Announcement!

Hi friends!  For those of you following along at home with my pregnancy, I have a bit of an announcement.  I have referenced it a few times so the keen reader may already know this – but Rick and I (after much deliberation) decided to open up the envelope from our doctor telling us the sex of the baby.  It’s a boy!  I grew a penis!  And balls! (Sorry.  I just love saying that.)

Though you never know for sure until the baby is born, for now we are planning on a little man entering our lives in December!  After debating for a long time about whether to open the envelope, Rick finally convinced me that it was the right move for us – and I’m glad we did.

We opened it up in the mountains, by ourselves, sitting in the bed of Rick’s truck.  We had spent the weekend camping with friends and it was beautiful autumn weather.  We felt warm and happy and good about life. As we sat in the sunshine,  I opened the envelope to find a small, folded piece of paper with cursive handwriting that said “It’s a boy! :)”   We both cried with excitement.  It was a special moment that I wish I could relive over again.

Rick had said he wanted a girl. Though I know he is thrilled that he’ll have a son.  I on the other hand, was impartial, but fairly sure that I’d seen some man parts during the 20-week ultrasound.  After googling ultrasound penis images for a few days, I was not convinced of what I’d seen.  But, I did have some other feelings and theories about the baby that led me to think it was going to be a boy.  Rick had to laugh a little when I found out I was right.  He knows he’ll never hear the end of it now!  If you want to hear about my theories you’ll need to address those questions to me privately, because the answers are not exactly blog-appropriate!

We shared the news at my lovely baby shower a couple of weeks ago.  My mom and mother in law had come out to join us, along with my sister.  Rick and I wanted our news to be a fun surprise, so about halfway through the shower I asked my sister if she would give a toast.  After the toast I stood up and presented the group with my incredible pumpkin carving skills.  That morning at 5:30 am I had woken up and secretly carved three pumpkins.  One said “Rick”.  The other said my name, “Kat”, and the third (a small one) said “Frankie”.  I cut a huge hole in the front of the “Kat” pumpkin that served as a display window.  Inside, I placed the “Frankie” pumpkin.  It was a cute little pregnant pumpkin display.

I don’t think anyone thought twice about it, until I stood up and they witnessed the birth of pumpkin “Frankie.”  Inside Frankie I had hidden two cards that I gave to my mom and mother in law, ostensibly as a thank you, for traveling to my shower.  But, when they opened them up, the saw the announcement that we are having a boy!  They both were quiet for a moment, the Lisa buried her head in her hands and started crying (happy tears) and my mom got all teared up.  It was enough to clue the rest of the crowd in that we had shared more than a starbucks card!  It was such a fun moment because nobody expected it, and we got to catch them all off guard!

Since the “reveal” we have been reveling in knowing we have a little man on the way.  More and more, I feel like I am carrying around a little Rick. The reason I think that is because I have been incredibly happy, even-keel, and content the entirety of this pregnancy. It makes me think that the influence Rick exerts on me in our daily lives is being compounded by carrying a little soul inside me that is a lot like his dad.  He wakes up early and kicks me, he loves it when we talk about Rick’s truck, he has Rick’s hands and profile according to our ultrasounds, and he seems to like the Beatles.  One can only conclude that there is a little Rick in there, already training for marathons in the womb.

Lately, the baby has been so active that I can literally sit and watch the movements roll across the skin of my belly – even through my clothes.  It’s all beginning to feel so real. I am so excited.  Yesterday we began our hypnobabies class to learn to birth naturally through hypnosis.  I’m so excited to try it!  Tonight I met with my doula, Julieanne.  I am so thrilled to be working with her!  And last week I found an ayurvedic postpartum doula to work with after the baby is born.  I am so thrilled to see the pieces falling into place.  I cannot wait to be a mom.

 

Open Hearted Confession

I have been struggling with whether to share a very personal story here, and after about a year of laboring over whether and how to broach the subject, I feel the need to share this story publicly.  I think it is in part, a reconciling for me of the past as I try to unburden myself of pieces of my history which I no longer need to carry as I enter the journey into motherhood.

This time about a year ago, just before my wedding, I received an email from an old boyfriend with a link to a google document titled “Growth Curve Data.”  Unsure what it was, I opened the link to find several pages of his writing about the ways he had grown and changed in the three years since we had parted ways.  It reflected on whether true love was something we each find only once, and asked whether I too, felt a “cold wind blow” through my soul since we ended our relationship.

My stomach dropped when I read the words.  He had cut me out of his life, and then his new significant other had barraged me with messages full of accusations and lies that I could only assume originated from him.  I was warned never to contact him, and here he was sharing with me this slice of his heart that I can only assume he had been forced to hide away for years.  I felt terrible for him and sad.  Then I felt angry that he had the nerve to throw this mess of feelings at me just a few days before my wedding.  I considered whether to reach out to him in response to share my reactions.  And, finally, I called him.

