Listen to your Gut…and Throw Out the “Plan”/My Labor Story

Let me tell you something…when they say every pregnancy is different…they mean it! Throughout my pregnancy, I spent a lot of time scrutinizing every pregnancy symptom I had, every ache, craving, lack of craving, you name it–and comparing it with other mamas I knew. I’d ask them questions like “Did you ever have this pain?”, “What did a Braxton Hicks contraction feel like for you?”, “Did your OBGYN give you super vague answers too when you asked her these questions?”  Turns out, most women  I talked to hadn’t felt that particular pain I might be having that day, had a completely different Braxton Hicks experience, and, yes, their OBGYN did give them super vague answers to symptom questions.  Apparently one woman’s labor symptom is another random Tuesday in someone else’s pregnancy.  That’s maddening for someone like me who wants to know what’s going on at all times.  And be able to plan for whatever is going on.  At all times.

Being the planner I am, I had a sense of calm when my doctor told me she was going to induce me on August 22. It helped that we had a “plan” in place.  My naive self thought this was exactly how it was going to go down…check into the hospital Monday night, chill out for a while, have a baby the next day.  Don’t judge me…I now know all about what happens to “best laid plans” and such!

I had been feeling crampy for weeks. There’s no other way to describe it–they felt like dull menstrual cramps.  Every time I consulted Dr. Google, he would tell me I should contact my healthcare provider immediately as this was not normal.  However, you go on mommy message boards and find out that it actually is pretty normal.  So I consulted my actual doctor, and, once again, she gave pretty vague answers and would just send me over for an ultrasound (I totally didn’t mind getting more pictures of little baby bear).  She did send me to the ER a week before I actually went into labor and again, they had a super vague explanation for the cramps.  I was told maybe I would just be crampy from here on out. What? Excuse me, that’s your professional medical diagnosis? Moving on…

On August 11, I started having more cramps around 1 am.  I got up, went to work (gave 2 presentations to incoming college students, thank you very much) and spent all day with an overall weird feeling.  It’s hard to describe the weirdness…crampy, tired, lack of appetite. Just…weird.  The cramps came and went but nothing consistent.  I called my doctor and the nurse told me at this point I either was or wasn’t in labor.  Later that afternoon, I had a long conversation with a coworker about her birth experience.  She said she had just felt like she was going to have her baby the next day and then she did.  Something about her story stuck with me but you know…we were going to be induced (like I planned) so there was NO WAY I was in labor.

Later at home, I still didn’t have an appetite and I noticed the cramps were getting stronger, though there was still no consistent pattern.  I even downloaded a contraction counter app just to see—I really wasn’t sure if these were contractions because, come on, first timer here!  They didn’t feel like the Braxton Hicks I’d had (where everything gets really tight), they just hurt like the worst period cramps you’ve ever had–and multiplied by 100. The app actually told me I must be doing something wrong because the timing was all over the place (super rude). Around 11 pm, I noticed them getting closer together (I’d given up on that judgemental app at this point) and by midnight, I’d told my husband to hop in the car–we were getting this checked out!

We got to the OB ER and they put me on a monitor and checked for dilation–I was at 4.5 cm.  I was so worried they would send us home (again, first timer!) and was so relieved when the doctor said they were going to keep me.  When I say relieved, I mean relieved that I would soon have pain medication but super terrified that  I would be doing that whole labor thing very soon…a week and half sooner than I had “planned.”  Again, best laid plans, right?

That whole morning is actually a blur and went much faster in my mind than in reality.  Got to a labor and delivery room about 3:30 am, epidural happened around 4:30 am, families were called at 5 am, and my water broke around 7:30 am.  The epidural is magical, y’all.  Magical. I’m not one for needles but I’m really opposed to pain.  Pain sucks.  I get a little teary over a paper cut.  So, no, natural childbirth was not in my “plan.” Contractions (what I now understood were contractions) hurt. A lot.  Everyone loves to tell you a good epidural horror story (why would you do that to a pregnant lady??) but I’m here to tell you–mine was magical.

We spent the next few hours chatting with family, getting a little sleep, and preparing for the little guy who was sabotaging my plan going to make his appearance.  Fast forward to about 11:15 am…show time!  We didn’t attend a birthing class–and it still amazes me that you can give birth to a child with very little direction.  The whole experience was nothing like I expected.  On tv and in movies, everything is so dramatic. Everyone in the room always seems so tense and giving each other super concerned looks. Honestly, my doctor didn’t even come in until I had already been pushing for about 5 minutes (welcome to the party, Doc).  She and the nurses in the room were so relaxed–which really helped me feel semi-relaxed about the experience (and my magical epidural helped too).  No one exchanged super concerned looks so I felt better about the whole situation. 15 minutes after I started pushing–there he was.  This screaming, tiny, little perfect human being. I can’t even describe the absolute joy I felt when they put him on my chest.  I totally forgave him for changing the date on the calendar without consulting me first!

So the moral of this story is–listen to your gut and go with the flow, mama!  Your little one is coming when he’s coming. If you’re feeling like something doesn’t feel right, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re just “crampy”.  And don’t let any app tell you that you’re doing something wrong!

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