London Marathon

Running the London Marathon has been on my ‘bucket list’ ever since I first conceived the idea that I might one day run 26.2 miles. I watched the London Marathon unfold on the television year after year as a child, scanning the crowds visible on screen, looking for interesting costumes or perhaps the glimpse of the familiar face of a friend or family member. My Mum and Dad ran the event together in 1985. They returned home triumphant, walking unevenly on sore legs, telling tales of roaring crowds, cobblestone streets, and the friendly comraderie of like-minded runners. They told us how they huddled together clad in black bin bags before the event, and then after the event, crowded onto the tube wearing their medals with pride, wrapped in silver mylar blankets that looked like futuristic space-capes. The silver space-capes were the best gift a returning parent could present to us kids after the marathon, fuelling weeks of imaginative super-hero intergalactic adventuring.

I have entered the London Marathon lottery 3 times in the past 4 years, but had never managed to secure a spot. Still, I was determined to run it someday, somehow. I had a partially formed plan that involved running for a charity – most likely for Guide Dogs – and had a vague idea that I would pursue this plan for either the 2016 or 2017 event. Running a marathon in 2015 wasn’t on my radar at all – between a new job, an upcoming family wedding and a variety of other commitments and plans, I had decided that running the 3M half marathon and the Austin half marathon was going to be plenty for me to deal with this year. And then in early January, the chance to run the 2015 London Marathon appeared on the horizon. When opportunity knocks, you’ve got to open the darn door. Never mind that my “long run” was only at 8 miles and we were only 15 weeks out from the event. Never mind that I wasn’t sure how I would get the time off work to participate. Never mind that plane tickets to London don’t grow on trees. I’d figure all that out if it meant I got to run London. There was no way I was going to decline. I said yes.

A plan formed. Me, Teresa, Jill and Christopher would run London. I outlined a training plan to get us up to 26.2 miles in time. Jill came up with costume ideas. Teresa proposed travel itineraries. It was all very exciting.

We were going to run the marathon!

When the alarm rang at 6.30am on Sunday April 26th I was already awake, curled up in a ball on the bed, peering out from beneath my duvet at the gear I had set out the night before. I brushed my teeth and put on sunscreen and liberally applied body glide to all the bits that are prone to chafing. I put on my super-cute Princess Anna race outfit. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and had a cup of tea. I gathered my kit bag and headed down to the hotel lobby with Teresa to meet Jill and Christopher at 7.15am.

By 7.30am, we were all piled onto red London buses and headed to the Green starting area in Blackheath. The roads we were driving on were lined with silver barriers as teams of people closed the streets in preparation for the marathon. We drove past the 12 mile marker and I did a quick mental calculation of when I might see that point of the course again – I reckoned it would be sometime around 12.30pm, which was quite sobering given that it wasn’t even 8am yet!

We arrived at the Green start around 8am. It was cold and drizzling and the grass was wet. I felt excited and nervous. We went over to the Guinness World Record area where Jill had her picture taken and signed autographs as Cinderella. Then we were able to get access to one of the tents, which was super awesome because it was a lot less wet and cold inside the tent, and the loos had a much shorter line. Yay! So with 2 hours to go until the marathon was due to start, we settled in to our tent to wait. I fiddled with my gear. I redid my hair 3 times. I snacked. I chatted with my friends and tent-mates and took a bunch of pictures. Basically, I did everything I could to not think too much about the run itself. Mark came by the Green start and I ventured out into the cold to see him briefly. I put my kit bag on the gear truck so it would be waiting for me at the finish line.

Finally, it was time. We lined up at 10am for a 10.10am start time. Oh the nerves! Ahhhh! So awesome! So scary!

And then we were running! There were spectators lining the route beginning as soon as we exited the starting chute. Mark was at the very first corner, cheering us on and trying to take pictures in the madness of it all. I fell in beside Teresa and the two of us tucked in behind Jill and Christopher for the first couple of miles, following the wake of Jill’s Cinderella skirt. I tried to control my breathing and take it all in. My feet were completely numb from being wet and cold, but the rest of me felt pretty good. We ran through a residential area that had speed humps every few hundred meters, and each hump had a volunteer standing by it shouting “Hump!”. Eventually my toes defrosted enough to regain feeling. Unfortunately, once I could feel my toes, I realized my wet socks were bunched up and bothering me. I talked to Teresa and agreed that I would pull off to the side and straighten out my socks when there was an opportunity. We pulled over and I straightened out my socks as best I could, then jammed my feet back into my shoes and started running again. Teresa was right by my side, but Jill and Christopher stayed back to take a little walk break.

