Pregnancy Diary: Week 38
My experience of Prodromal Labour

Feeling good!
Feeling Good! - see the album on Karen's Facebook page
Week 38 of our pregnancy diary has certainly been a memorable one! You might remember that last week I mentioned that I had been having mild nausea on and off, some lower backache, menstrual type cramps and the like - well, they only got worse! Before I get going on our week, apparently baby is approximately 50cm long and weighs about 3kg, although those guesstimates get less and less accurate as time goes on! Baby is considered 'full-term' from 37 weeks, but there are many great benefits to sticking around until 40 weeks, but I'm not going there this week...

On Saturday morning I had a bring-and-share continental breakfast with some lady friends - a great idea for an easy get together - especially if you are 9 months pregnant. Anyway, I had been struggling to sleep since Wednesday night because of the back pain and cramping. Through Saturday and Sunday, twinges and such seemed to get worse and the sense of downward pressure increased. I was just over 37 weeks pregnant but even as a second time mom it felt like labour starting to me, albeit quite slowly.

On Saturday evening I had some pretty strong, regular contractions...

On Saturday evening I had some pretty strong, regular contractions - about 30s each every 5-7min, but they happened quite soon after a cup of red raspberry leaf and an unusually long toddler breastfeeding session, which I have since discovered is the result of some unknown ailment currently causing a fever. The thing that bugged me was that I wasn't sure whether I should encourage the process with some red raspberry leaf tea, speed walking, stair climbing, breastfeeding and of course, conjugal intimacy, or if I should try to slow things down - resting, warm baths and the like - so I just carried on as usual.

...I had all relevant parties on standby all weekend!

By Sunday afternoon, my midwife thought it best that I try get a good night's sleep, rather than encouraging the process and ending up exhausted and not progressing, so I took a warm bath and went to bed. It was the most restful night I'd had that week! I had really thought things were happening and I had all relevant parties on standby all weekend!

...I really believed I was in labour...

Monday morning rolled around and it looked like things were really getting going again - I really believed I was in labour - I had definite, reasonably regular contractions that I had to concentrate on and breathe through. The toddler and I were washing dishes and every couple of minutes I would have to lean forward onto the sink and focus on my breathing to get through each one. So I called in the troops. My mom drove up from Durban, one friend, let's call her J, went in to work to excuse herself while another friend, let's call her KE, brought me some supplies (chocolate!) and hubby went to collect the birth pool.

...things seemed to have slowed again...

By the time J got here things seemed to have slowed again, so we took the toddler in the stroller for a walk around the block. On our 2nd, and last circuit, some friends of J's caught up with us and we spent some time chatting. She had had two homebirths with my midwife as well so it was great to chat to her! As our paths diverged she said she had quite a strong impression from God that our baby would have a particular character trait, which will remain confidential for the moment. I started crying right there because that was precisely the meaning of one of the final two names on our shortlist, which we hadn't shared with anyone. So the name of our little girl was decided! I was really encouraged by that.

By this time things had completely slowed down...

My mom then arrived and started washing some dishes and the photographer who did our preggie shoot was in town so she popped in as well. We set up the birth pool and did some last minute prep for the home birth and sat down to chat. A little later another friend (KC) joined us. After some more chatting they went off to get some lunch, and then we went for another walk. By this time things had completely slowed down and I was feeling a little 'moedeloos' (Afrikaans for discouraged - but the translation doesn't do it justice).

...I had started having my strongest and most regular contractions yet

My mom-in-law also popped in with some snacks and a little later everyone went home saying we must just phone if they need to come back. KC and her hubby brought us a feast for dinner, which I was really grateful for as I was quite bushed and, lo and behold, I had started having my strongest and most regular contractions yet. Again, they were about 30s long, about 4min apart for about 3 hours altogether and with each one I was on the floor on my knees with my head on my arms on the couch to focus so I could breathe through the pain. "This is really it!" I thought. Wrong again! I had a warm bath, things slowed down and I had another great night's sleep.

One thing that was quite funny that night was that the toddler was curious as to why I was burying my head in my arms every few minutes - so I told her that I just needed to close my eyes and invited her to come and join me, so for a couple of contractions she was next to me, head on her arms 'closing her eyes' with mom. Then she saw hubby stroking my back and started stroking and tickling my back too. At one stage when I was breathing through a contraction, she told me to 'wake up' so she could put her head on her arms and 'close her eyes' and told me to tickle her back!

Checking dilation in early labour can only tell you how far dilated you are...

Now by this time I hadn't yet had a 'show' - which is when the mucous plug at the cervix comes out - often an early sign of labour as it shows that the cervix is effacing (thinning). I had also chosen not to have an internal exam to check dilation, unless absolutely necessary. Checking dilation in early labour can only tell you how far dilated you are - it doesn't actually give an accurate idea of how much longer things are going to take, or how long it took you to get there. Some women can be stuck and 2 or 3cm dilated for days without realizing it. So it can be encouraging to find out that you are further dilated than you thought, but it can also be really discouraging to find out the opposite - and knowing me that would stress me out and hinder the process even more.

