At 38 weeks, I basically quit working out with the classes and started doing shorter workouts on my own in the air conditioned front gym with simple movements like goblet squats, KB swings, rowing, etc. that I can still do pretty easily. After a short AMRAP at 37 weeks that included 15# slam balls, I found myself completely ruined for days! I was so sore and could not recover. I eventually realized that, for the VERY physical labor and delivery that we are preparing for, I would need to be in good physical condition and able to get into all kinds of wazoo positions! I could not be ridiculously sore when I go into labor because I would just be that much more miserable!

Along with my new workout regimen, I also started walking around the neighborhood during the day or in the evening when Jeff came home. It would at least provide me an opportunity to get my blood circulating and work up a little sweat. Definitely a far cry from my old workouts, but any little thing that helps jiggle this baby on down is a step in the right direction!

I had another issue with swelling and water retention around 38 weeks as well. I was drinking my normal 1-1.5 gallons of water per day, but all of a sudden, I found myself getting rid of much less fluid if you know what I mean! I still had the urge to pee just as frequently, but it was like my body was storing as much water as possible. It didn’t seem like the water I was drinking was actually being used efficiently either; I felt like I had chapped lips and was constantly thirsty. I talked with my midwife and she had me start drinking a dandelion tea 2-3 times a day. Dandelion helps with the liver’s production of bile and ability to process waste. I bought the brand Traditional Medicinals from Whole Foods and, although I expected it to taste nasty, it was actually pretty good. I also increased my salt intake and started eating a container full of chopped watermelon with sea salt at least once a day. When I went back to see my midwife, Carol, a few days later to pick up our birthing pool, I had lost several pounds of water weight and had pretty well defined ankles once again!

I forgot to include in my last post about the herb protocol that I started at 34 weeks. Carol had me start a uterine tonic called Gentle Birth (by far the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted…a Heinz 57 of every gross herbal taste all rolled into one. You can check it out the ingredients here: http://www.birthwithlove.com/categories/itempage.asp?prodid=Gentle+Birth+Formula-Mountain+Meadow+Herbs). I also started taking Alfalfa because it’s extremely high in vitamin K and we wanted to avoid the supplemental vitamin K injection once the baby is born. Additionally, I started taking Borage Oil and increasing my dosage every week. Borage Oil, like Evening Primrose Oil, has a high GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) content. GLA is a fatty acid that is converted in the body to prostaglandins, which help to ripen the cervix to prepare for effacement and dilation.

So here we are, at 40 weeks on the dot and no baby! I knew all along that something like 5% of women actually deliver on their due dates and that first babies usually come later, so I was mentally prepared for this day to come and go! I’m getting a lot of phone calls/text messages from friends and family members wanting to know “how I’m feeling,” which seems to be code for “Have you had that baby yet and not told me?!” 🙂 For some reason, I anticipated that this baby would come on the 16th; I kept picturing myself watching the Notre Dame and Michigan State game while sitting on a stability ball and trying to keep my mind off of early labor contractions! We’ll have to wait and see when this little nugget feels like making his or her grand entrance, but until then I’m planning on keeping up with everything I’ve been doing for the last two weeks and just trying to stay pretty well rested. I’m definitely not to the point where I feel gigantic or like a different person who needs this little human being to evacuate ASAP, which was how I anticipated feeling by this point. I still feel great; I’m mobile and feeling like my old self still, just a little different. I will admit, the thought of wearing jeans again and getting back into the gym for some GHD situps gets me a little excited, but I’m sure a part of me will miss being pregnant since I’ve had such a great experience.

Finally! Eleven days after my due date, we’re happy to announce that it’s a girl!!! Niamh Lee Smith (it’s an Irish name, pronounced Neev) was born at 8:55 am on Friday, September 21, 2012 (she shares her daddy’s birthday) weighing in at 7 lbs. 11 oz. and 20” long. Here’s the story of how the whole thing went down…

I started having relatively painless contractions Tuesday evening (at 41 weeks, 1 day); they were about 15 minutes apart, so I didn’t really think twice about them. By 2:00 am Wednesday morning, they had become painful and woke me up. I wasn’t able to sleep, so I watched a movie and bounced around on the stability ball to keep my mind off of things. When Jeff woke up to head to the gym at 5:00 am, I let him know that we might be having a baby pretty soon!

