Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Happy Birthday, Baby

A lot has happened in the three years since I regularly kept up with my blog. A lot.

My love for fitness, nutrition and CrossFit lead me down the path to training and sharing that love with others. After about a year of training, I decided I wanted even more out of life.

My husband and I happily added a new member to our family one year ago today. I had a healthy, relatively uneventful pregnancy (and continued to workout and eat healthy through the entirety of it) and my labor was everything I wanted it to be. As others around me struggle to obtain their own pregnancy and labor ideals, I realize just how blessed we were and how rare it is that everything should go according to plan, although I was completely unaware of it at the time.

Looking back over the last year, I have come to the conclusion that there are certain aspects of parenthood that people do not talk about in polite conversation. Labor being the primary culprit.

To commemorate the birth of our son, I want to share my birth story publicly. If it encourages, inspires or informs even one expecting mother of any aspect of the labor process, it will have been worth it. Two pieces of advice before I get started: 1) Be informed. 2) Be your own advocate.

Without further ado...

The day had finally arrived. Loved ones sent text messages congratulating me, wishing me a “happy due date!” As if some egg timer had gone off in my womb alerting the boy that it was time to evacuate uterus.

The problem is February 27 came and went without incident. And the countdown was only a reminder that life could change at any minute. The clock was now blinking “00:00:00” as we anxiously awaited his arrival.

I felt trapped. I needed to get out of the house. Sitting around waiting for birth to start was like watching a pot and waiting for it to boil.

So, I ventured out to two local gyms to cheer on my fellow athletes competing in the CrossFit Open. Excited well wishers offered me their seats and expressed how great I looked (especially given that I had reached my due date) – thank you for that reminder!

Yes, Friday February 27 came and went without incident.

Once more, on Saturday February 28, we ventured to the gym to cheer on friends and to coax this baby out of his hiding space. We went out to brunch afterward, chatted excitedly about the top scores in the Region for the CrossFit Open, and made tentative plans to travel to support our top athletes if they should somehow make their way to the regionals competition.

In all the excitement of the morning, something had happened. Gravity had shifted. The baby was making his way south. At first, I thought the discomfort was because I had waited too long to go to the bathroom; but as I waddled around the neighborhood with the dog later that morning, I knew, or hoped, rather, that S was on his way.

For the better part of the afternoon, I sat at the dining room table watching Downton Abbey (a recent addiction) on Amazon Prime, making laps around the living room every hour or so. When I began to feel my uterus contracting for the first time, I called our doula, Gabby.

“I think I’m in early labor.”

“Have you timed your contractions?”

“They’re pretty inconsistent, but I can feel them,” I told her. “They’re about 2 minutes long and 10 minutes apart, and I feel dizzy.”

“Let me come put eyes on you.”

A few minutes later, she was at the door. After an assessment and sitting with us for a while, she conceded that we were likely in early labor. She asked me to take a bath, time my contractions again and give her a call.

So off to the bathroom my iPad and I went to relax with the residents of Downton. When it was time to time my contractions again, they had all but disappeared.

Meanwhile, a friend brought over a tray of chicken enchiladas with the claim that they had sent two of her friends into active labor; it was either the enchiladas or perfect timing on her part. We dug in excitedly with hopes that labor would begin again before I called and reported the bad news to the doula that my contractions had seemingly stopped.

Our doula came by to sit and chat with us a while longer before she told me to relax with a small glass of wine and get some sleep, that she would come back by in the morning.

We never quite made it to morning.

Most of the night passed uneventfully. I woke twice to use the restroom as I did on most nights. Around 5:30, as I was leaving the bathroom, I felt a warm gush. That’s odd, I thought, turning to head back to the toilet. I had just sat down when I felt a second warm gush and a pop from within. There was blood everywhere.

This was not right. This was not how this was supposed to happen. I panicked.

“9-1-1! 9-1-1! 9-1-1!” I shouted to my husband, still asleep in bed. Before I knew it he was on the phone with Gabby and subsequently our midwife, who requested to speak to me.

