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Happy Birthday, Baby

A lot has happened in the three years since I regularly kept up with my blog. A lot.

My love for fitness, nutrition and CrossFit lead me down the path to training and sharing that love with others. After about a year of training, I decided I wanted even more out of life.

My husband and I happily added a new member to our family one year ago today. I had a healthy, relatively uneventful pregnancy (and continued to workout and eat healthy through the entirety of it) and my labor was everything I wanted it to be. As others around me struggle to obtain their own pregnancy and labor ideals, I realize just how blessed we were and how rare it is that everything should go according to plan, although I was completely unaware of it at the time.

Looking back over the last year, I have come to the conclusion that there are certain aspects of parenthood that people do not talk about in polite conversation. Labor being the primary culprit.

To commemorate the birth of our son, I want to share my birth story publicly. If it encourages, inspires or informs even one expecting mother of any aspect of the labor process, it will have been worth it. Two pieces of advice before I get started: 1) Be informed. 2) Be your own advocate.

Without further ado...

The day had finally arrived. Loved ones sent text messages congratulating me, wishing me a “happy due date!” As if some egg timer had gone off in my womb alerting the boy that it was time to evacuate uterus.

The problem is February 27 came and went without incident. And the countdown was only a reminder that life could change at any minute. The clock was now blinking “00:00:00” as we anxiously awaited his arrival.

I felt trapped. I needed to get out of the house. Sitting around waiting for birth to start was like watching a pot and waiting for it to boil.

So, I ventured out to two local gyms to cheer on my fellow athletes competing in the CrossFit Open. Excited well wishers offered me their seats and expressed how great I looked (especially given that I had reached my due date) – thank you for that reminder!

Yes, Friday February 27 came and went without incident.

Once more, on Saturday February 28, we ventured to the gym to cheer on friends and to coax this baby out of his hiding space. We went out to brunch afterward, chatted excitedly about the top scores in the Region for the CrossFit Open, and made tentative plans to travel to support our top athletes if they should somehow make their way to the regionals competition.

In all the excitement of the morning, something had happened. Gravity had shifted. The baby was making his way south. At first, I thought the discomfort was because I had waited too long to go to the bathroom; but as I waddled around the neighborhood with the dog later that morning, I knew, or hoped, rather, that S was on his way.

For the better part of the afternoon, I sat at the dining room table watching Downton Abbey (a recent addiction) on Amazon Prime, making laps around the living room every hour or so. When I began to feel my uterus contracting for the first time, I called our doula, Gabby.

“I think I’m in early labor.”

“Have you timed your contractions?”

“They’re pretty inconsistent, but I can feel them,” I told her. “They’re about 2 minutes long and 10 minutes apart, and I feel dizzy.”

“Let me come put eyes on you.”

A few minutes later, she was at the door. After an assessment and sitting with us for a while, she conceded that we were likely in early labor. She asked me to take a bath, time my contractions again and give her a call.

So off to the bathroom my iPad and I went to relax with the residents of Downton. When it was time to time my contractions again, they had all but disappeared.

Meanwhile, a friend brought over a tray of chicken enchiladas with the claim that they had sent two of her friends into active labor; it was either the enchiladas or perfect timing on her part. We dug in excitedly with hopes that labor would begin again before I called and reported the bad news to the doula that my contractions had seemingly stopped.

Our doula came by to sit and chat with us a while longer before she told me to relax with a small glass of wine and get some sleep, that she would come back by in the morning.

We never quite made it to morning.

Most of the night passed uneventfully. I woke twice to use the restroom as I did on most nights. Around 5:30, as I was leaving the bathroom, I felt a warm gush. That’s odd, I thought, turning to head back to the toilet. I had just sat down when I felt a second warm gush and a pop from within. There was blood everywhere.

This was not right. This was not how this was supposed to happen. I panicked.

“9-1-1! 9-1-1! 9-1-1!” I shouted to my husband, still asleep in bed. Before I knew it he was on the phone with Gabby and subsequently our midwife, who requested to speak to me.

She asked the question that struck fear into my heart: “when was the last time you felt the baby move?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I’ve been sleeping.”

She directed us to come straight to the hospital, adding, “don’t worry about the car seat.”

In retrospect, she knew that my mother had a history of fast births and that was probably her primary concern at the time. Unfortunately, I also have a tendency to panic (see above).

After what felt like an eternity later (read: roughly 5 to 10 minutes), our doula had whisked me away to the hospital while my husband packed our car and headed to drop off our dog at a friend’s house.

Somewhere along the ride to the hospital, the first real contraction hit me. “I can do this,” I sighed with relief after the first one passed. It was around that same time that I was thanking Jesus that I felt the baby move for the first time since falling asleep the night before. A peace that passes all understanding fell upon me (Philippians 4:7).

