Getting Ready to Train Again After Baby – Part 1

Although I waited to run until my 6 week postpartum appointment, I started doing some light exercises leading up to that day in order to rehab a few important areas that have been compromised during pregnancy and childbirth – my pelvic floor and my core. Running too much and too soon after birth can lead to increased damage in these areas as well as strain on other areas of the body and I want to treat my body as kindly as possible.

Siena and I workout out together!

Siena and I workout out together!

Some women choose to run even before their 6 week appointment but I decided to wait for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is that I really don’t want to rush my body back into intense exercise. While pregnant, I was able to continue to do all the exercise (and more) that I had done before, except for running, which I stopped doing at 33 weeks. I discovered that my body felt good spinning, doing barre, walking, hiking, and practicing yoga, but running just started to be very uncomfortable and honestly, not fun at all. I probably should have stopped even earlier than I did. Pregnancy made me realize just how hard running is on the body and although I plan to continue to run, I respect my body’s ability to run comfortably much more now.

I started taking daily walks just three days after Siena’s birth and started with short distances – the first walk was literally just around the block. Soon I was walking the one mile path near my house and sometimes adding on to that and eventually I created a three mile walking route. At three weeks postpartum I added in some light yoga (my doctor gave me the clear while in the hospital to do so given that I had continued my practice during pregnancy).

At four weeks postpartum, I began to add in pelvic floor and core exercises. I wish I had added these in earlier, but I have no regrets. One of the key components of running comfortably is having a strong core and a strong pelvic floor. I knew that these areas were severely compromised during my pregnancy and I’ve decided to take it easy with running until they are stronger. I personally have struggled with incontinence since having a vaginal birth (super awesome as it sounds!) and I really want to do anything I can to prevent it from continuing! Starting at four weeks postpartum I started focusing on doing just that with two tools: the Hab-It Pelvic Floor DVD and the Moms Into Fitness postnatal core series. I made a commitment to do each of these workouts at a minimum of three times a week, but I really try to just do them every other day.

Hab-It Pelvic Floor DVD

hab-it dvd review pelvic floor exercises kegals

I  purchased this DVD during my pregnancy but then realized that it’s specifically meant for postpartum so I didn’t do it until now. I heard about this DVD from Sarah at Run Far Girl (great blog she wrote here about the importance of core and pelvic floor strength) who had her third child this year. She suffered from incontinence after her first child (as many, many women do!) and found the Hab-It DVD sometime afterward.

The DVD was created by Tasha Mulligan, an experienced physical therapist, sports trainer and mother of three with both personal and professional familiarity with a weak pelvic floor. She created the DVD after realizing not only how common incontinence is, but how infrequently it is talked about and rehabilitated.

The DVD comes with four different workouts of varying levels of difficulty. There is an introduction portion of the DVD which can be viewed separately. The introduction discusses the anatomy of the pelvic floor and core region and includes an overview of proper posture and alignment for the workouts. Tasha encourages you to work your way through each level of workout until you feel comfortable with it and then move on to the next. Once you’ve mastered all four workouts, you can switch them up.

pelvic floor after baby after pregnancy after childbirth kegals incontinence

One of my favorite parts of this series is that there are two versions of the workouts – one with the full, detailed explanations on form and a second “time efficient” version. So far, I’ve completed three of the workouts (out of four) and do the workouts twice with the full cues before advancing to the time efficient version. The full workouts range from 22 to 29 minutes and the time efficient ones are between 12 and 18 minutes or so. The workouts themselves aren’t just kegals (although each workout starts and ends with a set of guided kegals) – the moves are strength building for the entire core and support system for the pelvic basket. I’ve noticed a particular emphasis on glute strengthening (and those glutes have been quite sore after some of the workouts!)

I can’t recommend this DVD more. I personally would never take the time to do correct pelvic floor exercises (especially kegals!) on my own so having a coached workout is incredibly important for me. I also learned I was doing kegals wrong before this (I tried to do them during pregnancy). I love that there are time efficient versions because it’s way easier to convince myself to do the workout when it’s under 20 minutes. I’ve already noticed a difference in my pelvic floor strength (and incontinence) in the three weeks that I’ve been doing the workout (I’ve worked my way up to level 3). I plan to continue to do these exercises every other day through the end of the year. If i’m still having issues, I’ll continue even after that.

The next post in this series will focus on postpartum core strengthening to prep for postpartum running.

As always, this is solely my experience and is not medical advice. You should check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine of your own. 

Have you ever done pelvic floor exercises? 

The First Run Back

After 14 weeks without a single run (and let’s be honest, several weeks before that of 1 “run” a week which more resembled a walk than a run), I RAN! As of Saturday, Siena was 6 weeks old and on Friday I had my postpartum checkup with my OB-GYN. I was cleared for running and other activities and I could not wait to lace up my shoes and get out the door for that first run. I think honestly I could have run earlier (and I actually have been doing some exercises, more on that in another post), but I didn’t feel comfortable doing so before the six week mark. I wanted to give my body time to recover properly and spend some time strengthening my pelvic floor and core before doing so.

Since Siena is too young for me to run with her in the stroller, I convinced Mike to go into work early and come home early so that I could go for a run before the sun goes down at 5 p.m. (boo daylight savings time). I was already dressed and ready to go when he got home and I nearly flew out the door. After hearing about fellow new mom’s first runs back after baby, I knew that this run wouldn’t be easy, but I was couldn’t wait to experience it myself. I decided to wear my Garmin so that I’d have a record of where I started and could track my progress. I knew the numbers wouldn’t be pretty but I had zero expectations about pace going into the run.

I chose to run the 3.1ish mile loop on the trails near my house. It’s not an easy run, with a very, very steep 1/3 mile hill at the start and finish and some rollers throughout. It’s also on dirt which makes things harder. Choosing a harder route for my first run actually made my slow pace easier to handle, since I knew I’d have to hike the hill on the way up and take it easy on the way down to avoid falling.

One part of the beast hill

One part of the beast hill

Once I started running out of my neighborhood, I actually had the thought that it felt a little easier than I expected. I was running slow but I was surprised that my breathing wasn’t too hard quite yet. I tried to run up the hill as much as I could and quickly my lungs were burning and my legs felt heavy. Once I got to the top of the hill, I made a mini goal of running at least a full mile without stopping. Luckily, about half of the mile is at a slight decline which made this goal a little easier to achieve, but it still felt difficult! I ended up going even more than a mile until I hit a steep hill, which I chose to walk. I ended up taking a few walk breaks after that during steep sections but ended up running almost the entire 3.1 miles. As I entered my neighborhood, I picked up the pace and “sprinted” to the finish. It felt pretty amazing to move my legs like that again and I even enjoyed the burning lungs.

Catching my breath at the top

Catching my breath at the top

A year ago I would never have imagined finding so much joy in such a short, slow run, but there was really nothing better than being back out on the trail. The solitude was welcome and peaceful. It was a wonderful reminder of why I love to run so much. And honestly, after chasing a BQ for so long, it’s kind of nice to just run for the joy of running. It’ll also be fun to track my progress and see big changes in my pace again, just like when I was a beginner. I have no expectations of getting back to where I was anytime soon, but I’m certainly looking forward to the journey.

Have you ever had to take an extended period off of running? How was the first run back? 

Siena’s Newborn Photos

I have another post that is taking WAY to long to write (happens when you can’t find long periods of time to be at the computer!) so I wanted to go ahead and share Siena’s newborn photos with you! We had these taken when she was 10 days old, which was before we had discovered her lip and tongue tie problem so unfortunately she wasn’t the happiest girl (she was hungry!) during the photos and barely slept at all for the three hours we were there! But we were still able to get some good photos. Looking back, she looks so tiny – she has grown so much already!

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Dear Siena – 1 Month Old


Dear Siena,

I can’t believe it has been a month since you entered this world! You certainly took your time but you were worth the wait. This month was all about getting to know you and although we’re still learning, your dad and I feel like we have you mostly figured out (until, of course, you decide to change!). Being your mom is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and the happiness I feel  when you’re in my arms is indescribable.

