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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pregnancy update - 36 weeks (also, I talk too much)

My last pregnancy update was at 34 weeks, and I’ve actually had 2 prenatal appointments since then. And a lot has been going on with my body. Changes are definitely happening and I feel my body working up to labor.

Starting around the end of week 34, my Braxton-Hicks  contractions really amped up the volume. They were really strong, very uncomfortable, and mildly crampy. I also started having them very frequently, several times in an hour. It was a few days after that, I was in the beginning of my 35th week, when I started having what I can only describe as sharp, popping pain... down there. These pains started worrying me because I remember having something similar a couple hours before going into labor with Mira. So I went ahead and scheduled an impromptu appointment with one of my midwives.

After the routine checks and a pelvic exam, the midwife informed me that my uterus was “stressed”, her words. It’s normal for women to have BH contractions, but not with the intensity and frequency that I was experiencing. (I had several during the appointment, so she got to witness them first hand.) And the sharp pains that I was having, she called “cervical twinges”. She said it was basically the cervix starting to loosen up, and could feel quite sharp and painful. The pelvic exam revealed that, at that time, I was not yet starting to dilate, but my cervix was softening in preparation for labor. Of course, that can happen minutes before labor or weeks before labor, but either way that’s what was causing my discomfort. She said that she didn’t see any signs that I was going into labor immediately though, so she sent me home with directions to get as much rest as possible, drink lots of water, take hot baths often, and come back in 1 week.

Well, de-stressing a uterus is not an easy thing when there’s a toddler involved but luckily I have family and friends to help me. I’ve had meals prepared for me, several times someone has come and taken Mira for me, and Brian has really stepped up on a lot of the chores that I normally would do. But despite all the help, the BH contractions continued to be pretty frequent and fairly intense. They were uncomfortable enough that if I was walking when I had one then I would have to stop and stand still. And when I had them while driving, I was always very tempted to pull over.

After that week, I went back in yesterday morning for my next checkup. The midwife made sure that the baby was still head down, took a swab to test for GBS, and did a pelvic exam. I had told her that I was planning to travel to Dallas for Christmas this coming weekend and asked her if she saw anything to indicate that I should do otherwise. Essentially, her response was that I should stay home, though she didn’t say it quite that directly. My blood pressure was slightly elevated above my normal (though still in a healthy range), probably from holiday stress. And in the past week I had dilated to 1 cm, probably as a result of all the BH contractions. The midwife told me that she would advise me to do whatever I could to make this holiday a restful one... which sounded a whole lot to me like “Don’t go to Dallas.”

So that was yesterday and I went about making all the calls and cancellations so that we could stay in Austin for the holidays. And it’s looking like it’s a good thing that I did...

Because last night my body decided to give this whole labor thing a test drive.

I started having contractions that felt a whole lot more like actual labor contractions, starting at about 4:30pm yesterday. They were very crampy and much stronger than the BH I was having, and while they didn’t seem to have a steady rhythm, they were coming on about every 5-10 minutes. I called Brian and let him know what was going on, but that I wasn’t sure it was labor, and we decided that he would finish out his work day and then come home. So Mira and I sat down in front of Sesame Street and I relaxed and drank water while Mira was entranced by puppets. By the time Brian got home, the contractions were still going and becoming more intense, but still no steady rhythm. So we ate dinner and I called my mom to give her an early warning that we might maybe possibly be starting labor or maybe it was nothing. She said she’d go ahead and come get Mira to spend the night at her house just in case it was labor and I needed to go to the birth center in the middle of the night. Which was great because it really let Brian and I focus on what was going on with me, and on getting ready in case it was the real deal. (I had so convinced myself that the baby wouldn’t come till after Christmas that I didn’t have a bag packed for the labor yet or even have the baby’s carseat installed in the car.) So while I was taking a bath, Brian packed a bag and got the car ready. I was still having contractions at least every 10 minutes, sometimes they’d come much faster (every 3 minutes) and sometimes they’d slow way down again. Brian took great care of me the whole evening. At about midnight, we decided that we’d both try to sleep. I was still having frequent contractions, but they were feeling milder now, so I was hopeful that I’d be able to sleep through them. And I did... some. I slept for one 2-hour stretch and then for little 30-minute snoozes for the rest of the night. Brian slept a little better because we agreed that he should sleep in a different room so that I wouldn’t disturb him unless I needed to. But by this morning, the contractions had pretty much stopped... when I was sitting or laying still. The minute I would get up onto my feet they would start up again and walking would lead to basically one continuous contraction that just came in waves, with no defined start or stop, just an ebbing and flowing.

So that’s where I am right now. Brian has decided to work from home today so that he can be close to me and help me when I need it. Mom brought Mira back home for her nap, but can take her back at a moment’s notice, since she’s off work till after Christmas. I’ve given up on actually being in real labor for right now (though I was never convinced that all those contractions were labor, since they never became steady and organized). And still now, if I’m sitting or laying, the contractions go away, but if I stand or walk they come on immediately and pretty strong. So we’re sort of in a play-it-by-ear situation.

The good news is that, being 36 weeks along, my midwives could deliver me at the birth center now. (Any earlier than 36 weeks and I would have had to go to the hospital because of the risks associated with babies born prematurely.) But still, I hope that Ellowyn manages to stay put a little bit longer. Mostly because the closer I am to full term when she is born, the healthier she is likely to be. But also because we didn’t really plan to have a newborn at Christmas, and I’m not sure how it would effect our celebration plans. Do I really want to take a days-old baby to a huge gathering of people? I dunno...  We'll cross that bridge if we get there.

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