Prodromal is Latin for Bullshit

I have totally neglected this blog lately.  In truth, I’ve been working on lots of yummy recipes and posts about the upcoming planting season and snapping away with the camera with every intention of sharing… but I honestly don’t give a crap about much of anything else right now, other than getting this baby out of my body.

Today was supposed to be my due date.

*grumble, grumble*

I am very much still pregnant.  And completely frustrated.  Not so much because I’m still pregnant (well, yes, okay, that’s certainly part of it), but because I’ve actually been in labor for weeks.

That’s right.  In labor.  For weeks.

It’s called prodromal labor.  And it’s a real thing.  I’m here to raise awareness about this terrible affliction that curses pregnant women and sends them either running to the hospital or phoning their midwives and their mothers, falsely thinking that a birth is imminent.

There is no cure for prodromal labor.  Some will tell you that a positive attitude and the belief that “your body is working” are the perfect antidotes to the mental and emotional damage that prodromal labor can cause.  I will tell you that those people can suck it.  Most of them have no idea of what you’re going through and cannot sympathize with the constant tease of a squirmy, sweet newborn dancing in your head like a dangling carrot.

Since I was almost 37 weeks, I’ve been one of the (un)lucky ones to experience night after night of prodromal labor.  The last week, however, has been a particularly eventful mind-fuck.  (I use that term with apologies to my parents, who I know read my blog entries.  There is just really no other way to describe this crap.)

Exactly one week ago, late last Saturday night, I got very sick in the middle of the night.  Now I’m no stranger to nausea and vomiting during my pregnancies, so this wouldn’t have been particularly noteworthy were it not for the fact that my n/v spells usually happen in the morning.  I struggled to sleep for the rest of the night, as I was experiencing regular, timeable contractions that began in the middle of my lower back and radiated around my hips to my lower abdomen.  There were absolute and discernible peaks and valleys and I had to employ some of my old Bradley Method relaxation techniques to really get through a few.  By the morning, when my husband and daughter had woken up, I was exhausted.  I hadn’t slept and was still contracting.

I headed for the shower, where the contractions suddenly kicked into overdrive.  I was hunched over, grasping the wall with my back against the flow of the warm water to help relieve the pain.  I was now moaning through each rush that came, so much so that Mr. T had come into the bathroom to check on me.  I started to cry and told him that I thought this was it.  Today would be the day we’d have our birth.  He began tidying up the house and getting some last-minute birth supplies in place, anticipating that we would be calling the midwives soon.  I told him that I didn’t want to do that just yet; that I’d rather get out of the house for a while and be distracted.  So I got dressed and we headed to my parents’ house – who only live 15 minutes away – for a visit.  Nearly as soon as I got into the car, the contractions stopped.  They didn’t return for the rest of the day.  Dammit.

Several more spells like this happened on and off throughout the week, usually at night.  In the early hours of Wednesday morning, though, I had another big tease that had me thinking This Was It.

I awoke around 3:30 a.m. to some abdominal cramping and went to use the bathroom.  The contractions came steadily – and heavily – shortly thereafter.  I lay in bed timing them for the next hour and a half until I heard my daughter, B, on the baby monitor as she started talking to herself in her room.  It was clear that she was awake for good (usually, fussy = “I can be put back to sleep” but chatty = “Come play with me!  Let’s get this party started!”).  So I went in to lay down with her in her bed and nurse her in the vain hope that it would both put her back to sleep and strengthen my contractions.  Well, it accomplished the latter, but not the former.

We lay there in the glow of her mushroom-shaped nightlight, nursing and snuggling, for nearly an hour while I contracted more heavily than I had at any point thus far.  I was rubbing her back and even found myself gripping the fabric of her pajamas when I reached a particularly difficult peak that I had to work through.  It was actually a really beautiful moment, and it brought me to tears.  I began to quietly cry as we nursed and as my rushes came on stronger and stronger, thinking that each one was bringing my son – her brother – closer and closer to us.  We were doing it together, B and I, because of the bond created between us from nursing.  It was quite powerful.