When you first came home from the hospital, you didn’t seem very aware of what was going on around you, but by the end of the month, you clearly focus on your daddy and mommy’s faces and I SWEAR you smile at us (probably just gas but it make me better to think that you really are smiling at us). Although we had a rocky start with eating (you love to nurse, but your lip and tongue tie weren’t allowing you to get enough food), you’re now gaining weight quickly and are starting to fill out your newborn size clothes (newborn size pajamas are actually a little too small since you are so long!). I can’t wait for you to graduate to your 0-3 month clothes because you have quite the wardrobe waiting for you!

This made me laugh

This made me laugh

You are a popular baby and have had a lot of visitors! Your Nana and Boo (Dad’s mom and dad) and Aunt Claire and Uncle Josh have come to visit about once a week since you were born and your mom and dad are so thankful for their company and the food they bring! Your Grandma Ewing, Great Grandma Ewing and Aunt Kerry came to visit as well as your mom’s cousins Jessica and Jaclyn. Lots of your mom and dad’s friends have come to visit too and having so many visitors has definitely helped your mom and dad get through this first month.

4 Generations!

4 Generations!

Your favorite place in the world, besides on my chest while nursing, is the car seat. Funny, because we thought you hated it the first week. When we know you’re full and have a clean diaper but are still crying, the easiest way to console you is to put you in the car seat and swing you! We put on the white noise and you calm down and fall asleep quickly. You also love to go on walks and every single day this month mommy and daddy took you for a walk, starting when you were one week old. We take you through the neighborhood to the dirt trail near the house and as soon as we get on the trail you fall asleep – you love the bumps!

Daddy pushing the stroller on our first outing

Daddy pushing the stroller on our first outing

We’ve been told that you are very alert for a newborn! Even now that we have the eating thing down, you still love to spend time wide awake, taking in your surroundings. You sit in the Rock n’ Play or in your bassinet calmly and we can’t help but wonder what you’re thinking about before you doze off. We are thankful that as long as you’re well fed, you don’t cry a lot and you fall asleep easily. Right now you are sleeping pretty well for a newborn, usually with two feedings in the middle of the night with about 2.5-3.5 hours of sleep between and normally you are able to go right back to sleep after you eat and daddy swaddles you.

Your daddy went back to work this week after taking four weeks off to get to know you better. I am so thankful for the uninterrupted time we got to spend as a family of three. Your dad is so helpful and mostly takes care of things like making breakfast, bringing me anything I need while nursing, and swaddling and rocking you. He’s a really amazing father and I am so thankful for blog

You were born at a really exciting time because we have some big holidays coming up! You did SO well on Halloween at our neighborhood block party. You stayed awake for about a half hour when we first arrived at the party and were even a part of the group photo! I dressed you up as a bunny but wasn’t able to get a good photo of your little tail AND your ears. I respect newborn photographers even more now (speaking of which, we just got your newborn photos back and they are great!).

Halloween Family Selfie!

Halloween Family Selfie!



We took you to the ocean three times and out for coffee and lunch several other times. We have yet to take you out at dinnertime since your sleep and eating schedule is a little less predictable at night, but as the month went on, your dad and I were able to eat dinner at the same time (and I was able to cook) much more often.

Happy 1 Month Siena! I can’t wait to see what the next month brings.



Inspirational Mother Runners

I am now a mom. It still doesn’t feel real or sound right when I say it! I’m only 4 weeks in and I have a feeling it’ll take some time to get used to my new role. I’m still coming to terms with how motherhood has impacted my body and will affect my ability to workout freely.  I knew that these changes would happen before Mike and I decided to start trying to have a baby and now that they are here, I’m not surprised by their presence but it doesn’t make dealing with them any easier. What does make it easier is looking at Siena – she melts my heart. Every time I get out of bed at 2 a.m. (or 3 a.m. or 4 a.m…..) to feed her, my eyes heavy with sleep, my heart melts again at her little face. Every change is worth it for her little coos, yawns, and my favorite – the big ‘ol stretch she does every single time we unswaddle her, her arms shooting up over her head and her back arching as she adjusts to life outside of the protective barrier of the swaddle.

Adorable baby smiles!

Adorable baby smiles!

What does help in these early days is looking to mothers who have successfully built their fitness back up post baby, as well as those who have honestly shared their struggles to get back to their original shape and speed. I’ve heard the phase that once a woman becomes a mom, she is super efficient with her time and I think the same holds true for female athletes. Although we may not have as much time to dedicate to fitness, we make the workouts we do get count. However, there are limits to our bodies post-baby and they will never be the same. In the same regard that I respect those who come back better than ever, those who admit (and embrace the reality) that this new body will never be the same as it was before baby also garner my admiration.

Beth Gerdes

Beth Finishing 15th at Ironman Kona, just love ra year after having Wynn. (Source: Beth's Instagram Account)

Beth Finishing 15th at Ironman Kona 2015 Source: Beth’s Instagram Account)

Beth is a pro-triathlete who also calls Encinitas her home. I met Beth a few years ago at a group run that she attended while I was training for Ironman Couer D’Alene (she also did Master’s swim at the YMCA at the same time as us but she was so many lanes away that I  didn’t say hello!). Since then, we have followed each other on social media and I actually even reached out to her for a OBGYN referral when I found out I was pregnant, as I really wanted a doctor who would be understanding of my desire to run and stay fit during pregnancy.

Beth has had amazing success in triathlon after the birth of her daughter, Wynne, in May of 2014.  She completed Ironman Malaysia just 4 months after Wynne was born and soon after set the run course record at Ironman WA. A year postpartum she won Ironman Zurich and then competed in the Ironman World Championships in Kona in October 2015, finishing 15th and making her one of the best female ironman triathletes in the world.  It’s definitely safe to say that her career has been boosted by her amazing comeback post-pregnancy and her story is an inspiration to any mom who wonders if she will ever see the finish times she did before baby. Beth, as a professional triathlete, maintained a very high level of fitness throughout pregnancy  which aided in her ability to make such a swift comeback. Although we can’t directly compare ourselves to someone whose full time job is to train when our lives are not, it’s always encouraging to know that the body can bounce back that quickly!

Lauren Fleshman

I met Lauren at Oiselle's running camp in 2014

I met Lauren at Oiselle’s running camp in 2014

The first time I heard of Lauren Fleshman was when I ran the Eugene Marathon in 2013. She had recently courageously changed sponsors, switching to Oiselle from the much more recognizable Nike, despite being pregnant with her son Jude at the time. Lauren is most famous in her running career for the 5k  (she placed 7th in the 2011 5k World Championships, the highest placement of an American in history), but more recently she’s gained a lot of press and recognition for “Keeping it Real” about her body post-baby.

Lauren walked the runway at New York fashion week just months after giving birth to her son, flaunting what looked like pretty awesome abs despite their recent job of creating a protective shell for a human. Instead of relishing in the press she received for her “post baby body” she posted an unflattering photo of herself taken very close to the time of the shoot, showing that no, her body hasn’t bounced back quite yet and yes, lighting, a tan, flexing and the right angle can really change the way you appear in a photo.

Now that it’s been nearly a month since I gave birth and I’m starting to have some not so positive thoughts about how my body has changed after baby, I find a lot of inspiration in Lauren’s attitude toward her postpartum figure. Lauren created a movement of #keepingitreal that has no doubt helped thousands of new moms accept and love the body that created their perfect baby.

Stephanie Rothstein Bruce 

Steph keeping it real about her postpartum body

Steph keeping it real about her postpartum body on Instagram (source) 

Stephanie Bruce is also a professional Oiselle runner who recently gave birth to her second child. I found out Steph was pregnant right around the time that I announced my pregnancy and she also happened to also run the Carlsbad 5000 that same week. I started following Steph on Instagram then and quickly learned that she had given birth to her first son, Riley last June and hadn’t planned to get pregnant this quickly with her second. She had been hoping to participate in the 2016 Olympics and the timing of her pregnancy could have been better, but she handled the unexpected news well.

