Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Clark's Birth Story - A Field Day

On my own Birthday I thought I would share the birth story of our first baby.  I couldn't ask for a better present on my 37th Birthday!

Clark was born on a beautiful Saturday morning in June.  He had waited just long enough for the perfect time to arrive.

The day before his arrival I was preparing myself for his birth. I walked my husband, James, to the metro several blocks away and opted to take a pass on my normal add on of a walk, or previously a run, through Meridian Hill Park.  Home was calling me.  I took care of some work on email and prioritized my day.  Top on the list was a nap and a swim.  When invited to lunch with a friend I contemplated whether I wanted to make my way over to L'Enfant Plaza. Normally I would love to meet up for lunch, but it felt both too far and that it would cut into my nap and swim time.

After enjoying both the nap and the swim, I met James for a final date night as just a married couple.  I opted for the spicy curry shrimp noodles to go with pregnancy induction traditions.  I wouldn't attribute the birth on it, but it was a tasty and a filling last meal.  I then called it early from playing rummy with my mom and headed to bed about 9:30 to get sleep while I could.

When James came to bed at midnight I felt my first contractions just after that.  At first I laid in bed and tried to sleep them off, knowing this is what all advice will tell you to do. After an hour I knew that they were coming often enough that I should start to time them and call my midwife. I laid there, going back and forth to the bathroom between contractions, while I timed the contractions.  Over the course of an hour they were steady but a bit irregular, ranging from 10 to 4 minutes in between.

I called the midwife around 2 and was told to take a bath to try to slow the contractions and get some sleep, and to call back at 7 if various signs had not occurred.  I knew at that point that there was little chance of getting sleep, but I would do what I could.  I called my twin sister and let her know that things were getting started.  She wanted to get on skype already and I said, sorry I love you, but I just can't talk to you right now.  I drew a bath and didn't last long in it, flipping from side to side with each contraction.

I called on James and my mom to start setting up the tub, to have it ready when I needed it.  By the time they were done setting up the tub and making up the bed I had given up on timing contractions because I couldn't be bothered. I asked James to help me, telling him okay at the start and end of each contraction. James then called the midwife back and let her know my progress, it was about 5 in the morning and she would be there in an hour.

I had them start filling the tub. As any expectant mom who has done a home water birth knows, this feels like it takes forever.  I eyed the tub as it slowly filled, contemplating slithering into the bottom of the filling tub just for the comfort of it.  I convinced myself that I could wait until it filled or the midwife arrived.  I managed, and it was worth the wait.

As it happened, my gym Mint was having one of their summer events that day.  A field day with good old fashioned field games.  Since Clark and I had had nearly perfect attendance at the gym 5-6 times a week throughout pregnancy, the joke had been that I'd either be there with a new born, be there nearly a week past due and kick some final but while pregnant (I had won the fitness competition in April while nearly nine months pregnant), or I'd be in labor.  It turns out that it would be the final option, the fitness goal I was most preparing for.  We were also invited to a pool party while I was in labor, but we were already having our own private pool party.

Over the course of early labor I was first surprised that I wanted nothing but to lie down and toss from side to side.  I had done a great deal of prenatal yoga and practiced supported labor techniques in our birth class.  At minimum I would have thought I would want to walk or stand, but neither had any appeal whatsoever.  The closest I got was misguaging an arrival of a contraction and hugging the wall until it passed.

The second surprise was that the labor process rendered me mute. It started to some degree earlier on, but perpetuated as labor progressed. It literally took me significant effort to utter the word water or lip balm.  If you could read my mind, all the better.  The was no need for words. It wasn't as if the pain was that bad, I just couldn't go there myself. I heard and listened to others, even replying in my mind, but rarely said a word.  While I realized this during labor, it really became apparent when the moment after his birth I was speaking in full sentences without any hesitation.  It's amazing what the body and mind can achieve.

I started to have the first urges to bare down just before I got in the tub.  I also recall my midwife noting how differently my belly was shaped.  We have a huge mirror right above where the tub was placed and I recall marveling at what it looked like to see my baby move down into position.  As I slipped into the tub the morning sun was suddenly streaming in through the room and across the tub. It was gorgeous and peaceful.

James sat at the edge of the tub and let me lean back on him or lean over the edge of the tub and rest my head upon him. That felt great. Eventually James needed some rest and pulled in my mom for support while he took a nap.

Our midwives Jennifer and Marilyn were fabulous. A big thanks to Birth Care and all the work they do.  They essentially did their thing will little bother to me. When Jennifer arrived and took my initial vitals she said that she didn't think she'd have to take them again. I didn't ask how long that would be, but trusted that things would progress as they should.  In the end I would have Clark eight minutes after they should have done my vitals, four hours later.

