Melissa Hemphill's Empowering Birth Story

The birth story below was written by Melissa for the BirthFIT audience. It is as much educational as it is beautiful and empowering. It is apparent that Melissa was strong physically, but it was her mental game that got her through her pregnancy and birth.

I was 8 weeks pregnant when my team and I competed at the South East CrossFit Regionals in 2013.  I felt that this truly set the stage for my pregnancy.  As a former gymnast turned college pole vaulter, I have been an athlete my entire life.  Going into Regionals, I didn’t know how the mama instinct would interact with the athlete instinct.  Would I forget the pregnancy during a workout and overdo it?  Would I be unable to forget the pregnancy and hold back too much?  In hindsight, the result did not surprise me.  My body knew EXACTLY what was allowed.   Each workout was a best effort with smart recovery.

After Regionals, I switched my mentality from cross-fitness to birth-fitness; competition goals took a backseat to a healthy pregnancy and natural labor preparation.  Despite the refocus, I was surprised how little my workout regimen changed.  The biggest adjustment came from cutting out the intensity aspect of CrossFit.  I moved at a pace with which my body agreed and if a time cap was placed on the workout, I simply extended it by 30-50% to get similar volume of repetitions.  Above all, I let my body guide my workouts and was never too proud to make the adjustment.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.52.54 PM

All that physical fitness was super nice during labor and delivery, but it would have been useless if my mind was not prepared for the challenge.  Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth totally solidified my spirit.  Based on her guidance, my husband and I developed positive mantras and an intimate mood.  We spent early labor and the beginning of active labor outside at a park-- breathing in the fresh air and soaking up the sunshine.  I felt securely vulnerable which allowed my body to efficiently progress.  Fear and anxiety are totally inhibiting to labor.   Never underestimate the mind-body connection.  If you are struggling with fear or anxiety, vocalize it, write it down, or otherwise free yourself from the negative energy.

When we finally moved into the hospital, we had to put some serious effort into maintaining the mood in which we had been thriving.  All of a sudden and without reason, I was treated as if I couldn’t be trusted to birth my child and was on the cusp of intervention at any moment.  Instead of submitting to these new circumstances, my husband and I relied on positive mantras and the idea that the hospital staff was only there to witness to my birth process, not facilitate it.  I think our attitudes and ability to work with the labor surprised the staff and allowed them to trust us more.  Be vocal about your intentions and trust yourself to follow through!

The worst part of labor is the anticipation.  Despite the positive thinking and self-talk, there comes a point (very near transition) where it feels like you don’t know how much more intensifying you can bear.  I remember this feeling and vocalized it on the final contraction before my water broke.  The very next moment, all the sensations changed.  My baby transitioned and I felt totally rejuvenated to finish the task.  One push later (thank you, CrossFit), my husband caught our fit little girl.  From start to finish, the entire birth process was ours.  Talk about empowering!

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.53.13 PM

Most birth stories end with a healthy baby (which is wonderful!), but I was totally surprised by the wealth of post-birth benefits from a natural birth.  For starters, you can get up, walk around, and hold your baby immediately.  Next, both you and your baby get a huge rush of adrenaline.  Because of this, the baby is ultra-alert and takes to breastfeeding much more easily.  About 4-6 hours post-partum, your baby gives you the sweetest gift of a long nap. Ifelt like a new woman when we finally woke up from our 4-hour siesta!  In the following days, your baby’s alertness will only increase.  Neither you nor your baby have to overcome the fog of drugs and your recovery begins that much sooner!  

CrossFitting during pregnancy had accelerated my recovery timeline even more.  I took almost two weeks off before carefully resuming it with the same mentality as during pregnancy.  Each successive week, I was surprised how much stronger and more energetic I felt.  The 2014 CrossFit Open started just 6 weeks post-partum, and at the last minute, I changed my mind about taking the year off and decided to compete.  Although it was not my best performance, I was pleasantly surprised about finishing in top 5% of women in my region.  CrossFit Regionals 2014 or not, the endeavor for fitness in all aspects of life is beautifully tested through natural birth.  I don’t need a podium or medal—my prize is snoozing in her crib!

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.55.44 PM

THANK YOU MELISSA! You are a true inspiration! 


Get Moving:

30 Shoulder Taps (Plank position; Touch opposite shoulder with hand)

20 Good Mornings with PVC or fingers interlaced behind head

10 Broad Jumps

30 Shoulder Taps

20 Good Mo

10 Broad Jumps


Complete the following:

3 Rounds of…

15 Front Squats

7 Ring Dips


Notes and Modifications:

Pick a weight for the front squat that will take you 2-3 sets to complete the 15.

Ring dips can be done with band, on boxes, or parallettes.

Rest as needed.