Steph was very open about sharing her changing body and her struggles with running during pregnancy via her Instagram account the blog that she shares with her husband, a fellow professional runner, Bruce, and several other forums including the Oiselle blog and Women’s Running. Steph ultimately stopped running at around 29 weeks pregnant due to pelvic pressure but stayed active in other ways. She was never afraid to post photos of her constantly changing bare belly and always has seemed very confident during a time when a lot of women are uncomfortable with their body’s transformation.

The most important thing I’ve learned from Stephanie is that coming back to running will be slow, but it’s normal and expected. Stephanie posted on Instagram about one of her first runs postpartum, which she logged at a 9 minute mile, 3-4 minutes per mile slower than her race pace. We don’t just magically bounce back from pregnancy, and that’s normal and totally ok. I’ll remember Steph when I hit the pavement for the first time (and remember that it’s totally normal to take walk breaks!) in a couple of weeks.

While all of these women are pretty inspiring in their own ways, they are still, afterall professional athletes and make their living from staying fit. I’m also inspired by the mother runners I know through Oiselle, Rock n’ Blog, social media and life. For example, Emily, a fellow runner who I connected with through Oiselle, has trained to qualify for Boston multiple times while raising her two daughters, fellow Rock n’ Blogger Smitha  (Running with SD Mom) just ran her first marathon in February, Laura (Mommy Run Fast) keeps herself accountable to healthy eating with her weekly meal planning blog posts (and is a crazy fast runner!) and Kristen ( Glitter and Dust) plans to take on her first Ironman in 2016 after postponing her dream in 2015 to have her son. Every mom whose blog I read or Instagram account I follow inspires me. We all have our different experiences with pregnancy and motherhood but I learn and am comforted by all of you.

Which mother runners inspire you? 

Postpartum and Newborn Favorites

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The many faces of Siena!

Somehow another week has passed! Siena is now 3 weeks old. It’s crazy how things can change so quickly. This last week started with some big hurdles but I’m happy to say that we are definitely doing much better. After writing my last post about life with a newborn, I had a lot of people reach out to make sure I was doing ok. I was pretty honest in my post but I think that many new moms can relate to the tumultuous time that is the first weeks of parenthood. Thank you to everyone who reached out!

I need to write a whole blog post about our experience, but this week we discovered that Siena had an upper lip tie and tongue tie which was causing a variety of problems. More to come on that, but the good news is that things are much better already. Our little girl is more calm and is sleeping much better now which helps make the day a little more predictable and much less stressful! Most importantly, she seems much happier!

Spending time with grandma and great grandma this week

Spending time with grandma and great grandma this week

Now that I’ve somewhat gotten the hang of taking care of another human being, I wanted to share some of the things that have really, really helped me get through these first weeks. While preparing for Siena’s arrival, I did a lot of research and got a lot of recommendations on what to buy to prepare. Some things were probably unnecessary but there are a few things that have been absolute lifesavers as I recovered from her birth, got used to breastfeeding and took care of an infant. I’ll rank these in order of importance:

  1. My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow – Nursing sessions with a newborn take a long time and babies are super small and don’t fit easily into your lap at this age. The Brest Friend pillow straps around your waist (we call it the booby platter) and the baby fits nicely on top of it, positioned right at your nipple. If I had to recommend one thing to a new mom, it’d be this (these pillows are also available at the lactation support group meetings I attend). It’s a life saver. Siena loves it too – when she’s upset, she’ll literally go from crying to calm as soon as we put her on it. She can smell the milk!
  2. Noise Box (White Noise) App – A few days after Siena was born I busted out the book “Happiest Baby on the Block” and discovered the 5 S’s for soothing a baby. The ones that work best for Siena are white noise (babies are used to being in the womb and hearing your heart beat and loud noises – imagine being under the water in the bath tub while the water runs loudly and that’s similar to how the womb sounds) and swinging (either in our arms, the swing, or swinging the car seat). We use Noise Box for white noise during naps and in the car and at night we have a white noise machine. I like to think that using two different white noise sounds for night and day helps her distinguish the two but I really have no idea if that really works.
  3. Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Cream – Thanks Jill for this wonderful gift! There’s no getting around the fact that you’ll have some soreness in the first week or two of breastfeeding (extreme pain and bleeding is not normal and is a sign that your baby is not latching properly) and this natural nipple cream helps soothe even the most chapped of them. Even the lactation consultant in the hospital confirmed this was the best product out there (they gave us lanolin in the hospital but I didn’t even use it).
  4. Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads – The first week or so of breastfeeding did a number on my nipples and these soothing gel pads (especially when refrigerated first) felt amazing! I put them on after pretty much every feeding in the early days. Even if they aren’t cold they feel great and also help protect your nipples from rubbing against your clothes.
  5. MammaBaby App – We use this to track feeding times (you can even track which boob you nursed from for how long) and diapers. Tracking the number of poop and pee diapers is key in the first weeks to make sure baby is getting enough food. There is also a section for tracking sleep and weight gain if you need that. The app works really well and allows you to go back and modify the time and duration of the feeding if you need to. You can also track bottle feedings by the ounce.

I’m not surprised that 4 out of the 5 things I’d recommend relate to breast feeding. When you’re a new mom, your main job is to feed your baby and you spend a lot of time doing it!

Moms, what are your go-to products for the early days? 

Life With a Newborn

We can add taking posed photos to the list of dislikes

We can add taking posed photos to the list of dislikes

Siena has spent two weeks as her own person as of Saturday. One of the relaxation YouTube videos I would listen to leading up to her birth said something along the lines of, “Soon your baby will be outside of you, her own person” and it always made me a little emotional to think about the bond that we had created in the womb being broken. But now that she’s on the outside, that bond is even stronger.

Life, however, is harder! My pregnancy was pretty easy and my discomfort level was low, even at the end. Life with a newborn is a whole different level of challenging, but I am so thankful to have a healthy, vibrant little girl to share my days with.

Siena's first car ride!

Siena’s first car ride!

We came home from the hospital last Monday morning and it was way less scary than I thought it’d be. Life in the hospital with Siena was pretty easy – she never had any long crying spells and only had a few needs that we easily could meet with trial and error. However, a few days later when my milk came in and the reality that her cozy womb was a distant memory set in, life with Siena got a little harder. Although I still wouldn’t consider her a colicky baby, she definitely has her moments (which we have learned is often due to trapped gas so I have been much more diligent about burping her and my doctor suggested I take a probiotic), including her nightly “witching hour” which has brought me to tears, caused Mike to wonder if his daughter loves him (yes she does!) and left both of us more hesitant to invite guests over in the evening.


I’m not sure who invented the term “sleep like a baby,” but it wasn’t about Siena. She sleeps less than I would have imagined a newborn would – instead she’s always eating (and sometimes I suppose snoozing on my boob). We joke that she doesn’t even love me, just loves my boobs. Newborns are notorious for long nursing sessions and Siena is on the high end of the spectrum, with the average feeding lasting 45-60 minutes and sometimes longer if we are in the middle of a “cluster feed.” I was avoiding giving her a pacifier until we were well established with breast feeding but it doesn’t matter because for now, she won’t take the pacifier anyway. She just wants her two BFFs-right boob and left boob. Nipple cream, soothing breast pads and the My Brest Friend pillow are literally my best friends.

A smile?! A smirk?

A smile?! A smirk?

The best way to describe these last two weeks is high highs and low lows. My emotions have been all over the map (which is expected since my hormones are going crazy trying to adjust back to normal after pregnancy) but they strongest feeling I have is true love. I’ve never wanted to fiercely to protect and love someone more. Every cry sends off an alarm in my mind and all I want to do is make her happy, and it’s frustrating when I can’t (besides offering the breast – she will always take it even if she’s not making signs that she’s hungry). I’m pretty sure they make these babies cute so that no matter how frustrating they are, they still melt your heart with one glance.

