One of the good things about having really painful periods is that, theoretically, labor pains won’t feel as painful. Only problem is, I’ve had nine months to forget what cramps feel like.
Having spent 15 years of my life working through several days a month of debilitating pain, I thought my imperviousness to intense uterine spasms would give me nerves of steel, making me a veritable Superwoman when it came to labor. Alas, these three glorious trimesters without my monthly visitor have proved to be my kryptonite.
The little, blood-pressure cuff contractions that began in the second trimester have mutated into longer, crampier contractions. While they are not paralyzing like my infamous cycle cramps, I have been made soft by nine months of uterine comfort. It doesn’t help that the formerly fist-size organ in which the baby resides has expanded to the point where it could hold a full-grown Saint Bernard. (The result, of course, being greater area in which to feel uncomfortable sensations.)
That — combined with the fact that a certain little monkey this week decided to commence an ambitious, concentrated and near-constant effort to create an alternate escape hatch by burrowing into my colon — has resulted in a good bit of discomfort for me, and in Chris’ conviction that I am capable of dilating at a moment’s notice to 10 cm and delivering our wee daughter on the kitchen floor. This belief is bolstered, no doubt, by the whimpering I apparently do while sleeping through nighttime contractions.
While I realize that these contractions are small potatoes, even compared with my normal period, my newfound wussiness prevents me from ignoring them entirely. Even though I absolutely know I cannot possibly be in labor, I time them. They are only mildly painful (more like a leg cramp than a charleyhorse), and I wouldn’t have even noticed them a year ago, but I still practice breathing through them.
Why — when I’ve spent the last three months coping with back spasms and the last week or two with pelvic pain so bad I can’t walk — am I so freaked out over these mild cramps?
Winston Churchill got it right when he said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Yes, I forgot what cramps felt like, but I could handle them when I was 12 and I can certainly handle them now. The real issue is what they mean.
I’ve realized that it’s not these mini-cramps I’m worried about. What worries me is that the mini-cramps will eventually turn into those good old cramps that make me feel like my insides are going to fall out, and that those cramps will turn into the most horrible pain a person can possibly feel. And that then I will be asked to push out something the size of a canteloupe, which I can’t imagine is a comfortable undertaking.
I guess Chris’ belief that I am, at all times, potentially hours away from giving birth isn’t so very silly. It’s just hard for my control-freak mind to cope with.
It could happen after an induction May 22. It could happen today. Labor could sneak up on me in my sleep or at the mall or while I’m watching CSI with Chris’ parents. And the truth is that it will hurt and probably last awhile, and instead of getting a break afterward I will have a helpless human being to take care of — at the expense of showering and sleeping — for the next 18 years. (And I will probably have forgotten to put the ice packs in the labor bag.) The fact that I just can’t adequately prepare for natural labor the way I can for a chemistry test or a scheduled surgery is way more disturbing than a few crampy contractions.
So I guess I will keep timing those Braxton Hicks and breathing through them in practice for the real thing. Chris will keep asking me “Do you think you’re in labor?” and the baby will continue her assault on my colon, which Dr. Goncalves’ substitute on Wednesday told me would happen during labor as well.
I may not be the labor superhero I hoped I’d be, but the bottom line is that at some point the baby has to come out, and that it’s my job to put up with the awful cramping when that time comes (or allow someone to insert a big scary needle in my back, but that is a babyblog entry unto itself).
My plan is to have the 3D ultrasound pictures on hand, and when the pain is awful and unbearable and I’m tempted to focus on how much worse it is than the formerly legendary cramping of a heavy-flow day, I will try to focus instead on the fact that I am inches away from meeting the beautiful baby girl for whom I’ve waited so long.