It had been a long time since we’d last communicated by phone and it was hard to come up with words to span the years and dramas that had intervened.  Despite the strangeness of the context it was still clear that we connected deeply and both had felt a sense of uneasiness with the way our story ended.  Our talk was cut short when my husband walked into the room.  He asked who I was talking to, but it was clear he knew.  And it hurt him. And seeing the flash of anger and hurt in his eyes I knew that the unresolved issues of my previous relationship were not going to be resolved on the phone, or in person, or ever.  I reminded the ex that having any kind of relationship with him was too hard on our significant others and reminded him that I had never reached out to disturb him when he married his girlfriend – and that while it was good to hear from him, I wished he’d have done the same.

Though the conversation was intense, it was relatively benign at the same time.  Subsequently, I have heard several stories from other women who have had exes reach out to them right before their wedding. So, I know it wasn’t even unique. It was a commonplace situation.

My husband emailed the ex, asking that he not contact me and not share these types of feelings.  He responded and apologized. It was awkward but resolved.  But, then,  my ex’s significant other responded with a final email where she accused me of several indiscretions that were entirely untrue – including telling my husband that I had plotted to leave him in Australia.

Obviously we saw the accusations for what they were – a lashing out of someone who was very hurt.  I felt so much empathy for this woman at the time that it was almost hard to be mad at her.  In some ways I still feel a strong sense of sadness for the way it must have hurt her heart to read what he wrote.  But, unfortunately, for me – over the last year occasionally, and against my better wishes, an anger has come up within me against this woman and my ex for their callousness.

I wonder often if they would have felt a sense of satisfaction if their actions had ended my relationship or created a rift that could not be healed.  It makes me wonder how they would have felt had their behavior truly and significantly impacted two other souls who love each other.  And, it sometimes really bothers me that they can go on with their lives merrily after attempting to cause such a disturbance in mine.  Moreover, it bothers me that a year later the lies and immaturity of that situation still get under my skin.

I’m not an angel and I have done things I am not proud of.  But, the way I see it, when two people have committed their lives to one another then it isn’t my place to attempt to intervene in their relationship. Before there are rings and commitments, perhaps it is open season, but afterwards no.

I often wonder why my anger over this lingers.  I guess perhaps it is simply that the event made me question people.  My husband is a rock – my rock.  He is the most stable and calming influence in my life.  He lights fires for me in constructive places in my life, and helps quell those other flames in me that burn without purpose.  I loved my ex dearly, but he was exactly the opposite type of influence in my life – sowing unease and rebellion in me. I think of the little man I am bringing into the world, and more than anything I want him to be a force for good.  When I reflect on the situation that happened a year ago, it reminds me of the tenuous nature of our fleeting lives and how in an instant the course of our lives could change dramatically.  It threatens my sense of peace.

I hope that voicing these thoughts allows me to get them off my chest and helps me to let go of them before I move into the next phase of my life.  As I read about and explore the steps ahead of me, through labor, delivery, and the early stages of motherhood I know I want to enter into this phase of my life without lingering stressors from my past.  I also know that clearing my soul of these things may not only make me more present in my life, but may allow me to open up to the process of delivering a new soul into the world more gracefully.  I hope this small step will help me to look this new challenge in the face and approach it with an open heart.

 

 

Missing my practice

 The third trimester of pregnancy is now where I am beginning to notice some limitations.  I can’t reach dishes that I once could with my belly now protruding outward.  Bending over is incredibly awkward.  Shaving presents new challenges.  I wake up with a stomach that growls so loud it wakes up the baby and then I get kicked in the ribs.  These are some of the newest developments in my life.

Yes, it’s an adventure all right.  I miss the body I had, which I didn’t fully appreciate in the moment.  I miss being able to button my pants, or fit into them at all.  I miss not having to wear a bra.   I miss my old stomach.

My body now is a foreign thing, which I am doing my best to embrace.

Traditionally, I find yoga to soothe and rebalance my body when it feels a bit out of whack (like now), but yoga is beginning to present its own challenges to me. A few chaturangas into a practice I observe that my belly seems to be hitting the ground much earlier than expected. Also, the 25 extra pounds I’m carrying makes lowering my body a new challenge for my shoulders and back.  Twists – not happening, really.  Inversions I can still do, and some easier arm balances, but I definitely feel the difference from where  once was.  Also, if there was ever a time I wanted to do backbends, this is it.  But, camel and bridge seem to be my limit – even early in the pregnancy, wheel felt like it might tear my stomach open.<

So, I am missing my more vigorous yoga practice these days.

On the flip side, my hips are doing things never before seen, and suddenly I find  myself comfortably in malasana more often than is really necessary – like anytime I need to pick something up off the floor. So, there's that.

Below is a link to a video post from the studio where I did my teacher training in Bogota.  It's a video of my rising one-legged into wheel.  I am proud of my ability to do that – it's a challenge!  I'm now using the video as inspiration to recall my more practiced self and hope that soon enough I will be back to this place physically.  Namaste!