When I couldn’t take any more of the contractions from nursing her and felt like I had to change positions, we unlatched and got out of bed to go have breakfast.  I easily put away two over-easy eggs and two slices of whole wheat toast like it was the first time I’d eaten in years.  I was ravenous.  I chased breakfast with a tall, cold glass of my homemade pregnancy tea (raspberry leaf, dandelion root, stinging nettles, lemon balm, and oatstraw) and my prenatal vitamins and alfalfa tablets.  (The fact that I was so hungry was another possible sign of early labor.  I was really starting to get excited.)  I headed into the living room and squatted on the birth ball to bounce for a bit.  I was still having contractions at this point, though they were getting noticeably weaker.  I asked B if she wanted to nurse again, hoping it would bring them back, but she was much more interested in playing with her toys.  Eventually, the rushes stopped coming altogether and I was once again completely and totally defeated.  Dammit, again.

Yesterday, I phoned my husband at work early in the morning and begged him (and, admittedly unfairly, yelled at him) to come home.  I had had enough of being up all night timing contractions that went nowhere, only to be exhausted all day long and be responsible for chasing after/entertaining/cooking for/feeding/cleaning up after/changing/dressing/nursing /negotiating with a toddler by myself on so little sleep and even littler patience.  I was broken.  I was out of steam.  I was certain, CERTAIN, that this baby would come early and yet here I was, on the brink of my due date, with nary a mucus plug to show for all of this hard work I’d been doing.

I demanded that Mr. T take the rest of the day off and give me a break.  To which, in his saintliness, he obliged.

Yes, I get that I’m totally lucky.  And that I probably definitely shouldn’t have yelled at him.  But hey, hormones, amirite?

So here I am, a mere half an hour left in the day of my Estimated Due Date and I’m gonna go out on a limb here and wager that it ain’t gonna happen today.  Hell, I’ll betcha it ain’t gonna happen tomorrow, either.  I do, in fact, believe that I will be the first woman ever to suffer from permanent pregnancy.

That being said, I am eternally grateful to my patient and natural-minded midwives who are barely batting an eyelash at all of this “overdue” nonsense.  If I was under the care of an OB/GYN or even a hospital-based CNM I would most certainly be having the “induction conversation” by now.  So as frustrated as I am and as desperate as I am to evict my uterus’s current occupant, I have no desire to do so until he decides it’s time.  I’m on his schedule, not the other way around.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m having some contractions that I’ll have to go time for the next four hours while I work myself up into a frenzy over whether or not this is actually It*.

(*It’s probably not.)

Advertisements

Stocking the Birth Day Pantry

I’m just one day shy of 34 weeks pregnant now, which completely blows my mind.  It also means that I’ve gone into nesting mode.

In addition to laundering adorable, tiny outfits, part of my nesting has included preparing for the birth itself.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, we’re planning a homebirth for O’Baby’s arrival, but most of what I’m putting together for my Birth Day Pantry can easily translate to a hospital or birth center birth.

Nourishment

A woman who has an average-length, unmedicated labor will essentially put her body through the physical equivalent of running a marathon.  And since even the most veteran runners can’t complete those 26.2 miles without a pit stop or two for some sustenance, it stands to reason that pregnant women should plan to have some snacks and drinks on hand to maintain her energy levels, despite what the archaic “no eating during labor” hospital rules might suggest.  To my Birth Day Pantry, I’ve added:

Energy-boosting drinks & snacks

  • Luna Protein Bars.  Any protein bar will do; I just happen to love their flavors and the fact that they don’t taste like melted plastic, like so many other energy bars tend to.
  • Recharge Energy Drinks.  Maintaining the body’s stores of electrolytes and potassium during labor is critical, and sometimes hydrating with water alone can be insufficient (read more here).  I love these because they’re made with all-natural fruit juices and no sugar or artificial ingredients, giving you an electrolyte boost without the sugar crash.
  • Coconut Water.  These are excellent to have on hand for labor and especially for when you’re basking in the afterglow of a post-birth high.  The reputed benefit of coconut water is that it is a “’pure’ balance of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium but is high in electrolyte potassium, unlike coconut milk. (Pure because it is apparently almost identical to blood plasma, and has been used for IV transfusion in cases of emergency and during WWII)” (source: http://bit.ly/hwSS5e).  I chugged two containers of this stuff after B was born and it seemed to instantly melt away the headache that came on suddenly once the birth high wore off.

