Every time I used the restroom during my last month of pregnancy, I would cross my fingers and hope to God that my baby wouldn’t fall out into the toilet.
I worried that my water would break in the shower, or that my contractions would be so mild I wouldn’t even feel them. I’ve never really had cramps and I take very long showers, so these seemed like valid concerns. I had lists of the signs and symptoms of labor all over my house. There was a list on my fridge and a list by my bed. I kept a list by the bath and the guest toilet, too. And although I could recite the list by heart, I truly believed that I might somehow miss the oh so subtle act of pushing a six-pound human being out of my body.
Boy, was I in for a surprise.
I had contractions for 48 hours leading up to the birth of Baby J. They started on a Friday night, so our only real option was to heed the advice from the on-call nurse. She assured us time and time again that I was not experiencing labor, but prodromal labor (false labor), and that there was nothing they could do until my contractions grew closer together. My contractions were all over the map; some seven minutes apart and others seventeen minutes apart. The one constant was frequency and pain level. I had four contractions every hour for two freaking days. Two days!
“Take a bath,” the nurse suggested.
It was no surprise that soaking in warm water did absolutely nothing to remedy the sensation of being stabbed in the uterus with a knife.
“Take a walk around the block,” my mom advised.
My walk around the block took twice as long as usual due to the fact that I had to stop every few minutes to breathe through a contraction. And by breath through a contraction, I mean double over in pain while cursing Sharon, the on call nurse, until my uterus slowly released allowing me to amble around the block once more.
My mother, whom I love very much but at times can drive me absolutely insane, did what most mothers would do upon hearing the news of their daughter’s false labor… Google it. She turned to the internet because she did not understand this “false labor nonsense,” and after hours of research called to proclaim that I was not in fact experiencing false labor, but the real deal, and if I didn’t get my butt to the hospital stat, B (my husband) would be delivering that baby at home.
“I hope he knows what he’s doing,” she jeered.
Naturally, I completely ignored my mother’s warning.
On Sunday morning, my doctor caught wind of the circumstances. She had the nurse call to inform us that we could go ahead and check into the hospital, and that she would use Pitocin to get things moving if need be. My husband breathed a sigh of relief, as we hadn’t slept in almost two days, and he was ready to throw in the towel.
My reaction was a bit different.
I flat out refused to go to the hospital. I didn’t want to need Pitocin. I wanted my labor to be real. We would wait until those contractions were five minutes apart, damn it!
I stood my ground for another three or four hours, diligently tracking each contraction with my iPhone app. Between many of my most painful contractions I experienced some mild cramping, which I wrote off as nothing more than a welcome reprieve to those dang false labor pains. I was certainly not monitoring these blips or including them while timing my contractions. And then my husband had an epiphany.
What if the cramps were actually small contractions?
Um, nobody ever told me that contractions can vary in intensity. I assumed they were all equally excruciating… Why was this information not on the list?!?!
Holy shit… There was nothing false about this labor, after all!
By the time we arrived to the hospital, my contractions were only a few minutes apart. Prior to the onset of my “prodromal” labor, I was barely a centimeter dilated. At this point, I was 5 centimeters dilated and begging for an epidural. I have never seen nurses work so fast in my life. My blood was drawn, the IV was securely in place, and a stack of waivers were signed within minutes of entering triage.
Three hours later, it was time to call in the big guns. My doctor and her accompanying entourage transformed the room in a matter of seconds to prepare for Baby J’s birth, and after pushing through three short contractions, Baby J popped out. Thankfully, he landed in the arms of my OBGYN, and not the toilet bowl, which could have been a very real possibility had I held out on going to the hospital much longer.
I’ve got four words for you, Nurse Sharon…
False labor, my ass.