Mari’s Birth Story

Today is our sweet littlest lady’s 3rd birthday. It is always powerful to look back and think about the experience and emotion involved in her arrival. As a running ambassador for Every Mother Counts, I know that it is important for women to come together and share their birthing stories and to discuss their experiences.

So, today, I’ll share mine and Mari’s story.

Mari’s birth story is quite different than the story that accompanies the arrival of our first daughter, Audrey. But Audrey’s birth and that experience are what helped shape Mari’s arrival. Audrey’s labor was fast and furious, after 3 days of prodromal labor and contractions every 8 minutes during the daytime hours, my water broke at 9:45 p.m. We arrived at the hospital at 11:00 p.m. and Audrey literally flew out at 1:01 a.m. She was taken to the Level 2 nursery immediately with an Apgar score of 4. Brent watched the doctor flip her over and encourage her to “come back to us baby, come back to us…” Brent stayed by her side the entire time and watched her oxygen saturation plummet and rise, her heart rate try to stabilize and couldn’t touch her or hold her while she had wires and tubing coming off her in every direction. Ultimately, all of these complications could be tied to her fast arrival.


Due to the speed of Audrey’s arrival and the progress I was making – as of Monday, August 1 I was 4 cm and 75% effaced and baby’s head was at a +1 station – my doctor (Dr. M) wanted to break my water to try to jump start labor. This would ensure several things for us; a) I was GBS+ and I knew I would get the antibiotics I didn’t have time to receive when Audrey arrived hopefully keeping the little one inside of me completely prophylaxed, b) that I wouldn’t have another precipitous labor and birth with the chance of it being unaccompanied at home without Brent there, and c) that both baby and I would be under watchful eye if things did get crazy fast again – knowing that he or she would have the help they needed.


On Friday, August 5, I went back to the doctor for an 8:15 a.m. appointment. Dr. M did an internal exam and said I was at 5 cm. The plan originally was to head to the hospital immediately after than and start antibiotics and have my water broken around lunch time. Turns out – even when you think you have some “control” you really don’t – the hospital’s birth center had a change in staffing and could not accommodate an induction until Saturday morning. We spent all week gearing up, mentally preparing and getting things done around the house to feel ready for baby’s arrival – and then we had to shift down for the afternoon only to pump up for everything the next morning. Overall, we had a great day – coffee date for Brent and I at our favorite coffee shop and then a fabulous evening with *almost* big sister, Audrey.

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And then….it was Saturday. Eviction day. Our “planned” birthing day. Which went a little something like this:


8:02 a.m. Arrived at the hospital

8:17 a.m. Settling into our room with an amazing view of Lake Superior – one large ship waiting to enter the harbor was in perfect view.

8:30 a.m. Dr. M stops in to say hi. Dr. W the resident stops in as well.

9:45 a.m. First round of antibiotics started through IV.

11:30 a.m. Order our first round of “room service” so that Brent can eat a large lunch – even though the nurse says clear liquids only – Dr. M told me to eat up and enjoy as well. Meat loaf, potatoes, steamed carrots and a delicious brownie. Mmmm.

12:33 p.m. Dr. M breaks my water as we’re jamming to “Summer Hits of the 90s” on Pandora. Alanis Moirsette’s “Ironic” is playing. I will always think of my bag of waters getting broken when I hear this song from now on. Dr. M says I’m now at 7cm and baby’s head is at +2 station.

1:04 p.m. Brent and I walk the halls, laugh, hold hands and joke around. Gentle contractions start coming every 15 minutes. A large thunderstorm starts brewing over the lake – gorgeous! Our doula, Caralee, arrives and is ready for the long haul – bag lunch packed, crossword puzzles and books to read.

3:44 p.m. Dr. M stops by again – we all place bets on baby’s gender and size. Unanimous vote for boy – weights ranging from 7#5 oz (Brent) to 8#5oz (Dr. M).

5:00 p.m. Brent and I watch “The Way Back”. I try to use the hospital grade breast pump to get contractions closer together – I get them to every 6 minutes, but can’t get them closer or more intense.

6:35 p.m. Dr. M recommends we start Pitocin and thinks a small dose will really kick start things. Brent eats a salmon dinner – I steal quite a few bites.

