Labor can’t be a month long! Can it? Unfortunately, as myself and other unlucky women have discovered with no help from our doctors, it can.
I had my daughter three years ago, and it was rough from start to finish so I thought I had a good idea of what to expect this time around! And while picking my husband up from work, he, too, noticed I was not myself last month. I was crouched forward in some unusual position instead of leaning back, fully upright in my seat, glaring out of the window and barely moving my eyes between him and the road when he was speaking to me. I didn’t even have to explain I had stumbled into Stage One Labor to him at that point, he was on the phone with his friends and family explaining he had to cancel some plans with them because I seemed to be progressing. This was the stage I only stayed in for two hours when I had my daughter.
A week went by, and I was still stuck going between bed and the shower. Irregular contractions, tipsy emotions, severe pressure, and the instincts that come into play during Stage One Labor can make you feel like you’re going to snap as it is, but when a whole week passes… But, I had read in a couple of places that it could last a week for some women so I continued to wait. It had been a week by then, maybe it was going to be over that night, or the next. …Or the next?
Two weeks in, maybe I was mistaken. This couldn’t be possible! How could I still be sniffling my days away in bed and only able to sleep propped up in the bath with no baby to show for it? Crying, I made my way to the hospital and told them I needed to be seen, someone needed to check me and tell me what my body was up to, and at that point I didn’t care if the janitor was the one to do it. They chuckled and showed me to a room, where I changed into hospital gown and climbed into bed with those horrible monitors. I know they bring some people comfort, to hear all of their baby’s movements and see their heartbeat on a screen beside them, but for me they were just two, tight bands around my sensitive belly and I was unable to move to find comfort for myself without freaking out the machine and bringing a nurse back in to tell me to lay back in the same, painful position a while longer. A nurse eventually came in on her own time to check me and remove the straps, and her words shattered me. “Labor is no where near.”
No where near!? No! But I simply sat there, as frozen as my husband was in the chair beside me, withdrawing into my shell as she explained. My contractions were not strong enough, my water had not broken, I was not dilated enough, the baby was not in distress, and the waves of my back locking up until I could not breathe properly were likely from my anemia. Feeling broken, I quietly signed the forms to let me go home, and shuffled back to the car where I stared out of the window for the hour drive back. The next day, we went to see some in-laws, who asked if I was feeling better yet, only to realize I was truly hurt by the news I’d received and later apologizing.
I entered week number three with a trip to the doctor, not feeling any more hopeful than usual. My regular doctor was on her own maternity leave, and the one filling in for her never listened to me when I tried to ask questions. In fact, he often talked over me altogether. Still, I had written a list of my concerns and symptoms to give to him. Even if he ignored the list, or wrote them all off, they would be a file; if they were on file, maybe someone, at some point, would realize I had been trying to tell someone something was going on all this time. It might not help me this time, but it could make them listen to another woman more seriously, and save her some pain.
The nurse came in, who I had learned was only nice when she was being watched by a superior, and took my vitals. She read my list within two seconds it seemed, and laughed, “You may as well have written down that you’re pregnant!” and “There’s nothing we can do.” before walking out. I scowled and got my list off of the counter, sitting back down next to my daughter, who patted my arm and said, “The doctor will make you better, Mommy. My daughter is obsessed with doctors right now. She has three little doctor kits, a tiny white coat, and goes through too many cheap boxes of bandaids treating her patients that consist of us, the dogs, and a basket of stuffed animals. The house is constantly filled with her shouts about how we have to let her take our blood pressure and that she has a diagnosis for us. So when I go to the doctor, she loves to come and tell the nurses about taking blood pressure, patients need shots, and how to use an eye-chart so people can see right. As long as she was with me, I wouldn’t complain and ruin it for her. She wouldn’t understand at her age, and no parent wants to wipe the look of excitement and wonder off their child’s face.