Smelly Feet and other Love Symbols

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Calgary reflecting on an email I got this morning from my husband.  It was titled “Come Home.”  As I read the email I laughed aloud as he recounted how our puppy ate my Birkenstocks while he was in the shower this morning.  Yesterday, it was one of my pairs of Danskos.  She’s not typically a shoe-destroyer, so one can only assume she misses the smell of my feet, and me, by extension.  He says that he, too, misses me.  Thankfully he doesn’t show it by eating my shoes.

Being away from home for a week by myself is a good reminder of the blessings I have in my life.  There are so many – and prep yourself because I am going to talk about them.

For one thing, my job, which brought me to Calgary is a blessing.  I work in the exact intersection of things that I love – communications, writing, media, working with people, and environmental issues.  It is not always a fun job, thankless at times, but it is rewarding and full of opportunities to learn and grow.  I love it.  The past week in Calgary for the International Pipelines Conference has re-shaped my perception of pipeline folks entirely. There were amazing sessions on working through environmental challenges, improving safety, learning about ways that pipeline infrastructure actually changes ecosystems to cause certain animals to thrive – and so many more!  The ones that appealed to me most directly dealt with utilizing social media and the internet to include the public in routing decisions and educate them on issues that they care about.  I also LOVED learning about the ways that companies work with First Nations communities to share ownership of infrastructure, accommodate cultural and lifestyle differences, and achieve social license to operate.  This is cool stuff, people.  And for those who might question how a self-described environmentalist can work in this space, I will remind you again that THIS is where change happens and that our voices are often strongest on the inside of an organization as we strive to achieve best practices.  Moreover, unless you can say you don’t use metals, electricity, gasoline, and the myriad other fuels and materials derived from natural resource development – then you are a silent accomplice to the means that brings your iPad to your lap while you watch Hulu.  So, in my opinion it’s best to be a part of the conversation.

After a rough few weeks in the office, that at times made me questions how I would be able to continue to work effectively once Baby Frankie is born, I feel refreshed and renewed by my week here.  I was dreading it, but instead I came away inspired.

In other blessings, it now occurs to me that in just over a week my sisters and another friend will be hosting my BABY SHOWER! My sister has been calling it the Frank and Beans baby shower, since we are doing it outdoors, with a fire, barbecue,  lawn games, and warm fall drinks – and we are referring to the baby using the moniker, Baby Frankie.

It has taken many months for my coming role as a mother to really settle in for me.  Perhaps it is the constant kicking in my belly, or the fact that the shower we plotted out months ago is finally here, or the fact that my maternity clothes are actually a NECESSITY now, but the reality of our coming baby is beginning to hit me in the most pleasant way!  Rather than fretting over how to manage this new variable in our lives, I am softening into daydreams of snuggling with a little newborn, breastfeeding, and sharing all the special moments that happen when a new life is created.  (As I typed that, I thought to myself that the me from a few years ago would have gagged a bit at the mushiness of that sentence, but that was before the influx of hormones that makes me gaze adoringly at babies and want to stroke their soft little baby skin.)  I’ll just go ahead and admit it now: I am going to be an obnoxious mom.  My poor child, like everything I love, will have the scars to prove my attachment.  Of that, I’m sure.  I love hard, and leave marks – physical and otherwise.  Just ask my stuffed animals, my husband, any former love, and my family.  But, loving hard can’t be all bad.  My puppy misses the smell of my feet, so I can only assume she loves me hard right back!

The last blessing I want to talk about today is the blessing of health.  I have watched with alternating fascination and horror as my body has changed with pregnancy.  I’ve talked about it plenty here.  My thighs, oh my thighs!  What are these things I once knew as my muscular legs?  Hah.  I remind myself that they are blessings too.  I have health, wellness, and a body that is supporting me well as I grow a tiny hew human.  Sure, I occasionally feel tired, or my feet hurt, but overall I have been blessed with health through this pregnancy (with the exception of a wildly under active thyroid for a bit there…).  I have read several books on pregnancy and birth, all of which encourage a certain reverence for the wonders of the female body’s ability to create and support life.  On an intellectual level I completely get that, but I am working to understand that in my day-to-day reality as I see myself in the mirror and feel shocked by the belly that juts out in front of me.  I reflect daily on the challenge of labor and what will be required of my body to birth and support a child.  Then I look at my hips and thighs with a new admiration.  These  “maternal stores” come with the territory as my body becomes a life-giving machine.  I am beginning to recognize that the hips, which I have often joked would never be able to birth a child unless I starved the thing, are now preparing to do that.  My frame is small, and it is entirely focused on a single purpose now – allowing the growth, support, and passage of a baby. Wow.  That is wild stuff.

Anyway, if you have made it to this point in my very long blog post, I am impressed with your curiosity and perseverance.  I have many other blessings, which I suppose I should reserve for another post.  I will close by acknowledging the many sources of love and support in my life that give me the confidence and security to embrace this new direction in my life.  Thank you!

