This was my gym’s workout the day Alexander was born:
Twenty minutes to establish a one rep max deadlift.
CrossFit Games Open WOD 13.2 – AMRAP (as many reps as possible) 10 minutes:
5 shoulder to overhead (115/75 lbs bar)
10 deadlifts (115/75 lbs bar)
15 “games standard” box jumps (24/20″)
And this was me:
As soon as I saw the workout posted on the gym’s website, I decided that I absolutely had to attend. After a string of PR’s (personal records) with several of my other lifts, I had been waiting for an opportunity to test my max deadlift. I was also excited by the prospect of a WOD (workout of the day, for those not familiar with CrossFit lingo) that I could do without any modifications. Although Mondays weren’t my usual gym days, a friend of mine who runs a home childcare kindly offered to watch Oliver for a couple of hours.
Depending on which of my three due dates I wanted to trust, I was 39 weeks plus either four, five or six days; but I was expecting Alexander to be about a week late, since Oliver was born nine days past his due date. Still, I knew that my opportunities to work out were becoming limited, and I knew that every visit to the gym could be my last for a while.
It was a brilliant day at the gym for me. First I hit an all-time PR for my deadlift: 285 pounds! I honestly think I could have lifted another 10 pounds, but I ran out of time. There was a 20 minute time cap and I’d paced my warm-up lifts with the intention of hitting a five-pound PR of 265 pounds. By the time I realized that I still had much more in the tank, I only had enough time for two more lifts.
The conditioning workout went better than I could have imagined. Being super strong on account of all that extra estrogen coursing through my body, I was easily able to pump out reps of 75 lbs shoulder-to-overhead and deadlifts. Jumping my gravid heft up onto a 20-inch wooden box was somewhat more challenging, but because we were all required to step down rather than jump down (see here for the explanation of “games standard” box jumps), I wasn’t at as much of a disadvantage as would be expected in my… *ahem* condition. At 39+ weeks preggo, I can proudly say I killed that workout! 🙂
I left the gym at 1:30 and got into my car. As I buckled my seatbelt I felt a little bit of cramping in my lower abdomen. Given all the deadlifts and jumping I’d just done, I figured it was little more than an exercise-induced cramp or contraction. For months, I’d been getting Braxton-Hicks contractions while running, so there was no reason to think this was unusual. But then a few minutes later, I had another one. I texted J at work to let him know there was a very small chance I was in labour, but probably not.
As I drove home, I had a few more of these mild “cramps,” and was convinced that what I was actually experiencing was prodromal labour. I took a shower, got dressed, and walked over to my friend’s place to pick up Oliver. As I walked, what I now knew were contractions began to intensify. It was getting harder to ignore them, and I was feeling a strong urge to be back at home. Somehow I got through picking up Oliver and even running into a few friends on the walk home without anyone suspecting that I was in labour :).
I had a lot of things to accomplish before I could head to the hospital, but since my labour with Oliver was about 21 hours from start to finish, I wasn’t too concerned. I put Oliver down for a nap, and set to work. First I packed my hospital bag. Last time I had a huge duffel bag, packed weeks in advance, with every item from every “what to take to the hospital” list on the Internet. This time I quickly threw a nursing nightgown and a change of clothes into a daypack, along with flip flops, a toothbrush, a hair brush, my makeup bag, and a water bottle. I knew that the hospital would provide everything else I needed, and that in the event I had to stay longer than anticipated, it would be easy enough for J to run home and grab whatever items I wanted to have for my stay. The baby’s bag was already packed and in the car, along with his car seat.
I began preparing Oliver’s supper for that evening, plus all of the next day’s meals and snacks for him. He would either be at home with the babysitter or headed to daycare, so I packed his daycare backpack just in case. Over the next several hours I washed and folded several loads of laundry, emptied all the garbage bins, tidied and vacuumed the apartment, laid out Oliver’s clothing for the next day, and cleaned the bird cage. All while having increasingly frequent and intense contractions. Holy last-minute nesting!
Oliver woke from his nap around 5:00 PM, and by that time it was obvious to me that this was real labour, and that things were moving quickly. I texted J to come home from work.
