Culture

The Reality Of Pregnancy, Labor, Birth And Hardcore Training Again

One runner reveals why the days before labor are like walking a tight rope between two worlds.

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I recently tweeted that the days and moments before going into labor are the farthest I will ever feel from an athlete. Now why is this? The physical ramifications of being super pregnant are the most evident factors here. The simple act of putting on my shoes and socks is a feat rivaling climbing Mt. Everest. Turning over in bed requires a grunt and groan accompanied by a pillow between my legs to soften the blow. I’m sleeping 8-9 hours a night, plus a few catnaps throughout the day, mostly due to boredom and the inability to perform any other task. Ben recently likened my daily routine to our 15-month-old. Wake, bottle, play, nap, bottle, play, lunch, nap, play, dinner, bottle, bed. Substitute bottle for iced coffee, ice cream, popcorn and play for reading and you just about nailed it.

Wow—well, things escalated quickly. While writing the first paragraph of this blog I was sitting at a coffee shop last Friday playing the waiting game. My due date was the next day, and as any woman who has children knows, the anticipation and lack of control over your baby arriving is a tough thing to get through. Instead of my usual iced almond milk mocha, I switched up my order to the seasonal special pumpkin spice latte, hoping maybe this change would induce labor. Ben and I spent the afternoon, like most days of the last weeks, prepping the house, going through our check lists of baby items, stocking the freezer with cooked meals, and tying up loose ends. Riley was at daycare so we treated ourselves to an afternoon movie. Halfway through the movie I started to feel some contractions that were growing in intensity and sticking around for the remainder of the movie. I tried not to get too excited, but on our way home I mentioned to Ben, “This is maybe happening.” An hour later at home, nothing! They completely stopped and I returned to the waiting game. It sounds strange, but I was pissed. Your emotions are already on high alert this late in pregnancy, and then just when you feel like labor is imminent, it comes to a screeching halt.

I have come to a hypothesis that the last weeks of pregnancy feel like you are hovering between two worlds—and you don’t have your feet planted in either. On one hand you are so ready to not be pregnant anymore and get your body back. You’ve been host to this little creature for months, one who has zapped your energy, caused you nausea, headaches and backaches, yet you love them so much without having met them. They are part of you in a way no other human connection can be. But on the other hand, this leads to the world of wanting to keep them in your tummy because it’s safer and easier. You still have your freedom, sanity, sleep and no worries about whether you’ll be a good parent or not. My feet have been dangling between worlds for weeks, but last Friday, those worlds collided.

I went into true labor around 10:45 p.m., and Hudson Rothstein Bruce was born 12 hours later at 10:31 a.m. I won’t go into my birth story here, but if you want more details I’ll be writing it in the next few weeks and releasing through my personal blog at stephandbenbruce.com. I’ll just share that this labor and delivery were worlds apart from my first son, Riley, last June. A woman’s labor experience varies so much from person to person that comparing stories can almost be comical and disheartening at the same time. It took about five weeks to truly feel recovered from my first baby, whereas I’m just 72 hours post-baby writing this and feel good enough to walk a mile with my boys: husband Ben and two babies. If you’ve followed along my journey from 2013, you’ll know my sights have been set on the Olympic year coming up, and this second baby was a little bit of a surprise to us. Everything happens for a reason, and I truly believe this now more than ever. My delivery went about the best I could have imagined, and I am feeling hopeful, inspired and motivated to get back to work and continue chasing my dreams heading into 2016. Feel free to follow along #journeywithsteph as I attempt to return to training and racing full time, while sprinkling in raising a 15-month-old and a newborn with Ben and also being a professional runner. It won’t be all rose petals and tulips, but it’ll be honest, real, raw and a challenge that I am hungry to take on.