Banff

10699812_751785458945_1816681192046189413_o

Beautiful Banff, AB!!!

My job is pretty cool.  I may have grey hair earlier in life than most as a result of it, but it’s cool.  I think it is worth it, and important, to do work that matters.

As I stare down a future filled with decisions about maintaining a balance between raising a family and working, I know that work will have a place in my life.  Why?  Because I love working.  I love interacting with adults over things that require I use my brain.  I like thinking strategically and considering ways to work smarter, better, and more effectively.  I like being around smart people who are trying to make the world around us work.

And, I like going to places like Banff.

This week my work has taken me to Canada, one of my ultimate favorite places in the world.  It’s exciting and I’m having a great time, plus it affords me a chance to slip away to scenic spots like you will see in the pictures below (all of which came from my cracked and touch-screen challenged droid.  It’s so pretty that even that obnoxious piece of technology couldn’t obscure it.)

10723148_751790419005_1597151920_n

My traveling companion, Baby Frankie.

10722944_751789450945_1328528362_o

Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise. Amazing glacial lakes!

10677093_751792185465_1157121257_o

Another great view of Moraine Lake.

984214_751785319225_5659283526096997011_n

From the rock pile (moraine) at the end of Moraine Lake, looking down the lake.

65079_751785533795_6681535378480716423_n

On the drive from Banff to Lake Louise – this is where I began plotting my next bike tour!

Reflections on roundedness

Excuse the alliteration there.

Roundedness has many meanings in my current state.  For one thing, as I sit cross-legged on my couch, laptop in lap, my increasingly globular belly encroaches on my keyboard view.  I have to reflect on what that feels like for a moment.  For one thing, when you see pregnant women, you often think warm, kind thoughts about their state – bringing new life into the world.  It seems like such a happy and picturesque existence.  I am here to warn that the photos you see on pinterest of lovely pregnant ladies looking maternal and serene, perhaps offer a glimpse of a rare and lovely moment – but on the whole do not reflect reality.  As least, not mine.  I don’t sit around all day mulling over my belly and the new life I’m creating.  Rather, at almost 27 weeks – on the cusp of the third trimester, I marvel at the fact that maternity clothes, which I bought early and used to be swimming in, now fit me.  I look at my body and I don’t even know it anymore.  Whose thighs are these?  Whose hips? Where did my previously toned arms go? Where did these boobs come from?  Why do my ankles have to look like that?  And, holy shit are my feet sore!  My belly – well, that was to be expected.  The rest, I wasn’t as prepared for.

It’s hard losing control of your body.  And it’s weird that someone I’ve never met is kicking me from the inside.  Kicking my cervix, kicking my ribs, occasionally causing a mug I’ve gently rested on my belly to quake from a rogue elbow jab from within.  I think people expect that as a woman you are somehow prepared and intuitively knowledgeable about these things. I’m not!  All I know is that my bed has become a structural challenge that requires several pillows propped in just the right spot to make me feel at ease.  My hips, always narrower than my shoulders, are no longer.  They ache.  They are moving.  My posture is changing.  My body is operating under the command of hormones and I no longer have a real say in the way things go around here.  By the end of the day, my entire belly feels stretched to its limit.  I wonder if there is enough shea butter and vitamin E in the world the allow it to continue to grow without bursting.  Then I remind myself that I am only just beginning my third trimester.  And then, I get a bit nervous.

Meanwhile, as I observe these bodily changes day to day, during what I’ve heard is one of the biggest periods of growth, Rick and I are taking on some fairly challenging things.  Rick began an entirely new career as a teacher this fall.  He teaches honors Algebra II and pre-Calculus at the highest-ranking school in Colorado.  Let me say it again, he has just begun his teaching career.  It’s no small task to be thrown into an incredibly rigorous and notoriously grueling school as a first year teacher.  He is burning the candle at both ends.  I try to pick up the slack.  I manage dog responsibilities, cook dinner, keep the house in order, and arrange doctor’s visits and birthing classes and doula interviews.  There is also the small matter of my full-time job where I am taking on major projects and doing an increasing amount of travel.  WE are burning the candle at both ends.  We are a tired pair.  In our lives at this stage, we have not found the ideal balance of well-roundedness that I think we both strive for.  And we both are intimidated knowing that we haven’t even HAD the baby yet.

This morning I had a little bit of a breakdown.  I had a hard week at work.  We hosted a going away party for some friends last night, so I was getting the house ready all week, and Rick’s mom is staying here for a few days.  We have a lot happening! Plus, we haven’t had a weekend at home in a month! This morning when I woke up, I guess I just felt the strain. As Rick and I talked in bed, I found my eyes tearing up, asking him to remind me that he still thinks I’m pretty.  (He tells me all the time, actually. So clearly that wasn’t really what I needed to hear.) I guess it was my overly simplified way of asking him to reassure me that all the stress and pressure at home and at work and changes to my body and our lives won’t change what WE have.  I needed to know that the way we understand each other and work together and approach the world with a unified front wouldn’t be undermined by the myriad changes in our lives.