Despite Siena’s love of food, breastfeeding is way, way harder than I imagined. Despite receiving 8 or more demonstrations in the hospital (Scripps Encinitas is designated as “Baby Friendly” by the World Health Organization and every single nurse has training on breastfeeding) I was still experiencing quite a bit of nipple pain (and a little bleeding) in the first week. My friend Amber who is due this week invited me to a lactation support group at CAP Wellness (which happens to be where I do prenatal yoga) and the lactation consultant there helped a lot. There’s still a little pain at times when she latched wrong and some aching after a marathon feeding but overall it’s getting more comfortable. The two lactation support groups I’ve attended have been therapeutic for me as well because it’s nice talking to fellow moms in the same situation as me.

Mike took 4 weeks paternity leave and I couldn’t be more thankful. He immediately took to being a dad and we have talked about how we are both surprised how quickly he’s bonded with her since we have heard that many new dads struggle in the beginning since the baby doesn’t really do much. He helps me immensely by changing diapers, running errands, cooking food, fetching me water or whatever else I need while breastfeeding, giving me nightly back massages and most importantly, soothing the baby when she’s fussy, especially if it’s in the middle of the night so that I can sleep after each 45-60 minute feeding session. I can’t even imagine doing this without him and I’m already nervous for him to go back to work in November!

Daddy pushing the stroller on our first outing

Daddy pushing the stroller on our first outing

We have had several generous visitors who have brought us food and company, which has also helped. Not only does it help to have a meal (even if I have to eat it cold because of Siena’s unpredictable nursing schedule), but a little conversation is welcomed and helps us stay sane among the piles of diapers.

Aunt Claire and Uncle Josh visit!

Aunt Claire and Uncle Josh visit!

As for me, I am recovering well. My lady parts seem almost back to normal and the most discomfort I’ve experiencing is upper back pain and a little soreness from breastfeeding (hence Mike’s nightly back massages). My stomach shrunk way faster than I imagined it would though it is very squishy and doesn’t look anything like my old stomach (no stretch marks at least)! I have done my best to sleep when baby sleeps by taking at least 1 nap a day and we try to be in bed as long as possible each night even though it’s interrupted. It’s not uncommon for us to be in bed from 10 pm – 10 a.m., although I’m sure we sleep for only about half of that time.


I didn’t do any physical activity for the first four days and then took a walk around the block (10 min or so). I waited another day and then ventured out on another walk. In the past week I’ve managed to get out at least for a short walk every day (we have about a 1 mile trail near our house and the bumps help rock Siena to sleep) and hope to continue this trend. At this point the walks are more for my mental health than anything – being cooped up all day isn’t healthy for someone who is used to working out every single day! I also do some gentle yoga stretches daily (cat cow, child’s pose, happy baby, nothing crazy) to help with my achy back and reverse the symptoms of sitting on my butt nursing all day long (I really need to figure out the nursing in the wrap thing).  IMG_0156

We made it out to lunch twice now and man, it felt like an accomplishment! Siena usually takes a little longer nap midday and we took advantage of this and enjoyed some sunshine and fresh air during our lunch. She even slept long enough after our last lunch for us to go for a walk near the beach!

First lunch outing

First lunch outing

We are learning more about our little girl every day. Every single day has a high and a low, and each day is balanced between the two differently. I know this phase won’t last forever and that I’ll miss her being a tiny newborn, so we just have to roll with the punches. Knock on wood, but I really do feel like it’s getting a little easier!

Moms, what was your favorite or least favorite part of the newborn phase? 

The Future of This Blog & Thinking About Postpartum Fitness

This blog has always been about whatever I want it to be – there’s no particular theme other than it’s about mostly the fitness side of my life. At first it was a P90X blog, then a running blog and for a year or so, a newbie triathlete in training for an Ironman blog. I’ve highlighted my engagement, wedding planning, honeymoon and travels to New Zealand on this blog. This is my life, albeit a small snapshot of it, and therefore I chose to blog about my pregnancy and child birth here. I know that probably caused me to lose some readers but it also helped me meet, via the interwebs, so many fellow mothers who I’ve enjoyed getting to know over the last several months.

At the end of the day, I write this blog for me. I don’t write it for money or for fame (clearly I’d be failing at both of those). I’ve always loved to write and that is why I’ve stuck with this blog for nearly 5 years!

At one point I’d wondered if I’d have time to blog once the baby is here. Well, considering I nurse practically all day and have mastered the art of multitasking while doing so, I’m able to continue writing while she rests comfortably on my chest. As she grows older and more active, we’ll see, but I have a feeling I’ll continue to write because I simply enjoy it.

As for the direction of the blog – I don’t plan to make this a “mommy blog” although now I am a mother and that will be a part of my identity forever, both online and in “real life.” I plan to continue to focus on fitness and running, while also sprinkling in some baby love along the way. I hope that you’ll continue to read on! 

Of course I’m already thinking about getting back into shape and racing again. I miss running, and I really miss racing. I miss pushing my body to its limits and feeling my lungs burning. I miss the accomplishment of a finish line. I am considering the Carlsbad half marathon in mid January as my first race (and possibly walk/jog a turkey trot), but I’m going to wait and see how I feel after a week or two or running first. I don’t plan to run for at least 6 weeks postpartum and even then, I’ll totally play it by ear based on how my body feels. I stopped running at 33 weeks (and let’s be honest it was more of a walk/jog at that point) so by the time I’m running again it’ll be over 3 months since I last laced up my shoes for a run. Carlsbad may be a little soon;  we’ll have to see.

Running, I miss you!

Running, I miss you!

At this moment, I do plan to run a marathon next year, probably at the end of the year. I don’t know if it’ll be a Boston qualifying effort or not – again that will be dictated by how life goes. And honestly, I may decide a marathon is too much to commit to with an infant at home. Getting to Boston used to be one of my biggest goals, and while I still do want to make it there, I have bigger priorities that will come first.

I miss start lines!

CIM – The last race that I ran for time. I miss the excitement before a race starts!

I definitely want to continue yoga and strength training. Even if I train for a marathon, I don’t imagine myself running more than 4 days a week, maybe 5 during peak training. I’d like to continue my yoga practice, at least once a week, from now on. My body and my mind both feel immensely better with a regular yoga practice. Getting all of these workouts in could be an absolute stretch once I’m back at work and juggling another priority, but Mike and I have had a lot of conversations about how we want to make it work for both of us to continue to stay fit and healthy.

So worth it!

So worth it!

So here we go – this journey is going to be the toughest yet but the reward is worth every sacrifice.

What kind of fitness goals did you make for your first year postpartum? When did you start running again?

Siena’s Birth Story Part 2

bradley method birth story natural hospital birth

This is part two of Siena’s birth story. To read part one, click here. Again, I’m being completely honest and open about my experience and if it makes you uncomfortable, please don’t read on! I know that my labor was longer and harder than the average labor, so please do not be discouraged while reading that you too will have a labor like mine. Every women experiences it differently (and even differently with each child) and I have read plenty of birth stories where women are pleasantly surprised that labor was not as tough as they imagined. 

bradley method birth story natural hospital birth

It felt surreal as we drove the dark roads of Encinitas, making our way toward the hospital at 6 a.m. on October 3rd. I’d envisioned this exact moment so many times and now we were living it. As soon as we hit the first stoplight, I had another contraction. I was pleased because it meant my body wasn’t slowing down due to the change of scenery, as is often the case when women are on the way to hospital. I had one more in the 10 minutes it took to get to the hospital, and then another one in the hallway as we walked down to check in. I focused through yet another contraction as I filled out the paperwork (we had already done a pre-registration but there were more forms to sign) and then we were escorted to our labor room where I was asked to leave a urine sample, my blood pressure was taken and blood was drawn. I decided not to change into a hospital gown and instead left on my hot pink maternity dress with my nursing bra underneath.

I immediately told Mike to get out our birth plan and had him hand it to the nurse, who read it over. Later, when another nurse came in I heard her tell her that we were doing a Bradley birth, even though my plan didn’t blatantly state it. One of the first things on our birth plan that I didn’t follow was that I did get a hep-lock, which is basically an easy way for the doctors to hook me up to any requested or necessary IVs while in labor. I had originally included in my plan that I didn’t want one at all, but I had been on the fence about it since I knew in an emergency it was good to have so when the nurse somewhat insisted, I said yes. It was a little uncomfortable but the good news was that I could still shower and do anything else with it on.

