Pregnancy Journal: False Labor

From 5 Minutes for Parentin

By Kelly

I suppose a lot of epiphanies happen in hospital beds.

I had one Monday morning, just as the sun’s light warmed the horizon to a glowing tangerine and the birds burst into song to welcome a new day.

And it is this: I know a lot of stories about women going into labor spontaneously — women who wake up in the middle of the night to time contractions, women who deal with multiple trips to the hospital only to be sent home, women who have their water break right there in the supermarket.

But I never believed it could happen to me.

That sounds crazy, I know. But consider my history. Natalie and Teyla were induced. Scheduled. And while I technically went into labor with Connor by myself, I have a sneaking suspicion it had more to do with my OB visit that day (where she stripped my membranes, click at your own risk) than it did with my body instinctively knowing it was time to deliver a baby.

So imagine my shock when I was woke up 4:00 Monday morning to a cramping uterus. My first instinct was to say, “These can’t be real contractions. Go back to sleep You’ll be fine.”

But I couldn’t get comfortable. And as I lay there, staring at the clock, I started to remember the last time I tried to talk myself out of having contractions. It ended with me curled in a fetal position until I had to push. It’s not a drama I’m eager to relive.

At 4:30, I did what I never thought I’d do: I woke my husband in the middle of the night and whispered, “I’m hurting. I think I need to go to the hospital.”

He woke up immediately, disheveled and concerned. I called Labor and Delivery to make sure my decision was solid. They agreed I should head in. I threw on some clothes, told my bleary-eyed husband I would call him from the road (with three sleeping kids, we didn’t see how we could both go) and I set off for the hospital.

The contractions were four minutes apart when I got to L&D. I was dilated to 3 centimeters, which was progress from my OB appointment on Friday, when I was at 2. I got changed into a fetching hospital mumu and settled in to wait.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the contractions got less intense. An hour after I was hooked onto the monitors, they were eight minutes apart. The pain, never horrible, was totally manageable. I warned Corey via text that I might be coming home. I unhooked from the machines and watched the sun rise. My OB stopped by before clinic hours and confirmed that my cervix wasn’t changing like they would want to see in order to admit me. And since I was only 36 weeks-5 days at the time, they were understandably reluctant to do something like break my water and help Mother Nature along.

So I found myself driving home at 7:30 Monday morning, the newest member of the False Labor Club.

Lessons learned?

1. As annoying as it can be, I don’t regret my decision to head to the hospital. Even my OB agreed that I did the right thing, given my history of lightning quick childbirth.

2. That said, if I woke up to moderately painful contractions today, I would wait longer to see if a true pattern set up before leaving home. It’s true that Connor was born just minutes after I got to the hospital. (You can read his story here.) But that was after I labored at home for more than two hours (trying to convince myself the whole time that I wasn’t in real labor), and the contractions had gone from cramping to kill-me-now. There has to be a good middle ground between heading to L&D every time I feel a twinge and waiting until I feel the urge to push.

3. When I left for the hospital in the pre-dawn hours Monday morning, I didn’t have a hospital bag packed or emergency plans for what we would do with the older kids if I went into labor spontaneously. After all, I wasn’t even 37 weeks along, at the time, and we’ve already scheduled an induction at 39 weeks. What’s the rush? Needless to say, I now have a bag packed (which wasn’t that hard; I wholeheartedly agree with #9 on Lifenut’s fabulous list of pregnancy and baby musings), and I have called all our emergency contacts to alert them to the fact that we might need someone to fill in the gap between when labor starts and when my parents would arrive from Colorado two days later.

4. When it comes to pregnancy, don’t get cocky. This might be my fourth baby, but until Monday morning, I had never experienced a painful contraction that didn’t end with an infant-in-arms. When it comes to childbirth, anything can happen.

Anything else I should note? Now that I’m aware labor could begin at any moment, I feel strangely inexperienced and vulnerable.

