A Wedding Vow

Day 8 post partum

Dear body;

I solemnly swear to love you, even when I don’t like you. 

I promise to always speak kindly to you even when I’m angry; to use my words to build you up instead of tear you down. 

I promise to treat you right, and always be grateful for the life you give me. 

I promise to take care of you well into old age so we can run and laugh and play;

I promise to look past your flaws and see only the good things you have done for me and my family. 

I promise to give you my best even if I don’t think you’re giving me your best back. 

And I promise, on the days I like you least, to remember the work you have done and continue to do for me every single day, and to take a deep breath and let go of my unrealistic expectations of you, and simply be together. 

I promise to not miss out on anything life has to offer on account of my relationship with you, and I promise to work equally hard for you as you do for me. 

Until death do we part. 

A Birth Story

I’m not even sure where to start, and I’m even less sure of where this will end, but this is my story.

What you read in quotes is from our amazing friend Christa, who supported us in this whole birth journey and was there to pray, capture moments and stand with us during one of the most challenging and intimate moments of our lives. Thank you Christa. Words could never.

July 6th 0730pm
I arrive to a welcome from your mom, ushering me into the house. I look up the stairs at you and instantly notice your face is different. You have the look of a mother who is in labor. You are glowing, your face is so soft, your cheeks are flush and your eyes are sparkling.
At this point my contractions are regular, and we are so excited to finally end the wait. It’s been a full 24 hours since contractions started, and we were up all last night. At a week overdue, and what felt like the biggest fight against the medical system, God was faithful, and kept our baby safe and gave us strength to advocate for him/her until s/he was ready. And here baby is … ready.
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Lucas, myself and Christa start out with a walk to help move baby down; I want to labour outside and the weather couldn’t be more perfect to take my mind off the pain, which I have such a tough time accepting and instead find myself fighting. By the time we get back to the house my contractions are 8 minutes apart and getting stronger.
It’s midnight; we’ve gone for another walk and we’re back home and my contractions have shown up strong. I’ve had back labour for almost a full 24 hours at this point and I can barely stand I’m so tired that I fall asleep sitting upright on my living room floor only to wake up for contractions, and fall back asleep. The heat and intensity of the pain in my back is like nothing I’d ever experienced and I find myself scared, but determined.
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Instead of prepping my mind for the inevitable, I brace and prayed the next wouldn’t come, but of course it did. Things are gearing up, and it’s time. We are heading to the hospital now, and I am kneeled in the middle seat, breathing and groaning through the pain. Luc reaches back and holds my low back during a contraction while Christa coaches me to lower my voice and focus; they both keep me strong and calm. Immediately when it’s done I fall asleep.
02:39am
July 7th
We arrive at the hospital and you’ve had four contractions walking in. You are moaning, rocking, swaying and calling for Luc. You are in triage now. The hallway out here is quiet, all I can hear is the chatter of the nurses and your voice behind the wall. “Oh, there’s another one.” I think to myself.
I hear them tell you that you are only 1-2cm dilated. You are discouraged, and tired. You want to go home – and even though they want to keep you there – you trust your body and your mind is made up. This is YOUR journey. We leave the hospital to labor at home. I drop you and Luc off at your house and go back to my house, it is almost 5am.
Again I am encouraged to be induced. Again I am told I am leaving the hospital against medical advice. Again, I’m being told it’s just not happening. I am starting to lose faith. How can I be in so much pain, and have such regular contractions so close together, and be so far from my baby? We leave as we need time to sleep, to pray and to process.
I doze in and out of sleep and contractions all morning. Asher is still at Nana’s and Lucas is asking me to go for a walk to get coffee, but it’s too light out. I feel too vulnerable here; I don’t want to have contractions with anyone around. I want to be alone, so we drive for coffee and park; we sit here in silence while I continue to fall in and out of sleep and contractions.
“We should go to the abandoned golf course outside of Christa’s house and you can be alone there, but outdoors and we can talk.” He’s so perfect. He knows me so well and has been such a strong rock for me to lean on.
By 10:30 AM we are in an open green space; the same one we had maternity photos done with our first son, Asher. It’s sunny and peaceful, and completely quiet. Here I can think. Here I can labour.
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It’s day 3. I have had back labour through the night and day for nearly 50 hours. I’m so tired, I feel like I can’t think. We talk and talk. You listen. More contractions follow and you scoop me up in your incredibly strong arms and hold me; sway with me. I think to myself … I’ve never been more in love.
It’s time. We’ve decided. I want to have my water broken and to have this baby. I root myself in prayer, because I am the only one who can fully make this decision, and I need to love myself through it. I need to be able to handle looking back and seeing that things could have been different, but be ok anyways. I don’t want to fight Dr’s and contractions anymore. I’ve fought long and hard and we want to end the fight and fill our family. I’m ready to do this.
You and Luc enter the unit and I sit in the waiting room. Shortly after I discover they have instantly put you into the Labor and Delivery room, and promptly broke your water at your request. I am called in to the room and things have already changed- dramatically.
Music is playing and your surges are different this time – you can tell your body is working with more purpose. You dance between contractions, you know you must keep moving.
Hours pass as you rock, moan, sway, cry, ache, cringe . . .but eventually you get the hang of it. You listen as we tell you to relax your face, lower your voice, relax into the surge, move as your body needs to move. You are suddenly the poster child for handling the most intense, transition like surges. Everyone is so impressed with you. As time goes on though, you reach a point of exhaustion, you fall in to sleep between almost every single contraction.
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I’ve been here for 8 hours; contractions are strong and a minute or less apart. They bring me to my knees; I can feel my back tightening and burning up, it feels like it’s going to break me. I hear words like strong and focused, but I don’t feel it. And yet here I am, faced with my biggest fears, and I have to keep going. I’ve never been one to embrace pain.
I thought my labour would be peaceful; I’d be the poster child of natural birth. Maybe I am; maybe that’s what this is. I’ve never felt so weak and yet here I stand on day 3 of nearly no sleep and I haven’t sat down in over 8 hours. My feet ache, my calves burn from the deep squatting and rocking…I have come into this one woman, and I will leave it another.
I have cried, screamed, thrown up, groaned and prayed.
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I have felt the presence of God in a way I haven’t felt Him in a long time as worhsip music plays and pours out over me as I thank Him over and over for giving me this opportunity. For giving me this strength. For allowing me to come into this process my own woman, making my own choices and not backing down for anyone.
His promises are true, in weakness, we can be strong.
The nurse frowns, you are still only 2-3cm. “What?! How?!” you say. Another set of incredibly intense surges overtake you. The nurse encourages you to get on all fours and rest between them. You do. You also move from side to side, begging for relief. You fall asleep again only to be awoken by a surge almost everyone in the room can feel.

