Wednesday morning, as I was getting ready for my doctor's appointment, I thought I was having faint irregular contractions, so I called Jerry to share the news.
"Hey, nothing to get worked up about," I said, "but I think I might be having some really minor contractions."
He, of course, got very worked up and immediately flew home from work to drive me to the appointment. On the way to get me, he called a few people to say the baby was coming.
"I TOLD YOU NOT TO GET WORKED UP!" I said when he got home and looked dejected at the news that they had fizzled out.
He insisted it was worthy of a little excitement, but reluctantly made return calls explaining that it was a false alarm.
Because the office is about 45 minutes away from where we live and right next to the hospital, we decided to bring all of the bags just in case. I was scheduled for a fetal non-stress test, and after doing much research on the process, I knew that if the doctor detected something was wrong, he could admit me for an induction immediately.
I kept reiterating that it was a precautionary measure only, but Jerry looked as if he was walking on air. He even ran over to give the neighbors a key to our house and said he'd call if we needed them to let Toby out later that night.
"Good luck!" Dave yelled from his doorway as I walked out to the car.
I just shot Jerry a look.
"Thank you, but I'm almost positive we'll be home tonight," I said. "SOMEONE is a little overzealous."
When we got to the office, a nurse led us into a large room that was partitioned by curtains. Each corner had a recliner, a chair for a support person and a cart with equipment on it. She instructed me to lift my shirt and attached two Velcro belts each with a circular disk around my abdomen -- one down low to measure the baby's heartbeat and one up high to measure contractions. Then I was instructed to click on a button every time I felt movement.
Of course, the baby wasn't moving. At all. The machine clocked her heart at a steady 130 to 140 beats per minute and I tried just concentrating on how wonderful the sound of the swooshing was.
I felt some twinges, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was. I thought maybe it could be her feet getting lodged in my ribcage, so I pressed the button and shrugged.
"This is really hard," I whispered to Jer.
As time went on, the machine spit out a stream of paper with two distinct lines. One was a choppy up and down motion that I knew was the baby's heartbeat, the other was sort of a steady wave that I thought maybe was me moving from time to time.
When the doctor came in to check on me, he reviewed the paper.
"Can you feel those contractions?" he asked.
I must've had a look of complete shock on my face.
"You might not yet," he said. "They might not be strong enough."
Jerry and I hi-fived at the prospect that something, ANYTHING, was happening. And once I realized what they were, I could definitely feel the tightening in my abdomen.
Eventually the baby moved and I saw a big spike in her heart rate -- exactly what was supposed to happen -- so the nurse came in, said I passed and led me to an exam room for my final checkup.
"Your contractions are pretty regular," she said, reviewing the sheet. "Not too strong, but they're coming every few minutes."
"Lets just hope they're doing something," I said.
They weren't. The doctor said I'm still about one to two centimeters dilated. Then he further deflated me by giving me an induction date of the day before Thanksgiving. Apparently it's a busy week with everyone trying to avoid the holiday.
I asked why they were so quick to induce and he cited a local study done a few years back that showed the hospital we will go to had a lower C-section rate when a woman is induced before she gets to 42 weeks. If allowed to continue on indefinitely, the baby can get too big or the amniotic fluid gets so low that there isn't anything left to absorb the shock of the contractions.
It sounded reasonable, but I couldn't help but think how I'll feel cheated out of the surprise element if I have to be induced. On the other hand, the end is in sight. Exactly one more week at the very most. And that's something to get excited about.
As we checked out, we scheduled two more appointments -- another non-stress test on Friday and a meeting Tuesday with the doctor who will oversee my induction.
For some reason, I left feeling completely dejected. I've always hated mixing special events with holidays. I think everything of consequence should have its own day. Fortunately, Jerry knew this when he proposed and didn't try to mix it with my birthday or Christmas or Valentine's Day or anything. It has it's own special anniversary that I remember fondly every year.
I want our daughter's birthday to be the same way. Sure, I also don't want to have boxed instant potatoes on a hospital tray when I could have a heaping pile of my mother-in-law's homemade mashed potatoes, but more than that, I want our little lady to have a birthday that doesn't fall on Thanksgiving every few years.
But, who knows, maybe she (and I) would end up loving it.
I decided not to dwell on something I have absolutely no control over, and Jerry and I headed to Red Lobster for an early dinner after I mentioned that I wanted shrimp.
The contractions continued.
Then we stopped at Target to stock up on some toiletries we're running low on.
The contractions continued.
By the time we got home, they were fairly consistent, but still not too painful. Jerry's mom stopped over with a baby present that someone had dropped off at her house and we chatted for awhile before she headed home.
Later that night, as Jerry and I were collapsed on the couch, I noticed the contractions hadn't stopped and seemed a little more frequent.
"Maybe we should time them just to be safe," I said.
He shot upstairs without even a slight hesitation and came back down with his nightstand clock which has a second hand, a piece of computer paper and a pen.
Then he started charting.
Once we realized they were coming about every three minutes and lasting about a minute, we panicked. Our prenatal class instructor had said that it's time to go to the hospital when they're a minute long and five minutes apart.
Mine were closer than that.
I called the emergency line and asked the answering service to have a doctor call me back. In the meantime, I started pacing to see if the contractions continued or slowed. False labor apparently stops once you start moving around.
They became a little less frequent, but I definitely still felt them.
Finally, the doctor called and I explained what was going on.
"From one to ten -- one being tolerable and ten being excruciating -- what's your pain level?" she asked.
"I'd say a one or two."
"Then I'm going to tell you to stay home," she said. "If they're that mild, they might not be doing anything and I'd likely check you and send you home anyway. ... You should be at about a five before you come to the hospital."
"I figured that was going to be the case, but we're so far away that I didn't want to have any surprises," I said.
"Hey, it could keep progressing," she said. "I'm here all night, so if it changes, just give me a call."
Feeling a little dejected again, Jerry and I decided to try to get some sleep. Before drifting off, he made me promise to wake him for any reason -- even if I just needed a hand to squeeze.
I woke up a few hours later with aching hips and knew I'd be up for awhile. Much to my surprise, the contractions have returned. The entire time I've been writing, I've been documenting them on this handy site, Contraction Master. They're lasting about 30 seconds and coming about every three minutes.
The pain has definitely intensified, maybe to a three or four. I'm hopeful this means she's coming today, but I'm still trying not to get my hopes up. I refuse to wake Jerry or call my parents or the doctor until I'm certain.
But who knows? Maybe she'll get her own special birthday after all.