The next step to admission was to have my cervix checked and to have the baby’s heart rate and my contractions monitored. I had stated on my birth plan that I wanted as few cervical checks as possible and that I did not want to know how dilated I was. I had read too many birth stories of women laboring hard and finding out there were only a 3 or 4, causing them to be discouraged and get the epidural, and then progress quickly and have the baby a few hours later. Our Bradley teacher also warned us against this. But when they checked me, I couldn’t help but say, “Please only tell me if it’s good news.” The nurse said, “What is good news?” after she dug her fingers around inside me (it actually didn’t hurt at all in comparison to the contractions) and I said, “an 8 or a 9.” She then said, “Well it’s not an 8 or a 9, but it’s very good news.” And of course I said, “OK TELL ME!” She said I was almost completely effaced and a solid 6, maybe 7. She said based on the way I’d been handling the contractions, she was extremely impressed and the other nurse agreed that the “hardest part” is getting to a 5 (I look back and laugh at this) and then it goes quickly.  I took the news as a great sign and was happy and hopeful that we were on our way. At least all this hard work was making progress. I also was encouraged by her statement that I was handling the pain so well and it gave me even more confidence that I was going to be able to make it til the end.

Strapped into the machine for the first time. The last (of very few) photo during labor!

Strapped into the machine for the first time. The last (of very few) photo during labor!

Next, I was strapped down and we could watch the baby’s heart rate and the contractions on the monitor. As expected, it was NOT comfortable to be lying down, and I couldn’t wait to get off the monitor. One unexpected labor symptom I was having was the constant need to empty my bladder. I had literally been going pee 10 times an hour, and pretty much after every major contraction. While on the machine, I could not use the restroom and it became increasingly uncomfortable.

Monster contraction during the first monitoring session

Monster contraction during the first monitoring session

Mike started to time my contractions again at 7:15 AM. They were now coming very close together and the intensity was getting worse. The monitor also showed that I was having more contractions that I had even felt before and the nurse confirmed that “all contractions count,” even the ones I wouldn’t have counted before since they weren’t as intense. I started wondering if we had been timing incorrectly earlier and that is why they seemed all over the place. Maybe the smaller contractions weren’t getting counted and it was making it seem more inconsistent. While I was being monitored they told me that they really wanted the baby’s heart beat to be a little more variable during my contractions, so they wanted me to stay on the monitor longer. I was surprised to hear this as I assumed it was great that her little heart was unwavering, beating away at the usual high 130s/low 140s. Later, we learned that this was an early sign that she had her first bowel movement of meconium in the womb (common in past due babies).

The nurse shift change happened while I was strapped in, and although I didn’t dislike our previous nurse, I immediately really liked our new nurse, Kylie.  She was extremely supportive of our birth plan and never once mentioned pain medication or pitocin to help move things along. We spent the morning moving around our small hospital room, working through the contractions. I’d labor bent over the bed, on all fours on the bed, bracing myself over the tall trash can inside the bathroom, or on the toilet. We had brought the heating pad from home and Mike would press it on my lower back during contractions which would take a bit of the edge off.  Between contractions I’d walk around the room, rock back and forth on my feet or even lay my head on Mike’s shoulder. Mike later told me that I resembled a zombie from the Walking Dead as I’d shuffle across the room, eyes partially open or even closed, a dazed look on my face.

bradley method birth story

I tired to stay as hydrated and nourished as possible. Before we left for the hospital I had 2 pieces of toast and at the hospital, in addition to the insane amount of water Mike helped me drink, I drank glass after glass of this amazing mango flavored juice that the hospital provides (with crushed ice, my pregnancy addiction), ate a banana and a few pita chips, and took 2 non-caffeinated Gus.  I think the juice itself probably was the lifesaver since I’m sure there were 200 or more calories of pure carbohydrates per glass and I drank at least 7 or 8.

As the morning marched forward, I was checked again and was relieved to hear I was an 8 (I no longer didn’t want to know how dilated I was – I HAD to know). Transition is defined as labor while the cervix moves from 7-10, so I was now in transition, known as the most intense part of labor. Transition typically lasts 15 minutes to an hour, but can last longer. I’m one of the lucky ones whose transition phase lasted a very, very long time. After what seemed like another excruciating hour or more, I was still an 8. Mike and the nurse both assured me that although I hadn’t made any progress in my cervical check, I WAS making progress. Thoughts an epidural and a c-section started to make their way into my mind, but I did not ask for the epidural out loud. I would instead cry or say things like “I can’t do this” and “I feel like I’m dying.”

 It’s hard to explain just what the contractions felt like, but I’ll try. Bradley Method had taught us to think of each contraction as a muscle working, opening the door (i.e. the cervix) for the baby to come out. Mike had said to me over and over before labor started just to “Imagine the door opening for Siena.” I’m here to tell you that contractions do NOT feel like a muscle working. The contraction would start as an ache and an intense tightening in my low belly and then work its way up and over my entire stomach, wrap around my back and radiate down my inner thighs. Simultaneous to this corset of death wrapping its ugly talons around my body, I literally felt like someone was taking a screw driver and digging into my insides. I also compared it to being eaten alive by a zombie. It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my life and absolutely nothing like the hard but manageable pain of running repeats on a track like I had imagined. The one grace that your body gives you is that the contractions usually only last 60 seconds and you are afforded a break between. However, at some points, my contractions were up to 2 minutes long, double peaking and as soon as I’d catch my breath and stop my animal-like groans, another one would come on and I’d be doubled over once again.


contractions are timed from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next

At some point, I started to feel the urge to push and I asked Mike to call the nurse in to check me. I was convinced I was there, and was disappointed to learn I was only a 9. How could I want to push and not be fully dilated? I started to question if I just was convincing myself to push because I wanted a change. At this point is when I asked if the doctor could break my bag of waters, another thing that was not in my birth plan. I had heard via birth stories I read (not from Bradley Method) that breaking the water would help me progress and the nurse agreed. Unfortunately my doctor (who was the on-call doctor;  both doctors in my practice were not on call on a Saturday) was in surgery so we had to wait.

While I waited I got in the shower, which was a welcome change, but there wasn’t a great place to brace myself. During contractions I would let myself push a little bit even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to. The doctor arrived while I was in the shower and she agreed I was only a 9. She tried to break the bag of waters with a long stick called an amino hook. I felt the doctor trying to break the waters but unfortunately (or not since that was a good sign) her head was SO low in my pelvis  that there was no way to break the bag. Instead she punctured it and created a few small holes, but apparently this wouldn’t actually speed up my labor since her head was blocking the birth canal (at the time they didn’t tell me this but later the nurse said so).

During transition I was still forced to be monitored for 20 minutes at a time. Luckily they allowed me to stand up during the monitoring (which was more like hunched over the bed). However, I couldn’t stand for the monitor to be on as long as they wanted it to be and twice I removed it before they came back in to take it off. The urge to pee was incredible and coming after nearly every contraction.

Several contractions later, I begged to be checked again. I felt like I was moving in and out of a dream; it was an out of body experience and at times I’d imagine myself floating over my laboring body, looking down at myself in disbelief. I remember thinking I was in a very dark place several times. I started cursing myself for ever considering a natural labor and dreaming of relief (I’ve had those same thoughts during the ironman and every marathon I’ve ever run). The nurse checked me and sadly told me I was a 9.5. There was a tiny lip on one side that would not move. I ask if she could move it for me (also read that in birth stories) but she said since it was my first birth, she couldn’t. I started to cry again (I think I cried more in labor that I did my entire pregnancy!), and let out a big sigh. I moved back into the shower, hoping that the hot water would progress. In the shower again, I felt the urge to push and it was even greater than before. I was letting myself go a little with the urge to push, although the doctor had warned me not to.