When I look at Rick, his strength and his character and his toughness draw me to him.  It makes me stronger and tougher and better. He is such an inspiration to me each day and he drives me to set the bar higher. When I look at myself and I feel sore and tired and, well, pregnant, I feel bad that I can’t give him the full support and encouragement that I want to.  I feel like I am falling short trying to be the best employee, the best wife, and the best-prepared mother.  I feel constantly as though I need to give more and be more.  Perhaps it is my hormones, or my pitta drive that makes me feel like I need to live up to external standards and measures of achievement. I don’t know what it is, but I do know that I am tired.

I wonder if this feeling that life is getting overwhelming comes to all pregnant women?  I know stress definitely is normal, and I wonder if I am conflating external stressors with my internal hormonal tides.  It’s hard to say.

When we got engaged in March of 2013, some of the best advice we got was to just relax and enjoy the time we had together as an engaged couple – knowing we had the future ahead of us and each other.  I fall back on this advice now, telling myself to enjoy these moments of just Rick and me, (and Adelaide the puppy, of course) knowing that together we’ll get through the challenges we face.

Max and Eitan – A Love Story in a Converted School Bus Down by the River

DSC_0063

Antonias Gaze – Max and Eitan

So, let’s talk about engagement photo sessions.  When did they become a thing?  Or have people always roped their significant others into finding complimentary outfits, wrapping themselves in homemade quilts, and gleefully embracing at sunset and I somehow missed it?

When Rick and I got engaged we were, let’s call it “frugal.”  We needed something for a Save the Date, so we roped in our talented friend, Bec, at Miss Bakes into taking some incredible photos for us down in Byron Bay.  It was ideal because Bec wouldn’t have dreamed of making us pay her for her incredible skills (though we did shell what we could at her), there was beer, there were surfboards, there were dolphins, and Bec and I outnumbered Rick and forcibly made him hold a string of origami hearts.  Had this last part never happened, I would not be entirely convinced of his love and we might not be where we are today.  It was demoralizing and demeaning to Rick.  I rolled up his pant legs and forced him to be photographed with calves exposed while gallivanting in the surf.  I am a horrible woman who enjoyed myself thoroughly at his expense.  So in many ways it was a typical engagement photo shoot. But yet, I am not convinced it was the normal deal.  I left with too much of a buzz.  And I think they should all go like this.  So, I offered to help a sister (mine) out for the day and aided in the torture and abuse of her fiancé for the sake of some adorable photos.  So, without further ado, I present to you: Max and Eitan – A Love Story in a Converted School Bus by the River.

As a prelude, I have been without camera for a few months recently.  I cracked the LCD display on my DSLR and it petered along for awhile before going belly-up on me.  I was planning to replace or repair it, but hadn’t sufficient motivation.  Then two things changed: 1) I got pregnant, and 2) my sister needed engagement photos for a Save the Date — a match made in consumerist heaven.  I bought myself a new (refurbished) upgrade Nikon D5200 and was back in happy photo land.  Now I can happily document mild photographic spousal abuse and what will soon be my cherubic fetus/infant/toddler/terrible two-year-old.  It will be glorious.

So, back to Max and Eitan.  I love this couple, mostly because I have to by some sort of familial rules, but also because they  manage to keep me interested with their antics. They went to high school together.  Back then, Eitan had a big mop of curly blond hair, which my sister was drawn to in the way that sophomore girls are drawn to exciting senior boys with wild, untamed locks.  She pined over him from afar back then, and it wasn’t until much later that they were able to connect and learn that Eitan had a serious weakness for freckles, and that they both really, really, really like dogs.  So they went rafting together.  It was a fateful trip.  Max dislocated her shoulder and Eitan lost his keys and his dog got attacked.  Then Max missed her flight home.  So they hung out some more.  And so it began…

They have rafted the Grand Canyon, lived in a converted school bus, and been ski bums.  Now they embark on an entirely more adult journey… marriage!

Let’s see whether they can pull of looking adult and in love for 45 minutes in their back yard:

Max and Eitan

Antonia’s Gaze – Max and Eitan

So far, so good!

Antonia's Gaze - Max and Eitan

Antonia’s Gaze- Max and Eitan

Questionable amounts of tongue.

DSC_0055

Antonia’s Gaze – Max and Eitan

Looking fairly presentable for a couple that sleeps in a school bus by the river.

Silverthorne Engagement Session

Antonia’s Gaze- Max and Eitan

Cute!  

Silverthorne Engagement Session

Antonia’s Gaze – Max and Eitan

Ok.  This is pretty stellar.

Silverthorne Engagement Session

Antonia’s Gaze – Max and Eitan

Some pretty good stuff from these two.  They may transition to a career in modeling PFDs or paco pads.