Teresa and I chatted. I was still feeling nervy. There were so many runners everywhere! Just an endless stream as far as I could see in front and behind! Then the Green start merged with the Blue start and suddenly there were even more runners! A river of runners, completely filling both lanes of the road, bouncing along on fresh legs. I tried to take it all in. There were just so many people. And even at this early stage of the course, there were plenty of spectators cheering us all on.

The next few miles are a blur of chatter and crowd watching. We saw all sorts of costumes – running beer bottles, running apples, running Spongebob Squarepants, a giraffe, a gorilla, all manner of sparkly dresses and tutus on both men and women. It quickly became apparent that as Princess Anna of Arendelle, my best audience was the under-10 girls set – they were the ones who called out and cheered for Princess Anna, tugging on their parents’ sleeves and waving enthusiastically as I passed by. It seems that the cult of Anna/Frozen has not yet reached the more mature masses. Ah, well. Teresa, dressed in an adorable Bambi t-shirt and wearing reindeer antlers on her head fared better with the crowd. She got a lot of “Go, Bambi!”, many “Go, reindeer!” and several “Go, Rudolph!”. Of course, Jill, running in a full-length hooped Cinderella dress complete with tiara and long white gloves was the smash hit! People loved Cinderella! As they should.

The London crowds were simply amazing from start to finish. They really cheer people on. Most runners had their names printed on their shirts, and the crowds then specifically cheer for “Fred” or “Mary”….or “Fat Paul” or “Baldy Bob”…..you get the idea. In the US there are lots of people with funny and/or encouraging signs, but they only really shout and cheer when “their” runners go by. In London, there were far fewer signs, but the crowds cheer for everyone, all the time. It’s like running through a street party at times – there were people dressed in tuxes cheering and drinking pints on the side of the road, there were families having barbecues and handing out sweeties. There was a non-stop soundtrack of pop music and brass bands and drum ensembles to go along with the cheering. It never let up.

We ran past the Cutty Sark and wound our way through the streets. We took a quick bathroom break and I took off one of my shirts, hoping to pass it to Mark sometime soon. I had no idea where we actually were, but I kept scanning the crowd and looking for a familiar face. Sometime around mile 9, I saw Mark and Derek and Indira cheering for us on the side of the road, but there were too many runners between us and them, so we just waved and kept on going. I took off my Anna cape and tied it to my flip belt, not wanting to wear it anymore, but unwilling to let it go. (Ha!). The mile markers kept ticking past until at a certain point things started to look a bit familiar. I realized Teresa had pulled directly alongside me and was looking straight at me. “What is it?”, I asked, looking around. And then I saw it. Tower Bridge was just ahead! Teresa knew it was coming up, but it caught me by surprise. The crowd on the bridge seemed to cheer even louder as we crossed. There was music playing and my heart just swelled with the enormity of it all. I was running the London Marathon. Right here, right now. And as I tried my best to drink in the moment, looking beyond the crowd and out over the Thames, my eyes filled with tears.

I felt a certain satisfaction as we hit the 12 mile marker just before 12.30pm, as I had predicted we would, and thought how slowly and yet how fast the time had gone between getting on the bus and getting to where we were. Almost half way! There were speedy runners going back in the other direction, going through the 22m mark as we approached 13m. They only had 4 miles to go. I had….a lot more…. But no sense in worrying about it. One foot in front of the other. More crowds, more cheering, more music. My Garmin buzzed and beeped and we steadily chewed through the miles.

Sometime around mile 16 we ran through an area that was just a wall of sound – drums beating, people shouting. Then I saw Mark in the crowd. He was holding up the sign Alexander and Suzanna made for me, and I just lost it. By the time I got to him I was crying like a baby. Naturally, he found this concerning. “Are you alright?”. “Yes. I’m fine! I’m great! It’s just so amazing and overwhelming!”, I sobbed as I lobbed my sweaty t-shirt at him.

We ran through more neighbourhoods, more street parties, more friendly supporters. I joined the crowd in singing along with “Hi ho Silver Lining” which was blasting from a stereo system along the route. I accepted a dollop of Vaseline to quell some potential chafing under my arms, I accepted half a banana from someone and a handful of Jelly Babies from another random stranger . I was starting to tire. Unfortunately, without the pink cape, it was harder for my already limited fan base to identify Princess Anna. Teresa suggested putting the cape back on, so as to draw from its super powers. I did. I felt better.

Around mile 21 we saw Jill’s husband Dick on the side of the road. He gave each a hug, told us we were looking great and asked me how I was feeling. Apparently I told him I was ready to be done. I don’t even remember that, but I was speaking the truth.