Regular contractions continued throughout the day, but I was determined to ignore them for as long as possible. We ran errands and picked up some snacks for Jeff and the midwives to have on hand. By that afternoon, contractions were lasting about a minute each and coming 4-5 minutes apart. Carol decided to come over and check me, but I was only at 1.5 cm at that point. She offered to stick around but we didn’t think anything was going to happen in the very near future so we sent her home. Late that evening, my parents got into town and my mom helped Jeff set up the birthing pool while I tried to get a little rest between contractions (at this point, I had only slept 2 hours since Tuesday morning).

Shortly after my parents took off and headed back to the hotel, Jeff decided it was time to call Carol over because my contractions were coming closer together and were noticeably more intense. She came over around 3:00 am Thursday morning, checked me, and found that I was 3 cm. Not a ton of progress in the past 12 hours, but I still felt good and knew things were progressing just like they were supposed to, albeit a little slower than I would have liked. By 7:00 am, I was 4 cm and Carol let me get into the pool to see if it would help speed things along or allow me to get a little rest in between contractions. Over the next few hours, I labored all over the house: in the pool, on the bed, in the bathroom, in a lunge, in a squat…you name it, I tried it. The assistant midwife, Holly, showed up around 11:00 am and things changed drastically at that point. We had met her previously at our 36 week home visit and she seemed perfectly fine. However, on this particular day, when she showed up it was like a dark storm cloud descended over our house and the entire energy changed.

I had been awake and laboring for over 30 hours at this point and was beginning to show some signs of exhaustion and dehydration. Carol suggested that they do an IV and give me a bag of fluid to keep me hydrated and ready for the rest of labor. I agreed and we moved into the bathroom to proceed. The assistant midwife attempted to give me the IV, but she missed the vein in my hand and hit a valve, at which point she dug around inside my hand with the needle. Immediately, my hand started swelling and pouring blood all over me and the bathroom floor!! Jeff (who has given many, many IV’s throughout his time in Special Operations) asked her why she hadn’t gone with a more accessible vein that was just below the one she aimed for. She then responds with a very snotty “Well, why don’t you try it then?” Jeff, obviously frustrated, tosses the lid to the water bottle I had been drinking and goes to grab me a coconut water in the kitchen to get rehydrated while the midwives clean up the pool of blood. The assistant midwife then turns to Carol (right in front of me) and says, “If he’s going to be like that, I’m not staying.” That was my breaking point; from the moment she walked in (carrying a bag of McDonald’s nonetheless!), she started whispering with Carol and barely even acknowledged that I was there. Prior to the botched IV attempt, I heard her whispering about transporting to the hospital. This didn’t sit well with me because I had hired a midwife and planned for a home birth so that I could play an active role in the birth of this baby, not so people would whisper and make decisions about my well-being outside my door. At this point, I let Carol know that the assistant midwife needed to leave my house immediately. Holly snatched her McDonald’s bag and slammed the front door on her way out.

Carol checked me again (11:30 am at this point) and I was still 4 cm with a very swollen cervix. After the episode with the assistant midwife, this was the first time that I saw any doubt in Jeff’s eyes. He had been a phenomenal labor coach, keeping me relaxed during contractions, making sure I was eating and drinking, even making positioning suggestions before Carol even could! He pulled Carol off to the side to get her opinion on what was going on. She suggested that transporting to the hospital and getting an epidural and some IV fluids would allow me to rest enough and still have a good chance of a vaginal birth. Jeff talked with me and told me that I hadn’t “failed” at anything, but my body needed a chance to recover before we finally met this baby. After all, I was tired and dehydrated and bad things happen when you add things like that to the mix. We decided to transport to Texas Children’s Hospital because they have a no-separation policy and the baby would stay with us the entire time unless she needed additional medical attention.

