Pregnancy teaches you a lot about yourself. Something I’ve learned this trimester is that I am NOT the girl who cried baby. In other words, the many symptoms that parade as labor pain have not driven me into a tizzy. Constipation, gas and even the occasional contraction have been met with self-control – if not complete denial.
Yesterday however, I was tested in a way I’d never been before. After my weekly internal exam I went to work as I plan to everyday until this kid pops out. Toward the end of the day, I noticed I was a bit wet. It wasn’t a big gush like you see in the movies, but I wondered if it could be amniotic fluid that somehow leaked throughout the day.
Then the contractions came. Crampy pain began gathering in my lower abdomen, traveling up until my whole stomach was tight to the touch. They weren’t incredibly painful – but then again I have a high threshold. They weren’t exactly timeable, but then again, I kept second guessing myself – rationalizing that every other surge was in my head. Since I work only a few blocks from the hospital, I had Will come to my office so we could decide what to do together.
Though I was fairly sure it was a false alarm, the doctor on call felt I should have the fluid tested. “If you’ve ruptured” she said “you could risk infection.” That’s all we had to hear.
The contractions continued as we walked through the hospital door.
“Need a wheelchair?” asked a kind man in the vestibule.
“No thank you.” I said politely.
“I’m not THAT girl.” I whispered to Will. Why would I take a wheelchair from a real pregnant lady; one who was having real contractions unlike the phantom ones I was sure I was experiencing?
Up to labor and delivery we went. For a moment, Will and I looked at each other with excitement. No matter the outcome, within the next few weeks – this WOULD be real, and we WOULD be leaving with a baby! It was all incredibly surreal.
Our sassy nurse Francis greeted us at the desk. “I’ve been waitin’ for you, baby!” she exclaimed.
Before I knew it I was in a robe, strapped with monitors and having a q-tip shoved… well… up there.
“Now we put this in here” sassy Fran explained pointing to a vile of clear liquid “and wait to see if it tests positive for amniotic fluid.”
In the meantime, I watched the monitor scroll by.
“What do those lines mean?” I asked.
“That means you’re having a contraction.” Sassy Fran answered.
AHA! I silently rejoiced. I’m not going crazy, those ARE contractions. I felt so validated.
Throughout the hour I was there, I had roughly six contractions. They varied wildly in interval and severity. The biggest one ranked about a 5 on a scale of 1-10.
“Okay.” Sassy Fran said re-entering the room. “You’re not leaking fluid, BUT you are having contractions so I think we need to examine you.” Will and I looked at each other in disbelief.
“Oh, really?” I asked.
“Yup, just want to make sure you’re not dilated.”
And for the second time that day, I was to a medical professional as a dummy is to a ventriloquist. Sassy Fran and I may have only just met, but we sure got to know each other in a hurry!
She lingered a while, squinting with thought as she checked and rechecked my cervix.
“Hmm,” she said, seeming surprised “nothing happening.”
I was released with a good education. The first lesson I learned is that Will and I are a pretty great team. The whole trip, we remained calm, playful and excited. Never once was there a tense moment or a miscommunication.
Number two, I learned I have to trust myself more. Why should I be so worried about overreacting anyway? This is my first time at bat, so of course there’s a learning curve. Even if I had taken every class in the world, nothing can teach you what sort of physical sensations you’ll experience during labor.
Last but not least, I learned that false labor = a night off from the evening chores:
“Will, would you feed the dog when we get home?” I asked.
“Yes. Since Sassy Fran put her entire hand inside you, I think I can manage that.”
I may have to cry “BABY!” more often.