used to produce stronger and more frequent contractions. I accepted this medication, as well; I trusted my caregivers, as all mothers should, but I wasn’t prepared for the full extent of the consequences.

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The contractions produced are not only stronger, but they also feel synthetic. I struggled though one after the other and as I did so, I imagined my baby was also likely reeling from the new and foreign pressure being exerted on his tiny body.

I was then offered an epidural. I declined. It was offered again. I declined again. But the nurses and doctors were worried about my strength. I was, after all, working hard. And I still had to push my baby out. Finally, I accepted. I slept.

But, as I did, my baby likely did not. It was certainly still feeling the pressure of the Pitocin-induced contractions and that tiny human endured more than I like to think about.

As a result of the epidural, I suffered the same side effect that plagues most laboring mothers — my labor stalled again. I was given more Pitocin. My baby suffered more.

I could elaborate further, but I believe my point is being made — many interventions are not absolutely needed. It’s only after the use of one, that the other is required. The use of them in normal situations creates a domino effect that, for many, ultimately leads to the need for a cesarean delivery.

I was not one of those cases. My baby boy was born healthy and seems to be unaffected by the interventions. But I was lucky.

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Cesarean rates in the United States are high. I believe it is because interventions have become commonplace.

In contrast, giving birth naturally allows for many more options and benefits when it comes to the overall experience of birth. The mother is able to tap into her instincts and “listen” to what her body may need. She is not tethered to machines by tubes and electric cords — she is free to move and labor in any position she deems comfortable. Take an athlete, for example. The very best are those that can take cues from their body. If it hurts, they stop. Or, if the pain is there for a reason, they don’t take medication to dull it, they practice coping mechanisms to push the pain threshold further. The same is true with laboring mothers. When a mother is managing her pain naturally, she is able to give her body and baby whatever is needed in a given moment. Certainly, if adjustments need to be made for the health and safety of the mother or baby, it’s important to accept that plans change.

This time around I’ve made every arrangement possible to experience a natural birth. I accept it won’t be easy, but few great things in this world are obtained without a fair amount of work. Plus, I trust that my body knows how to birth. Having modern medicine at our fingertips is vitally important for a multitude of reasons, but I’ll leave it for the true emergencies, because having a baby is not often a reason to panic.

Women around the world have been successfully bringing their babies into this world for centuries. I trust mothers in today’s society can do the same.

And, I trust Mother Nature — even if it means a lot of rain and a little pain.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Finding the mind to taper

One thing I’ve never been good at is slowing down.

When my midwives gently told me it was time to think about tapering my exercise regime, I nodded in agreement. On the inside, however, I was wondering how I’d turn this recommendation into reality.

You see, I’m the multitasking type. It’s a trait that suits me well both professionally and in my personal life. (I’ll refrain here from sharing the — mostly — mundane duties of mothering and keeping up a household) And exercising, is no exception. While out for a run I’ll organize to-do lists, brainstorm writing ideas and hash out problems. It’s rare my mind is at rest.

Hence, the thought of slowing down wasn’t exactly a welcome one.

So, I went for a run.

The day was cool as the thick tongue of the Perseverance Trail lolled out before me. Sun filtered through the cloud cover high above and cast golden reflections off newly discarded cottonwood leaves. They danced along the ground on an invisible breeze.

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I hadn’t noticed the silent arrival of fall. It had slipped in like an unseen roommate and hunkered down on Southeast’s doorstep, seemingly overnight.

A tinge of sadness and excitement filled me as I wound my way next to the rocky cliffs above Gold Creek. Summer was ending. But winter, with it’s own unique opportunities, was just around the corner.

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I realized it’s not always easy to let go of the things we’ve come to embrace, the habits that form as a result and, perhaps above all, the slow, forward march of time.

But it’s inevitable.

For me, it’s a matter of balancing the logical with the desirable — a feat not easily done for most, I think.

Certainly, exercise is a good thing. But, as my midwives reminded me, the third and final trimester of pregnancy is a time for slowing down, for preparation and relaxation. The logical side of me understands this, but my other side desires to push forward, to continue running as long as possible; there is something satisfying about being able to say “yes” to all those “are you still running?” questions.

Like the leaves that will continue to slowly fade from lime green to golden, it’s not something that has to happen overnight. But I realized it does — and will — continue to do so. Personally, I too have to accept change. A slower pace will benefit not only myself, but also my baby.

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The next day, as if the governing forces had reached a unanimous agreement, my mind was made up for me. I rolled out of bed with aching hips and newly sore muscles.

“That’s weird,” I thought. “I haven’t done any new exercises. Why would I suddenly be so sore?”

Outside, the sun of the day before had disappeared. In its place was a torrential downpour so thick it obscured the neighboring homes as if they were draped in fog.

The rain lasted for days. And the soreness, as it turns out, was a result of my hip bones beginning to slightly spread — medically, it’s termed diastasis symphysis. While not serious in my case, I was informed it’s not something to aggravate.

