Prodromal Labor, Not Just for Camels
When people ask me* how long I was in labor, I usually end up giving kind of a dual answer. Usually these people are either extremely, gigantically pregnant friends or other new moms, which colors that a bit, too - lord knows I don’t want to scare my friends who are imminently staring into that terrifying unknown of giving birth. But if you’ve also gone through it recently, that barrier breaks down real quick, so let’s get right down to it and talk about our vaginas.
I suppose the “right” answer to that question is 23 hours. Which is true, my water broke at 5 am and my daughter was born at 4 am the next morning. Tah dah! But that’s only the time I was in active labor.
Rewind, for a moment, to when I started having weird, inconsistent contractions at 39 weeks, my husband and I decided to wait a little while before going to the hospital. The pain wasn’t too bad and we knew we’d probably be sent home. Which was fine, but after a full day of these contractions, baby was moving a little less and it couldn’t hurt to get checked out, right? Just to be safe. (Note: if there is any doubt in your mind, just go get checked out. It’s quick and easy and you’ll thank yourself later, even if it’s a pain in the ass at the time.)
In triage, they confirmed I was having inconsistent contractions. Yeah, no shit, that’s why I’m here. Then they told me I wasn’t progressing, so we should go out and take a walk for a couple of hours and come back. So at 10 pm on a lovely summer evening, we went out and took a 2-hour waddle in the neighborhood around the hospital, stopping every few minutes for contractions and probably confusing anyone else who happened to be out late on a Wednesday night. Then we went and walked laps around the hospital when it got too chilly even for my abdominal furnace to keep me warm.
We went back after an eternity of walking and...nada. No progression. I was in prodromal labor. Did you know that was a thing? I sure as hell did not. A very nice doctor broke the news to me, a very angry very pregnant lady, as gently as possible. He told me not to worry and assured me that I’d probably go into active labor naturally in the next day, maybe two.
To save you the time of looking this up, I’ve taken the liberty of drafting a brief definition.
Prodromal Labor (n.): annoying contractions that don’t really hurt too badly, but just enough to prevent you from sleeping or moving or living a normal life. They’re also not actually doing anything at all either - your baby is still just chillin inside your uterus while your body is like “can we not?” See also: Dante’s ninth circle of hell.
Fast forward two days - it’s my due date! And I’m still in motherfucking prodromal labor. This seems like the kind of shit that only happens in the animal kingdom. At this point I’m half-convinced I’m a camel.
Luckily I had my 40-week appointment with my OB that day. I had been 100% anti-induction up until this point, because people really love sharing their induction horror stories and of course that gets to your head. And then you’re convinced you’re going to be forced into a C-section. But after 40 very uncomfortable weeks and days of contractions and no sleep, I was done. This is pretty much how that conversation went:
Doctor: you were in the other day!
Doctor: ...and still nothing?
Doctor: I don’t want to torture you. If you’d like, at this point it’s safe to ind...
Me: Please for the love of god induce me as soon as you possibly can.
My doctor was great, and the eviction notice was served. We went in the next day. After 4 days of prodromal labor, I was induced. And really? Induction wasn’t bad at all. My water broke on it’s own after about 10 hours, and 23 hours after that, my healthy, rambunctious daughter was born. The doctor who checked me in triage and who told me I’d probably go into labor on my own soon was actually the one who delivered her - he was wonderful but definitely had a bit of an apologetic look on his face like “ooooh, sorry you’re still pregnant” when he saw me, which in retrospect cracks me up.
All told, I think that brings my REAL labor to 5 days. Shitty, right? But the human brain is wild and does this thing where, when it’s all said and done, you think “eh, that wasn’t so bad, I could totally do that again.” And now, a year later, I am starting to feel that pull to get pregnant again. That, friends, is how the human race survives.
And now you have something else to add to that growing list of shit that people never tell you about pregnancy and childbirth.
*Personal experience brought to you by a very dear friend. Uterus owners sharing knowledge for a better world!