I recently responded to a request from NPR calling for baby stories - and here it is, for your reading pleasure as well.
Our story begins in southwest Alaska, in the remote village of Aleknagik. After globetrotting through most of my 20s, the last place I expected to fall in love was bush Alaska, where there are seemingly more ptarmigan than people, but I suppose crazier connections have happened in life. I met Jeff on the south shore of Lake Aleknagik the fall of 2009; that October rainy day he was dressed head to toe in Helly Hansen gear, and as I was wearing something totally inappropriate for the weather – probably a yoga outfit of some kind since I'm an instructor.
Jeff knows my uncle, Rex, who I was visiting at the time, and had contacted me to see if I was interested in teaching at his school. "Don't drink the water here," he said "I've got two teachers who are pregnant!" Ha, in hindsight perhaps there was a bit of truth to this off-the-cuff joke, though who would have known it then. I said, "yes".
One year and two months later we found out – much to our surprise and delight – that we were pregnant! We're absolutely thrilled, and yes, slightly nervous too, welcoming this little precious one into our lives. We both come from different places – Jeff from Colorado, and myself from Minnesota – but are happy to call ourselves Alaskans.
Jeff has lived here a lot longer than I have, and is what I would consider a model "Alaskan". Like many other Alaskans, he's a pilot, and co-owns a PA-12 with a friend. Jeff is also a subsistence hunter, and invited me (a vegetarian!) on his fall moose hunt last September. It was an unforgettable experience, and Jeff said I was such a sport for holding the hind leg taut while he field dressed his bull.
In many ways, Jeff and I are like "yin" and "yang" – two polar energies that somehow complement and bring balance to each other. I'm a devout yogini, and feel passionate about yogic philosophy. A concept I seek to both live out and teach is "ahimsa" – showing reverence for all life. With this in mind, imagine my initial shock (and more-than-slight horror) when Jeff asked me if I'd like his bearskin to be made into our bed comforter! I thought it was enough that it was hanging on the wall over our heads each night, along with the other fox, marten, mink and ermine furs.
Jeff is also a runner, but not necessarily a yoga enthusiast. Still, he regularly attends my classes, twisting himself into pretzels and trying to figure out what exactly it is that draws me to my yoga mat almost every day. All in all, I think it's this – that we seek to understand and enjoy each other's interests – which keeps our ironic relationship connected. The idea of "ahimsa" not only applies to our actions, but also extends to words spoken and thoughts processed. It asks that we be respectfully open, being both authentic to ourselves, as well as granting others an authenticity as well.
So much is in flux for us right now – not only are we expecting a baby, but we recently “tied the knot”, and are also in the midst of moving out of bush Alaska, to Ninilchik on the Kenai peninsula. Jeff will be the principal of Ninilchik School next year. With so much change in the mix, we've decided to go to Minnesota for the baby's birth, where I'll be surrounded by family and friends. We've yet to solidify a birth plan, but I hope to avoid a hospital and interventions if possible, and be attended at a birthing center by a nurse/midwife and my very good friend, Sara, who is a doula.
We've kept the gender a surprise – even for ourselves – but boy or girl, Jeff is excited to give the baby two unique gifts: a necklace made out of a wolverine toenail embedded in ivory, and a parka from the marten he trapped last winter. And, I'm on the hunt for a baby-size yoga mat.