8:00 p.m. We start a Pitocin IV. I start munching on shot blocks and sipping some apple juice. The clock was taken off the wall earlier in the day (I was checking it too often) – so the exact timing of the evening’s events are probably quite off.


Everyone says Pitocin is this evil drug…that labor is unbearable…that it is far worse than “regular” labor. My labor with Audrey was so intense, that I had only that experience to compare it to. To be honest, this was “easier.” The pitocin clearly did the trick for me. The nurse started the IV and increased the dose every 30 minutes. The first (low) dose didn’t seem to do much – I wasn’t really feeling anything at all. The second “level”  brought some change and I felt like I had to be on my feet and rocking and hula hoop-hipping through each contraction (now 10 minutes or less apart). Brent and I walked the halls dragging along the IV pole and held hands. It felt SO good to be close to him and it relaxed me to feel his strength and support – even with something as simple as wandering through the birthing unit. As we walked, I could tell things were getting stronger and closer. I had to stop walking and breathe  and rock through the contractions. I knew my body was starting to bring our baby closer with each tightening of my abdomen and deep breath. I knew that I wanted to be back in our room after a stronger contraction right in front of the nursery (and a large group of people oodling over a new baby in there).


As soon as we got to our room, I had to be on the birthing ball (luckily Caralee had already had our nurse bring one in). Brent turned on the “Adele” channel on Pandora (my current chill fave). This was the absolute perfect choice – relaxed, strong and filled with soul. At first Brent was on the bed and I sat on the ball in between his legs – I held on to his thighs as I rocked and circled my hips through each contraction. Caralee was behind me gently putting pressure on my low back. As Mari started to descend through my pelvis, I started to have very strong back labor. Caralee continued to put counter pressure on my back just above my sacrum – it helped so much as babe worked her way down. I laid my head down on pillows on the edge of the bed and held onto Brent’s hands – I felt so relaxed in between contractions (Caralee commented that some people fall asleep right before they transition – which I felt like I could!). Brent knew exactly how to hold me and what to say. After a trip to the bathroom to pee, I started to feel incredibly shaky. Caralee looked me in the eyes and said, “You remember this part Kayla! It gets strong. It gets intense. It can be scary. And most of all, its going to move fast.” Through my shakes, I nodded in agreement and wanted to be back on the ball. Brent sat behind me. With each contraction, he held me and I snuggled in. We got through each contraction, each painful pulse of my body together – holding each other tightly and knowing that I couldn’t do it without him and his constant radiating strength. I would cuddle in and feel his love and immediately relax. Being so close felt so good. It is strange to say that it was absolutely romantic to experience labor with him like this. Not many people would call labor romantic!


I honestly don’t know how long I was on the ball cuddling with Brent. It was relaxing and intense all at the same time. After some time, I felt the urge to use the bathroom again. Sitting on the toilet brought with it lots of pressure in my pelvis – Caralee later told me that we naturally relax our bottoms when we sit on the toilet so it helped move things along – I knew this pressure and this urge really meant we were coming closer to meeting our babe. While I was on the toilet, I could tell Caralee knew you were coming soon, too! She kept peering between my legs. She had the nurse page Dr. M because I told her I was starting to feel the urge to push. When I got out of the bathroom, Dr. M was there and she wanted me to climb into bed (if that was where I wanted to have you). With Brent by my side, I eased my way into the bed (it sounded comfy) and rolled onto my right side. Brent held me on the left side and sat next to me. Dr. M told me that the baby’s head was “right there” and that with my next contraction I could slowly start helping Mari out. Audrey arrived so quickly I wanted to slow things down when it was time to push this time. I did everything in my power to avoid any tears and such a fast arrival. Dr. M paged Dr. W, the resident, and Shelia, our nurse, called in her “second.”


