The last two weeks of this pregnancy, I had spells of contractions every day that lasted several hours. For the most part they were far apart and short, except when they weren't. For the most part they weren't very painful, except when they were. They were like labor contractions in that they involved the entirety of my uterus tensing up, but they were unlike labor contractions in that I was still pregnant after they subsided. Since I barely made it to the hospital once before, and after hearing about one friend who delivered in the car on the side of the road and another who delivered at home attended by her husband, I was anxious to avoid finding myself in either of those situations.
I was in fits of tears every night. The contractions weren't painful, but almost everything else was. I couldn't put my own shoes on. I woke up every two hours because my hips were aching. Sometimes I stayed awake, if the contractions were enough to grab my attention, trying to figure out whether they were moving in the direction of pregnancy's end or not. I didn't want my husband to leave my side, but I knew he had to. Every morning when he left for work was a fresh agony. I couldn't even bear to have him sit downstairs reading in the evening while I laid in bed upstairs, because I wanted him to be close enough to dry my tears and hear me call. I didn't want to talk to anyone about my pain and anxiety, but I couldn't seem to think of anything else to talk about. Most of the time when I felt the contractions, I kept silent and tried to assume they would simply go away. Most of the time, they did. But how to keep my discomfort from my husband, to avoid causing him anxiety? Not easily. How to hold inside me and keep down all the anxiety about whether we'd get to the hospital in time? With great difficulty. How not to cry loudly for help, ask someone to come sit with me for a while and wait to see what would happen? With great loneliness.
I'll be honest and say that I was ready for pitocin or a c-section. I didn't actually think these things were right or good for me, I was just ready to buy the end of pregnancy at any cost. I half-thought they'd hook me up to pitocin any time after 37 weeks given that I'm a Type I diabetic and very few people seem to think I can safely carry a baby to its due date, but I think that recommendations for induction have changed since my first pregnancy. In the absence of a specific concern, induction is not prescribed until 39 weeks for anyone, and in spite of my pain, everything was totally fine. Baby's heart rate was fine. My blood pressure was fine, except when I was about to start crying (it was high at those times). Baby's size looked big-ish but not excessive. I do think it's the right call to postpone induction like that, but it sure didn't feel right at the time...
On Thursday I went to an appointment with my OB. The perinatologist was noticeably disturbed by the fact that my induction was not scheduled until the day after my due date; less so by the fact that all four of my children attended the ultrasound appointment. My dilation had only increased by one centimeter, to four.
On Friday afternoon, I began another bout of contractions. They seemed a little closer this time, maybe a little longer, and a little more consistent. I went to a friend's house for the boys to play and for us to chat. I figured getting out of the house and trying to forget what incredible pain I might be in at any moment would be a good idea - or at least an acceptable idea - given that the contractions were still far apart and not yet painful. The play date passed uneventfully and contractions came more frequently during the dinner hour. I nearly burst trying to keep the fact from my husband. I ended up blowing up about something else and we got into a huge argument, and I still wonder whether that may have stopped labor from happening at all that night. (Yet another reason it might be better to cry than yell!) Uncontrollable weeping - about our argument, my pain, and the uncertainty of it all - commenced when he left the house to take our children to one of their regularly-scheduled activities. More weeping as we hashed out our disagreement and apologized upon his return. Contractions slowed but continued.
In fact, contractions continued throughout that long, terrible night. I dozed but never really fell asleep. I got up and did some Sudoku puzzles, then laid down again. I got up later and baked some muffins. I finally laid in bed and sobbed loudly, waking up my husband, and declaring that I just wanted the contractions to end or give me a baby. All was in vain. I snatched a few minutes of sleep here and there in the early hours of the morning, occasionally waking to feel a contraction begin. The contractions were still not painful, just noticeable. Frequency and duration were changing constantly. If I'm honest, what really kept me awake was the anxiety. Will someone be here to watch my children when the time comes? Will we get to the hospital so that my husband doesn't have to deliver on the side of the road? I begged him to read an Emergency Childbirth manual I had on hand, just in case. He grudgingly consented.
About 2:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, contractions became more intense and more frequent. I waited an hour before saying so, and we waited another hour before marshaling the troops to leave for the hospital (again). We packed our things. With the wind blowing ferociously and coldly, ice rained down from the sky as we stepped outside to leave. I briefly wondered if the low pressure cold front moving through had caused my contractions to pick up, thus confirming my belief that the beginning of labor is in the hands of cosmic forces completely outside my control. We waved good-bye to our friends who came to take care of the boys, quickly ran to the car, and left, hoping that we'd have a baby by the morning.
But by the time we'd been in the car fifteen minutes, I could tell the contractions were slowing down rather than speeding up. I began to cry for the umpteenth time this week. We stopped for my husband to eat dinner, but I felt slightly nauseated and completely uninterested in eating. The darkening sky and the chill that was settling over everything helped me feel even more depressed (if that was possible). The hospital called to make sure the baby hadn't been born on the way, and I very sadly informed them that such was not the case.
By the time we arrived at the hospital, my anxiety about crying "Labor!" falsely for the second time was beginning to eat me alive (From the fear of being abandoned, deliver me, Jesus). The contractions continued to slow until they were almost gone. Our triage nurse was annoyingly cheerful as she told us the story of how she delivered her fourth ten minutes after arriving at the hospital with her three other sleepy children standing around the labor ward. I was not comforted, since I did not want to think about taking care of my other children when I myself was in such desperate need of care. It's very likely that her story would have had me laughing at any other time, but on this particular night, it only served to heighten my anxiety.
We waited in triage. By and by, my dilation was checked, and the news was disheartening. In 48 hours since my appointment at the OB's office, I had not dilated a single centimeter. Two long days and a night of contractions seemed utterly wasted. It was a feeling similar to when my OB proclaimed I "had more work to do" during my fourth labor and I felt crushed. I started crying again at some point. Probably multiple points, actually. The hospital registrar kindly brought me a tissue. The doctor said I couldn't get pitocin until the morning, since I wouldn't be 39 weeks gestation for another six hours. I wasn't even sure it would work and I definitely didn't want to go through another sleepless night, but there was no other option. It was about 8:30 in the evening. We collected our belongings, sent our "just kidding about being in labor!" texts, and drove home.
Tears, tears, tears!