Heh. Just kidding.
OR AM I?????
Here’s what I wrote at 5am on Tuesday morning (yesterday) – keeping in mind that I’m using the normal-person’s definition of “labour” as including “pre-labour” (hours or even days of mild contractions – for my sister, it was fifteen hours, I was there, and it was fun for everyone, even her):
I seem to be in labour. Probably. Either that or it’s just one more really crappy night of pregnancy. But probably labour.
Last Thursday I thought I might be starting down the road of labour. I had a few cramps each hour from 2am until 11pm. That’s 21 hours. And I felt nauseous in between. Then. . . nothing.
One problem is that there’s been so much going on in my belly for so long that I hardly know what’s what. Is that painful stretching sensation the baby moving, or Braxton Hicks, or the beginning of the end?
I THINK I’ve got it figured out now. Cramps are just nausea or Louisette punching my innards. When my skin feels really stretched and has starbusts of mild pain (less painful than a slap on the hand), it’s either Louisette kicking outwards (which I can feel or see easily enough), or it’s a contraction. The only difference between real and false contractions is that real ones occur fairly regularly for hours, and get gradually worse. And contractions actually, you know, DO stuff (inside).
I reckon my accuracy is at around 85%. (Or somewhat less, if this is another false alarm.)
I’m using a contraction timer app on CJ’s iphone, and I seem to be having contractions of around 1 minute in length every 3 and a half minutes. This is the point at which I can call the hospital if I want – or I can choose not to. Given that it’s not yet 6 in the morning, and they rarely hurt at all, I’m going to wait a bit. I’m also not posting this – not yet. Not until I’m more sure.
I’ve had quite a lot of cramps yesterday and today. Yesterday I felt really nauseous too, and totally exhausted by sitting up (not that I could have fallen asleep if I’d tried – the fatigue is entirely hormonal). Around 6pm I was getting a few proper contractions, but not at all close together. From about 11pm I felt there was a strong pattern of contractions (not cramps) about ten minutes apart. I’ve tried to sleep a few times, and failed.
For most of the night, I felt pretty good between contractions (enough to think I’d imagined the whole thing). Now my stomach never stops being squoofley, but it’s only as bad as a normal day’s nausea. The contractions are still not very painful. Every half hour or so one will hurt for a second or two, and I think, “Ah! This IS real.” But I could still be wrong.
I intend to blog another time or two during labour, and shortly after Louisette is born (oh! what a delicious thought – having her in my arms instead of my belly!)
Don’t call me or CJ, even if you happen to have our number. We’ll be busy for a long time – probably another twenty hours from now. So sit tight.
Also, don’t call us for the first week after the birth – and DEFINITELY don’t drop by our house unless you’re invited. We will need time to recover (without getting woken up unexpectedly) and get a teensy bit used to Louisette. If you really want to know more, or see Louisette, and you’re someone we know in real life – email me. My address is fellissimo at hot mail dot com.
It’s more than 24 hours later, and no baby. So here’s what happened next:
At 7am yesterday (same day as the above), I called the backup midwife (mine was on leave until 8am) hoping she’d tell me “Yes this is pre-labour. In a few hours you’ll be in real labour. Tell CJ to call his work and start his maternity leave.” (Nothing had changed since 5am, but I wanted to know whether CJ should go to work or not.) I’d called the midwife the previous Thursday as well, and she was a lot warmer and more sympathetic last time. Embarassingly, my contractions seemed to stop the instant I spoke to her. She said it didn’t sound like I was having contractions at all, but would I like my visit with my usual midwife to be moved onto Tuesday (that day) instead of the next day. I said yes.
CJ went to work (his first day after a holiday break); I went to bed. It’s been a long time since I felt that disappointed, or that stupid. I’d stayed up all night, quite uncomfortable, and all I’d been doing was psychosomatically giving myself imitation contractions – and apparently not very convincing ones at that. I know what a huge cliche it is for a pregnant woman to think she’s in labour over and over again, and basically act hysterical and stupid. I thought I was more rational, more self-aware, calmer, and just generally smarter than that. Apparently not.
I slept a bit, and couldn’t help noticing my contractions weren’t nearly so frequent, and were milder – now that I’d proven I was an idiot. Pathetic.
I timed the “contractions” again later and they were back to being one minute long every five minutes, which made me hopeful again (with a side order of annoyance that my hypochondria was apparently more tenacious that I’d thought). My sister reckoned I was in pre-labour, but the kind that goes for days rather than hours. I thought it was nice of her to say so.
Eventually my normal midwife came over (the parking at the hospital is so bad that home visits are quite common). I felt more dignified immediately when she exclaimed in concern at my giant feet. I’d pointed them out to her two weeks ago and she wasn’t that impressed then, but apparently they’ve grown quite a bit (and yes, the skin hurts a little with the stretching – no big deal). She poked them a bit, and noted that my blood pressure is still fine – but she asked me to do a urine protein test all the same. This was the first time I’ve ever seen her concerned, and it was terribly gratifying. (My protein is fine, as I thought it was.) I also managed to have a contraction or two while she was here, and she felt my stomach and said, “Yes, I can feel it stiffen” – a genuine sign of a contraction (or a false contraction, but at least it wasn’t imaginary).
The only way to know for certain if I’d had any real contractions was for her to do an internal examination. She didn’t want to do one, and warned me that (a) It could prove that absolutely nothing was happening internally, after all my hundreds of supposed contractions, and (b) If I asked for an internal exam every few days, she would refuse.
I had to know, so she did it. (Apart from anything else, this means I know what an internal exam feels like, which will be useful when I do go into labour – familiar unpleasantness is always less scary than new unpleasantness.)
Here’s what happens, in order, before real labour begins: The cervix moves forward, softens, shortens, then begins to dilate (open). It’s usually at about 3cm before you go to hospital. (Then it opens to 10cm, then the pushing starts.)
My midwife told me later that she hadn’t expected any change – she’d thought, based on my description, that my contractions were false. It turned out that my cervix had already moved forward and was in the process of softening (technically it had dilated about a millimetre, but in medical terms it is still 100% closed).
So yes, I’m in pre-labour. It’s official. I’m neither an idiot nor a hypochondriac – in fact, since it was my descriptions that made two midwifes believe nothing was happening, I’m actually calmer and more stoic than the norm. Excellent.
Best of all, these contractions DID STUFF. I’m at the beginning of the end.
The down side (which doesn’t matter to me at present, because I didn’t expect any better) is that it could still be two weeks or more before I give birth. This might be the end, but it’s like the end of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. . . it’s the end that keeps on giving.
Today (Wednesday morning) the contractions have basically stopped. It could be days before anything else happens. And that’s fine for now.
Interestingly, I’m still not scared of labour. I’m scared of further nausea and the depression that comes with it on bad days, and I’m mildly dreading the experience of breastfeeding (but I do expect it’ll be okay when it happens – I just wish I could start the attempt sooner rather than later).
The three main types of labour pain relief are (1) gas and air (which sounded like a lot of fun until I discovered the side effect can be nausea and vomiting – no thank you). (2) Morphine (which can diminish the baby’s sucking reflex, making breastfeeding harder – no thank you). (3) Epidural (which can make labour longer, and increase the likelihood of a C-section* – for me, this is the best option of the three, but of course I’ll be aiming to do things the hard/safer way).
*C-sections have a reputation for being the easy way out. They’re so not. They’re major surgery, involving seven layers of stitching up afterwards, and six weeks of recovery time (with “normal” birth, it’s more like two weeks, and even that two weeks is not as severe). They’re sometimes necessary, however, and that’s just the way it is.