She asked the question that struck fear into my heart: “when was the last time you felt the baby move?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I’ve been sleeping.”

She directed us to come straight to the hospital, adding, “don’t worry about the car seat.”

In retrospect, she knew that my mother had a history of fast births and that was probably her primary concern at the time. Unfortunately, I also have a tendency to panic (see above).

After what felt like an eternity later (read: roughly 5 to 10 minutes), our doula had whisked me away to the hospital while my husband packed our car and headed to drop off our dog at a friend’s house.

Somewhere along the ride to the hospital, the first real contraction hit me. “I can do this,” I sighed with relief after the first one passed. It was around that same time that I was thanking Jesus that I felt the baby move for the first time since falling asleep the night before. A peace that passes all understanding fell upon me (Philippians 4:7).

I began to time the contractions. They were lasting one minute in length and were four minutes apart. We had intended to labor at the house as long as possible, until the contractions were one minute in length and five minutes apart. Given the timing, we were doing fairly well.

The strangest thoughts go through your mind while you are having contractions. As I focused on my breathing and cleared my mind, I had the clearest vision of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone giving himself a pep talk: This is it, don’t get scared now.


I felt like running when we arrived at the hospital, but Gabby advised against it. We checked in at Labor and Delivery where they asked me a series of questions, which I calmly answered even though my head was screaming. Don’t you people know I am having a baby here?!

We were ushered into a birthing room where our midwife, Roberta, met us with a handful of nurses. It was around 6:45 a.m. at this point, just before the shift change. The nurses continued to ask questions through the contractions as they hooked me up to the non-stress test to get a read on my contractions and the baby’s heart rate. Sure enough, baby was perfectly healthy. To my disappointment, Roberta said I was only 4 cm dilated but that we would be admitted because my bag of waters had broken. She added that she would check my cervix again around 11 a.m. or noon – this would later be a source of great amusement.

We were really doing this.

My husband arrived shortly thereafter and assisted me in answering further questions from the hospital staff. The nurses confirmed that I wished to receive no pain medication and that I was refusing the use of an IV or hep-lock in my arm. I signed a waiver that I knew this could delay the administration of life saving care, fluid or drugs in the event of an emergency. I knew my baby and I were in higher hands and it would not be necessary.

After 20 minutes or so, they released me from the equipment and allowed me to walk the hallways. We paused every so often to work our way through contractions. I draped my arms around my husband and buried my face in his shoulder as I waited for the contractions to pass. Each time, my mind went blank as I focused on my breathing.  Once it passed, I went back to conversation with my husband and Gabby, as we all walked hand in hand down the hallway.

After two laps, we were flagged back into the labor room for more monitoring. I stood by the edge of the bed while they listened to the baby’s heart rate with a handheld Doppler. At this point, the shift change had occurred, and I remember one of the nurses specifically because she had previously been a midwife. No more questions about pain medications, she was on board with the rest of us with our natural birth in a hospital setting. What a relief.

Here is where the details begin to get fuzzy:

At this point, I asked that the birth ball be brought to the room. We labored there shortly before I felt the urge to use the restroom. Into the restroom my entourage and I went. We labored there for a while before deciding to move to the whirlpool tub next door. My husband stayed behind to change into his bathing suit to join me in the tub, but we did not make it to the tub before I began to feel nauseous. Gabby called for a bucket as I dangled my head over the sink in the whirlpool room.

The nausea was some sort of trigger for the nurses and the midwife, because they ushered me back into the labor room to check my cervix again. In the matter of about an hour, I had dilated from 4 cm to 8 cm. Much to my delight, Roberta allowed me to venture back to the whirlpool tub.

The tub was heaven, as far as I was concerned. The pain of the contractions was a minor annoyance as my tension melted away. My husband sat behind me stroking my hair and Gabby sat across from me, holding my hand and talking to me between contractions.