Then we hit the point where the 12 mile marker was on the other side of the road. There were still a few people on the course, marching onwards as the marathon crew started their clean-up operations, collecting all the discarded bottles and gu packets and scrubbing the blue course guide lines off the tarmac. Gosh, those people still had a long way to go! I just had 4 miles to go. Just 4 miles. Still 4 miles. Ugh. I was tired.

We saw a golden retriever puppy in the crowd. Puppy!

We ran into a tunnel and Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ was playing. “This is Suzanna’s favourite request in the car at the moment!” I told Teresa. I sang along. ‘Roar’ ended and “Eye Of The Tiger” started blasting. “This is Alexander’s favourite request in the car at the moment!” I told Teresa. “It’s like they are cheering you on!” said Teresa. And I thought about it and decided it was the Universe’s way of letting my children cheer for me from far away. And I cried. Again.

3 miles to go. Plod, plod, plod. The crowds were on fire with their enthusiastic cheering. We ran along Embankment, towards the picture postcard icons of London’s skyline – the London Eye, the Thames, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Big Ben struck 3pm. 2 miles to go. An airplane flew overhead through the postcard setting. We turned right in front of Big Ben, and ran past Westminster Abbey. The church bells were ringing. It was like the entire city of London was putting on a show for us. It was amazing. I took deep breaths.

1 mile to go.

As we turned onto Birdcage walk, I realized that Buckingham Palace and the finish line were both oh-so-close, and I totally lost it. I was about to finish the London Marathon and I was so happy and so emotional and the crowds were cheering so loud that I cried. Again. And the more I cried the more the crowd cheered and the more they cheered the more I cried. It was ridiculous!

Teresa and I rounded the final corner together, and I barreled towards the finish line with the last of my strength. We held hands, raised our arms high, and crossed the line together. We got our medals. We did it.

I’d be lying if I said it was easy. It was not easy. But it was amazing. It was fantastic. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I am so thankful to Jill, Dick, Christopher, Teresa and of course Mark for the whole fabulous London Marathon experience. I’m thankful for all my AWDAT buddies who trained with me and made the long runs not just bearable but actually fun. I’m thankful for my parents for introducing me to the idea of the London Marathon in the first place and for taking care of my kids so Mark and I could be in London together for this. I’m thankful for my sisters and all my friends who supported me both in person and from afar with messages of encouragement.

And last but not least, I’m thankful for my children for bringing me cups of tea on the sofa after long training runs when I just didn’t want to get up. You’ll be pleased to hear that I brought back a silver mylar marathon blanket for each of my kids, and that the blankets are currently being used as props in imaginative adventures for superhero space travellers. Maybe one day they will run the London Marathon.

Anti-Social

Dear Friends Around The World,

Hi there! I haven’t actually forgotten about you. I hope you haven’t forgotten about me. I still like you. You are fun and cool and I totally wish we would hang out more. But you live so far away! Or…you live right here in town, and I still never see you because you don’t live on my street or work in my building, or hang out at my parents house (which is probably just as well, because that would be strange) and those are pretty much the only places I’ve been spending time for the past year.

But! I have plans. Grand intentions! To leave the house and Do Things. Like….going for a run perhaps, or talking to husband-man and/or friend-type people face-to-face in public places like a restaurant, or a cafe, or maybe even a pub. It could happen, one day. We have 3 nights of babysitting booked for the next month. Three!

My intended re-acquaintance with the Land of Sociable Adults should have been our family holiday to San Diego, where we spent 4 lovely days with friends. But it turned out to just be a practice run, since I immediately came down with a horrible 3-week long cold as soon as I boarded the plane back to Austin, and have been a congested, sleep-deprived wreck ever since. My cold seems to be on it’s way out at last, just in time for work to turn ridiculous in the run up to Thanksgiving. There’s always something.

I’m sorry I’ve been absent for a while. Let’s get together soon. I’ve missed you.

-K

2009 in review, meme style

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Ran a marathon. Flew Business class to Australia. Rode the bullet train in Japan. Gave birth to a daughter.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next this year?
I didn’t really have any New Year’s resolutions last year. I had some general goals – keep going to the gym, run a marathon – and I managed to carry those out. I’ll have some general goals for 2010 too, but I haven’t decided what exactly those are yet.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Well, I did! And also Derek & Indira, Glyn & Joanne and Eric & Kate welcomed babies to their families, to name but a few….so, yes…lots of birthing going on.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No. And for this I am very thankful.

5. What countries did you visit?
Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and France.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A waistline? Being pregnant for most of 2009 kind of put a dent in that.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Sunday, November 29 2009. The day Suzanna was born.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
The birth of my beautiful, healthy baby girl.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I’m sure there are plenty of things I screwed up. Let’s not dwell on them.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not really. I had a couple of colds and what not, and I tweaked my back a few times in the second half of the pregnancy, but nothing too bad.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Hmm. Either my entry to the 2009 Austin Marathon, or possibly our new French door refrigerator, which I just luuuuurve.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Into renovating our home.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Going to Australia for Evan and Trish’s wedding. Going to Japan to visit Katie and Marc. The completion of our home renovations. Alexander’s success at potty training. The arrival of Suzanna.

14. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Don’t Stop Believin‘”. I guess my obsession with this song started with Glee, but I also had the original on heavy iPod rotation during workouts.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) more happy or more sad?
About the same. I was pretty happy this time last year, and I’m pretty happy now too. 🙂
b) thinner or fatter?
Fatter for sure! This time last year, I was neck deep in marathon preparations. Now I’m neck deep in nursing and nappy changes.
c) richer or poorer?
Poorer financially, mostly because I took a 20% pay cut through the first half of 2009 and now I’m on maternity leave, which is mostly unpaid (I get 12 weeks leave, but only get paid for 5 weeks at 60% of my salary…such are the joys of the US system) and we poured a bunch of money into renovating the house. It was money well spent and all that.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing on this here weblog of mine, so I’d have better, more clear recollections of what we did in the past year. Somehow 2009 is quite a blur.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about Alexander – specifically, moving him to a Big Boy bed and potty training. He transitioned seamlessly from the crib to the twin bed and although potty training had it’s challenging moments, it really only took a couple of months, and Alexander has been without accidents in the potty department now for at least a month. Everyone said he would regress when Suzanna arrived, but he hasn’t. He’s really stepped up to the Big Boy expectations in so many ways. I’m so proud of him!

18. How will you spend Christmas?
Up early with the kids. Have some breakfast and open some pressies at home. Walk the Rose. Bundle everyone into the car and head over to my parents house. Have brunch. Open more pressies. Walk/nap/veg in front of computer/telly. Have Christmas dinner with my parents, sisters etc. Zzzzz.

19. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Yes, with Suzanna. It’s amazing to me how we humans are wired to expand our capacity for love with the arrival of a new family member. I love Mark and Alexander and Rosie just as much as I ever did, if not more. But now I love Suzanna too.

20. What was your favorite TV program?
The Mentalist“.

21. What was the best book you read?
Probably The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

22. What was your favorite film of this year?
Probably “Star Trek“.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 34. I can’t really remember what we did though! Apparently I’m getting old. I think we went out for dinner to Fino.

24. What kept you sane?
Going to the gym with Billie.

25. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Patrick Jane from The Mentalist, aka Simon Baker. Tasty.

26. Who did you miss?
Katie and Marc when they were in Japan. All the Australian branch of the family. It was so fun for Alexander to play with his cousin when we visited in March. I wish we had the opportunity for them to play like that more often.

27. Who was the best new person you met?
Suzanna!

[swiped from Shauna]

Birth Story, Part III

Continued from Part I and Part II

A few notes from after the birth:

– Unlike when Alexander was born, with Suzanna, all the weighing and measuring and bathing etc were done in the delivery room, so she was never out of sight. This meant that Mark, Suzanna and I were never split up. That was nice.
– Since the epidural never really took hold of me, I was able to get up and walk to the bathroom by myself shortly after delivery. That was really nice.
– Did I mention that I didn’t need any stitches? That was really super nice.
– Katie and Marc came to visit us in the delivery room and helped us to move and settled into the new room.
– When everything that needed to be taken care of was completed in the delivery room, we were moved en masse across to the Nesting rooms. It was very close by. On our way to the new room, we passed by the same nurse I had talked to in the lobby area upon my arrival that day. The one who tried to get me into a wheelchair. I recognised her and said “Hey! I had my baby!”. She laughed and said “Well done! That didn’t take long!”.
– Once we were installed in the new room, it was still only early afternoon, so we had plenty of time for my parents, Alexander and Lennie to come and visit us. They brought us lunch from Uno. Mmm.
– We tackled a small mountain of paperwork that afternoon. Whew.
– Mark made sure Suzanna and I were settled in and happy, and then he was able to go out for dinner with Alexander and my parents, which was nice for Alexander. Mark came back to visit Suzanna and I at the hospital after dinner and brought us a few things from home, then he went home again to try to get some real sleep.
– Real sleep is hard to come by in a hospital. There are all sorts of people who need to come and poke at you at all hours of the day and night. And if they weren’t prodding at me, then they needed to check on Suzanna. So even though Suzanna was a perfect angel, and even though I was crazy tired, I still didn’t manage to get much sleep.
– Thus, when morning rolled around, my goal for the day was to get us dismissed from the hospital. There are a lot of items that need to be dealt with in order to gain approval to leave! We visited with Suzanna’s doctor, my doctor, Suzanna did a hearing test and had some blood work done, I had a tetanus shot and we filled in yet more paperwork. Alexander and Heather came to visit around lunch time, and then Billie came by to visit us after she finished work, and was able to help us to get packed up to leave.
– Finally, we got the all-clear to leave around 5pm. We secured Suzanna into her car seat and trundled down to the car with our belongings. Once we were all loaded into the car, Mark drove carefully up Mopac in the thick of Monday evening rush hour traffic, in the freezing cold rain.

