If you’re reading this, thanks already.
But first, let’s make sure you’re caught up on this story before you venture any further:
And if you’ve gotten this far, please know I am incredibly grateful for your support in joining me through my story of self expression.
And if you wish to listen to this current blog via audio instead of the written format below, you can do so by clicking HERE.
Now, let the journey continue…
“OK, WTF just happened?
Will my husband be OK?…he’s gotta be OK… right?
This isn’t really happening? …
He’s so fit.. he cannot possibly have anything wrong with his heart…
bad things happen and they happen without warning… it just couldn’t be right now…our baby..“
Level head, Ash: don’t spiral. Breathe.
My mind buzzed as my fingers dialed Robbie’s parents who answered my unexpected phone call.
“Rob” I spoke fast before he could get in a word edgewise. Rob Gunderson Sr, held space on the other side of the call.
“I just got told Robbie got taken to the hospital from Perfectfit4u in an ambulance”
“he doesn’t have his cell phone”
“I’m starting to freak out”
And like all Rob Gunderson’s, my father-in-law possessed the characteristic of making calculated decisions on behalf of a collective with confidence.
“I’ll head to the hospital and find out what’s going on, Tannis will be over to stay with you”
And that was that. A quick and reasonable reply without a breath of hesitation.
My racing mind and large and in-charge bod paced throughout the house now wearing oversized PJ pants and a matching button-down nighty.
And within moments, Robbie’s mom walked in the front door. We made eye contact that held a split second longer than typical. A gaze of terrified, broken and yet hopeful: it stuck for a moment.
We sat across from one another, reiterating the same facts we’d already spoken on:
- Robbie went for a workout with my brother
- Something happened with “Robbie’s heart”
- Robbie left in an ambulance without his cell phone or truck keys.
And to our rescue, to fill in more timbits of information to our donut hole of a story, my shock-stricken brother walked in the front door holding Robbie’s abandoned items.
My mother-in-law sat perched on the bottom stair of the entry way while I side stepped grasping the bannister of my upstairs living room: both of us eagerly awaiting the story from Ethan’s perspective.
“We we’re doing bench press” he began, noting that Robbie only completed 1 set of exercises before his heart rate began escalating.
“I am going to sit this one out” apparently Robbie took a few moments to collect himself, mentioning that his Apple Watch was clocking a 200+ bpm heart rate.
“Somethings up”- Robbie ushered to Ethan after a few minutes of pacing solo. He pointed to where the AED was hung on the gym wall and began to dial 911 as he walked himself outside to the cold. His heart rate reading close to 220bpm for a solid 5-6 minutes at this point. Robbie said he felt uncomfortable in his chest and struggled to formulate too much feedback.
“Seriously within seconds the ambulance was there” Ethan assured us. 3 paramedics took Robbie and left, leaving Ethan to call me with a partial story and obscene anxiety. We all sat unknowing to what happened next.
And in true chronological fashion, my phone rang: “Rob Gunderson Sr.” read in Arial font across the top third of my screen.
I answered instantly,
“BABE, IM OK” Robbie’s voice spoke through that phone saying exactly what I needed to hear. He knew, that I knew, what had happened and he didn’t leave any time in reassuring me.
“I am at the hospital now, just getting some tests”. I could hear the quiver in his voice.
“I was so scared babe, but I’m OK, I’m totally OK”.
He continued to share his plea to the EMTs who had helped him. “You gotta help me boys, my daughter is supposed to be born tomorrow”
Turns out, Robbie had a SVT: Supraventricular tachycardia. An SVT is an abnormally fast or erratic heartbeat that affects the heart’s upper chambers. A SVT occurs when the electrical signals that coordinate your heartbeats: don’t work properly. In his 30 years of life, Rob had never experienced a previous episode- today, being the first.
The men in the ambulance had presented Rob with small tasks to attempt to regulate the beat without medical intervention: blowing through a straw and “bearing down” being some of them. When the SVT continued to progress, the EMTs administered “adenosine” a medication utilized to treat SVT- essentially stopping, then re-starting, his heart with the hopes of it returning to its lub-dub rhythm.
Hours passed as I awaited my husbands release from the hospital- my mother in law continuing to suggest that I sleep as “baby could come any day now” and rest would be essential. I shrugged off her suggestion as sleep would be impossible until Robbie was safely home.
Around 1AM my husband walked in the front door, ECG stickers dressing the front half of his body like chicken pox. A gaze of relief, love, and stress masked his face. Robbie walked up the stairs to meet me and my ever growing belly. We embraced.
And I don’t use that word lightly. We really did embrace. This wasn’t a oh-I-missed-you hug or a welcome-home-babe kiss. This was a “holy shit my life flashed before my eyes and I’ve never been so relieved to be in this moment right now.” type of lovin’. Nothing else mattered.
By 2AM, the adrenaline had began to subside enough for us to crawl into bed. Christoph was abandoned to the floor as my head pressed against Robbie’s naked chest- my leg draped heavily across his torso, my right arm hung across his midsection, our baby healthily in the confines of my body against his. These moments. This family. Contact. Connection. Coercion. Affection.
And then, we drifted to sleep: just the two of us. Robbie and Ashlyn- not mom and dad, not parents, not mother and father: just us. Our loves last two dimensional moment.