The contractions were taking over my entire body and coming so fast and furious together that it just seemed to blend into one long contraction. Suddenly, all I could think of was relief. I couldn’t do it anymore. I told Mike that I almost wanted a c-section to just get it over with. Through tears, I told him to ask the nurse to come back and if I wasn’t a 10, I was going to get pitocin and an epidural. I literally couldn’t stand one more second of this living hell. I began to cry again, shuddering and shivering through the contractions. I felt trapped. Just as this decision was being made in my mind, my mom knocked on the door (she had been in the waiting room since 9:30 AM!). When she came in, she found me bawling hysterically and she immediately said “Get the pitocin! It’ll speed it up!” and I told her “If I get it, I’ll have to get the epidural,” which sent me into a complete melt down. I was like a toddler who had their favorite toy taken away – I bemoaned that all my hard work would be for NOTHING if I got the epidural. Mike tried to talk me out of it but he eventually conceded.

The nurse came in and my mom left. Through tears, I said, “Is it too late for the epidural?” and she said no. I said, “Check me. If i’m not a 10, I want pitocin and the epidural.” She agreed. After she checked, she smiled and said “You did it. You’re a 10.” For the first time in 24 hours, I smiled and then both Mike and I cried happy tears. Relief was coming! I felt a renewed sense of determination. This baby was coming OUT. While I waited for the doctor, I took another Gu, chugged more water and then got back in the shower. Meanwhile, I heard Mike ask the nurse how long he thought it would take me to push so that he could tell the family to either leave to eat or stay (it was now nearly 4 PM). The nurse knew I was a marathon runner and said “She’s an athlete and the baby is VERY low. I don’t think it’ll take long.”

I asked the nurse to set up the squat bar at the end of the bed. I’d been practicing holding a  deep squat for the last several months of my pregnancy because it is the most efficient way to push as it shortens the birth canal. The bed has two segments and the bottom segment was lowered so that there was a higher platform at the top and a lower platform at the bottom. The squat bar was set up between these two platforms. As in my birth plan, the nurse did not direct my pushing, but she did give me advice on how to push. She told me to hold my breath and push for at least ten seconds, then take another breath and do it again. She encouraged me to get at least three good pushes per contraction to move things along as quickly as possible.

I had heard that there is relief in pushing because the contractions slow down and are less intense than transition, and the effort of pushing is welcome after laboring for so many hours. At first, my contractions really did slow down. They stalled enough for me to be standing on the top portion of the bed, waiting to get down in the squat for a while, wondering when it would come. For the first time in hours I was wishing a contraction to begin, not begging for it to stop. Finally, a contraction came and I got into the deep squat on the lower level of the bed, my arms supporting me on the squat bar. However, when the contraction actually came and I got into the squat, I found it very hard to actually hold my breath and push through it, as the pressure of the position and intensity of the contraction were making it very painful. I squatted for a few pushes, never making it to the count of 10, and then stood up and tried to push, but I knew that wasn’t getting me very far.

After a couple more squats (I’d move out of the squat after every push to rest), I moved to my hands and knees, facing the top of the bed. Pushing in this position felt the best as it was the most relief from the intense contractions, but I wasn’t making great progress here either. The nurse suggested the side lying position so I moved into that, which ended up being the best position. I pulled my lower leg up and my upper leg would push against the squat bar for leverage. During the pushes, Mike would count to ten for me which really, really helped.  The nurse was really encouraging while I was pushing in this position – she said she could tell I was making the most progress here. Occasionally she would put her fingers inside me to feel the baby’s head and also feel how strong I was pushing.

However, the contractions seemed to have picked up again and I found that no matter how hard I tried, after two, sometimes three pushes I would have an aching cramping (similar to a Charlie horse feeling)  in my right glute and lower back and the only way I could get relief was to flip myself onto my hands and knees, with Mike pushing on my lower back. Once on my hands and knees, the contraction would peak and I would be wracked with pain. I could not push during that portion of the contraction, although I would try (and rarely made it to 10 seconds). After several contractions like this, my body started to take over every time I moved into the hands and knees position. The contraction would peak and then my body would literally take over and force me into an excruciatingly painful push. During this part, I would let out the loudest, most primal groans and cries yet – I felt connected to every laboring animal on the planet in those moments. During every contraction like this, I was convinced the baby was going to fall right out of me. However, the doctor hadn’t even arrived yet so I subconsciously knew that I had a ways to go (although the nurse did tell me she has delivered several babies because the doctor didn’t come in time).

At some point the doctor did arrive, and she also put her fingers inside to feel the baby’s head and see how much progress I was making during pushes. She encouraged me to stay on my side as that was definitely the most effective position. They had already told us that the baby had her first bowel movement in the womb (and I could tell because I could see the brown liquid dripping out of me with every push, along with the blood that had continued to come out since my first cervical check) and that the NICU staff was going to be present for her birth so that they could make sure all of the fluid was out of her lungs.

Now that I knew baby could be in danger, I was on a mission to get her out. I forced myself to no longer get on my hands and knees after the side lying pushes, and had a whole new vigor during pushing. During each push I would use every single muscle in my body to move her out. I would try to hold my breath as long as possible and push as many times as possible during a contraction, sometimes 5 times (usually three count of 10 and then a couple shorter pushes at the end). Soon, her head started to make an appearance. I reached down and felt it and almost cried with relief. She was almost here! My pushing took on a whole new intensity and I was grasping Mike hard while I pushed, likely hurting him too. He continued to count along with me and the doctor and nurse were encouraging. I was pushing so hard that I was incredibly hot, sweating like crazy despite the room apparently being very, very cold. Mike asked for a cold washcloth and put it on my face and forehead for relief. Mike told me later that he was worried that I was going to hurt myself I was pushing so hard!

As I pushed, the room slowly began to fill up. I was slightly aware that now 8 or so people were in full view of my baby nearly crowing, but I could not have cared less. Everyone was absolutely silent in the room. I was so focused and in the zone that I couldn’t even hear the doctor or nurse, who apparently were quietly encouraging me.  The doctor asked if it was ok if she gave me a perineal massage to avoid tearing and I agreed. I knew this was a good sign that we were getting close. After several more vigorous rounds of pushing, more of her head was showing. I asked he doctor if they could just pull her out and they told me no and that I needed to keep going. I let one contraction go without any pushing as I rested and then said out loud, “Ok, I can do this.”

For the next several contractions, I imagined that she might come out every single time. I really believed it, which helped me stay motivated. I was convinced that any push would send her out of me. I pushed and pushed and pushed, clutching on to Mike for dear life. Give me my baby, give me my baby, I would repeat in my head. Soon, I felt the good old Ring of Fire (which for the record, is not nearly as painful as the contractions were in transition). I knew that she was nearly here! I also knew it was time to back off a little on the contractions so that I could stretch my perineum slowly to avoid tearing. I tired to hold back a little bit (the Ring of Fire pain helped motivate me to do so).

The doctors told me to keep going and that she was almost here, and I started pushing again, as hard as I could, groaning and moaning between periods of holding my breath. At times, it felt like an out of body experience – I couldn’t believe it was happening. Soon, her head was out! I almost stopped there but the doctor told me to keep going. Her shoulders and body came out with another push and I’m not sure I even realized she was out because I was laying back in pure exhaustion. The doctor had to tell me to look down and she was holding my baby girl in her arms. I said “She’s huge!” (She’s was definitely not huge at 7 lbs 11 oz). It was the best moment of my life. Mike and I both broke into tears and hugged each other tightly, crying on each other, repeating “She’s here!”, full of equal parts happiness and relief.

They immediately whisked her off to be assessed due to the meconium in the bag of waters (I never did feel my water break, it must have just slowly leaked out – or honestly it could have broken and I was too in the zone to notice). The transformation of the room from a dark, quiet refuge for a laboring woman into a bright, noisy and chaotic medical scene was dramatic and sudden.  Mike went over to the warmer where she was being assessed (he also cut the cord) and I was left with the doctor, who began to encourage the placenta to come out. I asked her why we couldn’t let me labor it out naturally and it was obvious that she was worried about something.