My labour and Suzanna’s birth were so very different from Alexander’s arrival in so many ways. I don’t know why I was expecting them to be more similar, but it seems that whether consciously or unconsciously, I was expecting events to unfold in a similar manner and timeframe, and it kind of threw me for a loop when things didn’t play out the same way. In retrospect it seems absurd that I should have even considered that the birth of my very different children should be in any way the same.

One final note on the topic of Suzanna’s arrival that I don’t think I’ve mentioned up until now – she was born on her actual due date! For whatever reason, I had got it stuck in my brain that Suzanna was due on November 28th. But the doctors and nurses all confirmed that the official due date in my medical file was November 29th! So there you go. Suzanna was exactly on time.

Birth Story, Part II

Continued from Part I….

– Once it was clear that baby was indeed on her way, it was time to go through the process of checking on the baby with the external fetal monitors. This process of being in active labour and needing to lie down on the bed whilst being monitored was something I had been dreading. I lay down on my side and the nurse attached the monitors. I stayed in that position for a little while, but not the full 20 minutes requested, opting instead to move to sitting on the ball with the monitors still attached. From my point of view, this was a good thing. I felt a lot less anxious about pain management once I got out of the bed.
– I’m not sure how long it took, but after a while, the nurse seemed satisfied with the data gathered about the baby’s heartrate and whatnot, and we took the external monitors off. Whew. Free at last.
– All this while, Erica and Mark worked with me to make me as comfortable as possible. Mark stayed close by and applied counter pressure to my back during contractions. Erica put cool wash cloths on my neck and placed peppermint aromatherapy oils nearby to help with nausea. Every so often I was aware that there was music playing softly in the background. I specifically remember listening to “Blackbird” at some point, and for whatever reason that song has stayed with me, floating around my brain.
– At some point, I went into the bathroom to use the toilet. While I was in there, the doctor who was on call came in to check on me. I thought I had met all the doctors at my OBGYN’s practice, but I didn’t know this doctor. So, I’m inside the toilet, with the door closed when the doctor, who I have never met, comes into the room. The very first words I hear come out of her mouth are something to the effect of “Has her water broken yet? No? Ok, well we can rupture the membranes to help move things along faster.”. Immediately, alarm bells started ringing in my head. This was not what I had in mind! I finished up in the bathroom and shuffled out to meet my doctor. I decided to introduce myself. “Hi. I’m Kristen. We haven’t met before.” I don’t remember exactly what was said from here, but between me, Mark and Erica, we made it clear that I was progressing just fine and no artificial rupturing of anything would be required at this point in time. To which the doctor replied “Oh. Well, I guess they’ll rupture at some point.”. She guesses? GUESSES? Pah. [Also, I’m pretty sure the doc was wearing some sort of perfume. If I had to guess, it was something Estee Lauder – either Beautiful or Pleasures. It may have been pretty faint, but I could still smell it. It made me feel nauseous. Ick.]
– I laboured for a while longer, mostly sitting on the ball, bent over the bed with my head on a pillow. I began feeling increasingly nauseous and DANG those contraction hurt. I started asking for an epidural. Mark and Erica talked calmly to me, explaining that in all likelihood I was going through transition and this was the worst part and soon it would be time to push and so on. And I wanted to believe them. But I was flat out terrified of having to lie on my back for delivery without any pain management in place. So I persisted with my request for an epidural.
– At some point around this time, a new nurse started working with us. Our previous nurse had been called in to assist with another birth in a neighbouring room. Although I liked the first nurse – she was supportive and upbeat – I was kind of glad when she left….because she was so supportive and upbeat. Apparently I prefer silence when I’m concentrating during labour. New nurse was a lot more quiet.
– An IV was placed to get the necessary fluids into me as required by the docs before the epidural could be administered. Then the anasthesiologist showed up and asked me to get into bed and lie on my side, so he could do his thing. I got onto the bed and lay down, only to promptly get up onto my hands and knees in preparation for an oncoming contraction. I figured I would deal with that contraction first before laying down, since I knew it would hurt more once I was on my side in bed. But the contraction just went on and on and on, and after a while, the anasthesiologist helpfully informed me that if I would just lie down, he could administer the epidural, and my pain would go away. I snapped my head up, and said “Yeah. I get that.” and finally succumbed to laying on my side.
– HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THINGS PAINFUL. Is there anything worse than having mega-contractions whilst laying down in a bed and trying to stay still so that someone can stick an enormously long needle into your spine? I THINK NOT.
– And then it was done, and the pain eased and I waited for the fog to lift. Which it did….sort of…except that my next set of contractions made me want to PUSH. My body knew what it wanted to do, and it just did it. The pushing motion broke my water and suddenly there was a full on gush of warmth. I told the nurse, Mark and Erica the news. “Uh. I want to push. And my water broke.” The nurse peered beneath the sheet that was draped over my lower body and asked “How long did you push with your first child?”. “Not long.”, I answered. The nurse promptly disappeared from my field of view and called in the doctor and delivery team. Meanwhile, Erica started to prepare the bed for push time, lifting the stirrups out for placement. As she was doing so, the nurse told her not to put the stirrups up yet and that we needed to wait until I was ready to push since the combination of the epidural and having my legs up in the stirrups for an extended period of time was a paralysis risk. As all this was going, the doctor arrived, checked me and asked the nurse to put the stirrups up, because I was ready to push. HA.
– All this while, I could still feel the contractions and I could still wiggle my own toes. The epidural had taken most of the pain away, but I still had sensation in my lower body. The first proper push attempt felt very different than it had with Alexander’s birth. I could feel what I was doing. And it was quite hurty. Meanwhile, the doctor started messing with my delivery zone, presumably to help prepare for the upcoming stretchathon. YOWCH. I snapped my head up and shouted at her “HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING DOWN THERE!”. She looked up and caught my eye momentarily before answering brusquely “Trying to make sure you don’t tear. It’s looking tight. Did you have an episiotomy with your first birth?”. “No, I did not!”, I replied. And in my head I was screaming “AND I DON’T WANT ONE THIS TIME, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.” but I kept that gem to myself.
– Fortunately, after about 20 or 25 minutes of working hard with the pushing, the baby appeared without any further drama, and the next thing I knew, she was there in all her glory, wailing and wriggling on my chest. For all the doctor’s doom and gloom, the baby was delivered with only very minor tearing and I did not need any stitches. So YAY for that.
– Oh, just remembered one more thing – when the baby arrived, the doctor announced “Congratulations! It’s a boy!” and I was all “What? A boy? Really?” while doc quickly corrected herself “It’s a girl! Sorry! A girl!”.