But wait…

Silverthorne Engagement Session

Antonia’s Gaze – Max and Eitan

 Did someone mention sandwiches?  Eitan is so hungry!

Silverthorne Engagement Sessions

Antonia’s Gaze – Max and Eitan

 Help!  Max is trapped in this tree.  Eitan offers her flowers, but no help getting down.

Silverthorne Engagement Session

Antonia’s Gaze – Max and Eitan

She finds her way down and into a forest-themed re-creation of “American Gothic”.

Silverthorne Engagement Session

Antonia’s Gaze- Max and Eitan

The session slowly unravels. Eitan uses local hardware to open a bottle of cider.  Max finds protective glasses to match her vest.  She looks meaningfully into the camera.

DSC_0005

Antonia’s Gaze – Max and Eitan

The session ends abruptly as Eitan and Max walk off into the sunset to get sandwiches.  Eitan tips me for my time and effort in his own unique way.  We all live happily ever after.

Can’t wait for the wedding!

Katahdin with Child (Preggers)

I climbed a mountain last weekend. And so did my fetus. We had a jolly good time.

Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine and the final ascent of the Appalachian Trail.  It’s actually a climb I’ve had my eyes on for a few years, since my sister was in school in Lewiston, ME.  I knew it was a challenging climb then and thought it would be a fun activity for a visit. We never got around to it.  I blame beer.  

Well, now several years later, it took Rick’s mom finishing her 10-year journey to section hike the AT to get me out there, 5.5 months pregnant, climbing massive boulders with re-bar holds in a thick fog, hoping to make it to the summit. I was nervous about it, really unsure exactly what was in store and whether my changing body would be up for the challenge.  In the last couple weeks I have “popped” as they say, and I have a belly now to match the early growth I felt (and saw) in my boobs, butt, and thighs.  I am becoming a curvy woman!   I wasn’t sure my new curves, looser joints, and unpredictable balance would be up for the challenge, but they were and I’m glad we got out there to join her in crossing this major accomplishment off her bucket list!

I must say that climbing Katahdin isn’t easy.  Rick and I were both sore the next day.  It’s a day hike, but it pretty much goes straight up for 5 miles and then straight back down.  The trail is very rocky, and probably at least 40%-50% of the time we were “hiking” we were actually climbing hand over foot to make our way up and around VERY large boulders.  It’s actually the kind of hiking I love most.  The challenge of having to piece together a route helps to distract me from the hiking – which was especially valuable now because I am getting to the stage of pregnancy where my feet and back get sore and my legs swell.  (Yes, pregnancy is lovely isn’t it?)  They say to plan for 10 hours to hike Katahdin, and we were right on the mark – of course our party consisted of a 63 year old woman, a pregnant woman, and a guy wearing flip flops so we certainly weren’t about to set any speed records.  It was a long day of hiking and by the time we made it back to the bottom, my legs looked like sausages from swelling.  After settling into a bit more of a sedentary existence post-half marathon, a 10 hour day of hiking was a BIG day for me. 

All in all, the hike was a really good one.  Rick had suggested I think of it like I would a 14er here in Colorado (because I was getting nervous about the difficulty and starting to wonder about bail-out plans if something went awry for me), but it felt a bit harder than the 14ers I’ve done.  There were some very technical sections that rival some of the harder 14ers in Colorado, and certainly were more technical than any climbs I’ve done here – though comparable to some I’ve done in Utah.  I googled (many times over) “hike Katahdin pregnant” to see if I could find any accounts of it being done to get a feel for whether I was being stupid.  So, I am writing this blog with the hope that I can provide some insight for other pregnant ladies who might be considering giving it a shot. 

There are some major points worth mentioning about hiking Katahdin pregnant.  First off, let me get my caveats out of the way. I am starting from a healthy baseline of being active, and hiking, running, and doing other forms of exercise regularly. I have had no complications or reasons for concern in my pregnancy. Secondly, I am just over the halfway point of my pregnancy and am not HUGE yet, though I definitely have a belly to work around. Third, as with any break from normal activity, it’s probably a good idea to run your plans by your doctor.  I did and she said that I should go for it – there would be no better time than now! 

So with that said, my major thoughts on hiking Katahdin while pregnant are related to the weather conditions, equipment, and flexibility. 

1) Check the weather – Avoid wet conditions

 Katahdin is all rocks, many of which are covered in lichen and can be slippery.  A fall on rocks anywhere is bad when you’re pregnant.  A fall on Katahdin with very limited rescue access could be a disaster.  It is VERY important to check the weather forecast before you go – so check the weather with rangers and on your own on your phone before you go.  Conditions can change quickly, but you can prepare yourself for most things if you do a little research ahead of time. A bit of moisture adds an element of challenge – fog and drizzle are often unavoidable on a stand-alone peak so be prepared for it.  But, as a pregnant woman I would not hike Katahdin in rain. Avoid it if possible, and if you get caught in the rain due to changing weather, take things as slowly as possible up there.  Peak-bagging is not worth the risk of hurting yourself or baby.

