Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thoughts on Labor & Delivery #1: Waiting

 Disclaimer: This post will contain some medical information, bodily functions / fluids, and will totally be TMI.  Most common side effect of labor and delivery is a complete and total loss of dignity, and apparently that sticks.  It is also rather lengthy… if you prefer not to read several pages of my internal monologue, I’ll save you some time: it ends with a baby. 

Here we go.

I spent several weeks during my last trimester researching ‘what labor really feels like’.  For such a common occurrence, there is very little clear info on what exactly it will feel like to evict a human being from one’s body.  I had plenty of free time in order to research because contrary to my plans, I did not spontaneously go into labor at 37 weeks.  Or at 38. Or 39.

I understand that a normal pregnancy is 40 weeks, but I also understand that babies gain a lot of weight in those last few weeks.  I figured if I could summon labor before that last pound or two, I could make the whole experience slightly more enjoyable.

Turns out it is pretty impossible to trick your body into labor.  All the old wives tales about how to trigger labor: spicy foods, walking, sex, squats, evening primrose oil… none of them worked.  I was still pregnant.  At 38 weeks, it made sense.  At 39 weeks, I understood that babygirl just needed those extra days to prepare for her arrival.  When I hit my due date – I waited for that magical moment when I was in labor.  I went to the beach, let the surf beat me up some – almost got stung by a Portuguese man-o-war (which, if I thought it would get the ball rolling, I would totally have given it a shot, but there are very few legitimate studies about the effects of marine life inflicted injuries on triggering labor in otherwise uncomplicated pregnancies. Go figure.)

Me & Trusty Dog at Kailua Beach on my due date.

My moment did not come.

My mom has this theory that the last trimester of pregnancy is as miserable as it is, because it helps you come to terms with the fact that labor is what it is going to take to get the baby out.  The short term suffering of labor will balance out the possible continued suffering of still being pregnant… It makes it worth it. 

Until about 38 weeks I didn’t agree with her.  I was huge in a ‘pregnant whale’ kind of a way that didn’t completely implode my self esteem if I turned my head in just the right way, had good lighting, happened to be wearing one of two cute maternity outfits and had make-up on.  Pregnancy wasn’t terrible!

Then I stopped sleeping.  Laying on my side in the only position approved for women in my condition sent shooting pains down my leg.  Laying on my back for short bursts would result in me waking up unable to breathe.  Laying on my right side (which you’re not supposed to do) would result in me waking up with a panic attack that I was subliminally trying to kill my unborn baby.  Any of these wake-ups would mean a trip to the bathroom.  A trip to the bathroom meant maneuvering around a sleeping partner-in-crime, who would usually wake-up as my gravid form flopped over him with all the agility and sound effects of a walrus in heat.  If he somehow managed to sleep through my urination-motivated offensive to the edge of the bed, the rude awakening would come when I encountered the zipper to the mosquito net.  Ever since the first few encounters with creatures of the many-legged variety, I have slept in fully enclosed, insect-proof tent… in my own bed. (If you think I’m slightly crazy, you clearly haven’t read the post about what happened when I encountered my first Hawaiian centipede… or you already know that I left the “slightly” qualifier in my dust a long time ago)

I also stopped eating.  As babygirl grew larger and larger, she seemed to disregard the importance of my stomach for both of our well-being.  She had the same attitude towards my lungs and the lower part of my rib cage.  In fact, she began to get rather agitated by the confines of her prison and spent day and night taking out her tiny rage on my internal organs. 

So when my due date came and went, I was quite ready to be done being pregnant.  Luckily, I started having contractions! Late in the 39th week, I woke up in the middle of the night having contractions.  Oh boy! Here we go! I painted my toenails and shaved my legs (which could be a whole story in itself, but I digress).  I figured if she’s gonna come out and see my bottom half first, I might as well make a good impression. Then, I dutifully grabbed my contraction timer app and spent the next 28 hours watching the contractions grow closer and closer together.  Until they stopped.  Nope, they did not stop with a baby.  They just stopped.  They may have fizzled slightly: 6 minutes apart, then 10 minutes then flat-lining… Apparently I was not in labor.  So I went to work the next day – everyone was surprised to see me and offered his or her advice about how to get baby out.

“Get a foot massage – works for all of my sisters”

“Have you tried walking around a lot?” (Don’t ask pregnant women this… cause I assure you, they have. And do you know how annoying it is to have someone with their normal body weight and their non-swollen ankles suggest that maybe if you just exercised a little more…)

My favorite one: “So my wife gave me a whole list of ways to tell you to stimulate labor, but I think if I suggested any of them to you in this setting it would qualify as sexual harassment, so I’ll just let you google it yourself”

After my episode of “false labor”, which the OB reassured me was ‘extremely common’ and ‘still productive even if it didn’t turn into actual labor’, I anticipated that my cervix would have made some change.  For those not familiar with pregnancy/ anatomy / medicine or have never seen a movie with a pregnant woman, the cervix is a sphincter at the bottom of the uterus that holds the baby in.  It is tube shaped normally but thins out and then opens as the uterus violently slams a baby’s head into it repeatedly.  In a rather terrible exercise known as a cervical exam, a qualified medical provider (well, hopefully) jams their entire hand up there and spreads their fingers apart to estimate dilation – how big the hole is, and effacement – how well the tube is transitioning to its ultimate goal of a CD shape. 

Apparently my cervix is very competent.  I may be only average at lots of things, but when it comes to keeping babies inside of me, I excel.  After my due date and one episode of false labor that was followed by several days (yes, days) of regular contractions my cervix was still a nice thick tube with an opening of only one centimeter.  Who knew that I had this potential for greatness? What a thing to learn just in time for my 10 year high school reunion – looks like I now have some bragging material. 

So we trucked along as my due date came and went and I continued to grow more and more pregnant and passed the time googling things like “how to break your water at home” (long story short – don’t), “how to evict a freeloader”, and “what if I’m not really pregnant but just fat and somehow all the ultrasounds are wrong and nothing is ever coming out” to no avail.

At that point, you go to the doctor about once a week so they can confirm that you are indeed still pregnant and, I’m assuming, elicit bribes as you beg them to induce labor.

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