It was not long before I felt I was ready to push. Roberta joined us and said that it was not quite time yet. I breathed through another contraction calmly. Okay, I thought. We still have some time. I was wrong. The desire to push returned at the next contraction. I do not know how long I was laboring in the whirlpool tub, but I do know that when Roberta checked me again, I was fully dilated and we were ready to push.

They wrapped my naked body in a towel as they whisked me away back to the laboring room, which was, thankfully, right next door. In the commotion, I did not notice that some interested nurses followed us into the labor room. My husband told me later that they crowded around the doorway until he asked that all unnecessary persons leave the room. I was oblivious to this, as I fell on my hands and knees at the edge of the bed determined to begin pushing right then and there.

A couple of contractions later, I moved onto the bed and continued to push on hands and knees. I am not certain how long I labored that way, but I eventually requested to lie on my side and push. Gabby held one leg and my husband held the other.

I remember screaming at the end of a couple of the pushes, and I would apologize for screaming after the contraction had passed. A few times, I pleaded with Roberta to “get him out!” But there was nothing anyone could do for me.

It was just my self. My breath. My body. My baby.

Finally, I remember begging Roberta and everyone to stop whatever it was that they were doing. “Stop pushing. It hurts. Stop, stop, stop!” Roberta calmly reassured me that nobody was touching me and that the sensation I was feeling was my baby’s head.

My husband handed off my leg to one of the nurses and he gloved up in preparation to catch the baby. A few more pushes and I felt a pop (!). “Is he out?” Almost. His head was here. One more push and I felt his shoulders, torso and legs leave the safety of my body, and he was here. A few seconds later, and my baby was lying on my chest, face to face with me.

Nurses swooped in to cover us with blankets and wipe him down. The cord was cut, the placenta was birthed, and people were admiring the baby and congratulating us, but I heard and knew nothing but my beautiful baby boy as he lay there against my bare chest.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Check your pockets...

This is going to be a quick post, but I'm going to write it from atop my soap box. **ahem** Can everybody hear me down there? Okay, good...

Despite the fact that I've been living the Paleo lifestyle for just under a year now, I still get all the questions of why, and the accusations of being on a diet. First of all, I'm proud of my hard work and find it insulting to be told I am on a diet. Child please! Second, why wouldn't I live a lifestyle that makes me feel great, perform better, and improve my blood work?

I suppose better than answering their questions, I could pose the same question to them: Why do you eat the way you do?

Why do you eat processed foods high in sodium and preservatives?

Why do you eat genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?

Why do you drink liquid filled with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and calories?

Why do you poison your body on a regular basis and inch closer towards modern, degenerative diseases which have been linked to your diet, such as obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and even cancer?

Seriously, HFCS is the primary sweetener in a high percentage of processed foods in the United States, and multiple studies in 2009 determined that more than half of the samples of commercial HFCS contained mercury. You wouldn't willingly crack open an old mercury thermometer and chug it down would you? A mercury thermometer typically contains about .5 grams of mercury. The average American consumes about 12 teaspoons of HFCS. How much mercury, I wonder, is consumed over the course of a lifetime unknowingly?

Rather than trying to defend myself any longer, I am going to start turning this question around on the unsuspecting accuser. Perhaps some forced mindfulness would do these people some good.

**climbs down off soapbox**

Phew. Now that I got that out of the way, enjoy this YouTube video which epitomizes my home life. ;)



On second thought, now that I've come down from the upper atmosphere and had a good laugh, I think the better response is to be humble. And certainly not argumentative.

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. - Proverbs 29:11

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sweet Potato Linguine with Sage and Mushroom Chicken

Okay folks, here it is. The moment you've all been waiting for...


...it's recipe time!

Over the weekend I was experimenting with some new flavors. I have been trying to eat less red meat and more chicken and seafood to keep my triglycerides under control (I've determined red meat, egg yolks, and stress are the culprit of my higher-than-I-would-like triglycerides). But when you're accustomed to eating bacon every day, chicken is boring. There. I said it.