J arrived home about an hour later and thankfully took over caring for Oliver, since I was needing to focus more and more energy on my contractions. We called the babysitter to give her a heads-up that we would need her soon, and then began getting Oliver ready for bed. Or rather, J got Oliver ready for bed and I sat in the rocking chair and endured contractions as stoically as possible, so as not to scare him. As I hugged and kissed Oliver goodnight, I was a little bit sad, realizing this would be his last time having us all to himself. We told him that we were heading to the hospital, and that when we came home we would have his new baby brother.
I went back to my bedroom to relax (ha!) on the bed, and minutes later, I had the urge to push. J called the babysitter back and told her to come right away. He also called the midwife. About 10 minutes later, my water broke, and things really started moving. The babysitter had not arrived, and I was beginning to worry that the baby was coming quickly, so we called our upstairs neighbours and asked if one of them could come stay with Oliver until the babysitter showed up. Shortly before 9:00 PM, as we made our way to the front door, the babysitter arrived, but still no midwife. We would later find out that the midwife was meeting us at the hospital. Somewhere in the chaos there was a miscommunication; given the circumstances, it was most likely on our end ;).
We hopped into the car and J started driving. I asked him if he had grabbed my purse (you know… with my camera, my ID and my provincial medical card), and he assured me that it was in the back with our bags.
Although the hospital is less than a mile from our home, I was actually worried at that point that the baby was going to be born in the car. I was trying to suppress the urge to push, but I couldn’t. Contractions were coming fast and furious. We arrived at the emergency entrance and I jumped out of the car and waddled to the entrance, pausing in the doorway for a contraction. J left to go park the car.
A couple of paramedics who were on their way out the door grabbed a wheelchair and wheeled me into the ER. Instead of sending me straight off to maternity, as is the hospital’s standard procedure, the lady behind the desk declared that it was necessary to triage me first. I’m usually fairly mild mannered, but I was in second stage labour with a baby possibly coming any minute, and I wasn’t having any of it. I yelled at her, “I’m pushing RIGHT NOW! Do you want me to have this baby right here on the floor?”
She decided that she didn’t — good choice 😉 — and gave the paramedics directions to maternity through the labyrinthine old hospital.
I was in strangely good spirits, talking and cracking jokes with the paramedics between contractions. They seemed a little stunned to have been unexpectedly thrust into this situation (remember that they were on their way out of the hospital after dropping off a patient), and they kept telling me to stop pushing. As if I could!
I was greeted at the maternity ward by my midwife and led to a room. I was struck by how quiet it was in the ward that evening. I’m not even sure there were any other patients there. The midwife and I chatted briefly, she examined me, and then she told me, “Your baby’s going to be here really soon.” I remembered how scary and painful Oliver’s birth was, so in response I demanded some fentanyl. The midwife informed me that they could not give me fentanyl when I was this far along, due to risks to the baby.
J arrived in the room a few minutes later, with my backpack, but no purse (I knew it!). Fortunately this didn’t turn out to be an issue, as the midwife was there to vouch for my identity, and my medical number was on my file. I tried to get J to advocate for some fentanyl, but neither the midwife or the nurse would budge on their position. I was scared of how much worse the contractions were going to get, but little did I know, this was it, and it was completely bearable.
The room was dark, quiet and serene, with only me, J, the midwife and a nurse present. There had been at least seven people in the room when Oliver was born, and it all felt like too much commotion. By contrast, this was so peaceful — no loud voices, no hustle and bustle, nobody randomly hooking me up to a saline IV for unknown reasons, no popping up and running to the washroom every five minutes because pushing made me feel like I had to poop :). Instead, I lay on the bed on my left side, and tried to relax and allow my body to do whatever it needed to do. Thus far nothing had felt unbearable or overwhelming, including the pain. Whereas last time I was determined to give birth upright or squatting or on hands and knees, this time, lying on my side just felt like the right thing to do. I would have a contraction, then lay my head back down on my arm and close my eyes until the next one. J would reassure me that I was doing great.
The nurse and the midwife were intermittently monitoring the baby, and soon noticed that his heart rate was dropping. They were not overly concerned, but advised that I should push harder so that we could get him out sooner rather than later. Up until then, I had been very passive, just allowing my contractions to happen and my body to push however much it felt like pushing. My midwife noticed that I still wasn’t actively pushing, and observed that I seemed to be hesitant or even scared. She asked if I was worried about tearing as badly as I had during Oliver’s birth, and I realized that yes, this was exactly what was holding me back. She promised me that she would not let it happen this time, and implored me to move things along by pushing harder during contractions.