At one point early on the midwives enjoyed croissants and coffee on our gorgeous tree lined front terrace and marveled at what a great birth experience it was all around.  My twin sister was also present via web video, watching us from the middle of the night in Portland, as we heard the birds chirping from across the country.  Her family joined as they got up for breakfast and her three kids watched the birth in between cartoons.  They had been there, along with me, for the birth of their youngest child, Teagan, now nine months old. 

Things continued to progress. After getting in the tub it was easier to simply relax into the labor process.  At one point my midwife asked if things might be slowing down since I was so calm, which was not the case, it was just very relaxing and contractions came and went. I could feel my body literally contracting and pushing my baby down.  I really wouldn't categorize these a painful, in some ways it was akin to an abdominal workout where you are pushing it to your limits. When you are fit it doesn't hurt, but feels strengthening.

Eventual things were moving along and my mom went to get James.  She looked in all of the obvious spots and somehow couldn't find him in our 950 sq ft apartment. At last she checked the bedroom again and found that he had actually fallen asleep on the floor, so as not to disturb the made up bed.

Not so long after James joined I knew that things were moving along. I could feel him getting closer and closer, letting each contraction work it's magic.  I shifted into a supported squat position, holding on to James' arms, and let gravity help. I shifted back down onto my knees and with the next push the head was out. 

One of the midwives came over to get a fetal heart rate with a Doppler and was surprised to realize there was a head.  In my mind I was thinking, of course I know there is a head. She later commented that she'd never been at a birth where it wasn't really obvious when that moment happened.

I shifted around onto my back and prepare to birth the rest of my baby, and then a last time onto my hip as I reached down and pulled our son up onto my chest.  My water broke in the final moments of birth as well.  Clark was slightly occiput, or with his head askew a bit from the ideal positioning, meaning he came out at a wider angle.

Our son Clark Pierce Hendrickson was born at 10:38 am. He had a reassuring first breath and had good color, looking around at the world.  We knew right away that he was a big guy, later weighing in at 8lbs 14oz and 21in tall.

 While my expectations for the pain of child birth was that it would be less painful than most people make it out to be, the actual experience was even far less painful than I had prepared myself for.  I guess I'll thank nature's drugs at work and count myself fortunate for having had the pleasure to birth in the comfort and privacy of our home.

We hung out in the tub for about ten minutes and then got out to birth the placenta. I squatted a bit and was told to give a big push, which was so big that the splash of blood was huge and even hit the midwife in the forehead. The placenta was one of the biggest that they had seen, at about ten pounds and with a very thick and healthy cord.  Everything came out quick and easily and James cut the cord. When I started to stand to go back to the bedroom I became woozy and was very close to entirely passing out.  Luckily I had already given Clark to James and was able to quickly come around.

We settled into bed and Clark began to nurse within the first bit.  After us both being checked out we were recommended to take a four hour nap and then have a real meal. We napped and then my mom made dinner and we sat outside together on the front terrace with the sun setting through the trees and the perfect temperature. It was anything but quiet, with sirens, a presidential motorcade, and Saturday evening revelers, but it couldn't have been more peaceful and relaxing.  The weather was idyllic and we stayed there until dark was upon us.  A beautiful way to spend our first day with Clark as part of our family.
Our big guy, with beautiful rosy cheeks, stole his mama's heart from the start!  If you are interested at all in home birth or a fabulous read, then I highly recommend Baby Catcher, by Peggy Vincent.
 One day old!  So yummy and sweet!

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Nomad

Yesterday was pretty representative of a day in the life of a this nomad.

5:50 - Wake up to new kitty, Jasmine, jumping up onto the headboard, then onto the shelf of our bedside mirror, knocking down one of my chakra stones collected in Zimbabwe.

6:00 - Alarm goes off.  Put on workout clothes. Listen to coffee start and glad that I prepped last night. Hunt for keys to get housesitter.  We are headed to Hawaii tomorrow and I've just secured the cat sitter before going to bed last night.  Can't find keys.  Continue to throw stuff in a pile to prep for packing.

6:50 - Opt to walk hubbie to the metro since I don't have the keys to bring to the house sitter.  Halfway to the metro I realize that I can take James' keys and copy them before the end of the day.  We part ways and I run up to Mt. Pleasant.  It is one of the steepest hills in Washington.  It was on our regular route when James and I ran years ago together with more regularity than today.  I pass our stopping point with speed and charge along into the heart of Mt. Pleasant.  I drop keys on in a candle holder of a beautiful Victoria group house of a former colleague and friend.  The run is one of my best.  Weather is finally beautiful and I'm rocking it.