Once she got the placenta out, along with more blood than I’ve ever seen in my life, she put her hands inside me to massage my uterus. It was not clamping down as it was supposed to, likely due to the 45 hours of labor it had just endured, and I risked hemorrhage. That hep-lock I hadn’t planned on having was now very important and I’m thankful I had it. The doctor asked the nurse to hook me up to pitocin (she did acknowledge that this wasn’t in my birth plan and I said I was ok with it) as well as one other drug. She also asked when the last time I urinated was, and I said before pushing. This is when I found out that I had been pushing for 3.5 hours. I had no idea how long it had taken (the average woman pushes 30-60 minutes). The doctor put in a catheter to drain my bladder, telling me that was probably part of the reason my uterus wasn’t reacting and then put her entire hand inside me to massage my uterus and bring out any remaining pieces of placenta. I was a bit dazed from the delivery and the pain of her hand was uncomfortable, but again, nothing compared to contractions so I just breathed through it.

I was disappointed that we did not get to have our delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin time, but of course I have no regrets since the health of both baby and mama come first. Luckily, Siena was totally fine despite the meconium and she was soon placed on my chest.I loved her the instant I saw her and fell even more deeply in love as she laid there on me. Mike was by my side and we looked down at our newborn baby and repeatedly exclaimed that we just couldn’t even believe she was finally here.

Thanks to the perineal massage, I did not tear there, but did have a few small tears in my labia, which the doctor stitched up. She numbed me in parts but I could still feel the stitches going in, which was uncomfortable to say the least. After all the stitching was complete, everyone left the room so that Mike and I could have our “magic hour” with Siena to bond. However, one nurse stayed back to help us with our latch. I immediately learned that breast feeding a newborn with no head control takes some serious coordination, but she latched right on and our bond became even stronger.

Could not have done it without this guy!

Could not have done it without this guy!

During our magical hour, Mike and I stared at the most beautiful thing we’d ever seen and briefly rehashed the labor. We were both still in shock from it all. Mike and I hadn’t really communicated verbally more than a few commands I gave him and the non-stop encouragement he gave me during labor. The majority of our communication had been non-verbal – we had just spent 45 hours side by side getting though this incredible feat yet it felt like I hadn’t talked to him in forever! I told him immediately that I could never have done it without him. His unwavering support, patience and coaching made me fall in love with him even more. And now, watching him as a father has strengthened that bond even more.

The grandparents meeting Siena

The grandparents meeting Siena the night of her birth

My Mom, Dad and Step Mom Meeting Siena

My Mom, Dad and Step Mom Meeting Siena

So, was it all worth it? Yes. I would never trade my birth story for anything and I wouldn’t change a thing (ok, maybe I’d like it to have been shorter!). My recovery from labor has been incredibly smooth and I almost feel back to normal, although I’m still taking it very easy to allow my body to heal from the trauma it experienced (nursing kind of forces you to relax!). We’ve been told repeatedly what an alert baby we have and she eats like it’s Thanksgiving dinner every day. However, I totally understand why people chose to use pain relief in labor and would never, ever think differently about anyone who choses that route. That wasn’t the direction I wanted to go, but I respect everyone’s personal decision about their own labor. If you have any questions that I didn’t answer here (maybe it’s not possible since I basically wrote a mini-novel), feel free to reach out to me!

First family selfie after we got to the recovery room (siena spit up meconium all over my new nursing PJ tank that night)

First family selfie after we got to the recovery room – We’re tired but happy!! 

Siena’s Birth Story – Part 1

bradley method birth story Siena’s birth was the most mentally and physically taxing experience of my life. It challenged me in ways that I didn’t expect and it forced me to go deep within a place inside me that I didn’t even know existed. In the end, I was presented with a beautiful, healthy baby girl and every moment of agony was worth it.

I’ve never been concise in my writing and this story is no different. I’m also not planning on holding back on details so if you’re not comfortable with the less glamorous side of birth, I wouldn’t read on (no photos – we were too in the zone to take many)! My hope is that getting my story as detailed and realistic as possible will help others who may be in my or my husband’s shoes one day get a better picture of what labor can be like and give them some ideas on how to manage the pain.

Before I got pregnant, I had briefly considered epidural vs. natural labor and hadn’t made up my mind. However, once I did the research, I decided that I wanted to give natural labor a try and I signed us up for the Bradley Method birth classes, which consisted of 8 weeks of 3 hour classes, covering pregnancy (how the body works, how to ease discomforts, exercises to help prepare for labor and the nutrition side as well), the three stages of childbirth, interventions, and even a breastfeeding and infant care crash course. Bradley Method’s philosophy is hard to summarize but the basic principles is that is is “husband coached child birth” using relaxation techniques to manage pain. Mike’s engagement in the class and readings was just as important as my own and I was pleased at how interested he was in the entire process. Because of this and knowing myself, I opted not to hire a doula – I knew that Mike would be the best partner and advocate for me during labor.

During every class we would discuss pain management techniques, often practicing a relaxation technique during class, and would watch a birth video. By the end of the 8 weeks, both Mike and I were dead set on a natural delivery and believed that I could do it. We both felt confident and prepared and were not fearful of what was to come.

When I visualized Siena’s birth, I usually visualized the typical labor which begins with mild contractions that progress into intense contractions over the course of several hours, ending with a short but extremely intense transition phase before about an hour or so of pushing. The whole thing takes about 14 hours and the hard labor happens for about half that time or less. Mike and I actually kept referring to it as an Ironman since it took me 13.5 hours to do the Ironman, and the progression is similar – the swim is exciting, the bike is long and hard work but manageable and the run is a serious mental and physical battle before the exciting finish.

However confident I was, the small fear that crept into the back of my mind leading up to the birth was that I would be what Bradley calls a “putterer” and have a very long labor. Our Bradley birth teacher said that one of the times an epidural would be needed is if mom was in labor for so long that she was too physically exhausted to push and would need to rest, therefore requiring the epidural to sleep before she could begin to push. My mom had a long labor with me, so I knew this could be a possibility but kept envisioning my perfect birth day instead.

My due date was September 25th and I had absolutely zero signs of labor until the evening of the 24th, when I began to have mild menstrual-like cramps in the evening that eventually went away. Over the course of the next week they’d reappear and I also began to have braxton hicks contractions (tightening but not painful). That next Wednesday, October 1st, I had enough cramping and contractions to begin timing them, but I was disappointed when they went away after 5 hours.

On Thursday morning I noticed the beginning of my mucus plug coming out in the shower and throughout the day I had more of it come out. I had painless Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the day but with no cramping. At the ultrasound I had on Thursday the doctor said that the baby was super low and that she could tell that I was very effaced (I didn’t have any cervical checks leading up to birth) so I was hopeful she was coming soon. Thursday is when I wrote my last Bumpdate, set to be published Friday morning after I took the 41 week photo.

That night at 11 pm, shortly after I got into bed, the menstrual like cramps and tightening started to pick up and they seemed to have a pattern so I started timing (using the Full Term app). My first timed contraction was 11:04 PM and the next happened 6 minutes 38 seconds later. The contractions continued, at about an interval of 7-9 minutes apart. I didn’t want to get too excited but I told Mike about it. We both chatted as I timed until midnight and then decided to stop timing at midnight since we were wasting energy. I laid there in the darkness, trying to relax. One big thing we learned in Bradley Method is that if early labor starts at night, you want to get as much rest and sleep as possible to prepare for what is to come. I tried to sleep and did some relaxation techniques to stop my racing mind.

After some time of tossing and turning and coming in and out of sleep, around 2 or 3 a.m. both Mike and I ended up getting up so I could eat a bowl of cereal because I was starving. I noticed when I went to the bathroom while I was up that I had even more blood and started to get very confident that labor had started. However, I also wondered if it was just more of the prodromal labor (false labor) that I’d had throughout the week and that it might just go away.  I had read a few birth stories of women having prodromal labor for up to a week before the real deal began. After a while, Mike and I decided we had to try to sleep either way to conserve energy, and went back to bed.