Shortly thereafter, with some loud cursing on my part, Alexander’s head made its appearance. Lo and behold, the cord was wrapped around his neck. The midwife deftly removed the cord, and with one more contraction and one big push, his body slid out. Alexander was born at 9:55 PM on January 13th, 2013.
He was placed on my chest immediately, and he began to whimper. After about a minute, when he still hadn’t given his big cry, the nurse and midwife cut the cord, brought him to the baby warmer and blew a bit of oxygen in his face. With that, he began to cry loudly, and they returned him to my arms.
I was strangely calm and confident throughout the dropping heart rate, cord wrapped around the neck and not crying immediately after birth. I think I was actually less worried than the midwife and the nurse. I knew that we were in highly competent hands in a hospital setting, and that babies are well designed to be able to withstand a little bit of hardship during birth. I also knew that he was a strong, healthy baby. I just knew, intuitively, that he would be perfectly fine.
As predicted, all was well within a few minutes, and Alexander scored a 9 on his second set of APGARs. We cuddled for a while, then he latched like a champ and nursed without difficulty. I delivered the placenta, and I actually got to have a really good look at it this time around, since I wasn’t stuck lying with my feet in stirrups, having my lady bits sewn back in place.
Around 11:00 PM, the midwife asked what I would like to do. What would I like to do? Well I was famished, having not eaten since just after the gym. I was tired from not one, but two big “workouts” that day. And I was feeling absolutely fantastic, like I could get up and walk out the door with no problem.
I told her that I wanted to go home. “I had a feeling you would say that,” she responded. She told me that the hospital requires us to remain for observation for three hours after the birth, but that we could leave at 1:00 AM. We could be home sleeping in our own bed in just a couple of hours! And as a bonus, we would save a whole bunch of money on the overnight sitter.
J gave the sitter a call to let her know that we might be home in a couple of hours, and she told him that Oliver had woken up crying, and was asking for us. This was not really surprising, I guess, since he was well aware that big things were happening. I knew Oliver needed J more than I did at that moment, so I told J to go home and tend to Oliver, and then come back. With food.
While J was gone, I got showered and changed, and my room was cleaned. Unfortunately my bleeding wasn’t subsiding as much as the midwife would have liked to see, and she was worried about the possibility of a postpartum hemorrhage. She said she would prefer if I stayed the night in the hospital so that we didn’t have to rush back here if anything should happen. I asked if we could reassess things and make the final decision at 1:00 AM, and she agreed.
J returned (with food — and my purse!) before midnight. We ate, we called our families, and cuddled the baby. **UPDATE: I have been informed by my neighbour that it was in fact she who brought my purse to the hospital, after one panicked phone call from a certain individual. 😉
The midwife had already left, so the nurse reassessed me. She said the bleeding was definitely slowing, but that she would feel more comfortable if we stayed overnight. So we did. And I was frustrated because I barely got a wink of sleep between the narrow, uncomfortable hospital bed, J snoring loudly (I hadn’t packed earplugs) and the baby needing to nurse about five minutes after the one and only time I dozed off. I lay there watching the clock all night long, wishing I was at home. As soon as 6:00 AM rolled around, I woke J and we got ready to leave. We signed ourselves out at 6:30 and were home a few minutes later, with our new little baby.
Oliver was still asleep when we arrived home, so what a neat surprise for him to wake up to his baby brother! We gave Oliver a present “from Alexander,” and Oliver gave Alexander the stuffed bunny he had chosen for him a few weeks earlier.
We decided it was best for Oliver to stick with his familiar routine and go to daycare for the day, giving J and I some uninterrupted time to bond with the baby and catch up on our sleep.
I was truly amazed by how beautiful and perfect this birth experience was, especially after finding Oliver’s birth so difficult. I went into it with no expectations, and came out ecstatic. Everything just seemed to come together for me that day, right from my PR at the gym to a fast and easy labour, to a perfect, healthy baby boy. I was on a high for weeks afterward, and it still makes me smile whenever I think about it.
With no tearing or other complications, my recovery was super fast. I felt fine within moments of giving birth, and was able to go about all of my daily activities right away, without any pain or limitations. However, I managed to hold off going to the gym for at least a week ;).