If you ask people how long I was in labor you can get a range of answers. My OB would say “5 weeks”. When our pediatrician asked my husband, he said “2 hours”. My Mum would probably say somewhere in between. The truth is, I have no idea how long labor was for me. At 36 weeks, Caroline had dramatically stopped moving and no amount of icy lemonade, loud noises nor pokes with a wand could get her move on the ultrasound nor even take a breath. So we had a non stress test (NST) to check she was OK at our routine OB visit. Caroline was fine and passed with flying colors – just heavily sleeping and then moving like a champ when she deigned to wake up. What surprised everyone was the fairly strong, very regular contractions I was having.
My nurse read my output and said “Did you know you were contracting? Like… for a minute every 5 minutes?” *cue awkward pause* She asked: “Are you in pain?” and I said that honestly, I was having the least comfortable pregnancy ever and was always in pain. However, I told her that I didn’t “feel like” I was going into labor, and she said “I don’t know… I think we might be seeing you tonight”. That is when my OB could count my labor as starting.
Of course, Caroline didn’t come that night and made me wait another 4 weeks and 5 days. But in discussing the results of the NST with my OB, who similarly asked me if I thought I was in labor, I did say “so what does labor feel like?”. I explained “I missed being labor with my son… I got an epidural because I thought labor had not even started after a couple of days on pitocin, but when they gave me the epidural I was actually 10 cm and it was a bit of a mistake… so I am wondering what it feels like”. My OB squinted at me and said “Are you telling me that you think you won’t know when you are in labor??” which sounded so darn ridiculous when said like that in the cold light of day that I quickly laughed and said ‘No, of course not, I’m sure it will be obvious”.
Ha. Famous last words.
This general pattern of things happening and people telling me I was in labor happened for weeks… My high-risk OB gave me a final scan and was worried about the contractions and ordered more tests… I got actual contractions…. I lost my mucus plug… I bled… and everyone kept saying “We’ll be seeing you at labor and delivery within 24 hours…” but they never did. On Friday 10th, I thought my water had broken so Wes and I went to labor and delivery. It hadn’t… the doctor used the litmus paper type test and it was negative, but then there was so much fluid just generally about she couldn’t believe my water hadn’t broken so did more tests. All negative. She reluctantly let me go saying “it really looks like your water has broken… I am sure we will be seeing you very, very soon”. I rolled my eyes and went home.
At about that point, I pretty much decided I was never going to go into labor naturally. Google confirmed my fears that some women’s bodies just don’t go into labor. This was going to be me… I was going to get induced again. I tried to make my peace with that and stopped looking for clues I was in labor. So, when I started to get stomach cramps on Saturday 11th, I didn’t give them much thought. I have no idea when they actually started, all I know is that at 6 pm, I got up from dinner to get a drink and remarked that my stomach cramps were so bad I could not stand up straight. I remember hunching over as I brought Sam his juice. After dinner I took Sam to bath (we bathed together) and I remember more cramps in the bath – cramps with backache. I wouldn’t say they were rhythmic but there was relief between them. I also felt uncharacteristically grumpy (actually, scratch that, that was very characteristic of me in during Caroline’s pregnancy). I remember being shorter tempered with Sam than I should have been and lying on the bed after the bath feeling like the pain was making me very reluctant to actually go through his bedtime routine. But I did, and the nagging pain made me think that baby might have wiggled into an odd position so I did some spinning babies to try to maneuver her into a more comfortable position.
At 9 pm ish, I went downstairs and found Mum ready to go to bed. I told her about my stomach / back pains and kept trying to stretch out over my yoga ball to relieve them. Mum asked if I thought this was labor and I snapped “I am sick of this! Everyone keeps telling me I am in labor and I never am!”. So, Mum went to bed, and then came back to see me, finding me in my bedroom again trying to work out my cramps. We chatted for a while and Mum said “Sweetie, I think you are in labor. I think you should phone Wes”.
I thought about it. I knew I was supposed to go into hospital early because I needed antibiotics for group B strep, and I needed blood tests to determine the need for clotting factors. But, again, I had had so many false alarms and even dragged Wes to hospital the very day before – I’d feel such a fool if this was another false alarm. Plus there wasn’t really anything to indicate this was actually labor. I decided that I would text Wes telling him how I felt, and try to sleep. As I said to Mum “I mean, if I am in labor, I won’t be able to sleep, right? If I am not, I can sleep off the pain”. She agreed this was a good idea and I went to bed, watched an episode of Girls, and decided against a second one as it was now 11 pm and I didn’t want to be tired the next day.