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My resolve is breaking to maintain through this contraction knowing it’s not doing what I need it to do. It’s 10:30PM. Eight hours with almost no dilation. I can’t cope. I’m too tired, too sore everywhere, I need to sit. I need to rest. My body is fighting this now, and I need to relax. I ask for an epidural. I am proud to have asked. I am proud of myself for enduring what I have, and feel no pride to power through. I have nothing to prove to anyone; this is my journey, and my body needs to rest now.
I’m cross legged on the bed. Sitting down during a contraction is the worst thing imaginable. I’m given a pillow to hold and crush as I need to be completely still during the epidural. I feel it coming, but just knowing relief is on it’s way, I find the strength one last time. It starts; the needle is in my back and I am fighting. I cry, groan and shake but I don’t move.
It’s done. I can feel myself falling asleep as the pain diminishes, and pure exhaustion sweeps over me.
It’s 1 AM. My body needs more sleep than 2 hours, but I woke up anyways. Something deep inside me stirred to let me know it’s time. I get to meet my baby now. This is what it means to be a woman; to know things without being told. To rely on that deep instinct of the Holy Spirit. 10 CM; my heart is racing. We made it; I get to deliver my own baby. I get my VBAC.
I don’t question whether or not I’ll be able to deliver this baby on my own. I hear them talk about baby’s heart decelerations as I push, and as NICU staff come in, but I am at complete and total peace. God has us, we are safe.
Pushing is a relief; I feel such overwhelming joy and peace knowing this is God’s design.
I feel every contraction, I feel every push and suddenly I feel my baby.
I reach down and grab my baby. I’m weeping as I scoop my hands under the armpits and pull to my chest; it’s a boy you tell me, and we both know this is our Niall.
As soon as he is out, you both cry, you weep.
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I want to delay cord clamping until all the blood was done pumping through. I want all the best things for our son, and they leave it attached, no fight, no struggle. 
Then the Doctor tells me in surprise that the placenta is still intact and ready to be delivered, and I have the hospitals first Lotus Birth. I can feel the culmination of everyone’s prayers in that one moment, and it was beautiful. She pulled out the placenta and it lay beside us delivering everything baby needed until it was done. I never realized how beautiful creation is, even at its messiest. 
Surrounded by Christian nurses and staff, we end up having the most beautiful experience imaginable. I can feel the strength of all the prayers that went up for us this week, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am so many people held space for us, and how grateful I am that we serve the God we do.
It’s time to let Asher meet his baby brother.
Niall Gannon Gross, we’ve been waiting.
Welcome home.