I began to time the contractions. They were lasting one minute in length and were four minutes apart. We had intended to labor at the house as long as possible, until the contractions were one minute in length and five minutes apart. Given the timing, we were doing fairly well.

The strangest thoughts go through your mind while you are having contractions. As I focused on my breathing and cleared my mind, I had the clearest vision of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone giving himself a pep talk: This is it, don’t get scared now.

I felt like running when we arrived at the hospital, but Gabby advised against it. We checked in at Labor and Delivery where they asked me a series of questions, which I calmly answered even though my head was screaming. Don’t you people know I am having a baby here?!

We were ushered into a birthing room where our midwife, Roberta, met us with a handful of nurses. It was around 6:45 a.m. at this point, just before the shift change. The nurses continued to ask questions through the contractions as they hooked me up to the non-stress test to get a read on my contractions and the baby’s heart rate. Sure enough, baby was perfectly healthy. To my disappointment, Roberta said I was only 4 cm dilated but that we would be admitted because my bag of waters had broken. She added that she would check my cervix again around 11 a.m. or noon – this would later be a source of great amusement.

We were really doing this.

My husband arrived shortly thereafter and assisted me in answering further questions from the hospital staff. The nurses confirmed that I wished to receive no pain medication and that I was refusing the use of an IV or hep-lock in my arm. I signed a waiver that I knew this could delay the administration of life saving care, fluid or drugs in the event of an emergency. I knew my baby and I were in higher hands and it would not be necessary.

After 20 minutes or so, they released me from the equipment and allowed me to walk the hallways. We paused every so often to work our way through contractions. I draped my arms around my husband and buried my face in his shoulder as I waited for the contractions to pass. Each time, my mind went blank as I focused on my breathing.  Once it passed, I went back to conversation with my husband and Gabby, as we all walked hand in hand down the hallway.

After two laps, we were flagged back into the labor room for more monitoring. I stood by the edge of the bed while they listened to the baby’s heart rate with a handheld Doppler. At this point, the shift change had occurred, and I remember one of the nurses specifically because she had previously been a midwife. No more questions about pain medications, she was on board with the rest of us with our natural birth in a hospital setting. What a relief.

Here is where the details begin to get fuzzy:

At this point, I asked that the birth ball be brought to the room. We labored there shortly before I felt the urge to use the restroom. Into the restroom my entourage and I went. We labored there for a while before deciding to move to the whirlpool tub next door. My husband stayed behind to change into his bathing suit to join me in the tub, but we did not make it to the tub before I began to feel nauseous. Gabby called for a bucket as I dangled my head over the sink in the whirlpool room.

The nausea was some sort of trigger for the nurses and the midwife, because they ushered me back into the labor room to check my cervix again. In the matter of about an hour, I had dilated from 4 cm to 8 cm. Much to my delight, Roberta allowed me to venture back to the whirlpool tub.

The tub was heaven, as far as I was concerned. The pain of the contractions was a minor annoyance as my tension melted away. My husband sat behind me stroking my hair and Gabby sat across from me, holding my hand and talking to me between contractions.

It was not long before I felt I was ready to push. Roberta joined us and said that it was not quite time yet. I breathed through another contraction calmly. Okay, I thought. We still have some time. I was wrong. The desire to push returned at the next contraction. I do not know how long I was laboring in the whirlpool tub, but I do know that when Roberta checked me again, I was fully dilated and we were ready to push.

They wrapped my naked body in a towel as they whisked me away back to the laboring room, which was, thankfully, right next door. In the commotion, I did not notice that some interested nurses followed us into the labor room. My husband told me later that they crowded around the doorway until he asked that all unnecessary persons leave the room. I was oblivious to this, as I fell on my hands and knees at the edge of the bed determined to begin pushing right then and there.

A couple of contractions later, I moved onto the bed and continued to push on hands and knees. I am not certain how long I labored that way, but I eventually requested to lie on my side and push. Gabby held one leg and my husband held the other.

I remember screaming at the end of a couple of the pushes, and I would apologize for screaming after the contraction had passed. A few times, I pleaded with Roberta to “get him out!” But there was nothing anyone could do for me.

It was just my self. My breath. My body. My baby.

Finally, I remember begging Roberta and everyone to stop whatever it was that they were doing. “Stop pushing. It hurts. Stop, stop, stop!” Roberta calmly reassured me that nobody was touching me and that the sensation I was feeling was my baby’s head.

My husband handed off my leg to one of the nurses and he gloved up in preparation to catch the baby. A few more pushes and I felt a pop (!). “Is he out?” Almost. His head was here. One more push and I felt his shoulders, torso and legs leave the safety of my body, and he was here. A few seconds later, and my baby was lying on my chest, face to face with me.

Nurses swooped in to cover us with blankets and wipe him down. The cord was cut, the placenta was birthed, and people were admiring the baby and congratulating us, but I heard and knew nothing but my beautiful baby boy as he lay there against my bare chest.


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