This part of Mari’s arrival is so vivid and clear to me. With each contraction I would breathe and slowly push. In between contractions I would lean back into Brent and rest – almost enough to feel like I was “sleepy” – I just would close my eyes and find the strength from Brent’s hand and heart and my own power as a birthing woman. This deep peace would wash over me and would bring me the the courage to breathe and push when the next contraction came. Dr. M and Caralee gently and quietly encouraged me. The whole room felt silent – I shut everyone out and it seemed as if it were only Brent and I there. The pressure in my bottom and back were getting so very intense – I could feel myself just want to quit at one point. Dr. M and Caralee both told me to “go towards the pain and accept it.” With Brent’s help I felt like I was able to do just that. Relaxing and starting to bear down and work with my body to push and bring our new baby into this world. Each contraction started to bring a stronger urge to push. Dr. M literally sat back and let me do what my body knew to do. Although the room had 6 other people in it, it remained quiet and almost serene. After 25 minutes of pushing, Dr. M told me that the next pushes would bring our baby to us. I felt like I really had to dig deep and from within, but I instinctively reached down with my final push and brought Mari to my bare chest. Brent and I kissed each other, our new babe and tears of joy and accomplishment fell down my cheeks. We both stared at our baby in awe. Baby’s eyes were wide open and she was covered in vernix, but our sweet baby was absolutely perfect. We were immediately overcome with the most intense love there is. Then someone in the room asked your gender and I lifted up the baby’s legs and looked right at Brent and said, “We have another girl!” We just soaked her in while she laid on my chest. We kissed, we cried, we laughed…we were overjoyed! A healthy baby girl! After awhile Dr. M had Brent cut the cord. The nurses eventually weighed the babe in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces. She tried to nurse after some serious snuggle time with Brent. While she was nursing, I asked Brent who we had here – he said he knew the minute he held her that she was our Mari. And so there she was, our sweet Mari Cate. Born August 6th, 2011 at 10:57 p.m.

DSC02749While the start of labor was not how I pictured it would happen – the delivery was perfect. It was a beautiful experience. And although we had to have pitocin and an artificial rupture of my membranes, we were able to have a natural delivery and work together as a couple to bring our second baby girl into the world.


mari day 1In honor of Mari’s 3rd birthday, please consider donating to support Every Mother Counts.


Uphill…Both Ways!

My training plan had this weekend’s long run at 12-14 miles. I decided to run on some “softer” ground and hit up one of my favorite spots for 12 miles one some single track trails. There is a wonderful 6 mile, very hilly, yet not too technical loop near our house.

Trail running definitely slows me down, but it also provides much more elevation gain (500+ feet on each loop) than I would have on the roads. Talk about trashing my quads. I felt great throughout the run and was grateful to have one of my friends join me for the second 6 mile loop. She dragged me through some of the sections, but it was worth it!

I’m 3 months out from the NYC marathon…and I cannot wait!



One of the hardest things for me to do as a runner is probably one of the most basic “rules” of fitness.

Listen to your body.

When I set out to do my 15 miler yesterday, the temp was hanging right around 80 degrees. There were zero clouds in the sky. I mean zilch. The sun was beating down on the pavement {and me} threatening to add to my lovely Garmin tan line and pull every drop of hydration from me before I could drink more. For some reason, I decided to start my run in the afternoon…and when I run in the afternoon, I think it is a given that I haven’t drank enough water during the day. {Note to self: work on this.}

But despite all of that, in my mind I was ready to rock 15 hilly miles. The plan was to run north for 4.5 miles, hydrate + take a Gu and then run back towards our house where I had ice water and electrolyte tabs waiting for me. I’d then do my favorite 6 mile loop from our house and call it a day.

At mile 4.5, my legs were cramping and my stomach decided to knot up. At mile 7, I ran down by the lake and splashed myself with the 55 degree water (Lake Superior is awesome for icing yourself down).

IMG_6871I finished the 9 miles, sick to my stomach and delicately running on my ever-so-cramped legs. I was faced with the decision of finishing the next 6 or calling it quits. For some reason, I listened to what my body was saying.

Stop now. Take care of me. Try again in a few days.

9 miles is better than zero miles. 1 rest day is better than taking a whole week off due to injury/illness. Ultimately, there are no “bad runs.” There are runs that teach you more about yourself, your body and your mental strength.

Watch out 15 miler, I’m coming for you….




