Gwen’s Two [Different] Birth Stories
You have two sons. Can you tell us their ages and where they were born?
George is five years old and was born in the hospital after I laboured at home. Charlie is 18 months, born in the same place.
Prior to getting pregnant with your first son, did you exercise regularly? If so what did you do?
Oh yeah. I was a gym rat – lots of aerobics classes, free weights, running, and golf. I had trouble getting pregnant and, as per an OB’s recommendation, I cut back on running to gain a bit of fat mass. This seemed to work to get pregnant.
Can you compare your activity level or exercise program while pregnant with baby #1 to what you did before?
I stayed equally active while pregnant but changed up the activities when the usual ones started to feel not so good. For example, I ran a few times a week until about 20-25 weeks. At that point, my knees started bugging me, so I started swimming instead. I kept up with free weights, golf and step aerobics throughout my pregnancy. My focus with the free weights changed a bit, though, as I started to prepare for birth. For example, I would do wider “birthing” squats and longer static holds to mimic the pain of contractions. I also added in prenatal yoga classes one to three times per week. These felt amazing and were also a great way to build a social support network.
With baby #1 were you conscious about your diet?
I did try to eat “healthy” but I hadn’t yet discovered paleo, so “healthy” was more like a low-fat diet. I made an effort to eat more fatty fish than before pregnancy. Oh, and I had a one-scone-per-day habit throughout most of my pregnancy.
With baby#1, what kind of birth support or education did you engage in? Classes, private training, etc?
My husband and I attended prenatal classes with a local doula. We also hired our own doula and met with her a few times to discuss the specifics of our birth plan. She had me listen to a hypnosis cd on a regular basis in order to increase my sense of confidence and calmness about childbirth. This was really helpful in managing my stress level in general. I also met with my midwife throughout the pregnancy.
I saw a prenatal personal trainer on a weekly basis starting in my last trimester and this served to prepare me for birth as well, because lots of our training was focused on preparing for birth and the postpartum period. Finally, the prenatal yoga classes I attended had a strong educational/support component.
How did you decide on your midwife?
I had heard through a friend of mine who was a new mom that a particular midwifery clinic was reputable. I called and I got the last spot available for my due-date. There seems to be a shortage of midwives in my area. My midwife was excellent!
Can you tell us about your birth with #1?
I started having contractions on the day after my due date. I was at the mall with my husband, just walking around, as there are lots of places to pee there. We left and drove home. The contractions started out pretty close together (less than a minute) so when I got home, I decided to take a bath to see if they would ease off. They didn’t slow down so we called my midwife and she came over to assess me. At that point, I was 7 cm dilated and she encouraged me to have a home birth if I wanted to. I was more comfortable with my original plan to give birth at the local hospital, so we went there. Within 10 minutes of arriving, I pushed a few times and had my baby. From start to finish, labour was two hours. Obviously, there was no time for drugs or other interventions, but I had hoped to have a natural birth, so I was happy. The baby and I were good to go and we went home a few hours later for a nice long night’s sleep :)
How was the postpartum phase for you with baby#1? Often times, women find a lot of emotions come with it whether it’s sadness, happiness, loneliness, or completeness or really anything can come up.
Although I recovered physically really well, I did struggle emotionally for a while. I have a bit of a type-A personality and had waited until I was 33 to have baby 1, so it was a huge adjustment to go with the flow of baby. We also struggled with breastfeeding for the first few months, he fed A LOT and he didn’t sleep much at a stretch for quite a while. I often thought to myself “how could I do this again?!” as I’d hoped to have more than one child. The stress eased around months 4-6 when breastfeeding got easier and I hooked up with a great group of local mommies.
After having baby #1, how long did you wait before working out or moving again? How did you ease into movement and working out?
I spent the first couple of weeks mostly resting and going for walks with the baby. Around weeks 2-3 I went to the gym and did some light weight training. This was initially with the help of my prenatal (now postnatal) trainer. By week 6 I started a “fit mom” class in which I wore my baby in a carrier. I felt great physically. However, I found that attending classes at set times was difficult as I had to work around breastfeeding and naps. Between months 3 and 4 postpartum, I scrapped the classes in favor of my own scheduled runs and weight training.
When and how did you discover paleo/CrossFit (if you do both)?
I discovered CrossFit when baby 1 was about 16 months old. I had been getting bored with my fitness routine and a friend of mine from spinning class encouraged me to try CrossFit. I immediately loved the ever-changing workouts and the intensity of it. The community of the first box I joined was pretty amazing too. Soon after starting CrossFit, I tried paleo. I’ve been eating pretty close to strict paleo ever since, for the past 3.5 years.