I think, "OK, today is the day!" Wrong again.

So now Tuesday morning comes along. I go to the toilet in the morning, and I have a 'show'! (Apologies if this is TMI for the casual reader - you want real life, you got it!) I text the midwife to let her know and I think, "OK, today is the day!" Wrong again. I walked to our usual Tuesday morning mom's group close by, contemplated having a go on the trampoline but thought better of it. I had reasonably strong menstrual pain for most of the day, like I would for the first or second day of menstruation, but that was about it! (It was a weird sensation, having not menstruated in what feels like forever!)

I have decided to trust my body and embrace the process.

By this stage I was actually feeling great - I was not as discouraged as I was on Monday. I have decided to trust my body and embrace the process. We women so often assume that our bodies are somehow defective when something about us doesn't fit in with the 'average', but with birth the range of normal is very wide, and I am choosing to trust my body and embrace the process! Maybe I'm doing too much and I just need to rest, maybe baby isn't in quite the right position yet and all these contractions are squeezing her into the right spot, maybe I just need a little longer to dilate this time, and maybe it's none of the above. Baby is still moving well and I'm feeling fine - what do I have to worry about?

...I was feeling stiff and irritable.

And so we have Wednesday and I felt like I had rested the whole of Tuesday and I was feeling stiff and irritable. By this time, alternative arrangements had been made for my ballet classes so I went from pretty-active mode, to couch-potato mode. Frustration! So I decided to pop by the mall, get some last minute supplies and stroll around for a while and then head on home again. Still nothing - it was the quietest day since Wednesday last week. Arg!

The fact that it was a full lunar eclipse that night too didn't seem to impress little one at all - it would have been so poetic!

I was hoping that something might happen on Wednesday night considering that it was a full moon and there are many old wives' tales / urban legends and one or two studies that show that more babies are born during the last quarter of the moon than at any other time of the lunar month, but no such luck. The fact that it was a full lunar eclipse that night too didn't seem to impress little one at all - it would have been so poetic! This was my Facebook status for that day:

Attending births is like growing roses. You have to marvel at the ones that just open up and bloom at the first kiss of the sun... but you wouldn't dream of pulling open the petals of the tightly closed buds and forcing them to blossom to your time line. - Gloria Lemay

Thursday was also really quiet...

We had a bit of a laugh on Thursday morning when a friend of ours (an out-of-towner to give him credit) phoned to congratulate us, obviously thinking the baby must be born by now! Thursday was also really quiet, so I spent much of the day pondering the whole idea of a 'ripening' process. Later that night I was in the bath and discovered that I could barely move; even turning on to my side was painful. Something in my pelvic / sacral area was out of whack - it felt like it was in pieces that just didn't want to work together!

And so the sun rose on another Friday morning - a full week after I first mentioned that I was starting to feel twingey. I must admit, I was feeling a little emotionally overwhelmed, not about all the false starts but about things in general, like my back, but I actually took the emotional-ness as a good sign that my hormones were kicking into high gear, or so I hoped! So my back was even more uncomfortable than before and it was really upsetting me.

I also got a great back massage for the first time in months...

Because I've danced all my life, and for various other reasons, my physical mobility is really important to me so limping about because my pelvis didn't want to hold me up was really distressing. Fortunately I managed to get an appointment with the chiropractor - what bliss! Apparently my pelvis was slightly twisted and my pubic symphysis was also out and she got that sorted out. I also got a great back massage for the first time in months because I could actually lie on my stomach! Joy!

I am feeling strong... I promise I'm not putting it on just to get the attention!

That's all I can tell you about this week. So other than the fact that we keep expecting this baby to pop out, our one car won't start, I have developed a cavity and the toddler has had a reasonably high fever for the last two days - we are doing well! I am feeling strong and really empowered actually. Like I said in my open letter:

And lastly, if at any stage it seems as though I am in pain, please do not pity me. I am not suffering. I am doing what I was born to do.
And I would add to that: I promise I'm not putting it on just to get the attention!

...what I am experiencing is generally referred to as prodromal labour...

If you want a name for it, what I am experiencing is generally referred to as prodromal labour (also known as pre-labour, or false labour). The thing about it is that it can be very difficult to distinguish from the real thing. You can generally find an exception to anything anyone says about prodromal labour. When people say real contractions should get stronger and more regular but prodromal contractions don't - you'll find someone whose experience contradicts that. So really, prodromal labour is generally only recognized in retrospect! If you'd like to read more about how other ladies have experienced it you can check here:

Red Light, Green Light... A Tale of Prodromal Labor

The Birth Teacher - Prodromal Labor

So that's the long story about I'm learning to embrace the process and trust my body! Looking forward to sharing again next week!

Well, this was the last week of our pregnancy diary! It seems all that prodromal labour was heading somewhere and our little girl was born the Saturday night. You can check out our birth story here (TMI-version) or here (non-TMI version)

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