Live chickens would be much more fun, but I still haven't gotten hubby on board with letting me have a chicken coop in the backyard. Not sure how the neighbors or the HOA would feel about that either... but I digress...

I promise it tastes better than it looks.

Sweet Potato Linguine Topped with Grilled Chicken Smothered in Sage and Mushroom Sauce
(A working title)
Serves 4, or 2 with leftovers for lunch
Ingredients:
1 large Sweet Potato (or 2 medium), cleaned and peeled
4 tbsp organic Butter or Coconut Oil (1 tbsp separated)
1/2 cup chopped Onion
8-10 Mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 tsp chopped Parsley
2/3 cups Coconut Milk
2/3 cups Water
4 tbsp chopped Sage (1 tbsp separated)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 and 1/2 pounds of Chicken Breast, thinly sliced (should be 4 cutlets or more)
Iodized Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. If you have a mandolin, I'm jealous, this recipe will take you less time than it took me. Slice the sweet potato thinly with the mandolin and slice those slices into 1/4 inch strips, much like linguine noodles. (I don't have a mandolin, so I sliced it into 1/2 inch strips and then used a potato peeler to slice it thinly like noodles.) Set aside.
  2. Melt 3 tbsp of butter in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute one minute before adding mushrooms and parsley. Saute until mushrooms brown (about 5 to 10 minutes).
  3. When your mushrooms are brown, add the coconut milk and water to the sauce pan. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it reduce (about 10 minutes). If you're in a hurry or the sauce isn't thickening, try stirring in 2 tsp of arrowroot powder, 1 tsp at a time.
  4. Meanwhile, add olive oil to a grill pan over medium heat. Add the chicken cutlets and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
  5. Melt the remaining 1 tbsp of butter in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. As it melts, add 1 tbsp of sage. Add sweet potato to the pan, tossing to coat with butter.
  6. Stir 2 to 3 minutes or until tender and warmed through, then prepare to plate.
  7. When the mushroom sauce has reduced to the desired thickness (should stick to a wooden spoon), add the remaining 3 tbsp of sage and blend it into the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. When the chicken is cooked through, place on top of the sweet potato linguine and smother with the sage and mushroom sauce. Viola!
So this recipe jumps around a bit. There's a lot going on at once, so I tried to place it in a timeline that would lead to a successful meal. Take care not to overcook the sauce as it will separate if you leave it on the heat for too long. And sorry about the photos. I'm not an artist or a photographer, and it was all I could do not to eat it. You're lucky you get to see what it looks like at all! ;)

Enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Girls Rule and Boys Drool!

Today was a magical day. I woke up to find the weather predictor live background of my phone snowing. I thought for sure I was still dreaming. But no. Snow was falling when I began my trek to work this morning.

I wish I would have snagged a picture of it, because now it looks like this:

Blehhhh.
A rainy Monday afternoon meant no outdoor activities for the Running Club. Four coaches and 20 some odd kids took over the school gymnasium for stretching, push-ups, crunches, and burpees! By choice, mind you. One of the young boys led the warm-up. I knew then he was a child after my own heart.

My future baby.
After the warm-up exercises, we moved onto some core exercises to include high knees and planks. The kids did NOT. Like. Planks. There was so much moaning and groaning I thought I was in a pregnancy ward. After our abs were burning, we decided to attack the thighs.

The kids lined up on the wall for wall sits. Yup. These little nine to eleven-year-old children do wall sits. They are that awesome. But here's the best part...

The only way to get the kids to focus on a single exercise for an extended period of time is to make it a competition. The schoolyard classic: Boys vs. girls.

Last Monday, the girls beat the boys in a relay when the girls overcame a major deficit in the second half of the race. The boys were in this one to win it.

I lined up on the wall alongside the kids to join the girls' team. That young boy, the one from above with the burpees, is to my left. He turns and looks up at me, and with the most eager eyes says to me, "But you can't be on the girls team. You like working out too much and you're too good at it!"

I think all the ice outside melted when he said it. I gave him a big smile and told him, "that just means you're going to have to work harder to win it for the boys!"