7:30 - Back at home, continue to pack, get dressed, etc.

8:37 - Head to the office.  Late.  As usual.  Power walk to the office.

9:03 - Meeting about contingency planning for Zimbabwe.

9:37 - Catch up on emails from overnight.  See that Ethiopia bid needs some help.  Due today.

10:01 - Easter egg hunt.  Happen to find one of the eggs with a note for a prize in it.  Wonder what I'll do with a peanut butter filled rabbit that I would have eyed as a kid.

10:02 - Planning meeting for a proposal in Kenya.  Discussion of opportunity in South Africa.

10:30 - Start to focus again on Ethiopia proposal due.  In short, I worked for 4 hours on it the day before and then had debate with team developing it about changes made to improve likelihood of winning.  Work on further clarification and honing with several folks.

1:00 - Skip regional meeting in lieu of deadline.

1:16 - Meeting called by partner about bid for Zimbabwe.

1:30 - Skip call with potential partner about South Africa bid, due to time crunch.

1:32 - Do a final rework of concept note to ensure technical integrity.  This adds a quarter of a page that I then have to edit down at lightening speed.

1:45 - Normal hiccups with online submission that typically happen when you least want them to.

1:57 - Submit proposal with three minutes to spare.

2:01 - Meeting to discuss proposal workshop from last week, discuss how to improve systems.

3:00 - Out of meeting, thankfully on time.  Realize that lunch has happened.  Run downstairs and grab a Pepe "Unwich" with peppers, essentially a lettuce wrap with ham.  Run into old boss as he exits the parking garage.  He'll call me.

3:11 - Half of lunch finished.  Call from previous boss to work on evaluation of previous country director.

3:26 - Call with LA office about how to set up a survey to improve systems.  Walk through basics, mostly realizing it will take more time/effort than I have.

3:40 - Out on time to head to partners meeting about Zimbabwe.

3:56 - There early.  Discuss changes to proposal.  Our bid won against the incumbent and great odds. Discuss details and deadlines to turn a response back to the donor in the next two weeks.

5:02 - Leave and call potential partner for South Africa opportunity.  Walk through Dupont Circle considering if this is something we should go after.  Doing so would mean not going to Hawaii. Huge opportunity in trade for a great deal of work and giving up Hawaii.

5:26 - Safeway stop for cat litter, cereal, creamer and frozen lunches for hubbie.  We've been eating everything out of our fridge in anticipation of going to Hawaii.

5:46 - Home.  Sweep. Change laundry. Clean out fridge. Clean counters.  Continue to pile/pack. Make smoothie and slurp while running around.  Grab aloha dress and consider whether I'll be headed to Hawaii or South Africa.

6:46 - Talk with James, he is on his way home.  I'll leave new keys under the flower pot before I go to yoga.  We discuss South Africa.  He encourages me to talk with my boss and consider it. 

6:51 - Head to advance inversion yoga class.  Call boss and leave a message.  Stand on my head with ease and marvel.  Can't help but consider travel options when in shavasana.

8:32 - Text boss back while walking home.  Continue to pack/clean/discuss options with James.

9:17 - Have nearly an hour call with my boss about Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa.  It seems like South Africa is a go if I'm wiling to go after it.

10:26 - Sit down to draft up action emails on Zimbabwe, South Africa, and a few others.  Talk with sis for 4 minutes; let her know I may not be in Portland tomorrow night (en route to Hawaii).

12:22 - Hit send.  Brush teeth.  Go to bed. can't sleep.

6:00 - Alarm tolls.  Start again.  Consider list of to-dos, depending on if I go to South Africa or Hawaii tonight. 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dupont Circle Rotary

I couldn't be more delighted than to find the incredible Dupont Circle Rotary Club. It is a fabulous group of dedicated and inspiring folks that I enjoy getting together with every Tuesday evening. It is one of the highlights of my week.

Traditionally Rotary clubs might often be dubbed as an "old white guys" club. Our club does just about everything feasible to step away from that tradition. We are known as the "young club" but could easily add diverse to that description as well. We hail from all over the globe and would cover the globe in all the places we have collectively traveled.

As we celebrate our first year anniversary this evening, we still have a lot to learn. Both from the thousands of clubs that have come before us, as well as from ourselves, as we continue to challenge ourselves as a Club. I am certainly looking forward to the journey.

In Peace,


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rotary Intro

One of the most exciting and rewarding changes in my life has been becoming a Rotary International member.  I was first an a Rotary Exchange Student twenty years ago, when I was bit by the travel bug and launched my nomadic tendencies.