Suzanna Mary was born at 11.51am on Sunday November 29th, a mere ~3 hours after we arrived at the hospital that morning. Not a bad, eh? She is beautiful and perfect and nurses like an absolute champ. We could not be more thrilled.

Part III to follow soon – a short round up of what happened once Suzanna arrived and some general reflections on her birth.

Musicals, Take Two

Mark, my mum and my dad have all had things to say about my blurb on musicals, each pointing out important performances that I had overlooked.

Mark pointed out that I overlooked ‘West Side Story’, and he’s right. I absolutely should have included it.

My first exposure to ‘West Side Story’ was when I watched the movie as a kid. Sometime around the same time, we also started listening to the soundtrack at home. I had a particular liking for ‘Officer Krupke‘ and ‘America‘. I watched the film again as a teenager, around the time that we read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for English at school, and suddenly had a whole new appreciation for the storyline. I finally got to see a live performance of ‘West Side Story’ when Mark got us tickets to a show in Milan during our honeymoon. The tickets were a surprise addition to an already fantastic trip, and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening at the Teatro alla Scala. [Aside: I also partially attribute the fact that we saw a musical sung in English whilst in Milan towards my thought process that Les Mis would be in English too, even though we were in Berlin. West Side set a precedent in my mind. Heh.]

Here’s what I wrote about our night at West Side Story at the time:

We went to see West Side Story at the Teatro in Milano. There were subtitles build into the seat backs to help people understand what was being sung on stage. The elderly Italian gentleman seated on my left also contributed some audio assistance by singing along with the songs that he knew, and several of the ones he didn’t know too.

Then there’s ‘Buddy’, which my mum pointed out that I had overlooked. I remember really, really enjoying this musical. As in, getting up out of my seat to dance to “Great Balls of Fire” in the middle of the theater, despite being way-too-cool to engage in this type of activity normally because I was a teenager, enjoyment. We listened to Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Big Bopper’s songs on repeat in the car for months and months after the show. Apparently I also saw Buddy with Mark when we lived in Singapore. I believe him, but I can’t recall much if anything about the performance. Oops.