We showed up at triage at noon on Thursday and it took a little time for them to get us admitted. It was about 5:30 pm once I was moved to Labor and Delivery and 7:30 pm when they started an epidural. I was immediately upset about the epidural and felt like I had lost complete control over this birth; I felt like I was out of options and on some very foreign territory. The game plan was to rest for a while and start some pitocin to see if it would help me dilate faster (I was STILL at 4 cm; well over twelve hours with no progress). Throughout the evening, I backed off on the epidural so that I could feel the contractions and I would rotate my hips and visualize an open cervix and the baby coming out. I was convinced that this baby was just in a goofy position and needed a little nudge to present the right way and, if that would happen, everything else would fall into place and things would naturally unfold the way they were supposed to. Jeff stayed awake all night (again!) and helped me through each contraction. The baby started having some variable decelerations with the higher dosage of pitocin, so the doctors decreased the dosage significantly and let me try a little longer to will this baby out with every fiber of my being! I must say, the staff was great and was willing to let me labor as long as I needed to without rushing me toward surgery.

By about 7:00 am Friday morning, I was still stuck at 6 cm with a baby whose heart rate was not looking nearly as resilient as it was twelve hours earlier. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink once I got to the hospital, so I was starving and thirsty, even with the IV fluids. Aside from some few-minute naps between contractions, I hadn’t slept since that two hours Tuesday night. I knew that I was working with a limited time frame because they had broken my water on Thursday night in an attempt to speed things up. By 8:00 am, Jeff convinced me that it would be best to just go meet our baby. I cried and cried but deep down, I think part of me knew I didn’t have the strength left to push a baby out and I was somewhat of a relief to think that it could all be over within a matter of minutes! Once we made the call, they immediately took us to the OR and had a healthy, beautiful baby girl out at 8:55 am.

Recovery was definitely very different than what I was expecting with my natural, home birth! That first night in the hospital, Niamh woke up crying and I wasn’t able to get out of bed by myself or even lean over to pick her up out of her bassinet. I was so upset feeling like I couldn’t even do the basic things to take care of my new baby without help! While I was thankful that she had endured such a long and tedious labor with no complications, I have to admit that I had a profound sense of disappointment in the way things had unfolded. I immediately started worrying about future pregnancies and what my options would be regarding VBACs (vaginal birth after Cesarean) or future scheduled c-sections. Jeff and I have always talked about potentially having a big family and that was the main reason why it was so important to me to avoid a Cesarean. After all, it is a major surgery and health risks/complications increase with each one. I felt profoundly guilty for having any feelings of disappointment because I had been absolutely blessed with this beautiful, healthy baby! It probably took me a week or so to work through all my feelings and, in the end, I realized that I had friends with very traumatic vaginal births and the grass certainly isn’t always greener. In hindsight, I think one of the main reasons that I was so upset by the surgery was that I really believed that if I trusted the process and let things unfold without interventions, then my body would naturally know what to do and allow me to birth this baby just like it was built to do. Looking back on it, there’s no good reason why I never dilated past 6cm in the course of such a long labor. I don’t have any explanation why the process didn’t work like it was designed to, and that really frustrated me! After a couple weeks, I stopped posing a million “what ifs” in my mind and found myself so totally engrossed in everything that Niamh did. Falling in love with a new baby took the place of any of those feelings of disappointment and failure that I initially had. It’s way too soon to worry about future pregnancies and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, any experience was worth it for this sweet little nugget!

I still have just over three weeks before I can get cleared to work out again if everything is healing well. Time is actually flying by and I’m starting to get a little nervous about getting back into the gym! I haven’t done a single pullup on my own in months and I know it’s going to be huge blow to the ego when I’m deadlifting closer to 100lbs. than 200lbs.! I’m hoping that I’ll get right back into it after the first couple weeks of shaking out the cobwebs!! 🙂 I’ll post again to let you guys know how it goes; wish me luck!