I slept between contractions as much as I could and at some point they must have been mild enough to let me sleep for a few solid chunks. I started timing again at 5:30 AM and Mike and I got up to drink coffee. We were both so tired and the contractions were now 12-15 minutes apart so we both decided it was time to go back to bed to conserve energy. We still didn’t even know if I was in labor or not, but either way, sleep was key. I slept another hour and got out of bed around 8 a.m. and started timing again, but only for a few contractions as they were between 9-12 minutes apart. Mike kept encouraging me NOT to time, because it was getting in my head.

At this point, I emailed our Bradley Method teacher with subject line “putterer or prodromal labor!?” and explained what had been happening. She wrote back and told me that her most recent labor started VERY similarly and it sounded like I was in fact in labor. She also said that she had a very long early labor phase and then a VERY fast hard labor and she hoped I would too. I got excited when I read her response and was hopeful that Siena would be born that day.

Mike called in to his boss and told him he was staying home. We took the last 41 week bumpdate photo (I had a contraction during it and Mike snapped a photo as I closed my eyes through it). We ate breakfast, drank coffee and then went for about a 45 minute walk, hoping that walking would speed things up. I could still walk and talk through contractions but they were definitely coming in a pattern, although not seeming to get much closer together. By 11 a.m. I was timing again, and they were coming anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes apart. However, they were getting longer and stronger, but were still mostly concentrated in my lower abdomen. I was starting to get frustrated but since they were getting stronger and longer, I thought I was probably still making progress. Around noon we headed to Which Wich for lunch and I continued timing while we ate. At this point, the contractions were starting to get more painful and distracting. During one contraction I stopped eating my sandwich but kept staring at it and Mike joked that he could see it in my eyes that I was contemplating whether or not I should take a bite while contracting (I didn’t). As was in our plan, I would continue to eat and do anything to distract myself that I could during early labor.

Contraction during bump photo !

Contraction during bump photo !

By early afternoon, contractions were coming closer together, sometimes as close as 2 minutes apart but no longer than 6 minutes. I made pumpkin bread for the nurses, cleaned the house, ate snacks and tried to distract myself through them. I called my Dad who had an 8 hour drive and told him what was happening but that I likely wouldn’t have the baby til after visiting hours that night so he and my Step Mom made a plan to leave Saturday morning and likely arrive after she was born. I was now stopping to focus through the contractions and there were definitely getting more painful, but still manageable. natural child birth story

Mike and I went on another walk in the afternoon and he said something along the lines of Siena possibly making her debut around noon the next day and I told him that he was NOT encouraging me by telling me I wouldn’t have her til then (little did I know it would actually be past 7 PM the next day!). At that point, I felt like I had already put in a lot of work and he already had one mostly sleepless night and he was discounting it. After the walk I got a cold towel and put some relaxing essential oil on it and did a 20 minute relaxation (I had several guided labor relaxations saved on YouTube) to help ease my mind. I had been very active all day and I thought that relaxing might help move things along. It didn’t really do much physically but mentally I think it was a boost. natural birth story timing contractions

And on it went – the contractions would slow at times (usually when I was sitting or lying) and then pick up again when I did something active, like climbing the stairs.  It was frustrating and by dinner time I was wondering if I’d ever have this baby at all. I was surprised when I had to eat yet another meal while in labor and we picked up pizza and ate it in the backyard. Now I definitely could not eat during a contraction – I was working harder and had to focus and relax through them.

After dinner, I decided I was set on getting this labor started. Clearly, it was not going to go away and I didn’t want to be up all night! We went on a short walk and I was pleased that I had to stop to breathe through contractions and had no desire to go very far from home. Bradley encourages you to stay at home as long as possible before heading to the hospital in order to avoid the temptation of interventions. We were told to stay at home for several hours after “hard work” began. I felt like hard work was finally starting.

Contractions while hiking the stairs

Contractions while hiking the stairs

When we got home, I started climbing the stairs 2 by 2. This was really getting my contractions going and I was having them anywhere from 2-4 minutes apart, but lasting only about 30-45 seconds. They were, however, much more painful and I would have to brace myself or bend over the birthing ball to get through each one. I’d often find myself on all fours or leaning over the couch or stairs supporting my body with my upper body as much as possible. I tried to relax my belly as much as possible during each contraction, as I had learned, although my immediate reaction was to clench. I also started to get a little more vocal through them, letting out a low moan. The pain was mostly concentrated in my abdomen but now in my lower back as well (if pain is mostly in the back, the baby is likely facing the wrong direction – I had been told at my ultrasound on Thursday that was facing the right way so I felt good about that).

After the stairs, I started to bounce on the birthing ball. I suggested we rent a movie but after a few contractions while trying to select one, we decided we’d never finish it so we didn’t want to waste our money. We picked a movie on Netflix that we’d both never seen, but after one contraction I wasn’t paying attention anymore so we switched to old How I Met Your Mother reruns and I think we got through 2 episodes, bracing myself on the birth ball or on hands and knees to get through each one before Mike suggested I take a bath.

I lit some candles and started playing my labor play list (made up of slow songs I like) and got in the tub. I stayed in there for about an hour, working through contractions that were coming less frequently than 1 per song. I was trying not to get discouraged. The contractions were painful and now had moved into my inner thighs as well as my stomach and back, but now that I wasn’t lunging up the stairs, they weren’t very close together. At the end of the bath I spent another 15 minutes or so standing in the shower bracing myself as the water hit my lower back. I’d alternate between cold and hot and both felt soothing but nothing could take the pain away.

I got out of the shower after an hour total and Mike suggested we lay down for a bit. We let the music play and Mike massaged my back and comforted me through the contractions. I had started really getting vocal and wondered if the neighbors could hear my moans. I could no longer time the contractions myself – they were getting too intense and there was literally nothing I could do during them except try to take deep breaths to get through the pain. Mike could now tell when I was having one and was timing for me. From 11:15 – 4 AM he comforted me and timed the contractions as I labored, mostly in the bedroom, sometimes lying on my side, but often on all fours or bent over the bed, bracing myself on my forearms. Another position I liked was putting the birth ball on the bed and draping my upper body over it. The contractions seemed to be all over the place, moving from 4 minutes apart to 6 minutes to 7, back down to 3, then back up to 8 and even 10 minutes apart at some points. At times, I’d get two super close together, one starting within 20 seconds of the other stopping. There didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to them and it was confusing and frustrating.

The pain was getting much worse and I was moving in and out of being hot and cold, but the contractions were not consistent. I’d discussed with my doctor waiting until the contractions were 2 minutes apart for an hour before going to the hospital (it’s only 10 minutes away) so that we would be laboring at the hospital for as little time as possible. However, I didn’t see how I could be in so much pain now and not be getting closer and consistent. I’d been working hard for several hours now (just as Bradley Method says you should) and yet didn’t feel like I was making any progress.

At one point I broke down and started to cry, telling Mike that I was in so much pain but didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. I was scared that labor was going to last for days. I also got the shakes –  a possible sign of transition (but later I learned also just a reaction from the hormones). I also said something about not knowing how much longer I could go on, another sign of transition. I started wondering if I was getting close and was starting to worry about the neighborhood garage sale that was happening at 7 a.m. I didn’t feel comfortable being in labor in our house, moaning loudly while my entire neighborhood was outside our door, or worse, leaving for the hospital during it. In retrospect I should have known I had plenty of time left since you lose all modesty as you approach transition.

After another hour or so I was convinced that I needed to get to the hospital but Mike told me to stick to our plan of waiting for contractions to be 2-3 minutes apart. I was absolutely exhausted, physically from the lack of sleep and the intensity of the contractions, and mentally from pushing my mind to work through them. As we were debating (and I was crying), he noticed that my arm was imprinted by the sheets and he told me I needed to drink more water. Mike had been eagerly filling my water cup for me all night but I clearly needed to drink more. He told me if I drank 2 full glasses of water, then we could go to the hospital. Through tears, I nodded and chugged the water and told him it was time to go.  Mike packed the car and I moaned my way through a few more contractions. At exactly 6 a.m., 31 hours after my first contraction and after 9 or so hours of hard working contractions, we pulled out of the driveway and onto the dark street, headed for the hospital. I immediately had another contraction.

To be continued!