And finally ‘Mamma Mia’, which my dad noted as MIA. I saw this for the first time in late December 2001 with all the family during a trip to London. It was ace. Best part about the ‘Mamma Mia’ performance in my opinion was sitting next to my Nan, and watching/listening to her get transported away with the songs and the story until she couldn’t hold herself back any more and finally started dancing in her seat and singing softly along with the music.

For the record I have also seen:
Phantom of the Opera – I do not get what all the fuss is about with this musical. Meh.
Miss Saigon – It was enjoyable enough, but not anywhere near as good as, say, Les Mis.
A Chorus Line – One Singular Sensation is right. That’s really the only good song in the whole show.

Chicago – It was good. I liked both the theatrical production I saw in Singapore, and also the movie. I mean, the movie has Catherine Zeta Jones in it. What’s not to like?

I think that covers it.

Musical

My life in musicals:

Annie
My first musical obsession. What five year old girl doesn’t want to get gussied up and hang out at Daddy Warbucks fancy-pants house with a scruffy-yet-adorable pooch? Ok, so maybe not you. But I did. I knew all the words and could sing along to the movie. When my parents got us tickets to see “Annie” at the theater, I was thrilled beyond words. Say it with me: “I love you Ms. Hannigan!”.

Mary Poppins
Ahh, the finest Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke movie ever made. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I think I could probably still sing my way through the entire score, even though I haven’t actually watched this movie in years.

The Wizard of Oz
Who can resist the Wizard? Wicked witches! Ruby slippers! A singing scarecrow! I used to hate that this movie started out in black and white, but now I love it. My Nan tells the story of how she went to see The Wizard of Oz at the cinema when it came out and it was the first colour film she’d seen. When the movie finished, she’d missed the last bus home, so she skipped the entire however-many-mile journey home Dorothy-style, singing all the way.

Cats
An entire musical about….cats? Really? This was the first London Broadway show I remember going to see, on a family trip to London around Christmas one year. I was somewhat skeptical going in, and a total Andrew Lloyd Webber convert coming out. It was amazing.

Starlight Express
Incredible. I had no idea what we were in for with Starlight, and once the show started, I wanted it to go on forever. Singing and rollerskates? Cool! Nobody can do it like a steam train, indeed.

Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
My first exposure to ‘Joseph’ was in Primary 7, when my school staged it as our end of year theater production. I was in the general chorus, along with the rest of my year. I remember Pharoh’s role as being a standout performance. I switched schools the following year, and guess what the new school’s play of choice was? Yup. ‘Joseph’ all over again. This time I sang the part of the narrator. Good times.

Les Miserables
I saw this for the first time in my first year of university in Edinburgh. One of the girls in my hall of residence got a couple of student price tickets to Les Mis for a random Wednesday afternoon and asked me to go with her, so I went. I had no idea what I was in for. As soon as the stage started to spin, I was swept away with the story and the music and never looked back. I’ve since seen Les Mis in NY and in Berlin, where the show was unexpectedly in German. Unexpected for me anyway. Everyone else seemed to be expecting it to be sung in German…y’know with it being Germany and all. The language barrier didn’t mar the experience one bit. *That’s* how good Les Miserables is.

Moulin Rouge
Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, crazy costumes and awesome music. Because we can can can.

Once
Loved the movie. Love the soundtrack. Love The Swell Season.

Glee
Don’t stop believin’, hold on to that feeling. It’s sweet. It’s funny. It’s escapist entertainment at it’s television best.

Rumination

Billie is running the 10 mile Run For The Water this weekend. I am not. Which is probably sensible given that I’m 37 weeks pregnant and all that. But I keep wondering how I’m going to manage to drag myself back to fitness the other side of this pregnancy; how am I ever going to run 10 miles ever again?

I’ve been relatively good about staying active during this pregnancy, so I’m hoping that will help. But who knows.

I know from last time around that a new baby turns life upside down, and it takes time to re-find an equilibrium. And this time around, it’s not just my life and Mark’s life that will need to be rebalanced, it’s also Alexander’s life. And poor Rosieposie’s life. But people do this all the time, right? We’ll manage somehow.

Mememememe

What is your current obsession?
Finding a stainless steel look (not actual stainless steel, because that is smudgy) counter depth, french door refrigerator with ice and water on the inside. As far as I can tell, this product unfortunately does not exist.

What are you wearing today?
I was wearing a knee length black and white patterned dress with shiny grey ballet flats, but now I’m wearing my pj’s.

What’s for dinner?
I made grilled fish with steamed broccoli and pan fried polenta.

What did you eat for your last meal?
Uh, see above.

What’s the last thing you bought?
Lunch at Clay Pit.

What are you listening to right now?
Pushing Daisies on the telly.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
I’d take Alexander to visit my Nan. She lives in England and we haven’t seen her in ages.

