I should preface this story time by saying that my labour was quite normal - "textbook" even. And what I mean by that is that it was unpredictable, scary and mega-watt painful.
There is no such thing as the "perfect" labour.
You know that birth plan you have? Get rid of it.
You know that birth plan you don't think you have, but you actually kind do and you only realise it once you've given birth and it was not was you expected? Get rid of that too.
Basically, get rid of ALL expectation, and prepare for any eventuality.
Don't want an episiotomy? If you need it, you'll get it.
Want an epidural? It might not take.
Want to give birth in a hospital? Your baby might come so fast you'll be giving birth in your apartment building carpark.
Expect the unexpected. Babies and uterus's are not good with plans, or following schedules. It's good preparation for the rest of your life as a parent.
Throughout my entire pregnancy, I had a feeling I would go into labour early, despite all my sisters-in-law/friends/What To Expect When You're Expecting app forums telling me that first babies are always late. I just had an instinct to be prepared from 37 weeks onwards. Everything in my mind told me to be prepare for action at 37 weeks, and I even started having conversations with my in-utero bub telling them to HOLD OUT until AT LEAST 37 weeks when they would be considered "term".
Halfway through my 36th week, on a Friday at about midday, I suddenly started having mild period like cramping in my uterus area, and a burning/tingling sensation in my lower back like someone had smothered me in Deep Heat. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions since about 17 weeks, and this was not that. My entire uterus would feel like it was being squeezed together by Iron Man, my stomach would go rock solid and my back would tingle/burn. I immediately called my mum who lives interstate to give her enough warning that she may or may not have to hop on a plane, and I started timing.
They say you know you are having contractions when they are consistently spaced, getting quicker, and the pain increases over time. If they are erratic, not painful or not increasing they are not labour contractions - rather pre or false labour.
These sensations I was experiencing were about 40 minutes a part over a 12 hour period, but did not increase in pain. I kept in touch with my mum and we decided to wait it out.
From Friday, I consistently had these sensations every day, getting stronger and stronger each day but never lasting more than 12 hours at a time and never at shorter intervals than 30-40 minutes apart.
Monday came, and I had an appointment with my obsetrician. I was nearing the end of 36 weeks, and my sensations had been slowly getting stronger with each passing day. Upon telling the Doctor of my symptoms, he predicted my baby would be born by 38 weeks - basically within the next 9 days.
I called my mum once again to get her on standby.
As time went on, I got used to the false labour sensations I was feeling and stopped obsessively counting the intervals between contractions. I figured if it was legitimately labour, I would feel the pain increasing and start counting then.
I had people over for dinner, I continued going out and leaving the house, I just made sure to pack a large pad in my bag in case my waters broke out in public.
Good thing I did!
I debated for a while before deciding to go ahead and see Fiddler on The Roof live on the day I clocked over to 37 weeks. It was a Wednesday, and I had begun to just ignore the sensations. While I was worried and aware I could go into labour at any minute (figuratively), I also knew I would kick myself if I didn't go to the production and I sat at home bored eating ice cream with no labour to show for it.
So off I went with my Mother-in-Law and sisters-in-law.
It was when we pulled up to the theatre that I felt something wasn't quite right. I just felt . . . wet? I dont know, but it was enough for me to insist on a bathroom stop before finding our seats. Being pregnant, it was fairly easy to convince everyone to wait for me.
I got to the bathroom and (sorry for the TMI), but I just could not tell if my waters had indeed broken or not - maybe I had accidentally wet myself without realising? I mean, I hadn't suffered any pregnancy incontinence until then but who knew? I wasn't entirely convinced either way, so I put on the trusty "just-in-case" pad and went and found my seat.
As the first act roared into life, and the story was in full swing, my "sensations" suddenly started getting stronger and much more noticeable. Like squirm-in-your-seat, ouch-that-one-hurt painful. And I started getting anxious. HAD my waters broken?? Was I about to go into labour in a theatre hall halfway across the city from my husband and my hospital? I sent a frantic message to my husband and mother.
It was one of these most stressful nights of my life. Finally at about 10:30pm I got home, still nowhere near certain if my waters had or had not broken. I called the hospital and was advised to come on in so they could check me out.
We got to the hospital close to midnight, and I was put in a room for monitoring. There, it was clear I was having contractions albeit minor ones. I felt both vindicated and scare out of my mind. Meanwhile, my husband had a snooze on the armchair near my bed (to be fair, he'd gotten up at 5:45 that morning for work).
The midwives took a swab to see if any fluid was present, as it was hard to tell from the pad as if my waters had broken I was only dripping, not a big full on gush.
The swab came back positive, and at 3am we were sent home to wait it out.
"Come back tomorrow at 5pm," the midwife told us. "There we'll assess you - if you are 3cm or more we'll admit you, if less, we will induce you."
So home we went to wait for the most amazing, life changing experience of our lives.
Let me know how your labour started - waters breaking? Contractions? No warning at all?