On Inner Strength and Self Advocacy

My first birth experience was traumatic for me. I felt let down by my body. I felt that I made a decision based on fear and not on knowledge. I felt regret. I felt frustration.

My son was Frank’s breeched; aka bum down. No pressure on the cervix and at 40w3d I had no dilation, no amniotic fluid according to the ultrasounds and they were concerned that my placenta was no longer functioning. I felt lost in that moment. A deep part of me sensed he was fine and that I didn’t need it, but I couldn’t risk his life if what the dr’s said was true, so we went ahead with a c-section 4 hours later.

I had never felt a contraction, never had any ‘labor is pending’ symptoms. No relaxin making my hips feel like they’re slipping out of joint, no nesting urges, no mucus plug lost, no Braxton hicks … nothing. I was pregnant and then I wasn’t, and I was devastated.

I wasn’t allowed immediate skin to skin and I was so drugged I couldn’t feel anything from the neck down, so I didn’t even truly experience our first time nursing. From there on I remember very little. My husband shares details with me that surprise me, and I still wonder why that time in the hospital is mostly blank. I remember getting pain killers, the awful sensation in my legs from the epidural and my first walk to the bathroom … and that’s it. I don’t remember my son in those two days. I see photos, and I treasure how joyful I look, but I really must have been struggling, because I don’t remember what I wish I did, and that’s him.

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I’m now 40 weeks and 3 days with our second. I haven’t blogged in TWO weeks, as I’ve been really struggling to process all that is happening lately.

Baby2 measures small; they are worried it’s the same situation as before and have been strongly encouraging me to get induced for the past two weeks. I’ve left my last 3 appointments in absolute tears, because I felt I still didn’t know how to speak up. I didn’t know how to say what I felt in my heart, and it was killing me to think we’d go down that same road again.

The natural birth process is important to me, not because I feel I have anything to prove to anyone, but because with my whole heart I believe it is the safest for baby and mom. Yes, I believe medical interventions save lives every day and I am so grateful for that, but I also believe we are so quick to trust medicine over our own instincts that we needlessly intervene where it isn’t necessary.

My baby is healthy. Everything checks out as normal aside from size. My fluid level is normal, my baby is practicing breathing, sucking, getting nourishment from the placenta and has a strong heartbeat with a lot of movement.

And yet I felt shame in wanting to wait. I felt as though they thought they cared more about my child’s safety than we do, and that they didn’t trust me.

How does any of this relate to fitness? Motherhood, I get. But fitness?

Well the last two years have been an incredible struggle with post partum depression, and only since exercising, learning to eat better (and more) and adding daily nutritional shakes did I start finding a strength of mind I didn’t know I had.

This was never about a six pack (but I’ll take it…).

Finally, I had my 40 week appointment. I was dreading it. I wanted to switch doctors, or give birth on our own at home…anything but see these people again. So I researched, and I prayed and I reached out to communities of moms for their experiences and knowledge, and lastly, I researched my own csection.

I went to my family doctor and requested the notes from my surgery to find out if my placenta and amniotic fluid were indeed not functioning, because after two years I was finally ready to know. And everything was normal. 

I had my power.

I now knew what I knew all along, and that was that my son was safe and healthy, and needed more time in the womb. And I can’t blame myself for being afraid and not knowing, but I can protect our new babe by keeping him or her where s/he belongs. With me. Just a little bit longer.

I took this information and strode into my appointment with a fierce determination; I would not back down and I would not be bullied.

But what happened really surprised me.

What I thought I would have to do was fight, but I had to do something much, much harder. I had to share with my doctor, who is truly a soft spoken and seemingly very caring woman, that I did not feel she was looking out for me. I had to share with her that I didn’t trust he. I had to question her character, and I hadn’t before because I was scared to. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I had no real reason not to trust her except the anecdotes of many women who have shared their stories of ‘pushy doctors’ and it left an assumption in me that left me closed and unreceptive and unable to communicate with her.

We shared with each other how we felt, me not being heard or supported, and her feeling like I was on guard and unreceptive. I had to dig deep and share my fears and she was so kind, and so receptive that I left with tears of joy. I left feeling like a part of a team. I left feeling empowered.

I would