In the meantime, my hip sensitivity has hung around with the rainfall.

It seems my body and Mother Nature felt the need to seal the deal; slowing down was no longer a question, it was a reality.

Despite this, I’m still getting out. Running is rare, for any extended length of time, at least. Instead, I’m hiking and walking (my husband so cleverly calls it the “wike” — some of you may remember the “rike”?) And, I’ve decided to let the weather dictate my schedule. With rain dominating the forecast, I’m certain to get more than a few days of recovery time.

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Week-by-week:

This week's mileage: 13.21 miles.
Outings: 3.
Pregnancy stage: 36 weeks.

Friday, August 5, 2011

'Riking' and the right of way

As soon as I think I’ve heard it all, I’m proven wrong.

“You’re still running?” many have said.

“You ran how many miles yesterday?” is what I’ve heard from others.

Or, one of my personal favorites, “Did you know running causes premature labor?”

It’s questions like these that play on like a skipping CD through my weekly conversations.

I just smile and nod. Or, to the premature labor inquiry, I laugh outright and rebut with a probe on where they got their information.

Because for the record, there are many things that can cause premature labor, but running has never been proven to be one of them.

Just two days ago I heard and witnessed one of the most surprising reactions to my running regime.

As I gently shuffled down the Perseverance Trail, an out-of-town family approached from the direction of the trailhead. As they hiked, some looked skyward with binoculars, others snapped pictures and the two adults each carried backpacks with visibly stretched seams. One of the girls, likely in her teens, looked up as I approached. Her reaction was instantaneous and seemingly instinctual. With a loud, “Ahhhh,” she ran to the opposite side of the trail and hunkered behind her family as I passed.

At only 5-foot 2-inches tall, I can’t imagine I’m that scary. But perhaps the sight of a hugely pregnant woman sauntering down the trail was enough to conjure up some serious fear.

Maybe she was just giving me the right of way.

Regardless of the reason for her alarm, it was certainly a reaction I had yet to encounter. And, I sure hope she’s not haunted by the run in.

But yes, I am still running — most of the time. I’ve developed what I call the “rike.” It’s a mix of hiking and running and actually it’s not the first time in my life I’ve employed the technique. During my days as a competitive Nordic skier at the University of Colorado and Nevada, we would frequently head out into the mountains for a preseason rike with poles to simulate classic — or striding — technique.

Essentially, riking is quite simple: run the flats and rolling terrain and vigorously hike any true hill. The idea behind the technique is to maintain a stable heartrate and a stable level of exertion.

It’s perfect for pregnancy exercise, as well — especially in the mountainous terrain around Juneau. The key is to stay light on your toes. Resist settling into a true hike on the uphills — this tends to happen when the hips drop back and the torso migrates forward. I like to envision tiny springs on the balls of my feet that push me into the next stride. Using this technique, I find I’m able to tackle virtually any terrain while keeping my exertion level in check.

Another question I frequently hear is, “how much longer are you going to run?”

To that I have no exact answer.

I’m certain I’ll stay as active as possible as long as it feels good to do so. How long that will last, I can’t say.

But I do know I feel better after a run than before I start. And, I know I feel antsy and downright crummy the days that I don’t.

In the meantime, I’ll keep riking along, logging mile after smiling slow mile.

•••

Week-by-week:

This week's mileage: 21 miles.

Runs: 5.

Pregnancy stage: 34 weeks.

Trail of choice: Rainforest and Outer Point trails (Length: roughly 1 mile each).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Up!

A friend recently told me:
"Living in Juneau is like an abusive boyfriend. One minute you're getting roses and next minute you're getting treated like crap all over again."

This weekend was borderline abuse. Saturday was unexpectedly spectacular. The sun emerged for a fleeting day of pleasant 70 degree weather. Then, on Sunday, we awoke to sideways rain and clouds so low we couldn't see across the Douglas Bridge.

Sigghh.

But on a positive note, we did manage to sneak in a nice hike up Mount Roberts Saturday. The views and company couldn't have been better.

... just don't get me started on the latest "trail improvement" work that's been done on the trail ...

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Who's been pooping in our yard?

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Thoughts?

To the beach!

Oh the sunny days seem so far away ...
We've had what feels like weeks of rain. The hard, hard rain that soaks anything and anyone in its path almost instantly.
Despite how I feel, the rain has actually only hung around for about 7 days. But, clearly, I miss the sunshine.
On July 23 David, Elias and I took a nice bike ride out to northern the tip of Douglas Island. David had a new bike he wanted to break in and also yearned to pull Elias in the bike trailer for the first time since we purchased it over a year ago. (I had been the sole puller of the bike trailer for logistical reasons)
It was a hot (yes!) day and the beach was a welcome reprieve from the damp heat. We sat, soaked it all in watched as sea lions stalked salmon and hermit crabs ran for cover under the watchful eye of Elias.

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