Friday, May 9, 2008


It seems so many moms in the blogosphere are pregnant. Two of my favorite daily reads, Mrs. Fussypants and Her Bad Mother are due any day, and there have been various showers and comment forms in their honor, most of which I have missed out on, either because I had my head stuck up my arse, or because every time I pressed submit I got some sort of default page. Very frustrating!!!!!!!

Not nearly as frustrating as false labor, however, which has been the topic of many of Her Bad Mother's recent posts. Having spent 45+months of my life pregnant, believe me, I can completely sympathize.

So in hopes of cheering up expectant mothers everywhere, I submit to you my own philosophies and stories about false labor.

But before I go any further, I would like to address the whole term "false labor" as I believe it really is a misnomer. In my opinion, there is no such thing as "false" labor. The word false implies "not true", so if someone is in false labor, who is it exactly that is not being true, or more bluntly, lying? No one, valuing their own life, would want to suggest that a woman, forced to pack pounds, and deprived of sleep, alcohol and seeing past her feet, would lie about being in labor, would they? I prefer to refer to, what is commonly known as, "false labor" as warm up labor.

Warm up labor occurs as the body begins to ready itself for the marathon that is childbirth. You can't just run a marathon without training for it; and your body can't just burst into labor and then spit out a baby. Your body has to practice, and just like training for a marathon is strenuous exercise that can be painful, warm up labor can be as exhausting, though typically not as painful, but painful enough in its own right, as actual labor that eminently leads to childbirth. Women should not be accused of not being in "true" labor, rather it should be explained to them that their body is just in the warm up phase. They should not feel ashamed or embarrassed or they like they are crazy or wimpy. None of that is true. And while, on occasion a woman will just drop her baby like nothing happened, the norm really is that most women suffer with labor pains for days and even weeks before the actual birth of their babies.

And yet the story, told by Her Bad Mother, of going to the hospital and being made to feel foolish by said medical doctor because she came in too soon, is a tale many of us moms know all to well. Not, of course, that any of us want to admit it. We all want to pretend that our only trip to labor and delivery ended happily. Who wants to relive the embarrassment of being told, "oh, this is false labor, you can go home"? Who wants to recall the shrill sound of the doctors and nurses laughing as you leave, and whispering to one another, "can you believe that she thought THAT was labor. Wait til she really is in labor, she'll be a doozy!" Who wants to remember that even your own family turns against you when you are in "false" labor. Your husband demands to know why you can't tell the difference, your mother shakes her head as if to say, you should have known better.

You know who I blame for the whole "false" labor phenomenon? Hollywood. I know, I know, it's an easy target. We blame them for everything. The sexualization of children, the self-esteem problems of people everywhere;etc., but this is legitimate ( not that the other accusations are not, let's face it, Hollywood is blameworthy for many offenses) . In almost every movie that I have seen where a character gives birth ( off the top of my head am thinking: Jerry Maguire, Nine months, and most recently, Baby Mama) labor lasts all of sixty seconds. One minute the pregnant woman is dressed up and dining, as if the past nine months have been a walk in the park, and the next minute she is in the delivery room pushing out, the largest, most perfect looking newborn ever born. Even though we know better, we are conditioned to believe that labor is a one time event. Something that just comes up out of blue, and happens quickly and dramatically.

So when we are nine months pregnant, and we start having symptoms, we figure this must be it! Warm up labor is one of those secrets that other women withhold. No one tells you at the shower," oh just wait til the last month when everyday seems like it's THE DAY." As pregnant women experience, "false labor", they begin to wonder "what is wrong with me?" I remember thinking with my third that my body was playing tricks on me. By the time I had baby number, I finally knew that what I was experiencing was normal.

Don't be fooled by the medical professionals, either, and don't let them make you think that you are dumb because you came into early. Sometimes, they, themselves, don't know.

On Christmas Day, 2006, I gave birth to my youngest daughter. For a change, I was hoping that the baby would not be born early, because as I told everyone, "I just want(ed) to get through Christmas." The baby was actually due New Year's Eve, but I never had made it to my due date in the past, and had previously been almost two weeks early. So I was nervous. I spent the month of December acting like Santa on speed. I was trying to prepare everything just in case...