You may have seen Rotary signs around town, on various service projects, or heard of Rotary in general. Like many people I talk with though, you may wonder, what is Rotary?

Rotary is an international service organization, with the primary motto of Service above Self.

With 1.2 million members worldwide, comprised of 34,000 clubs around the globe, clubs meet weekly and engage in service oriented project both in their local communities and in partnership with clubs internationally to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.
The Rotary way is illustrated in its four way test:
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Does it build goodwill and better friendship?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
More to come on Rotary.  I will be focusing on Rotary topics each Tuesday, when my club meets weekly.

In Peace & Goodwill,


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pirates, Bird of Paradise & Meerkats, oh my!

Last weekend we enjoyed the incredible weather by exploring Roosevelt Island with a couple of friends.  Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Island, a small pedestrian island in the Potomac, has been on my to see list since I moved to Washington over nine years ago.  So close and yet so far away.

As we walked along, my friend asked, as usual about upcoming travels.  I noted several planned trips to Oregon, and the possibility of Hawaii or Africa.  I added that James and I had been talking about finding somewhere nearby to explore some place in the region, but that since we'd been talking about that possibility for years, I didn't know how likely it was that it would happen.  She laughed, noting that I talk about exploring Virgina in about the same way as one talks about the remote possibility of traveling to Africa.  Yet, based on past behaviors, I'd be more likely to end up in Africa or elsewhere than to make it past Dulles in Virgina.
Photo: Real Pirates Book
This weekend my husband James and I continued on the theme of exploring the local, with a walk down to the National Geographic exhibit on Real Pirates, Birds of Paradise, and a Meerkat movie.

Birds of Paradise have quite the moves and have adapted to be beautiful because, in an environment with plentiful food and few predators, they have nothing to worry about but procreation.

Take away on meerkats: It's all about team work and family, but don't forget whose in charge.

What have you explored locally lately?



Thursday, March 14, 2013

End Polio Now - Rotary & Gates

Today I had the fun opportunity to join in a photo op of Rotary International Members and Bill Gates, I'm just about dead center in the photo, just to the left of Gates!

I first learned of Rotary International's efforts to eradicate polio in 1993, as I was preparing to be a Rotary Youth Exchange Student to Finland.  I vividly remember watching a video that spring that left me inspired.  While I had already made up my mind to be a Peace Corps Volunteer around age 8, I'm most certain that my early experience with Rotary led very much to the career that I have today.

Not only did my exchange get me on a plane for the first time and allow me to live abroad and get the travel bug, it also instilled in me wanting to do more and to give back.

Rotary has now contributed more than $1 BILLION over the past two decades to eradicate polio.  In 2009 Gates decided it was a cause worth contributing to, and pitched in $350M, challenging Rotary to raise another $200M.  Recently Bloomberg has pledged another $100M to add to the End Polio Now campaign.

While there is something to be said about giving millions of your own money to a very worthy cause, I love thinking about all that Rotary did over the years to contribute to that $1B.  With 1.2 million members worldwide, I am certain that nearly all of them have contributed something, in either money, time or both.

Beyond the money itself, it took a dream. A vision that likely seemed improbably to achieve when they first started on this journey.  The last steps to eradicate polio are taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, and we won't quit until we are done.

We are "this close" now!

This close!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

On Call Traveler

Over the last seven years I've become accustomed to frequent and last minute travel.  I've had more than several month long trips come up with 48-72 hours notice.  In fact I keep my passport at the office, as you never know when you'll need to apply for a visa.

With the new year I was promoted to take on the role of Development Innovations Specialists, working on developing new programs globally rather than managing one region within Africa.  While my overall travel time may likely not significantly increase, the uncertainty of my travel plans feels much higher.

I've averaged traveling for about a third of the year for the past several, after a big travel year when I was on the road for three quarters of the year.  Just as I'm becoming accustomed to a slightly more settled lifestyle, the uncertainty takes on an increase.

While only enjoying two weeks in Oregon for vacation since the new year, I've been on stand by for possible  travel to various locations in Africa, the Middle East and the South Pacific.  It is both exciting and a bit unnerving.  I love the travel, but I also know the disruption it often causes on my home life and the responsibilities that continue to grow.

Folks are often asking where I'm headed to next, and the answer most of the time is uncertainty.  If I could have a crystal ball to look back from the end of the year and see where I will travel that would be divine.  Last year I traveled to Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom, and Turkey, plus five trips to the west coast.  Though a somewhat heavy schedule for some, this could have been predicted pretty easily from the onset.  We'll see where the year takes me!

Safe travels,