By 5AM, three hours into our oxytocin-overloaded snuggle fest, I awoke to discomfort. This wasn’t extreme pain- just uneasiness- the type of cramping you’d feel when your period is on its way, or you ate too many veggies at the Mexican buffet, or your anxiously awaiting an athletic event or potential life-changing test results. The discomfort was enough for me to heave myself up to standing, where I could perch my palms against the bedpost in an attempt to sway my hips in a clockwise fashion. Robbie remained semi asleep as I swayed side to side, back arched at 45*, yoga-type breathing, extensive exhales…
It was as if a litre of water had been knocked to the floor. A tsunami of fluids flooded my feet as my husbands semi-sleep was interrupted by a statement that should wake any man from dead-
“Babe… my water just broke”
I had been told this Hollywood style water breaking was reserved for movies- the whole SPLASH then contraction craziness wasn’t common- but it was my story. I knew for certain, this was it.
Within moments those period-type cramps progressed to crippling like pain and that yoga breathing verged to bouts of hyperventilating.
And then, nothingness. The pain was eradicated as if it had never happened.
Robbie stood in shock as he witnessed the wetness that dampened our bedroom floor now soaking the carpet.
I got in the shower, rinsed my body in preparation for the longest workout of my life- and then, BOOM- it hit me again. Hands pressed against the tiled bathtub walls, I breathed more deeply into the pain and suds dripped from my body.
And then again, nothingness.
I continued to be fine… until I wasn’t.
Before grabbing my hospital essentials- my vanity got the best of me. I plugged in my curling iron in an attempt to style my 22” of blonde hair extensions. I would get 2-3 curls deep before throwing the curling iron down with aggression, hands gripping the bathroom sink for the length of the contraction.
Then again, nothingness.
“We need to get going” my now frantic husband stated as he hauled my perfectly packed purple suitcase to the back door.
“This shit might take all day” I told him. “There ain’t no way I’m going to the hospital and then coming back home, I’m waiting it out” I stated as I continued to add blush and bronzer to my already-flushed face.
And then, my hands braced my thighs and my head hung as I breathed through yet another strong contraction- assembling my body in a similar stance to the one I take after the completion of an obscene workout.
Contractions were now 2-3 minutes apart, lasting all of 30-40 seconds.
But again, pain would subside and I would convince myself this would be an all-day endeavour.
I know in hindsight I probably should have left once the tsunami hit the floor: but here we were, about 90min later- doing this labour thing on my terms.
“I’m making the call” Robbie stated, “we’re going to the hospital”.
Realizing his vehicle was still at the gym from the night prior due to his ambulance escort, Rob started up my car. The temperature outside approaching -30*C.
While my husband buzzed around the house- I got down on the living room floor in doggy-style position, now convinced this was the real deal. Louie laid on the floor next to his mom, his last moment of gaining my full attention for the next year.
“Mommy’s going to have a baby” I told him as I scratched his head with affection.
We piled ourselves and our overnight bags into my Nissan Rouge and headed for the hospital.
We parked about 200m away from the emergency entrance: a football field worth of work. After completing another strong contraction in the passenger seat- hands grasped the console, eyes closed and head hung as if an entire night of binge drinking has just ensued.
We went for it.
“Leave the suitcases behind” I said to Robbie as I heaved myself out the car. “They could be sending us home”.
Half way to the door- it came again. Crippling cramps continued as I self-supported against the concrete ledge. For the first time in my life, -30* left me unphased.
Almost to the door.
At the entrance to the hospital, COVID screening was set- I answered the same 7-9 questions with a “no”- the same way I had since mid-2020 to enter any public facility.
-No I haven’t travelled outside Canada
-No I haven’t been in contact with anyone with COVID-19…
Boom- again. Contractions continued as I mumbled my way through the final questions and headed to the elevator- slightly disassociating with reality for glimpses of time.
My perfectly curled blond locks were about the only thing holding it together at this point.
We were stopped again outside the labour and delivery ward with the same 7-9 questions, as if I had just been exposed to COVID in the last 35 seconds.
We entered and checked in with the unit clerk as I breathed and moaned my way through finding my Alberta health care card and ID.
“I want pictures” I piped up between contractions- the lady looking at me puzzled.
“Could my nurse take good pictures?” I genuinely questioned as if THIS was the most important aspect of my birth. Between my hair styling and picture requests I certainly had my birth-plan priorities set.
“Looks like your nurse is one of the oldest on the floor” she giggled, “I don’t think she will be taking many pictures”
BUT, she continued before I could pout, “if I am still on shift when your baby is born, I’ll take photos for you” I heard her suggestion but I didn’t comprehend, the pain was intense enough that I distanced myself from the idea and continued to triage.
I got on my back, spread my legs, then WOOSH, another partial-tsunami of liquid spilled onto the table while the nurse simultaneously checked my cervix.
“OK, so you’re about 4cm dilated” the nurse confirmed.
Her hands now reaching through my vagina far enough I could feel her fingers in my tonsils.
“So do I need to go back home?” I questioned.
“No, definitely not” she noted. “You’re having a baby today”.
Shit got real. Tingles made their way up my arms and into the nape of my neck.
I was having a baby today.
Stay tuned for the final chapter and conclusion of the Red Dot Blog: COMING SOON.
If you wish to be notified when any new blog is released, leave your email and subscribe to the blog- I’d love to connect with you.