Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How being a doula is like crewing/pacing an ultramarathon runner (or running one yourself)

Shortly after I attended the Birth Doula Workshop last summer, I connected with an expecting mama who would become my first ever client.  When this amazing mama went into labor 3 weeks early, I found myself doula-ing a little bit earlier than I had anticipated.  In fact, we were still at my parents’ house for Christmas when I got the call.

Luckily, we were only a 3 hour drive away from St. Louis.  Rob, Will, and I loaded the car and headed back without delay.  When we arrived at our house, I had some peanut butter toast (what I eat in the morning before running an ultra), and quickly gathered a few more items to put in my doula bag (which was actually my Victory Bag— what I use for a drop bag during a race).

V bag

I made myself a bottle of Tailwind Nutrition (company motto: “All you need, all day.  Really.”), figuring that since this was the stuff that got me through the Farmdale-Jubilee 30-mile trail run, I could use it to keep myself fueled/hydrated during the birth (however long it might be).  I put on a pair of field pants (the ones I wore everyday when I lived in Nicaragua) because they had lots of pockets, and at our training workshop, the instructors told us to make sure to wear something with lots of pockets when we were at a birth.  (The pockets did come in really handy).  Then I put on my Buff headband, because you can pretty much do anything with a Buff headband, including but not limited to, keeping your hair out of your face.  I looked kind of like this:

IMG 2742 (Note, this photo was actually taken several days before I was on my way to the birth.  It just strongly resembles what I looked like when I showed up at the hospital).

Then it was time to decide on footwear.  I went with my New Balance Minimus WT 1010’s.  I love these shoes and am pretty sure I could run or doula in them forever, but they are falling apart, and I knew I wouldn’t mind if they for any reason got ruined.

IMG 2506 (See that rip in the fabric? It happened with less than 100 miles on the shoes and is terribly disappointing).

It was time to go.  

Being a doula involves emotional support as well as physical support and pain management techniques, but in many ways it felt so much like I was crewing or pacing someone in an ultra.  It reminded me of last year at Fuego y Agua, when Rob was in a really rough patch by the time he finally made it to El Porvenir.  I could see how low his spirits were, and I could see the dread in his face as he contemplated the 4200 ft climb up Volcan Maderas.

I cheered for him.  I told him that he was doing great and that everything was going to be fine.  I told him that he would get a second wind, enabling him to charge up the volcano and into the elfin could forests, where it would be cool and misty and he would have a break from the relentless heat.  I told him that after he made it to the top, to descend like Kilian.  

You just have to find the right words, the right tone.  Make them find the strength that they don’t even know they have.  You can’t let them think about how long it might take or what might be down the road.  We are just here in this moment, getting through this one contraction.  Then we rest, we breathe.  And we go on.

The baby was born, healthy and vibrant, late that night.  When everything and everyone had settled down, I came back home.  I showered to scrub the hospital off of me.  It was midnight and I hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours.  I didn’t even end up drinking the Tailwind I’d brought with me.  I was hungry, but too tired to prepare anything, so I drank some chocolate soy milk and ate one of Rob’s mint-flavored Builder Bars.  It is the kind of thing I do after running an ultra, and I wondered if this might become a post-birth ritual for me, if I ever have the chance to be someone’s doula again.

I hope I do.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Staring down the brilliant dream

In case you missed it, I quit my job.  We’re moving to Colorado.

It will be a while before we can tie up all the lose ends and get out of here, but when we do, we’re heading west and not stopping until we get to Fort Collins.

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Although this news may seem like a shock, it was a long time coming.  You all know how I feel about St. Louis.

There is a smile on my face in the picture, but in truth, these have been very difficult days and many, many months of sleepless nights.  

In the end, I was just done with this.  Done, done, done.  Done.

It didn’t help matters that the temperature was 8 below (they had that Siberian Cold Front) in Fort Collins on the day I sent my resignation, but I did it anyway.  

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Friday was my last day:

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My co-workers threw a going away party for me, even though I had asked them not to.  They gave me gifts and wished me well.  I will miss them terribly. (I already do).

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This is tough because I have no idea what lies ahead.  I’ve got no job and no plan.  Not where I thought I’d end up in my 30’s.  I mean, I was a high school valedictorian.  Phi Beta Kappa.  Magna Cum Laude. I have a PhD.  But I’ve been staring down the brilliant dream for too long.

After I had a child, I knew I couldn’t handle, didn’t even want, and wasn't qualified for an academic career.  I tried to stay in the game with an office job tangentially related to my degree, but I only ended up burned out, exhausted, and jaded beyond all belief.  

I am overwhelmed at the thought of having to pick up the pieces and start completely over, but at least when I do, I will have Rob and Will and a place with an amazing view.  Raw, desolate, beautiful.


Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dear William (52 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 52 months old!

What a month it has been.

We had Thanksgiving, and we kept with Ragfield Family Tradition by not having any tradition.  We got the heck out of town and went somewhere raw and desolate and beautiful.

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Fort Collins


We found you a playground: 


You loved it.



You loved running in the mountains:

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So did your dad:

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You hiked with Mommy, but you weren't feeling very well.  Maybe it was the altitude.

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You were very cross during the hike, and with only about a half mile left to go, you decided to lay down on the trail and take a nap.  It was rough, but I can only assume that brighter days are ahead.

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After we made it back home, we got a Christmas tree:

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It may just be our best tree yet.


You have your own little tree for your room.


You are very excited about the Christmas decorations.  You have been wearing a Santa hat for days.