Through the Woods

Growing up in Northern Minnesota, I have always been at home in the woods and near lakes. My parents instilled a love for the wilderness in me from the start. I am constantly reminded of this when I take to the trails here in Duluth to log training miles. I get antsy just thinking about an afternoon trail run, my legs and lungs start desiring the bigger climbs and the complexities of the single track trails.

I leave a trail run feeling stronger, tired and most of all at complete peace. Time in the woods either alone or with my friends is good for my soul.

It always reminds me of the poem my dad wrote in college that still hangs on the wall of both our home and my grandfather’s.

My head seems clearer.

My body more alive.

All for a walk in the woods.


I am trying to hit the trails at least once a week in this training cycle for the New York City Marathon. I feel healthier on the trails, be it the softer ground or the workout all of the stabilizer muscles are getting to stay upright while hopping over tree roots and rocks.

This week’s workouts include 6 miles (trail), 7 mile tempo run, 2 easy 3 milers and my first long-ish run of the training cycle…15 miles. Here we go!


No Woman No Cry

Tonight, I am thrilled to share the wonderful work of Every Mother Counts by hosting a screening of their gripping documentary on maternal health, “No Woman No Cry” at one of my favorite Duluth venues, the Teatro Zuccone.

When I set out to run the New York City Marathon as a member of Team EMC, I hoped to do more than raise money for the projects and initiatives of Every Mother Counts in the United States and around the globe. I wanted to be able to raise awareness of the current state of maternal health. I wanted to be able to have a discussion with healthcare and birth providers in my community. I wanted to scream from the rooftops that the United States is currently ranked 60th when it comes to maternal mortality.

I am excited that this evening’s screening and panel discussion is finally here. Tonight, attendees will be able to watch “No Woman No Cry” and then chat with midwives, doulas, family practitioners and OB/GYN providers from our community. To top it all off, there are some amazing prizes to be raffled off including:

Join us for a night of talking, sharing, learning and of course…fun! Stay afterwards to continue the conversation over the deliciousness at the Zeitgeist Arts Cafe!

no woman no cry

Garry Bjorklund (Grandma’s) Half Marathon Recap

We are so lucky to have Grandma’s Marathon take place in our community! We look forward to it every year.

We always kick off the weekend with the Whipper Snapper races for the kids. It was 43 degrees, but our kids wouldn’t miss it for the world! They always do a mascot race first…ranging from a slice of pizza from Papa John’s to the rhubarb man from our local rhubarb festival…and of course the college mascots (and Viktor from the Minnesota Vikings). After the race, Mari asked me if I got to run with the bee and the polar bear, too. Audrey was an amazing big sister and insisted on holding Mari’s hand (“even though I had to slow down for her, Mom”). They had a great time and both love to run…and yes, we had to sport our winter hats on the eve of the first day of summer.

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After the girls got their ribbons, it was off to the expo for our family + my dad who ran the half marathon with me. This is not where I wanted to be sent upon arrival.

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Luckily, even though my packet was completely missing, they were able to issue me a new race bib and number. I was a bit paranoid that I wasn’t going to be in the system, but then I really just cared about being able to get into the race corrals in the morning.

Fast forward to race morning. At 3:30 AM when I woke up it was 43 degrees. By the time we got on the bus to the starting line, it was a balmy (and drizzly) 45 degrees. Oh, Duluth! There was much debate between my dad and I on what to wear. In the end, we were both pleased with our choices and ditched our long sleeves by mile 3. We both wanted to break 2 hours, and I knew my dad could go far faster than me based on his excellent training cycle. We agreed to stay together through Lakeside (mile 8) and then he could take off if he wanted to, knowing that he would pace me to a sub-2 hours and that he would be on his way to a HUGE personal best.

We started the race together and were trucking along with nice 8:45 splits through mile 7. At mile 7.5 we got to see Brent, the girls, my mom and my grandpa. We grabbed our calories and some water and set off again. Of course the stop set us back a few seconds, but then we were happily back on pace.


While heading up Lemon Drop hill (mile 9), my dad started to push the pace. I let him get a bit in front of me and then on the backside of Lemon Drop, he took off. I watched his yellow shirt bob through the crowd and with tears in my eyes and goosebumps all over, I cheered for him to get after it. I am so proud to call him my dad, to run with him and to share the adventure of racing with him. He’s been battling Lyme’s Disease for almost 4 years and to take on training for a half marathon is amazing. To set a personal best and be incredibly bad ass, well…that is just inspiring.