How did training change with having a new baby? How about recovery and diet?
This question applies to baby 2 as I started CrossFit between babies 1 and 2. In general, I found it difficult to fit in training after having baby 2, just as I had after baby 1 but moreso as life is busier with two kids than one. As I had with baby 1, I spent the first two weeks postpartum resting and going for walks. I went back to my CrossFit box at 2 weeks postpartum and did an easy 2km row. I gradually increased things from there, being careful to gradually increase weight and intensity. I noticed that a lot of the movements didn’t feel really great at first, so I modified a lot of workouts similarly to the prenatal period. Most things only took a few months to get back to “normal” but some took several months (e.g., kipping pullups). Another change I made in my training in the postpartum period was shifting my focus to strength training and limiting my metcons to two times per week. I did this because my sleep was not great, so my cortisol was messed up, so I didn’t want to further mess it up by doing crazy metcons. It may have been wise to cut back even further on the metcons, but that’s hard to do as a CrossFitter.
Initially, I trained one day and took the next day off. Within a few months, I was training two days with one day off. I maintained this schedule until around 9 months postpartum. I noticed that my body needed more recovery than pre-pregnancy. Baby 2 didn’t sleep through the night until he was 10 months old, so I’m sure that was a major factor. Keeping my diet on track with strict paleo (or very close to it) helped a lot to keep my energy levels relatively stable. As I was breastfeeding, I included lots of dense carbs (sweet potatoes) and healthy fats (coconut oil and coconut cream). I had NO issues with milk supply ever.
When did you decide to go for baby #2? And, did you make any decisions about pregnancy or birth prior to even getting pregnant with baby #2?
I always knew I wanted at least two children, and I had hoped to have them about 2 years apart. However, I didn’t get pregnant when we started trying for baby 2. So when baby 1 was about 20 months, I weaned him in order to have a better chance of getting pregnant. Then I saw an OB and did one cycle of clomid to promote ovulation. All of this took time, so baby 2 ended up being born 3.5 years after baby 1. I don’t think I really made any decisions about the pregnancy or birth, but hoped that both would be as easy as they were with baby 1. I knew right away that I would go back to the same midwife. I also set the goal to CrossFit until I gave birth.
As someone with training CrossFit during pregnancy fresh in your mind, what advice would you give to other women training throughout their pregnancy? How was training CF during pregnancy than prior to pregnancy?
I think this is such a tough question to answer with any specifics. I see so much information out there, particularly photos, of pregnant women doing some pretty intense-looking workouts. I worry about this information, as its very superficial – I mean, photos of beautiful women lifting weights don’t tell the whole story. As a pregnant woman, I think a very important thing to do is listen to your body. My body always told me whether or not something felt right. Another helpful thing that I did was to enlist one of my CrossFit coaches who was a mother as my “wise mind” when it came to scaling workouts. As someone who’s competitive and had done most workouts as prescribed before pregnancy, I sometimes had difficulty deciding how to scale workouts. As a pregnant woman, I still wanted to feel some level of intensity in my workouts. Monitoring my breathing was relatively easy, but knowing how much weight to squat on a heavy day was harder. Overall, training CrossFit during pregnancy involved almost all the same movements, at a slower pace to adjust the cardiovascular intensity. As I got on in my pregnancy, I also decreased the amount of weight I was lifting. However, I still gained a lot of strength, particularly during my second trimester, so that I PR-ed all of my main lifts in the first 4 or so months after giving birth. On heavy lifting days during pregnancy, instead of doing a one-rep-max, I would try for a five-rep max that felt really good.
What did your diet look like during your second pregnancy? Were you more ‘strict’ during those 9 months or was it more difficult to eat clean during pregnancy?
Did you utilize anyone for body work and/or alternative therapies during pregnancy (chiropractic, massage therapy, acupuncture, etc.)?
As someone who typically has no difficulty eating strict paleo for weeks at a time, my first trimester presented a huge challenge for eating well. I figured out I was pregnant partly because I was having a really hard time eating vegetables. I tried my best to eat paleo most of the time, focusing on eggs, meats, healthy fats, and fruit. I had a huge aversion to vegetables. There were definitely days when I treated myself to something sugary like candied nuts, but overall I noticed that I felt the best if I ate well. During the second and third trimesters, eating well was easier. However, the dips in energy levels that came with pregnancy and sleep disruption lead to a lot more carb consumption than I planned on. There were many “banana binges”!