Flash forward 45 seconds. One of the coaches starts counting down the last 15 seconds of the wall sit. Students were dropping left and right. There were just a handful of us left against the wall. My legs were shaking. He turns to me again, "your legs are shaking." Thank you, Captain Obvious!

I just smiled and told him I was not going to give up.

5...4...3...2...1... time!

Everyone stands up. Everyone, that is, except for the boy to my left. Everyone else steps away from the wall and he jumps up victoriously, "I WIN! BOYS WIN" He was the last one in a wall sit. Well played, my boy. Well played.

I am not certain who is getting more out of these Monday afternoons with the Running Club, the kids or me. I am in love with them. I am glad I decided to sacrifice an evening at the gym to volunteer for this great group. I am only sad I waited so late in the season to join them.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Is this the real life?

Holy cow! It's been nearly two months since I've made a blog post. That really shouldn't be allowed.

February, being the short month that it was, flew by. Then March came in like a lion.

Here are the highlights:

  • Began attending Academic Lectures for the Instructor Training Program (more on that here)
  • Registered for the CrossFit Games Open.
  • Celebrated Valentine's Day with Bacon-Covered Roses from my hubby
Which required a purchase from US Wellness Meats
  • Entertained a weekend with the in-laws and managed to stay WLC compliant
  • Dominated the CrossFit Games Open WOD 13.1 with a new PR
  • Experimented with new recipes...
How to poach the perfect egg
  • Started volunteering at a local elementary school's running club
  • Signed up to mentor an at-risk youth at a local high school
  • Dominated the CrossFit Games Open WOD 13.2

As of this posting, I'm currently sitting at 2240th place in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Not impressive, you say? Then go away. This blog isn't for you. I'm here to learn about personal growth and inspire others.

13.2 was a 10 minute AMRAP of five shoulder to overhead at 75 pounds, followed by 10 deadlifts at the same weight, and 15 box jumps on a 20-inch box.

For the elite athletes, this is considered a moderately light weight. Going in, I knew I would have to move the loads as quickly as possible. My strategy was two-fold: 1) don't rest in the overhead position (sounds obvious, I know, but I have a tendency to lock out overhead and rest there) 2) don't let go of the bar between the shoulder to overhead and the deadlifts. 

I went in with a goal of seven complete rounds. Had it not been for the two times I tripped on the box jumps, I might have had it! I was two box jumps shy of my goal. I'm super proud of my performance though. I gave it my all and left everything I had in the gym.

So far, I have successfully predicted more than 50% of the workout for each Open WOD. I had predicted burpees for 13.1 (burpees and snatch ladder) and deadlifts and box jumps for 13.2 (described above). For 13.3, I'm predicting rowing and wall balls or thrusters. We'll see if I can continue my prediction streak when the WOD is announced Wednesday.

In the meantime, I think I will be sharing some more recipes very soon. I made one this weekend of which I was particularly proud... grilled chicken smothered in mushroom and sage gravy over a bed of sweet potato linguine. Sound delicious? It was. Check back later this week for the recipe and photo.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Fish Fry

A Fish Fry is a meal which typically consists of a battered or breaded fish, french fries, coleslaw, hush puppies and dessert. Seeing as how I haven't tried any paleo hush puppy recipes yet (although now I'm determined to find one), my Sunday Fish Fry consisted of only the fish and fries with a side of sugar snap peas! Aw, snap!


The Fried Fish recipe is fairly similar to my fried chicken recipe, but with a few tweaks.