Which language do you want to learn?
Spanish would pretty handy. But I’d love to understand and speak Chinese. It would be awesome to be able to eavesdrop in a language that no one expects me to know. Heh.

What do you love most about where you currently live?
We’re living at my sister’s house while our home is undergoing some renovations. I love her giant comfy bed. Love it. I may have to get one just like it when we move back to our house. Seriously, it’s that good.

What is your favorite colour?
Meh. I like purple. Not sure if it’s my favourite forever and ever though. I wouldn’t, like, marry it or anything.

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?
My new “Alice in Wonderland” deep blue silky dress. It’s so pretty!

What were you doing ten years ago?
June of 1999 – I was living in Singapore. I took my first trip to Australia and visited Melbourne, drove to Canberra and met Mark’s family for the first time, went to Sydney for a few days and then had a lovely week’s vacation on Dunk Island with my family.

Describe your personal style?
Classic, comfortable, unfussy.

If you had $300 now, what would you spend it on?
Date night with husband-man and a babysitter for the boy. Or maybe Sims 3.

What are you going to do after this?
Brush my teeth and go to bed 🙂

What are your favorite films?
Meh. I like lots of movies, but I’m not a “favourite film” kind of person. I like “Parenthood” a lot, I guess. It’s funny.

What inspires you?
My family. All of them.

Your favourite books?
Again with the favourites! I like lots of books. Books are awesome.

Do you collect anything?
Dust bunnies under my bed? Other than that, no, not really.

What makes you follow a blog?
I follow a lot of people that I know in real life, or people that make me feel like I know them through their writing and pictures. There needs to be a connection.

What was the most enjoyable thing you did today?
Play hide and seek with Alexander. He ‘counts’ and then runs all over the house shouting “Mummy!” and looking for me, then laughs hysterically each time he finds me. Rosie gets all excited and waggy and snuffly too. It’s an instant mood boost to be around that much joy.

What’s one thing you dream of doing?
Ruling the world. Ok, maybe not the world. How about ruling a company?

Lifted from Kris. Take it from me if you want to :). Or not. I’m not tagging anyone.

On The Road

One of the few genuinely good things about being on the road for work is that my travels often take me to places where we have friends. Last week I had the good fortune to be able to visit with two sets of friends from bygone eras.

In Phoenix, I met up with friends I’ve known since my Uni days in Scotland, and who were also stationed out in Singapore for much of the time Mark and I were there. In Ottawa, I stayed with my friend Liz, who I’ve known since we attended high school together in Geneva. It’s a bizarre mixing of worlds, meeting up on a whole other continent from our original circumstances, older and somewhat wiser, reminiscing about those good old days.

As an out-of-place Texan-born, British-raised and Swiss-bred teenager, I tumbled out into the post-high school world and into studentdom at Edinburgh University with no true fixed point of identity. I sounded sort of English, but hadn’t lived there since I was 5. I wasn’t Swiss, although I’d spent the last 6 years in Geneva. I didn’t sound Scottish, despite having already put in 6 years in Glasgow. I was…a bit lost. Most of the time, the only people who I think really understand what this fuzzy identity is like are the people who I knew during my time in Geneva, and my time in Singapore.

I loved living in both Geneva and in Singapore, and part of the reason I think I felt so comfortable in those environments was that for the first time, many of the people I interacted with were in the same boat as me. We were from somewhere else. We spoke a jumbled mess of accents. We craved odd foods from somewhere (or several somewheres) we called “back home”. We were comfortable living out of a suitcase and kept our passports close at hand. We liked beer. Ok, so that last point isn’t really directly relevant. But it’s still true.

I’ve been in Texas for 5 years now. I like Austin a lot. It is my home. And yet, I still don’t quite fit in, and I probably never will. I think I’ll always have a mostly English accent, although my accent still sways gently in the breeze depending on who I’m talking with.

I’ll never really know how to answer people when they ask “So, where are you from?” because…where am I from? If I say I’m from Austin, the response is usually “Yes, but where are you from originally?”. I could answer “I was born in Houston”, but that’s just asking for more nosiness. So I usually just answer that my family is originally from Northamptonshire, which is true, but has almost no bearing on my upbringing, since I only spent a year there when I was about 5 years old.

I’m not properly Scottish, despite living there for 11 years in total, and holding fast to an abiding love for Edinburgh. I’m not Swiss or French, although part of my soul resides in the mountains of Chamonix. I’m not Singaporean, although I like to think I can eat like one. I’m not Australian – not yet anway – although I’m married to one. I am American, and I am British, in as much as that is what is says on the front of my current passports. But really? Who knows. And who really cares? Probably no one. Including me. I was just….thinking.