During both pregnancies, I saw my usual massage therapist on a regular basis, every two weeks or so. This made a huge difference in how I felt overall. During only my first pregnancy, I also saw an osteopath about every month or so. Also during my first pregnancy, I had some acupuncture. All of this body work helped me feel my best and also promoted a better ability to take care of my body. I would have done more “therapy” in pregnancy if life with my first son wasn’t so busy.
Much of training CrossFit involves a lifestyle both in and out of the gym. How much would you say a lifestyle that supports vigorous exercise, strong community ties, and a priority in nutrition played a role in the success of your pregnancy?
I love this question! The CrossFit lifestyle and community were HUGE factors in the success of my pregnancy and postpartum recovery. I think that all pregnant women benefit from being a part of some supportive community, whether its your book club or your gym. However, as you say, CrossFit’s added emphasis on physical exercise and nutrition just make it all the more beneficial for women. Every time I worked out during my pregnancy, I was supported by people at my gym. Everyone knew that my goal was to CrossFit until I gave birth and they all applauded me and supported me. The same occurred when I returned after having the baby. Of course, they were all excited to see the baby and the gym owners were open to me bringing him with me to train, when I wanted to. People would ask if they should try not to drop weights around him or turn down the music, and we would laugh that the baby must be so used to hearing these sounds – they were like his lullabies. As far as nutrition goes, I think popular culture does such a bad job of telling women that they can eat whatever and however much they want to during pregnancy. I remember watching a video of Heather Bergeron talking about how she took her prenatal nutrition even more seriously that her non-pregnant nutrition. It made so much sense to me and motivated me to eat well for my baby.
It seems like that which helps athlete’s in a workout, for example, would also help a woman in pregnancy. From focusing on the task at hand, to trusting the process and fighting through to the end. In what ways, if any, was giving birth like the mental game that plays out in a WOD?
Okay, another GREAT question. People often laugh when I say that I was envisioning my labour and delivery as a WOD, but I was! It helped immensely. For example, I would think of each contraction as a set of reps to complete – just get through it until I would rest between sets. There was a lot of concentration on breathing and technique too. My midwife acknowledged how mentally and physically tough I was. For example, when I asked her how long she thought it would be until I was ready to push, she replied “well normally at this stage I would say 2 hours, but I don’t trust you! I need to be ready to move any time now.” Then, towards the end of labour, I started getting excited to get back to the gym, as I believed I would be so much more mentally tough after the birth experiences.
Would you mind describing your birth for baby #2?
This birth went a little bit differently that baby 1. My midwife had warned me that subsequent labours typically are shorter and faster, so I was prepared for a lightning quick labour. However, my contractions for baby 2 started more gradually, every 2 minutes or so. They started in the middle of the night, the day before my due date. When my midwife came to assess me, I was only about 4 cm dilated, so I labored at home for an hour or two before going to the hospital. I could have opted for a home birth, but I felt comfortable going with the same plan as I’d had for baby 1. When I got to the hospital, I got into the Jacuzzi tub for about an hour. My midwife said that she wanted to slow things down so I would “remember this birth” and have a more easy time of it. It was so mentally difficult for me to think about slowing it down. My husband was with me the whole time and he had fun chiding me about my desire to just “get er done!” So after an hour in the tub, my midwife let me get out and start the active phase of labour. I walked around for 15 minutes or so before getting on the table to push. The pushing took about 10-15 minutes. Again, my midwife laughed in amazement at how much things would progress each time I pushed. Although I was in pain and feeling overwhelmed at times, I was confident and felt strong. My baby was born after about 4 hours of labour in total. He was healthy and began nursing really soon after being born, which was the most wonderful thing.
Comparing your two children’s pregnancies and births, what would you say was the major difference? What about similarities at all?
There were two major differences. First of all, I was better rested and took better care of myself with the first pregnancy. I had a lot of time on my hands, in hindsight, as a childless woman. I took full advantage and put my feet up a lot, had lots of massage etc., and got lots of sleep when I could. With pregnancy two, I still took good care of myself but there was just less time for it. The second difference was my greater confidence level with pregnancy two. Having done it before with good results, I felt confident making decisions about my workouts, nutrition, birth plan, etc. As far as similarities, I was fortunate with both pregnancies to have lots of social support. It was the most wonderful feeling knowing that so many people were rooting for me and my babies. I felt so loved and so excited for my baby to experience that, too.
Complete the Following for Time:
30 Alternating One Arm KB Swings
30 KB Single Leg Dead Lift
30 Wall Balls
- KB Swings and KB Dead lifts should be done with a weight that you could do 6-8 reps in a row.
- Wall Balls should be done with a weight that you can maintain a full squat- 6#, 20#, whatever is comfortable for you.