|My last belly shot, taken one week before E was born|
That first morning sleeping in, staying in my pajamas and putzing around the house were glorious. (I wish I had enjoyed them more, but I was certain that the baby would arrive late, and I would have at least a week to get ready.) I spent my days lazily unpacking a few boxes, stressing about the organization of my kitchen and brainstorming furniture arrangements, and sleeping.
On Thursday morning around 1:30am, I woke up to my first "real" contraction. For the past couple of months I had been googling and texting my doula about the difference between braxton hicks and the real deal because I had been feeling BH contractions since around week 20, increasing in frequency. But when a cramping feeling woke me up that night, only an hour after I had been up to pee, I knew it was something new.
Wise people tell you when you're in early labor to just relax and enjoy the last rest before the really hard work and the craziness of life with a newborn, but it's so freaky and exciting - I can't imagine many first-time moms are able to chill out. I turned on my hypnobirthing track and got out my lavender essential oil and starting breathing through each surge. (I'm not a crazy oil person, but lavender was really soothing to me in pregnancy)
This is going to sound nuts, but labor felt SO good at this point. It wasn't comfortable, but I was prepared to handle it, felt excited, powerful, and in control. I tried to remember these feelings later as my labor story twisted and turned in ways I hadn't hoped for. In those moments I was strong and in tune with my body and I was doing it.
After 2 hours I woke up E to let him know what was up and decided to hop in the shower to relax. It felt great, so I laid back in bed with my giant body pillow and then next thing I knew, almost an hour had gone by - we had fallen asleep! The surges started coming very sporadically after that - sometimes 6 minutes and sometimes 45 minutes apart. I texted my doulas in the morning to let them know what was up and they encouraged me that it was normal, that my body was getting ready to have this baby and that it would happen really soon.
Since it had finally started to feel real, I tried to accomplish my To Do list at a little faster pace during the day, getting the hospital bag packed and making sure things were ready with the baby stuff and a bed for my mom to sleep in when she arrived. All day the surges were coming and going, but not consistently or as intense as they had been at night. After dinner we went on a long walk and got the car seat installed. Things started picking up again during the walk. My doulas encouraged me to take a warm bath and drink some wine to relax. We have the world's tiniest bathtub, so it wasn't exactly comfortable, but a candle, a little bit of wine and warm water were so soothing and I dozed on and off.
I headed to bed still frustrated at the tease of labor, but determined that I would get things started the next day. I woke up two hours after falling asleep to a good strong cramp, and they increased again. I woke up Eric more quickly this time and had him start timing the surges. We put on instrumental music, I leaned over the ball and got in my groove. WIthin an hour surges were 3-4 minutes apart, though they weren't terribly intense yet, and I decided to call my doula. We talked for about ten minutes, she could tell I wasn't working too hard yet, and we agreed that I would labor at home without doula support for at least a little while longer.
Meanwhile, all Thursday evening I had been in touch with my mom in Chicago trying to figure out when she should come out and I was getting kind of freaked out by the not knowing if it was going to be a few hours or a few days before the baby decided to make his/her appearance. At this point I called her and told her to definitely come TODAY.
My doula recommended a shower again to keep my body relaxed, so around 4am I got in again. But (of course!) things slowed down and by the time I laid down in bed, I was back to 30 minute breaks instead of 4-5.
By 8am Friday morning, I was feeling so pathetic (I had woken everyone up and kept them up half the night for no reason) and so discouraged. But I still had determination left in me. I put shoes on and marched outside and started climbing our back porch stairs to kickstart things again. Up and down, up and down for about 45 minutes. (Which is a really long time to climb up and down only about ten stairs.) Then E and I walked about a quarter mile to our local donut shop and had to stop about five times to breathe through the surges. I felt good but didn't want to get my hopes up. The next 24 hours passed much like the previous 48 - speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down, but never stopped. I would lay down to try to rest, and invariably get woken up shortly after with a series of surges close together again. Once I got in a rhythm, they would slow.
My mom arrived and tried to help keep my mind off of things by helping me reorganize some things in the house and unpack a few more boxes. Everyone encouraged me to go on with life while I waited, but it was impossible. I couldn't do anything out in public without having to bend over, grimace and breathe slowly for a minute, every 15 minutes!
Saturday evening E went to a friend's birthday party on his own while I stayed home and pouted. He brought back some leftovers which I ate and then couldn't fall asleep. The surges were coming back, about ten minutes apart. At this point, I was on auto pilot. Get out the lavender oil, exercise ball and relaxing music, open the contraction timer app on my phone, get on my hands and knees and moan. Legitimately wonder if I will be in early labor for the rest of my life. Moan some more. Lather, rinse, repeat.
At midnight things had picked up to 3-5 minutes apart and I decided to wake up my mom. It felt a little different and just a little more intense, so of course I was willing myself to believe that this was it. This had better be it! We called my doula and asked her to come over. At this point I wanted someone experienced with labor to evaluate the situation. After observing about an hour and a half of consistent, strong surges, she suggested we head to the hospital. Our hospital has tubs in the birthing rooms, which sounded really good at this point, and we could avoid traffic if we went in the middle of the night.
At this point I was in complete denial that I would ever have this baby and was loopy from three nights without sleep, so my doula needed to reassure me, over and over again, that I was going to have this baby and I was going to have it today. Everyone ran around grabbing last minutes items, snacks, etc while I hung out on my bed moaning, and then...
WE FINALLY WENT TO THE HOSPITAL!
(oh, but this story is not over. Not even close)