Monday was a normal day, but if I’m being honest I had felt different in my entire body for at least three days. I was beginning to feel pain from the stretching of my belly, my lips were swollen, breasts painful and sensitive, and I had this overall feeling of *hormonal* that is difficult to describe, but a woman knows it when she feels it.
Around 4pm I began feeling a strikingly familiar sensation in my lower back, but I didn’t know how to pinpoint it right away. It came and went, but when one of the sensations made me stop in my tracks, bent over and focusing on my breath my heart rate began to elevate in the revelation that this felt an awful lot like early labor. I looked in the mirror at my swollen lips and the flush on my face that reminded me of all the women I had been beside during their labors. I had an instant realization-panic moment. I am 35 weeks pregnant and this is too soon to be going into labor!
My belly began tightening with the lower back cramping sensations fairly frequently. I immediately got myself into the bath and had Erik download a contraction timer. Sure enough, the contractions were two minutes apart! And they were beginning to take on a more painful tone than the normal Braxton-Hicks contractions that I had been experiencing very regularly during the last month.
After a call to the midwife, per her request, I got back in the bath and tried to relax for 30 minutes. Erik continued to time the contractions, which remained at two minutes apart and averaging 45 seconds long. I began feeling the pulling apart sensation of my cervix dilating. We called her back and she sent us to the hospital.
It didn’t slow down. Not on the ride there, not upon arriving, not even in the triage room where you’d think the fear itself would shut the whole process down. I felt like a train was coming and I was not going to be able to stop it.
The doctor checked me and my cervix was dilated to 1.5 centimeters.
I was given Nifenidine, a medication used to slow/stop labor. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. The side effects were frightening. My face felt like it was on fire, my heart sped up and felt like it was going to explode in my chest, and I had almost demonic visions while laying there, just trying to endure it. As the side effects slowly faded away, I realized that I had not felt one contraction during that time. I felt myself slowly coming back to the room and breathing slower and relaxing, and with that, the contractions began again!
So of course they wanted me to take another dose of the Nifenidine. And I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I could withstand another dose. I thought it might somehow break my physical heart. But the look on Erik’s face told me this was important and I knew deep down that I had the courage, somewhere, and that I could find it. So I took the next dose (one third the dose of the initial given, thankfully) and the contractions slowed down again, but didn’t stop. But because they weren’t painful and resembled Braxton-Hicks contractions, the doctor saw this as a step in the right direction. She checked me again and I had only dilated one milimeter while in that triage room. With great joy, Erik and I walked out of that hospital around 1am.
It has been a few days and the Braxton-Hicks contractions are still fairly frequent, but not painful. The midwives believe this may just become my new normal until baby comes. They say as long as I listen to my body and stop whatever activity I’m doing if I begin feeling the early labor sensations again, that I may be just fine. So I am actively hoping for at least another two weeks of pregnancy before I meet our little guy, but also aware that I need to be able to integrate the possibility that it may be sooner than we had imagined.
During a visit with the midwife yesterday, we discovered that my uterus is measuring at 38 weeks! At 35 weeks, this is surprising, but especially when you factor in that I was measuring 32 weeks just two weeks ago; one week behind. Apparently Baby had an enormous growth spurt that may have triggered the hormonal messages from my stretched uterus to my brain to begin labor. It actually makes sense when you consider the fact that when I was measured last I had just come home from Yelapa, where I exercised between two and three hours a day. The last two weeks I have tried to get exercise, but it has been nowhere near what I was getting in Yelapa. It almost makes me wonder if my body was a little shocked at the swift change in metabolism, and just sent everything I ate straight to Baby.
All I can tell you today is that I am very uncomfortable in my body. I feel huge, hormonal, and can’t seem to keep up with my beloved daughter. I wake up drenched in sweat three times a night since I went into labor on Monday. Clearly I am a walking Hormonal Superhero.
I recalled a guided visualization that our doula taught us during her childbirth class while trying to articulate what it feels like to be in this state. She had us standing on a cliff, and then encouraged us to dive into the ocean, diving deep into the dark water to find the cave where our baby lay waiting. The experience is symbolic of a mother’s determination and perseverance during the challenges of labor and birth. How far is she willing to go? How deep can she dive? What is she willing to endure to grab her baby and take him home?
I pictured myself standing on the cliff, hair whipping in the stormy winds. Lightening shattering the skies, peering over the edge and enduring the elements. This is what it feels like to be in early labor. You haven’t even dived into the water yet but you are filled with the Creative Force of Life, whipping you, surging within you, pouring out of you, and you stand there grounded to that cliff, shaky but determined. You know what’s ahead of you, you know what that water is like down there, and you know you will do it and your inner animal will get you to your baby somehow.
I am no longer in early labor, but I haven’t left that cliff. I am possessed by this surging, something I have only felt once before when Eden was in my womb, but it’s something I’m feeling again. I want to take a few steps back from the cliff and re-enter the world for just a few more weeks, but I don’t know how to get back there. My body seems to just want to stand here for a while, and me, the observer deep inside, is in a total state of wonder. What is this all about? What is going to happen? Will my baby be okay if I can’t stop my body from jumping into that water?
I am crossing off each day that I am still pregnant up until week 37, knowing that each day of development for our son counts, and hoping hard that whatever happens, we will all be okay.