Fried Fish
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 pound cold water, wild caught fish (In this instance, I used Flounder)
1.5 cups of Blanched Almond Flour
2 tbsp Ground Lemon Pepper
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Parsley Flakes
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Iodized Sea Salt
1 Egg
Coconut Oil for frying
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl.
  3. Melt coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan).
  4. Dip the fish fillet in the egg, coating the fish.
  5. Lay the fish in the dry ingredients and toss to coat, flipping to ensure both sides are coated.
  6. Place the fish in the frying pan. Cook on each side about 4 minutes until brown and the fish is cooked through.
  7. Remove from the pan and serve hot!
Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4
Ingredients:
4 Sweet Potatoes, sliced in 1/4 inch thick strips
Pork Fat for coating
2 tbsp Cinnamon
4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
4 tsp Ground Pepper
2 tsp Iodized Sea Salt

  1. Toss potato strips in melted pork fat, just enough to coat.
  2. Sprinkle spices on potatoes and continue to toss to coat.
  3. Use pork fat to grease foil on a baking sheet.
  4. Spread the potatoes evenly on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees, keeping an eye on them to retrieve them at the desired crispiness.
As far as the sugar snap peas, I just boil those for about 5 minutes. Voila! You've got yourself a paleo-friendly fish fry!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Holisticly Speaking...

A lot more goes into maintaining a healthy lifestyle than working out regularly and eating your fruits and veggies, although that certainly helps.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. The Mayo Clinic presents five reasonably practical and predictable measures to prevent heart disease:
  1. Don't smoke or use tobacco. (check)
  2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. (check)
  3. Eat a heart-healthy diet. (check)
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. (check)
  5. Get regular health screenings. (check)
I prefer to take a more holistic approach to the issue.

More progressive resources recommend reducing or managing stress to prevent heart disease. Gaiam lists managing stress levels as one of the top ten ways to prevent heart disease for both men and women, recommending meditation, breathing exercises and yoga as methods to achieve less stress.

Here's a few of my favorite ways to reduce stress:

  • First and foremost, identify your sources of stress and eliminate them. If there is a person in your life who is poisonous and causes you nothing but trouble, cut them out. If your job causes undue stress, talk to your boss openly about the subject; let them know they are expecting too much of you or that you need to change your hours to better fit your activities outside of work. If worse comes to worse, change careers. A lifetime full of stress at a job you dislike will only shorten the time you spend doing things you enjoy. Finally, reduce visual clutter. Clutter can cause unnecessary stress. Live simply.
  • Get enough rest. Aim for eight hours of sleep a night. I know this isn't easy. I rarely get that much sleep myself. But try to make it a priority. Make it a goal to be in bed an hour before you need to be to get your eight hours. Read until you start to fall asleep. Talk to your companions (husband or fury ones) about your day. If you aim to be in bed well before it's time, you'll almost certainly achieve that goal.
  • Spend time with your furry loved ones. Speaking of furry companions, they are great stress reducers on their own. Try being sad when a ball of fluff cuddles up in your lap on the couch or greets you at the front door after a long, hard day at the office. Pets also make great listeners and they don't judge you, so go ahead and vent about the woman at work who thinks Zumba is the equivalent of an intense workout and thinks diet Coke is part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Be social and have fun. There's a certain truth to the old saying, "laughter is the best medicine." Laughter reduces stress. Having fun and being social with friends and family allows you to forget about the factors that cause stress. Live. Laugh. Love. A LOT.
  • Seek out alternative wellness options that focus on you. Taking time for yourself is important for achieving total health and wellness. Spending an hour a month on a massage table or with a reflexologist is a great way to focus on your qi. Detoxing your body, muscles and mind can do wonders to lift your mood and allow you to forget about stress.
I have always enjoyed a good massage and have talked to the hubster about making them regular occurrences. Thus far, massages have only happened regularly on my birthday or special occasions, including our honeymoon.

This weekend, however, I had my first ever reflexology appointment with essential oils. It was ah-maze-ing. As I laid on the table and rest my eyes, I could feel my entire being tingling. I felt radiant when I left, from my head to my peppermint and lavender-scented feet.

Some benefits of the practice of reflexology include enhanced sleep quality, greater energy, improved concentration,  and **ding ding ding** reduced stress!

Living a healthy lifestyle may require work, but you cannot forget about the end goal: a healthy, happy you. Remember to take time out for yourself and reduce stress.

You're too blessed to be stressed.