2) Trust Your Equipment – Wear good shoes!

Make sure you have a pair of boots or shoes that you know will provide you with good traction and ankle support for this hike.  For me, a major help was wearing my heavy-duty hiking boots.  I thought about wearing some trail running shoes, but now that my body weight is distributed in ways I’m not accustomed to, I often feel a bit unstable when I am out hiking. My hiking books have a Vibram sole that rarely slips and helps me feel confident in my footing, even in slightly wet conditions like I experienced.  Plus, ankle support is a must on uneven surfaces with loosening joints. 

3) Be prepared for some climbing – Ditch the pack if you can

If you think Katahdin is a “hike” you better think again.  In many places it’s a scramble over Volkswagon (or larger)-sized boulders.  In some places the trail is helped by the inclusion of small pieces of re-bar, just where a hand or foothold is lacking.  So, it’s not a walk in the park and there are plenty of places where you will have to climb and still find ways accommodate your belly.  One thing I did (or was forced into, but appreciated later) was ditch my pack.  I love wearing a backpack, and feel very comfortable with it, but my husband told me that there was no way he was going to let me wear one.  I thought about fighting him on it, but decided if he wanted to carry the 4 Nalgenes I packed to avoid dehydration, I wouldn’t argue with him.  I don’t regret that.  You’re carrying enough extra cargo.  If you can skip the pack, do it.

4) Trekking Poles – Your new best friend

I never hike with trekking poles.  But, as I began to plan for this hike I talked to some friends who had through-hiked the AT and got their impressions of Katahdin and what I could do to accommodate my condition.  Trekking poles was one suggestion that I do not regret listening to!  They saved me many awkward bends to balance myself, because they allowed me to stabilize myself while remaining relatively upright. 

One thing, however, is that when you get to the (long) section of climbing over boulders the poles can be a bit annoying to carry along with you.  You will have to do a lot of squatting and bending and throwing a leg or a hip up to get some leverage as you climb over boulders.  This is when you can be glad for a little extra flexibility (Thanks, Relaxin!), and enjoy it.  But, be aware, the trekking poles can become an annoyance at best, and a liability at worst, depending on how you use them in this section of the climb. In the balance, my feeling is that they did me a lot of good and I’d recommend bringing some along, but just be careful with them.

5) Be realistic – Have a bailout plan

Some real limits exist during pregnancy. Your joints aren’t as stable, and you may suffer from more fatigue than normal!  That’s OK!  If you don’t feel comfortable and confident in yourself as you hike Katahdin, remember that you can always stop.  There are other days and opportunities to climb.  Consider having a few check in points with your hiking crew along the way to assess how you and others feel, and truly be honest about whether you have it in you to do a long, strenuous, and technical hike.  There’s no shame in saying that today isn’t your day. You might be preventing a much more serious situation! 

6) Hike with others

Always a good idea – an even better idea at this point in your life!  If there is any kind of emergency, you will want to be with people who can help.  Hike with a group!

And with that, I think I have exhausted my tips on hiking Katahdin (or any challenging climb) while pregnant.  The major plusses are a huge feeling of accomplishment, and the knowledge that some day you’ll be telling your kid that he or she already did X, Y, or Z in utero!  In our case, Baby Frankie got to accompany Grandma L while she finished hiking the AT.  Not bad for a baby!  🙂

Head, shoulders, knees, and toes…

Check. Check. Check. And, check.

I don’t normally take the time to post two days in a row, but today was pretty fun and I wanted to share just a few bits of it.  Frankie made an appearance during our ultrasound visit and was very cooperative with the doctor and technician so we got to see all the goods – except the ones we didn’t want to see!

He/she has all the standard parts, which was great news.  He/she was moving around and showing off too.  We were fascinated to see the way his/her skeletal little frame moved and operated of its own accord.  Honestly, as my friend Jess was just saying to me this weekend, people think that as a woman you should be more prepared for the feelings that come with pregnancy – but my thought the whole time was “Holy shit!  That thing is inside me!”

We had one revealing moment where the baby put it’s hand against the wall of my uterus, so we could see its whole bone structure and there was no doubt that the hand was Rick’s.  He has engineer hands – square and straight across the fingers.  I have very differently shaped hands, and the hands we saw looked nothing like mine.  I smiled a bit, thinking of the saying “never marry a man unless you would like to have a son (or daughter) just like him.”  I was happy to see Rick’s hands come through loud and clear.  Hopefully Baby Frankie will take on some of his other qualities too.

