this post to write my own version of how prodromal labour has treated me this time around.
I'll need to look for my Lolly birth story to see if I wrote much about the prodromal labour I had with her, and if I can find it, I'll post it here too. *UPDATE: Her birth story is here.
For many people, labour just happens, and that's that. Some people get Braxton-Hicks contractions and mistake it for labour, of course. However, it seems that there are also a lot of people (like me) who get sensations much more intense than typical Braxton-Hicks, and for some people (like me) these more intense contractions can last for days to weeks before active labour. We're the people who get sent home from hospital, being told it was a 'false alarm' or it's 'just Braxton-Hicks', and it's very emotionally draining and disappointing. Because I went through this with Lolly, I've been fairly stoic about it this time around, but a lot more relaxed as this time I don't have to worry about the wasted trips to the hospital, since I'm going to be giving birth at home. However, I'm so unexpectant that I haven't phoned the midwives except once to make sure my birthing kit would arrive nice and early, and never to say that *maybe* I could be in labour. I'd actually not be surprised if I ended up refusing to call the midwife until I suddenly get that unmistakeable urge to push, when finally I'd know this really is the *real thing*!
So here is how my past few weeks have gone:
I started having irregular but pretty much daily Braxton-Hicks contractions. Nothing big, nothing scary, just some period-like cramping a few times a day. Baby's head was not engaged but just floating at the brim of my pelvis. I started my raspberry leaf tea this week, just one cup a day. However, to keep from the contractions getting any stronger (and to avoid preterm labour), I spent a lot of time in baths and had a glass of wine one night when the tightenings got me a little worried.
I started having more intense tightenings but still nothing remotely painful, just more period-like cramping, but more often and closer together. Nothing regular, just several per hour then nothing for a while, then more again. I phoned the hospital to make sure that my homebirth kit was definitely going to arrive early that week just in case things picked up. My homebirth kit arrived on Tuesday. To keep things moving along, I spent a lot of time on the birthing ball. I also started taking raspberry leaf capsules along with my tea, one to two capsules a day and one cup of tea. Nothing changed much the rest of the week, just the same old BH contractions, until Friday night. The tightenings started getting much more intense, and I began to feel like calling them Braxton-Hicks wasn't correct anymore! However, the baby's head was still not engaged. I had a bit of what I thought might be bloody show and went on a mad cleaning spree, expecting the baby to come that night. The next morning, a bit concerned that the blood maybe wasn't show but something more dramatic, I phoned the midwife and was referred up to the hospital. There, it was more or less confirmed that it was nothing to worry about, and I was sent home with a referral to see my consultant the next week. To keep from going into active labour before my consultant appointment on the following Wednesday, I reverted back to baths and holding back on doing too much exercise.
Contractions/cramping/tightenings had become a daily, regular occurrence, usually commencing midday to mid-afternoon and not stopping until I finally went to bed at night, whatever time that might be. On Monday night, I had my first acupuncture session to 'ripen the cervix'. I kept taking my raspberry leaf capsules and tea. I had my meeting with the consultant on Wednesday and was given the okay to continue with homebirth plans. The baby's head had, by that point, however, descended into the pelvis and was 4/5ths palpable (which means 4/5ths of it could be felt - or another way of looking at it, the head was 1/5th engaged.) This made me feel that at least the tightenings (a word I prefer over contractions or even over the HypnoBirthing word 'surges') were doing something, nudging the baby downward. At 38 weeks + 4 days, I had my second acupuncture session. The next day (Friday), I went out to a show at the local theatre and hung out in the bar after for several hours, standing the whole time in heels. The tightenings started coming every couple of minutes, very intense, some hard to concentrate through or stand through, and I ended up leaning against the bar tables every couple of minutes to get through the tightenings. They were so regular and so strong that I became almost convinced that the real thing was due to happen in the next couple of days, if not that night. I came home, tried to get some rest, was awoken a few times by the contractions, but eventually fell asleep and woke up the next morning with nothing.
On Sunday, at 39 weeks exactly, I started a bit of at-home aromatherapy. I put rose oil in my bath and started burning jasmine oil in my oil burner. I am also still taking a couple of raspberry leaf capsules and more or less one cup of tea a day. That leads me to where I am now. For the next couple of days after the night at the theatre, I experienced very little uterine activity, apart from occasional tightenings and the old Braxton-Hicks cramps. Until today (Monday), when they came back on, strong, intense and every half hour or so. The baby feels a bit lower, but I won't be able to confirm that until Wednesday when I see my midwife again for my weekly antenatal check. The contractions today continue, but I have no real hopes of going into labour any time soon. I've had bursts of energy where I've gone on cleaning binges, followed by bouts of listlessness where I have no energy to do anything at all. Today has been a relaxing yet productive day, and despite the intensity of the contractions, I fully expect to go to bed tonight and for them to peter out completely, as per usual. I hope on Wednesday, I'll be told the baby has descended more, which will give me a new feeling of confidence that all these contractions are STILL working the baby down. After all, the word on the street is that while, yes, prodromal labour is annoying and a total bitch, it can make the final stages of labour run very smoothly and efficiently because of how toned the uterus has become. I hope that this is true.
The baby is also still posterior, which could have much to do with why everything is progressing so slowly, but nothing I do seems to make him turn. So I'm trying not to obsess too much over his position and just do all that I can to keep the right posture, and do all that I know to do to help the contractions along. I still practice my HypnoBirthing daily, and have been focusing more on the Birth Affirmations than on the actual hypnosis, to help keep my thoughts positive despite the slow-going pace of all these contractions.
And on that note, I'm off to make another cup of raspberry leaf tea and put some more jasmine in my oil burner!