At about 1,30 am Wes came home from work, and woke me on his way to bed. He asked me how I was feeling and I said “Oh fine… it wasn’t labor… AGAIN”, so we chatted for a while, during which time I kept curling around my tummy saying “It hurts”. I decided to go and “walk off my cramps” but I couldn’t, so Wes asked me to at least time the cramps. I dragged out my little ‘contraction timer’ app and blow me – even though I kept forgetting to hit ‘start’ until a way through the contraction they were 1 minute apart and the little app said “You are in transition”. “My app says they are one minute apart” I yelped in surprise. “We have to go to hospital NOW” said Wes, and went downstairs to collect his stuff. Then the cramps became seriously strong – I remember yelping for Wes during one, and he rubbed my back before bundling me in the car. I remember my Mum coming in when I was fussing about the pain and saying “Breathe, Lekki, Breathe” and thinking “oh yes! breathing, that’s supposed to help”.
The car ride was pretty harsh, although all the changes and hassle had slowed the contractions to every 3 minutes or so. At the peak, I would kind of arch my back in the seat and hold my breath and repeat like a mantra “it will end… it will pass”. And it would. Between contractions I felt great – totally normal and no pain! I even said to Wes “I hope this is really it and I am not wasting anyone’s time…” and he got a bit shirty and said that if I was still thinking like that there was nothing he could say to help me and convince me to be sensible and I thought that this was mean and not very understanding and I thought about being stroppy about it, but didn’t really have the energy and maybe this wasn’t the time to start a fight anyway. So I TOOK THE HIGH ROAD (while in labor – major points to me I think) and we distracted ourselves getting pissed off at all the drunk drivers around.
We arrived at labor and delivery at about 2.40 am and when we pulled up the valet helped me out of the car. A contraction hit and I bent over and gritted my teeth and probably wailed a little and the valet looked totally shocked and I remember thinking “Don’t you see women like this all the time? I mean, this is a labor and delivery hospital!”, so then I did get annoyed because I figured I was acting all wrong and started to feel awkward about it all. I coldly declined his offer of a wheelchair because: high horse, and marched up to labor and delivery.
At check-in they also seemed quite surprised to deal with someone in pain, which was really starting to get my goat. But they did check me in super quickly, and put me in triage where a nurse came and got me within a few minutes, although I wouldn’t go to a room without Wes because I THINK AHEAD and could just see Wes coming out to an empty hallway and not knowing what blinking room I was in, and really – I could foresee what kind of mess that would create. So the nurse and I waited in triage while I sank to my knees in pain (50% I sank to my knees because squatting felt good and 50% of the reason I sank to my knees is because I thought that looked ‘laborly’ and what I had seen people do in sitcoms when they rocked up to deliver a baby and as no one actually prepares you for how to act when you turn up to hospital in labor I decided to copy American TV for a lack of any other ideas). She didn’t look shocked to see a woman in pain, but she also didn’t seem very sympathetic to my plight so maybe I did something wrong after all.
We got into an assessment room, they made me put all my clothes in a plastic bag, dressed me in one of the ugliest hospital gowns I had seen, hooked me up a monitor, took blood to check my clotting factors, did a check and said “You’re 7 cm dilated with no cervix and the baby’s head is right there, I can feel it with my hand.”. I don’t know what we said to the doctor… if we told her that it was only on the third day in hospital that I had actually managed to have my son, or if I started wittering on about needing blood tests and anti biotics but it still had not really sunk in that I was definitely in labor. I think, honestly, I may have said that I needed time to poop before having a baby. The doctor said, firmly, “No, you have declared yourself by showing up 7 cm dilated, you’re having this baby now”. And I just had to wait for our nurse to show up with a wheelchair.
And off I went in a wheelchair out of ‘labor’ and into ‘delivery’ and the fun really began.
Where, by ‘fun’, I mean ‘gut wrenching agony and me being a giant baby about it all and things did not go as I had planned (but they never do)’. Which is sort of fun I guess.