Lucky women begin latent labor late in the day. I don’t remember when or where I read it, but I hoped to be one of those lucky women who could sleep between contractions as the time between contractions decreased from 30 minutes at the onset of latent labor to 5-6 minutes apart at the beginning of active labor.
I imagined myself trying to conserve strength if labor started during the day – and almost always imagined myself failing. I’m not good at doing nothing, especially if I know I’ve got a baby coming imminently.
So every night for the previous 3 or 4 weeks I’d been tucking myself into bed, praying that tonight would be the night – and that I’d sleep right through most of it.
By this time, though, my hope was wearing thin. This baby was showing no signs of budging. My cervix was firm and closed, as closed as it’d been at 37 weeks – 4.5 weeks ago, when we’d declared this baby free to come. In my most discouraged moments (and even in some of the less morose ones), I was sure we’d get to 43 weeks, still closed and I’d be cut open again, effectively barring me from any hope of a normal delivery ever.
So I wasn’t hopeful the evening of December 22 as I fell into bed exhausted at nine or ten.
No matter. Babies do not seem to pay much attention to their mother’s hopes – or if they do, they do so only to tease.
I awoke to strong contractions at eleven. These were clearly different than the Braxton Hicks I’d had on and off for the past many months. I could not ignore these. Nor could I rest between them. The contractions ebbed and flowed, but the incredible pressure between my sitz bones did not.
I moved to the couch lest I wake Daniel. Even if I could not conserve my strength, I’d try to conserve his. I writhed, I breathed, I tried all the distraction measures I’d been practicing to try to take my mind off the pain, the pressure. After an hour, I decided to go ahead and focus on the contractions enough to time them.
A minute long. Six minutes apart. This was not what I’d read to expect. These were supposed to be shorter, further apart. I was supposed to be able to sleep between them.
I went to the bathroom around one, now on December 23rd. The bloody mucous plug told me that something really was happening.
But I wasn’t managing this early part well. It started so much more intensely than I’d expected. And I knew from a quick check in the bathroom that it wasn’t because my cervix was opening rapidly.
I debated a bath. I needed relief from the never-ending pressure, but I didn’t want to slow down this labor that had taken so long to start in the first place. If I’d read it once, I’d read it a half dozen times. A soak in early labor will slow things down. Wait until you’re in active labor to get in a birthing pool.
The need for relief (and the desire to maintain Daniel’s strength for the active part when I was sure I’d need him) won out. I took the bath, experienced sweet relief from that awful pressure. As promised, the contractions decreased – somewhat. They were now only 15-45 seconds long, but still coming every four minutes.
I felt relaxed enough when my bath was done to get into bed and try to sleep. I texted Daniel that labor had started and that I was going to try to sleep (still trying to conserve his strength – especially because he has a hard time napping during the day).
The pressure returned. I could keep myself in a left-lying Sims’ position only by mentally singing through my trouble hymns.
I breathed my way through “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, through “How Firm a Foundation”, through “It is Well with My Soul”. I started over, the songs the only thing between me and tears. It was so intense, so early. How would I manage active labor if I was having so much trouble with the latent stuff?
I couldn’t think about that, had to stay in the moment. I sang through my trouble songs again, reminding myself of the strength outside myself, by whose strength I could endure whatever might come.
Finally, it was 4 AM, five hours in. Daniel woke up.
Read the rest of the story: part 2