I kept on going and battled away the voice in my head that said to just take it easy and relax. I pushed as hard as I could for the last miles and crossed the finish line in 1:58.42. A 6+ minute personal best and my first time breaking 2 hours!

My dad, the rockstar, crossed in 1:54.12…an 18 (yes…18!) minute personal best!


I am so happy and so honored to have shared another 13.1 miles with my dad! I am grateful for each mile that he and I can share!

I am incredibly excited to begin the New York City Marathon training cycle for Team Every Mother Counts. I proudly wore my singlet yesterday through the streets of Duluth and hope that next year a few more Team EMC runners will join me (I can’t guarantee warmer weather, but I can promise a wonderful experience)!


Bring it on, New York!

Life Changing

What do you think about when you lace up your running shoes? The weather? The route you’re running? Perhaps you’re thinking about the giant blister on your foot from the last time you ran.

Ever since becoming a part of Team Every Mother Counts, I feel so much more focused when I head out of the door. I have trained for a marathon before…twice. But, now I’m part of a team. A team that is running in solidarity to better maternal health around the world. Even though I’m in Northern Minnesota and training on my own, I know that the 26.2 miles I will cover in New York City in November are not just about me. It is not just about me wanting to run a personal best, it is about working to end the preventable deaths that occur every single day in pregnancy and childbirth.

There are days when my mind and body are telling me “No, don’t run today. Sit on the couch instead.” But in the grand scheme of things, my little 8 miler is nothing. Many women around the world have to walk that far, while pregnant…perhaps even in labor…just to access care.

Now, when I lace up my running shoes, I see each run as an opportunity to make a small footprint and change the world. I don’t worry about the weather. I don’t worry about the route. I just run.

And I know, however many more marathons, half marathons, trail races…whatever race it may be…being a part of Team Every Mother Counts has changed the way I look at each run.

I am grateful.

I am grateful for the steps I get to take. I am grateful that I had both of my daughters’ births attended by skilled birthing professionals. I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference. I am grateful to share the message of the work Every Mother Counts is doing.


Please consider donating to support Every Mother Counts. 100% of funds raised go directly to the Every Mother Counts programs around the globe.

Why Do I Run?

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Why do I run for Team Every Mother Counts?

It’s simple.

I believe that every woman deserves the opportunity and gift of motherhood. I believe that pregnancy and childbirth should be safe. I believe that investing resources, training skilled birth attendants and integrating innovative concepts around the globe can drastically reduce the number of women that die each year during pregnancy and childbirth. Which is exactly what Every Mother Counts is doing. Day in and day out.

And hand in hand stride by stride, I know that together we can make a difference.

Donate today to support Every Mother Counts and their mission of making pregnancy and childbirth safer for every single mother. 100% of donations go directly to the amazing work that is being done by Every Mother Counts.

The Countdown Begins

Today marks 5 months until I lace up my running shoes for the New York City Marathon as a member of Team Every Mother Counts. I haven’t started my marathon training program officially yet, I will get going with that on June 28. I’m already excited!!

Before I can start focusing on the marathon, June 21 will bring my 3rd running of the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (Grandma’s Marathon) and my 2nd time running it with my dad! My training currently consists of prepping for the half after just finishing a 25 km (15.5 mile) trail race up the North Shore on the Superior Hiking Trail. It was an epic race with three giant climbs before the turnaround and then we got to climb all three peaks again on the way back. Add in some knee deep mud and you have yourself an adventure! I was lucky to get to run it with one of my great friends, KP, and husband, B {but he was far faster than us and really running with B means standing at the starting line with him}.

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With only a few weeks to go until Grandma’s Half, I’m busy logging miles with the Charity Miles app for Every Mother Counts. You can join me in making your runs count for Every Mother Counts be downloading it today and logging your miles when you walk, run or bike for EMC!

You can also donate to support my personal fundraiser for Every Mother Counts. Every penny makes the difference in the lives of moms around the globe!