We also had a chance to finally see the birthing units at the hospital we are probably going to use.  I had to say that I was not particularly excited.  The nurses were awesome and so helpful and friendly, but the bottom line is that I hate the feel of hospitals and this was hardly different, even though they try to make the rooms comfortable and cozy and do a lot to accommodate those who don’t want to feel like they are in a hospital.  I like that there are jacuzzi baths, squat bars, birth balls, and all sorts of other helpful tools, but I don’t know…  it’s not quite the birth experience I am envisioning in my head. I think for me, perhaps a lot of reading about home birth early on has shaped my judgments. There was not a lot of natural light, and all the machinery felt stifling. Birth seems like something that is so sacred and should happen in a place that feels comfortable and safe and peaceful. I think I will have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to feel that way about the birthing units at Rose – though they really are nice.  While I think home birth is something I would love and may want at some point, I think for the first time around I might want to go a more traditional route.  It’s hard to say and based on today’s visit I will have some real thinking to do on the matter.

Halfway there and other observations from the middle

Today marks 20 weeks in my pregnancy with the being we call Baby Frankie.  It’s hard to believe that I’m halfway through sometimes.  In some weeks each day felt achingly slow, and others just flew by.  Today, for the first time, someone who had not been told I was pregnant, felt bold enough to bring it up.  As she said, and I guess I must accept, I am now “obviously with child.”

It’s funny how hard it can be to accurately determine at what point you cross over into the “obviously with child” realm as opposed to the “possibly getting a bit chunky” realm.  Early on you feel like everyone must know that your extra paunch is baby-related, when in fact they probably haven’t even noticed it.  But soon enough you begin to think you are successfully flying under the radar and begin to wonder how you’ll start to share the news when it becomes necessary.  In some ways, I am glad my body broke the news for me. I’m happy to have moved into the former category, because it really gets old just feeling fat.  Honestly, for me I think that has been one of my hardest challenges in pregnancy.  As someone who has struggled with my weight for all of my life, including some short, dangerous interludes with anorexia and bulimia, simply feeling grateful for and accepting my changing body has been hard.  More than accepting the increased mass, has been the challenge of relaxing control over the things my body needs, what I can do, and my lifestyle generally.

Two weeks ago I ran a half marathon up in Aspen.  It isn’t crazy or overly ambitious to take on something like that during pregnancy, people do it all the time.  But, it does elicit reactions from people.  Maybe that was something I needed – just to hear that it was impressive to run a half marathon while pregnant.  At times pregnancy feels like it overtakes me, and I feel a grasping need to cling to the bits of my life that have previously defined me as more than just a woman and a vessel – as special and sweet that role is.  I needed something to make me feel ambitious and assert that I didn’t need to scale back my life.  The half marathon was a good way to do that.  But, as I ran I did notice that not all was as it should be, or would be, sans fetus.  My knees and hips ached in strange new ways, and my tendons made their presence known.  It was a different race, and though I hardly planned to PR, even I was bit surprised at how slow I was and how much my limitations were obvious.  Again a few weeks ago I felt similarly.  We made plans to ride Mount Evans, as we do each year.  It’s a big ride from Idaho Springs up to the summit at just over 14,000 feet.  Almost 60 miles round trip, and tough.  I knew riding to that altitude pregnant was unwise, so I planned to ride just to Echo Lake, a nice 30 mile ride.  I thought if I felt good perhaps I’d ride on, but at Echo Lake I turned back.  You see, even with my handlebars raised for added comfort, there still felt like there was a melon wedged into my pelvis, which was a bit uncomfortable.  Also, even though it didn’t slow me down too much, I felt a tad irresponsible tearing downhill 15 miles back to Idaho Springs on the descent.  It’s one thing to put yourself in harms way riding fast down a busy road, but another thing knowing that a small mistake could prove to be doubly harmful while you’re pregnant.

I guess all this reflection is mostly to observe that as much as I don’t want to accept that pregnancy imposes some new limitations on my life, I have to do just that.  In two weeks we are booked to fly to Maine and hike Mount Katahdin at the end of the Appalachian Trail with Rick’s mom.  Will I be able to complete the hike?  I sure hope so, but I am beginning to understand that there might be very valid reasons why I shouldn’t or can’t.    Pregnancy, finally after 20 weeks, is truly manifesting itself in more real ways in my life.  It’s amusing that even with a nursery all set up and as we begin to start interviewing doulas and making a birth plan, nothing has felt REALLY real until I couldn’t comfortably ride my road bike or run.

As of about a week and a half ago, I could feel the flutters of life moving around inside me.  To me it felt, as I told my mom, like “I am housing an unruly bluegill in my stomach.”  So much for the romance of butterflies.  Tomorrow we have our 20-week ultra-sound where we can learn whether it is a boy of girl.  We are still unsure if we really want to know, so don’t hold your breath for any updates.    Honestly, to me it will be an adventure either way and I’m not really entirely keen on removing this little piece of mystery from my life.  Today there are so few things in life that remain a mystery – it’s beautiful to hold on to a little spark of possibility without building in expectations one way or the other.

I have been musing for quite some time now, and I should get back to more pressing tasks.  I guess I will have to share the highlights of our long weekend in California with you at a later time.  It was an incredible trip and I can’t wait to describe it in more detail.  Til then, I’m off!