Much to my surprise, a different doctor came in. He asked how I felt, and when I told him as honestly as ever, he asked into it and then he looked at my list. He checked me all over for signs of underlying issues, which made me feel better. Still, he did not offer me any comfort when it came to the pain I was still in. That was my biggest concern, what if there was something I could be doing and I didn’t know it? What if no one listened and I had a surprise home birth? I had my daughter in the bath with my husband, but this time I had severe anemia and couldn’t risk that kind of blood loss with over an hour to go to get to the hospital. So when the doctor walked out, I slowly gathered my strength to go back to the car in tears. Again, my daughter patted my arm, which made me feel worse for letting her see someone leaving a doctor’s office in a negative way. She told me, “It’s okay, Mommy. We’ll come back.”
More surprises! The door opened again and another doctor came in! I paused and was about to tell him I was just leaving if he needed to use the room when he shook my hand and said, “I heard you were ready to be done!” …Yes. Yes I am! He sat down and looked over everything on his own laptop, forming his thoughts I suppose, while my daughter hurried forward and told him with her hands on her hips, “Mommy doesn’t feel good! You need to take care of her!” He looked surprised and amused, told her he would try, and then asked me if I would be okay with being induced at the hospital. I lit up like a Christmas tree and nodded nonstop, saying yes, when could I go? He chuckled and explained the risks I already knew came with induction, and I quickly told him at this point I did not care. I just had to be done with this before I literally broke.
So I left the office smiling, having been given a box of newborn samples such as soap, rubber duckies, and the like, and was just waiting for someone to call me back with a day and time to go in the hospital. Someone listened to me! That was all I needed at the time to keep me going, someone who did not think I was exaggerating how I was feeling. But no one called me back that day. No one called the next day. My husband had to call before the office would close for the weekend and bug them until they could answer him. My appointment was set for the end of the following week. When I was told the news, I laid there as it sunk in, and tears slowly came out. Another week? How could I live through another week? If it really took that long, when I delivered I would be unable to do anything for my baby out of exhaustion. I could see it: laying in the hospital while the nurses and his dad did all the care taking for him while I did nothing but sleep. Or laying in bed at home with him, recovering my own self physically for the first days and missing out on the same first days of bonding that I had with my daughter. I knew how that had gone before, I could not face it again.
I searched all over the internet with anything remotely similar to my situation in the hopes of finding out what I could be experiencing. If I knew what was really going on with me, maybe I could accept it better, maybe I could call the doctor again and they would believe me one more time. Finally, I found the term “Prodromal Labor.” It lead on to describe a lot of what I had been going through, and lead me to other experiences with it women had shared, and more sites that I could look through that might be able to help me either cope with it in the meantime or perhaps speed things along. Again, I was crying. But now they were happy tears. I wasn’t imagining things! There wasn’t something wrong with me! There were things I could try to help myself with! I excitedly showed the link of information to my relatives, posted it online for my friends to see since they had spend many nights listening to me repeat my distress to them, and joined a small, online support group for others in the same shoes.
My days and nights are still the same: I wake up every twenty minutes at night from the voice in my head demanding I wake up and pace the house one or two times, the slightest comment or too many people talking to me in the same minute can make me either cry or scream at someone, my husband has to help me balance to avoid running into walls and support me on the toilet since it hurts too much to sit down properly, I have to ride in a wheelchair outside of the house or my anemia makes me pass out, several times every day and night my back locks up until my husband has to push on my back to let me breathe so much he risks bruising me, I can’t roll in or out of bed on my own, I can’t dress myself or dry my legs on my own between the stomach, back, and broken rib pain, and the irregular but constantly obvious contractions leave me wasting daylight in the dimly lit bathtub to hold off some of the pain. When it’s time to get out, I cry simply knowing that the moment I am out of the warm water, it will all crash back into me – I won’t be able to move properly again, and all the weight cracking down on my pelvis will come back in what can be knee-buckling proportions. Every morning I get up before everyone else and stare at the clock thinking, “____ days left until it’s over. It’s so far away…what can I do to make it through today?” and then begin my quest to make it to the next day be it by dozing on and off in the tub again, sitting outside on a lawn chair to get some fresh air, or just laying in bed folding and refolding baby clothes.
In a few days, I will be posting my birth story on here, and probably mentioning somewhere in that I finally made it. I cannot wait. 🙂