If you read my first post announcing my baby’s birth, you saw that I was in labor for five days. Apparently there’s this evil that’s visited on some unlucky women that almost nobody talks about or knows much about. Actually, in my four visits to the hospital from March 14-19, not a single nurse or doctor mentioned it. My doula, a childhood friend of mine named Marta, finally showed me an article on it (maybe she had just discovered the term herself). Prodromal labor.
What’s that, you ask? Labor that comes and goes, that’s what.
My hospital’s guidelines suggest coming in when contractions are four minutes apart and “take your breath away.” Saturday evening I had those contractions. Monday night I had those contractions. I went to the Birth Center both of those nights. Both times I was sent home the next morning.
The baby was “not reactive.”
The doctors on-call recommended induction, just to be sure the baby was okay.
Oh yeah, did I mention my doctor was on vacation the week of my due date? He wasn’t there to meet with or advocate for me. So we had the on-call doctors. They were lovely ladies, but I wasn’t their patient, and if my baby wasn’t born on their watch, they wouldn’t get that paycheck. (Come on, we all know how this works.)
We endured two short ultrasounds, which Clarabelle passed quickly and fully, to show the doctors the baby was fine. Then we were sent home “to rest.”
According to this article Marta showed me, prodromal labor starts and stops for days on end, often times starting up around the same time each day. For me, contractions picked up around nine at night. That meant two nearly sleepless nights in the hospital, laying on my back or side hooked up to a machine that monitored the baby’s heart and my contractions. All I wanted to do was move. Marta asked several times if I could use the whirlpool.
“You have to stay hooked up to the machines,” was each nurse’s answer.
They wanted a good reading for half an hour, an impossible goal since my daughter kept finding the monitor and pushing, kicking, moving away from it. The doctor was concerned about the “drops” in heart rate where the monitor wasn’t getting a reading, yet never came in to check on me or find that what we had was a very active baby.
Prodromal labor often happens when the baby is poorly positioned for birth. In my case, Clarabelle was posterior or “sunny-side up.” She was facing the wrong way to effectively engage the birth canal, explaining why she had so much access to the monitors strapped to my belly. When we were at home, Marta and Garth helped me move into positions that would keep the baby anterior. In the hospital, since the night nurses were ordered not to let me move around, my labor stopped simply because I was not allowed to reposition the baby.
We were discharged from the hospital for the second time at two-thirty Tuesday morning. Disappointed and hungry, we headed to Hy-Vee to pick up some food for the next day. I insisted on getting a burger, so we grabbed some cupcakes and muffins from the bakery department and hit the road for a drive-thru. There were three McDonald’s on the way, and my husband chose the closest one to our home. Never again.
As we pulled up to the window to pay for our order (six burgers and a large fry to share) the car in front of us backed back up to the window. We could hear the manager and employees yelling and swearing at each other about whatever the issue was. When the car pulled away, we pulled forward, only to end up next to that same car, which had backed up again.
“I ordered a burger and fries, and my fries were cold,” he said when we rolled down the passenger side window. “So I tell them and they give me the same damn fries and two more burgers.”
He looked up to yell, again, at the manager who had come to the window, adding, “I’m cool. I’m mad, but I’m cool.”
We should have taken it as a sign. We should have cancelled our order and drove home. Who serves cold fries at three in the morning? They should be absolutely fresh.
We get home and tear into the fries, which are cold and clogged with congealed grease. I open my burger to find a crinkled, gray patty with old cheese melted on it. It too is cold.
“No, I’m not eating this,” I say, “I’ll get sick.”
I go to the kitchen, hungry, deliriously tired, and wondering when I would have my baby. We were basically out of food, besides the cupcakes and muffins. I wanted protein.
And these were the circumstances which led to me sitting on the kitchen floor, forty weeks pregnant, bawling like a toddler.
I didn’t know then I’d be holding my baby in just two more days. Maybe it would have helped. Or maybe I would have just cried harder.
Come back Tuesday for the nitty-gritty about my labor experience. Or, at least, what I learned through the process.