We are in full countdown mode at our house: within approximately the next three weeks, our new baby will be born. The eviction date is set. The room is ready. Plans are made.
A wonderful friend recently gave me the gift of a maternity photo shoot.
I'm 38/39 weeks right now, depending on how you count. Given that I've given birth at 42 weeks twice before, that means I'll probably go right up to the eviction date. I'm expecting to give birth most likely sometime during the first week of May. Please please please don't ask me if I've had the baby yet/when I'm going to have the baby. It makes me cranky!
Long update ahead about pregnancy. Feel free to stop reading here if that isn't your thing!
We've slowed way down around here. One of the reasons I've stopped formal schooling for the year is the uncertainty of when I'll actually have the baby and I didn't want to be in the middle of anything. The other reason is prodromal labor. With AW, I didn't even really notice Braxton Hicks contractions until I was around 41 weeks pregnant. I had one labor false alarm, but looking back, it was nothing more than Braxton Hicks.
With DC, it was very different. We'd moved out here but we were all still commuting into Fairfax County. We'd leave the house around 5:45am. I dropped AW off at daycare and Himself off at the closest train station. I picked up AW around 4:00pm and reversed the process. We spent 3.5-4 hours in the car every day from March through May. At some point during that process, I started having regular, timeable contractions in the car. By the end of May, they were consistently five minutes apart every time I got in the car, all the way home. Some of them were strong enough that I had to breathe through them, and they were extremely distracting. I'd planned on working up until my due date, which was right around the last day of school, but I just couldn't do it anymore. I stopped working at 38 weeks, and spent the month of June resting and nesting. Later, I found out about prodromal labor but thought it only applied in the several days leading up to active labor. I was surprised to learn that it can last for weeks.
I did some reading this morning and found that it can happen over a much longer time period, and everything clicked into place. Almost every night, starting around 5 or 6pm, contractions start. Some of them are just your run of the mill Braxton Hicks: tightening but no pain. There are steps to relieve Braxton Hicks: taking baths, drinking water, changing position. Conventional advice is that if these steps don't stop the contractions, or if the contractions fall into a regular pattern, then it's the real thing. I've often been told that Braxton Hicks don't hurt.
Sometimes, these contractions follow the "rules" of Braxton Hicks. Often, they don't. Himself has asked me on multiple nights if I think I'm starting the real thing. He's watching me breathe through contractions, and to be honest, they feel a whole lot like the contractions I had between my water breaking and being induced with AW. They are often very crampy and accompanied by back pain. Taking a bath provides some relief but doesn't make them stop. By 11pm, they usually start winding down and I'm able to fall asleep for awhile, although they continue to some extent through the night. I actually had a dream that I woke up actively pushing because I'd had so many contractions while I was sleeping. I'm emotionally exhausted from managing the pain and from wondering if things were going to progress at all. When I had a scheduled c-section with DC after all this, I was not even a centimeter dilated. I'm not even a centimeter dilated now. I kind of wondered if I was just really sensitive to Braxton Hicks and needed to get my act together--then I read a few blog posts this morning and wanted to cry with relief that other women out there have gone through the same thing. It's why I'm writing about this, even though it's pretty personal. Here are some parts of the blog post that really resonated with me:
"The physical toll of these early contractions is exhausting, but I found that the real struggle was emotional, mainly due to a lack of sleep."
"So basically, it is real labor in terms of pain, contractions, and regularity but it comes and goes."
"After weeks of this, I was on the verge of tears every night, doubting my ability to tell if I was in real labor or not and telling my husband “I can’t keep doing this every night… I’m so exhausted!”
I'm feeling a little stronger this morning because I understand what's happening with my body a little bit better. It's likely the baby's position causing all this trouble so I'm encouraged to keep doing exercises to get into a good position.
Anyway, that's a long story. Like I said, part of the reason I posted this is because if someone I know is going through/has gone through this, I want them to know they are not alone. The other reason: I'm kind of disappearing from a lot of things right now and not able to accomplish very much. I'm exhausted beyond the normal third trimester level of exhaustion. I still have a lot to be thankful for: I'm thankful that I was able to conceive and carry this child. I'm thankful that the baby is doing well. I'm thankful for my supportive husband who is helping pick up the slack. I'm thankful that I have a fantastic doula who is giving me tips to survive these weeks, and thankful that I have some knowledge of pain management techniques.
Here's my final PSA for those who are pregnant or may become pregnant in the future:
Get educated about your body. Take an out of hospital birthing class, and learn about pain management techniques even if you plan on getting an epidural immediately upon arriving at the hospital (spoiler: not always possible anyway). You don't know what you're going to need in the days and hours leading up to a hospital arrival. And if it's at all possible, get a professional doula. I hired mine planning on a scheduled c-section this time around, and she has been an extremely valuable resource even during my pregnancy. I've learned so much from her (and if anyone is looking for a class, a doula, or both, I can't recommend her enough). She is seriously saving my sanity right now.
TL;DR: Pregnancy is hard. I'm tired. See you on the other side. And doulas are awesome.