December twenty-third, I was not a right jolly old elf, I was an absolutely miserable bitch. I was nauseous, exhausted, constantly having contractions, and then my plug came out. My husband ordered me on bed rest. He took the other kids to dinner. At one point that night, I was ready to head for the hospital because I wanted to make sure that I got the pain medication I had missed out on with the last two. I was somewhat reluctant to go, however, because I didn't want to be sent home. I imagined how the nurses would snarl. "You've had four babies and you don't know the difference..."

On the twenty fourth, I spent most of the day resting, but got up to go to a Christmas Eve party, and to help my husband with toys;etc. On Christmas morning, I really felt fine as I watched the kids open gifts. Maybe, that day I thought, I'd make it to New Years. And then, I put the kids in the tub to get ready to go to my brother's house for Christmas Dinner, and the contractions started again, Dun Dun Dun...

My husband, who has never believed that any of our children would actually come out, said to me, "Oh, you'll be fine." We got to my brother's, and I thought better of stuffing my face, didn't want to see it coming back up in a couple of hours. I went to the bathroom and noticed I was gushing blood. I was having contractions that nearly knocked me to the floor, and I decided it was time to go.

Of course, no Doctor was at the hospital, or wanted to come to the hospital. The nurse checked me, and I was only 3 centimeters, which was what I was at the OB office a few days earlier. She hooked me up to the monitor, and quickly concluded that I should probably be sent home. Not only was I seriously disappointed that I was wasting my Christmas, I felt like a fool and a wimp because I really was in a lot of pain. and I really believed that it was time.

The nurse suggested that I walk before I leave, and I obliged. I made about three trips around the floor, stopping from the pain every few feet, and cursing like a sailor- at that point, I was truly deluded by the pain. "If this isn't fucking labor", I told my husband, "I don't know what is."

We passed the nurses station and I told them I was ready to go home. I heard the snickering and the laughing and the whispering, but I didn't even care. I went back to the room to wait to be released. I sat on the bed and immediately my water broke. I told my husband, "my water just broke." Calmly, he stated that I must be wrong and that I probably just peed my pants.

Wanting to kill him, but in too much pain to do so, I said, "then go and get the nurse and tell her that I just need to go the bathroom."

The nurse came in and said in an uppity voice " you need to go to the bathroom?" "No", I said, "my water just broke, but my husband didn't believe me. So I told him to go and get you so I that I could go to the bathroom.

She looked at me like I was crazy, but she checked me and sure enough, my water had broken. "Well, she said, now we have to admit you."

For about another half of an hour, no one really thought that I was going to have the baby anytime soon, but they were going to let me stay. Then all of the sudden, the storm became violent. I started vomiting, the contractions were beyond intense, and I could hear the nurse on the phone with the doctor, saying "yes, she is ready to deliver RIGHT NOW." They were fumbling about putting bracelets on me, drawing blood, and bringing in all the equipment.

Being the person that I am, I found a moment of solace in knowing that I was right, and when the nurse came back to my bedside, I looked up at her and said "see, I WAS in LABOR." Poetic justice and on Christmas, no less. As if our beautiful baby girl wasn't gift enough...

Our baby girl was born at 11:30p.m. on Christmas night. Now fifteen months later, I have to say even memories of false labor are fond. Remember that, expectant mothers everywhere. Too soon, this too shall pass, and you'll look back at these moments and wonder, where has the time gone?

best of luck to Mrs. Fussypants, and Her Bad Mother, and expectant mothers everywhere... Happy Mother's Day to all and to all a good night.


mommastantrum said...

There is a reason that it is called medical "practice"...because they really don't know what the hell they are doing.

I am glad that you knew and stuck to your "Mother's Instinct." Being a 2 days after Christmas baby myself I know that it isn't a barrel of monkeys, but is okay.

Happy Mother's Day.

Her Bad Mother said...

I found this really, really helpful. Like, TREMENDOUSLY helpful. To know that I'm not the only one to have to have gone through this, and also for your thoughts on *why* we're made to feel stupid about it - I think you're right that popular culture and its representation of labor as sudden and obvious and over quickly really fuels a lot misconceptions.


Cassie said...

Wow! What a crazy story! I am so nervous about childbirth. I'm less than two weeks away from my due date and I keep seeing all of these stories about false labor and almost giving birth in the car, and I'm really starting to freak! But once I finally get to the hospital, I know I will be PISSED if I get sent back home! Thanks for sharing.

i am the diva said...

Hey! i popped over via Five Star Friday, and i just wanted to say that this post was very helpful!! i'll be looking forward to warm up labour in about 3 months! my first!!

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