Kelly is now 37 weeks pregnant (cough, full-term, cough) with her fourth baby. When she isn’t going to the bathroom (every 20 minutes), she can be found blogging at Love Well and passing time on Twitter.

26 Responses to Pregnancy Journal: False Labor
  1. Melissa
    April 28, 2010 | 5:18 am

    I have only one child – well, two, since I’m pregnant with my second – but with my first, I woke up to go to the bathroom really early on Christmas day and my water broke. Doesn’t happen to a lot of us…and I was 38 weeks at the time.

  2. edj
    April 28, 2010 | 6:24 am

    I had Braxton-Hicks with the twins at 37 weeks…really regular, every 5 min, but BH none the less. I called my dr and he said to go in anyway. They were born the following morning. So you just never know.

  3. Kim
    April 28, 2010 | 8:39 am

    I felt the same way with my #2. Cocky and confident, until I was having contractions and I looked at my husband and all my fears, and concerns from when I was pregnant with #1 came back… We’re really doing this?! We’re not ready! These aren’t real contractions! (With #1, my water broke, so there was no guesswork) so, just like Pam, from The Office, we sat at home and I pretended they’d go away. Until they were about 6 minutes apart and my husband pushed me into the car, whilst I was yelling instructions at my sister in law, who was caring for #1.
    We’re never really ready, until we’re there, gown clad, feet in stirrups, pushing. Then, all we can be is ready. 🙂 Until then, it’s all a big dress rehearsal, and it doesn’t hurt to give the script a little refresher.
    Glad you and babe are OK and still percolating!

  4. MacKenzie
    April 28, 2010 | 12:09 pm

    I’m so glad you haven’t had a baby yet. Mostly because you are only a few days ahead of me and I’m not ready!

  5. Anita Jo
    April 28, 2010 | 11:07 pm

    Gosh, this seems very familiar! I was induced with my first, went into very obvious, very quick labor on my own with my second…and then with my third had false labor every night for a week and was finally induced. The uncertainty (is it the real thing THIS time?) was torture, and this third-time mom felt less confident about the whole process than ever before. (That was only the first of the curve balls this baby threw me, which mostly explains my absence in the comments for the past two months!) Hang in there. One way or another, you will hold your precious new one very soon!

  6. Michelle Burrill
    April 29, 2010 | 1:25 am

    Gosh, it’s wasn’t until my 4th and final that I ever had any false alarms about labor. One night I was convinced I was in labor, so I called, and they had NO BEDS, so I decided to skip it. Sure enough, the contractions stopped. There had been a full moon that night and some people swear more women go into labor on a full moon. Wierd, right?? Then I had another false alarm at 37 weeks. I was so frustrated to have gone to the hospital and not be coming home with a baby. I finally decided that this 4th baby was never coming out of my body, and that was when she decided to be born. It was 10 days before my due date.
    And btw, for me, my water broke 3 out of 4 pregnancies. The first one was a gush, and I carried a towel between my legs to the hospital. The second, no water broke, just regular contractions. The third, it was a popping sound, then a trickle I wasn’t sure about so I went in and sure enough, my water had broken. the 4th was a popping sound, then a gush like 2 minutes later. You just never know…even when you’ve done it so many times!!
    CONGRATULATIONS on making it full term!! The light is at the end of the tunnel!!!

  7. Julie-in-law
    April 29, 2010 | 3:58 pm

    You did the right thing. Better to be safe then sorry!

  8. Kara
    April 30, 2010 | 10:26 am

    My mom went to the hospital twice in false labor, with baby #5. Must be something about the later pregnancies. You definitely did the right thing!

  9. cocoblog
    February 8, 2011 | 5:16 pm

    […] Apparently I am not alone in wondering whether labor pains are the real deal. Even six-time-mother, Gabby Blair, of experienced a scare. Read about it here. Kelly, another four-time mom, experienced false labor and (unlike me) went to the hospital (and was glad she did). Read about it here. […]

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