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We got some snow this month!  They were predicting the Storm of the Century, but it only amounted to about an inch and  a half.  You and I took out the brand new sled your daddy got you and made the best of it.  We had so much fun.  Even with just a little bit of snow, we could go flying down the hill in the park!

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 When you are not sledding, you are still very interested in planes.

Wings around the globe

Donuts too:


One day, you woke up wearing mis-matched pajamas and convinced your dad to make chocolate chip pancakes with you.


William, we have had quite a month.  Big changes are in store for us soon.  It's going to be great.

Love always,


Sunday, December 8, 2013

You're A Vegan, What Do You Eat? (Spinach Salad and Sriracha Dressing Edition)

I don't actually eat much salad, which is surprising to most non-vegans, because I think they think that salad is all we eat.

So even though it's untrue to character, I've been on a real salad kick lately.  Spinach salad, to be exact.  

It all began when our family went on an Oh My God What Are We Doing With Our Lives road trip and found ourselves walking into a restaurant called Mad Greens, at a somewhat undisclosed location in Northern Colorado:

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For a place named Mad Greens, this restaurant didn't have a whole heck of a lot of vegan options on the menu.  I was road weary and didn't know what to do, but the helpful college boy behind the counter suggested the Ernest Hemingway salad (Spinach, Cucumbers, Mandarin Orange slices, Red Onions, Toasted Almonds), with the addition of grilled mushrooms, and a spicy Sriracha dressing. 

You had me at "Sriracha," college boy.

He suggested that I taste a spoonful of the dressing before he put it on my salad, just to make sure I liked it.  I did.

Mad Greens
Rob had run up and down a mountain that morning, so he wanted the big salad.

Rob Horsetooth 2
And here is said mountain.

The Mad Greens people made our salads in giant stainless steel bowls.  My salad probably had the equivalent of one of those family size bags of pre-washed baby spinach that you can buy at the grocery store.  But I ate the whole thing.  It was delicious.  And you know how when you've been on the road, sitting in the car a lot, and not eating so healthy, you just want something nutritious?  This hit the spot.

I have been reminiscing about that salad ever since, but unfortunately, we're nearly a thousand miles away from the nearest Mad Greens.  

The salad itself seemed like it would be pretty easy to recreate, it was the Sriracha dressing that I didn't know how to make.  A quick Google search revealed that most Sriracha salad dressing recipes contain… mayonnaise.

Surely, surely, that nice college boy would not have mislead me about the Sriracha dressing at Mad Greens.  He said it was vegan.  And if you happen to know that it is not vegan, please don't tell me.  There's nothing I can do about it now, and frankly, I would rather not know.

After a little bit of trial and error, I think I've created a pretty fantastic vegan Sriracha dressing of my own:

  • 2 tablespoons of Veganaise (or your other favorite vegan mayo substitute)
  • 2 teaspoons (more or less to taste) of Sriracha
  • Approximately 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (in the version I made today, I used smoked garlic powder)
  • A couple of good shakes of Balsamic Vinegar
  • A pinch or two of sugar.
Whisk it until all lumps are gone.  That probably makes enough to thoroughly cover about 2-3 salads, but if you are like me, you will have to physically restrain yourself from just drinking it out of the bowl.

Sriracha dressing


Spinach salad

And the end product: perfection.  Note the red onions.  This is no small victory.  Only 4-1/2 years since hyperemesis, and I can finally (most of the time) tolerate them again.


Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

You're A Vegan, What Do You Eat? (Roasted Vegetable Edition)

I've been on a real Roasted Vegetable kick lately-- I guess it's the arrival of winter.  Somehow I just want clean, simple foods.  Warm and nutritious.  

Mainly, I've been roasting green things, such as broccoli and asparagus.  After washing and cutting up the vegetables, I toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and lemon juice.  Then I arrange them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 425 for about 15-20 minutes.  I will warn you though, that a little bit of roasted broccoli goes a long way.  Maybe it is just because I still have somewhat of a hyperemetic aversion to most green vegetables (a difficult and sad situation, especially since I am vegan), but I find myself regretting it if I eat more than a couple pieces of roasted broccoli.  At least in roasted form, though, I can eat a little of it.  That is more than I can say for raw or steamed.    


IMG 2476


Still in the mood for roasted vegetables, this evening I tried to recreate the amazingly delicious dish I made for Thanksgiving last year.  I took onion, celery, leeks, carrots, brussel's sprouts, and potatoes and tossed them with a mix of olive oil, melted Earth Balance, salt/pepper, and garlic and onion powder.  I roasted them at 425 (the smoke alarm goes off if I set the oven for any higher than that) for about 55 minutes.  I also made a package of Whole Foods Vegan Stuffing, and I made my own gravy from this recipe.

Roasted Veg

Vegan comfort food at its finest.  Well, sort of.  The gravy was pretty good, but I thought the stuffing and vegetables were rather lackluster.  The vegetables seemed to hold more promise than the stuffing.  If I were to do this again (which I probably will), I would eliminate the celery (even though I recall that being pretty good at Thanksgiving last year) and leeks.  I think it also needed a whole lot more of the Earth Balance baste, with a lot more garlic powder added to it.  And a splash of liquid smoke too (I had forgotten I'd added that last year).

As for the rest of the family, Rob really enjoyed the meal (he did not think the packaged stuffing was bland), but Will wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole.  Which is how he is with most foods.  It is frustrating.

Still, it was a good meal to have for the coldest day of the season so far.  I think it was only about 11 degrees when I ran this morning (I felt like I had brain freeze on my forehead this morning when running into the wind even though, yes, I was wearing a hat), and the high might have been around 20.  Cold day, but for the most part, we stayed warm.

Thanks for reading.