Attempting to Labor by the Book (Beth-Ellen’s Birth Story, part 2)

The laboring notebook I’d so carefully prepared from various sources said latent labor lasted 8-12 hours on average. And first time laborers (which I was) tend to labor longer than experienced moms.

Are you feeling lost? Maybe you’d like to read part 1 of Beth-Ellen’s birth story

So when Daniel woke up at 4, I explained that labor had started and begged him NOT to call his mother just yet.

Let his mother sleep, I thought. Call her at six when she’d normally be getting up.

But Daniel insisted that his mother had told him to call as soon as we knew we were in labor – and so he did.

Still holding on to the delusion that I’d be able to get some sleep, I texted my doula to let her know that things had started – and then laid back down.

My labor notebook told me that my priorities in latent labor were two-fold: 1) conserve strength and 2) distract myself.

But sleep continued to elude me. Lying down was certainly not conserving mental strength – it did nothing at all to distract me. Every bit of my mental and physical energy was focused on trying to relax through the contractions and the continued pressure. After another hour or so, I gave up and got up, joining Daniel in the living room.

I’d try that distraction thing.

I wrapped the last of the children’s Christmas presents. I started the new year’s bullet journal layouts – indexes and future log, a calendar page for January. I read from my NIV Sola Scriptura Reader’s Bible.

Contractions were still coming every 3-5 minutes, 30-60 seconds long – but the distraction let me (mostly) ignore the pelvic pressure in between contractions.

The kids woke up and I retreated back into the bedroom, where I napped-ish for an hour and a half or so.

Grandma arrived around 9:30 am.

I returned to the living area and puttered about, doing a little laundry, a little tidying, a little this and a little that. I turned on the “worship to sing” playlist I’d prepared for laboring. Contractions continued, a minute long every 3-5 minutes. When the contractions came, I lunged in place or rocked my hips to the music.

We ate lunch together and I retreated back to the bedroom in an attempt to get a little more sleep. At this point I’d been laboring just over 12 hours – what my book says was the upper limit of a usual latent labor.

“I think I need to conserve strength if possible”, I told my doulas via text, right before I headed to bed.

An hour and a half later, I texted them again: “Huh. Well, I got a bit of sleep and it’s like things have just stopped. I still feel a bit crampy, but I haven’t been feeling any contractions.”

But within another hour, we were back to where we left off. Contractions every 3-5 minutes, had to stop to focus on them but could still talk through them. When I sat down (even bouncing on the birth ball), they slowed down and lost some intensity – and as soon as I stood up they increased in frequency and intensity. I was becoming discouraged and confused. This was still obviously (to me) not yet active labor – I was managing on my own, not needing Daniel’s help to manage contractions. But should I still be trying to conserve strength? I’d had three or four hours of sleep in the past 36 hours. Maybe I should instead stay standing, try to get things to intensify so we could just make progress?

One of my doulas reminded me of the verse she’d read earlier that week, when I’d been fretting over how long this baby was taking in coming: “The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth” (Psalm 29:9) The Lord’s voice would bring forth my baby as well, at just the right time.

We ate dinner, put the children to bed. I had some diarrhea (a good sign, my book told me), took a bath, went to bed.

By now, I was ten hours past the book’s 12 hour upper limit for latent labor. I knew better than to place too much stock in the numbers, but it was still discouraging. I’d tried so hard to act according to the book, to conserve strength and to distract myself. But my body just wouldn’t stick to the book at all. The contractions started where they stayed, 3-5 minutes apart. They increased in length and intensity – but slowly. And the latent phase was lasting forever.

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