Part 1: Are you...in LABOR?
I had been having cramps that felt like period cramps for almost a week. They came at night mostly, and were easy enough to ignore, but they were annoying, for sure. By several days into it, I felt a soreness like I’d been punched gently in the lower abdomen over and over. I was excited to have them, though, as I thought they meant something was actually happening on its own. The night labor started for real, they got worse, but they were still only on the lower half of my abdomen and my low back—nothing above the belly button. For some reason, I had thought that a contraction would be my whole uterus squeezing at once, but I never felt it up top.
Tuesday night, when our Groundhog baby was already seven days late we had run out of things to do to prepare for her arrival. Though we knew that a week late was basically average for first babies, we had been so afraid of her coming early that we had trouble remembering this fact. After supper we decided to make homemade Valentine’s day cards for our families. What would be a better coup than getting cards out to people on time when we had a brand new baby?
We were making Valentine’s Day cards when the contractions started to get big enough that I had to stop what I was doing to focus getting through them. I think it probably looked like I was just spacing out every now and then. I wanted to make the cards say things like, “My heart and my uterus are contracting for you.” or “This card was a labor of love.” (But I didn’t.)
It seemed that Groundhog had other plans (besides Valentines). Ellie and I and Grandmom (Ellie’s mom) and GranBiscuit (my mom) sat around the kitchen table with fancy papers... but it seemed that Ellie kept having to stop because of these curious pains. Were they big kicks? Or... contractions? It was all so confusing because it was “just back pain.” But she sure seemed to have trouble focusing on the Valentines. Around 11PM she had some kind of attack so forceful it stopped her in her tracks and she had to lean over the counter. Grandmom had headed off to bed at our neighbor’s house. Unbeknownst to us, GranB had texted Grandpa to tell him that she suspected things were getting started. It is sneaky when your mom is a doctor. Ellie had to head to bed because she was so uncomfortable. But I just had to finish a couple of more cards. She kept asking me how much longer til I would come to bed. Then my mom gave me a stern look and pointed to where Ellie had had to stop and lean on the counter. I got the memo that it was time to be a good supportive wife.
When I got in bed, I too was convinced that things were really starting to happen. Ellie and I had many friends with uber long labors so we had a little conversation where we tried to mentally prepare for a couple of days worth of this stuff. Then I fell asleep.
Soon Ellie started waking me up from time to time to squeeze my fingers as she rode out an episode of back pain, that we became more convinced were contractions.
Eventually we went to bed, and the contractions got stronger and a little closer together. It helped me to do something through them, so I spooned Kelsey and massaged her back as hard as it hurt when I felt them. It was better for me than just laying there taking it, and I wanted to save some of the hand squeezing potential for the real deal later. At first I was also trying to be quiet through some of them, so that she could keep sleeping some of the time. I knew we would both need energy for… well… forever after that. But some of them were so intense that I couldn’t help but make noise.
Around 2:00 AM I started timing her contractions. And, ooh! They were pretty regular. Most of them were five minutes apart or so and almost all more than a minute. That sounds like labor. For some reason I was absurdly hungry, so I reheated one of the chicken enchiladas that we’d had for dinner and Ellie had some bites too. After an hour of pretty steady contractions we called the Birth Center to talk to the midwife on call. She talked to me first and then wanted to talk to Ellie to see if she could still talk through contractions.
Kels was a champ at timing the contractions, both how long they lasted and how long in between them. She also called the midwife for me when we thought maybe it was time to check in. The midwife on call wanted to talk to me, and I knew part of the reason was to see if I could talk through a contraction (if I could, I wasn’t ready to come in). It was funny, something that happened to me then and all throughout labor later (well, for the first 12 or so hours), was that if someone really wanted to talk to me, or if someone new came into the room, my contractions would slow and I could have a pretty normal conversation. This happened as well when we actually got to the birth center, and the midwife on call was checking me out. The change in environment or distraction really slowed things down.
After hearing our story she said she thought it would be best for us to hold off coming into the Birth Center until another hour or two. She also told Ellie that the enchilada might very well come back up later. Ha. We decided to get some rest and stopped timing the contractions for another half-hour or so. At 5:30AM, we called the midwife back. This time, we had timed them for about the last 45 minutes and they had all been longer than a minute and less than five minutes apart. We were also about to be staring down rush hour (which starts a bit after six coming from our town) and a 40 minute drive minimum anyway into Cambridge. The midwife said it was time.
We hopped out of bed and called the grandmothers. I started racing around to get our Birth Center bag (OK, bags... several) and warm up the car. There was a dusting of snow to clear off, but nothing more. I pulled down the back seats and put all of our gear (including car seat!) on one side and spread out some blankets on the other side so that Ellie could labor lying down.
Just as we were ready to go I remembered about our blessings from the Blessingway to hang out on a tree. I raced back in the house to get them as Ellie slowly made her way to the car. Just them our moms appeared, ready to grab the food bag and follow us in the non 4-wheel drive car. It turned out our road hadn’t been plowed yet, so it was slow going to the highway. Even though it was just barely 6AM, I-95 was already heavy flow and totally backed up at the intersection with I-93. I tried not to panic, but Ellie was pretty oblivious as she rode out her contractions in the back. Thankfully it all cleared up and we were on our way North! I went the speed limit in the right lane pretty much the whole way to Cambridge. As we drove past the Whole Foods on Prospect St. I joked to Ellie that I was just going to stop quick to get more dishwasher powder because we are almost out. Despite the fact that I was driving her to the Birth Center in Labor and that there was no way the store was open yet, she was not in a state to get jokes. My bad.
It actually was funny, mostly because I thought for a moment that she wasn’t joking.
We pulled into the parking lot, and I was super tickled that we finally got to park in the spot reserved for laboring patients! Whoop Whoop! Labor! The nurse, Julie, got there right at the same time as us and we all walked in together. The midwife we’d spoken to earlier met us and took us into the exam room. She checked Ellie’s cervix: 4cm dilated and 100% effaced. WOOHOO we were staying! We are in labor!
|Our awesome room atthe birth center|
Or...not. I mean, we were staying, but after we got there and got settled in, we started timing contractions again and things seemed to have mellowed out. Ellie was very cheery between them and the had spread way out. Oops. Everyone said not to worry and at this stage that often happens to people. Our new job was to get Ellie as comfy and relaxed as possible so that her body would get things going again.