Natural First Birth Aid Remedies

Next, we have what I consider some basic “first aid” essentials.  I’m not talking about band-aids; these are homeopathic, aromatherapeutic, and natural remedies for some of the speed bumps that’ll pop up on the Birth Highway.

Natural remedies can be helpful during childbirth.

  • Evening Primrose Oil:  This is a multipurpose addition to your Birth Day Pantry.  Taking an EPO supplement orally – even vaginally, if indicated as okay by your provider – after 37 weeks gestation can help ripen your cervix.  The oil-filled capsules can also be punctured and you can use the oil within as a natural lubricant for intercourse or as a medium for perineum massage (click here for instructions).  Keep them handy during labor as the oil can be used to gently help stretch your perineum and vagina during the pushing stage, as well.
  • Aromatherapy Spray:  Keep this within arm’s reach for a quick pick-me-up or a soothing relaxant during labor.  Alternately, you can use a few drops of pure essential oil on a washcloth or the inside of your wrist (be sure to test this before the big day to make sure you don’t have any allergic reactions).  Learn about the many different types of essential oils and pick a fragrance that suits your taste and the effect you’re seeking.  Lavender, for example, is widely known for having a calming effect and would be ideal for labor.  I, however, am a much bigger fan of patchouli and so chose a spray that I knew I would enjoy.  Bonus: the sweet orange in this blend is known for its cheering, refreshing effect.  An instant pick-me-up!
  • Rescue Remedy Spray:  I’ve been skeptical about this stuff for years, but after using it for the last few weeks I have to say that, whether the effect is placebo or real, it actually does calm me down.  This could be very useful for those moments when your “flight” response is smacking the hell out of your “fight” response (e.g.: “I’ve changed my mind.  I don’t want a baby anymore.  Let’s just go back to bed and pretend this never happened.”)  A few quick sprays on the tongue and you’ve got your focus back.
  • Arnica:  Also known as leopard’s bane, arnica is a widely used anti-inflammatory, helping to soothe swelling and promote tissue repair.  For this reason, it’s ideal for speeding up postpartum healing.  I would strongly recommend purchasing a combo pack of both the gel and the homeopathic pellets to really reap the benefits of this plant’s healing powers.  Our Bradley instructor for B’s birth gave the best tip for using arnica gel postpartum: smear a line of it down the center of a clean maxi pad (like you’re distributing toothpaste on a toothbrush), then use the pad as normal.  The gel instantly cools a mom’s sore bottom and continues to heal the skin as she wears the pad.  For pellet dosage, follow manufacturer’s instructions.

In the Kitchen

Finally, here are a couple of things that will be happening in my kitchen before and during the birth.  (For out-of-home births, simply mix a batch of herbs for your Triple Blessing tea and store in an airtight container ahead of time; then brew a cup once you return home.  Out-of-home birthers can also pre-mix the dry ingredients for the Groaning Cake and store in a mason jar for speedy preparation during early labor.  If your intent is to labor at home during this stage before heading to the hospital, it’s certainly possible you may have time to bake the bread loaves – just don’t forget to turn off the oven on your way out the door in case things pick up more quickly than expected!)

Dried herbs for galactagogue tea infusion

  • Triple Blessing Brew:  This recipe for a tea infusion comes from renowned herbalist Susun Weed.  The ingredients used are each considered galactagogues, or a substance that increases breastmilk supply.  As mentioned above, simply pre-mix the blend of herbs and store until ready for use.  In early labor, you can brew a batch or two per the instructions on Susun’s website, then reheat as needed to drink after baby’s born to encourage your milk to come in.  If you have it, sweeten the tea with a bit of blackstrap molasses for an extra boost of iron.  I can hardly think of anything more wonderful than sipping a warm cup of tea while cradling a sweet, tiny newborn in my arms, can you?
  • Groaning Cake:  I am so, so excited to bake this.  I only hope that I actually have enough focus and enough time to get it done during the big day (though, I doubt I’ll complain if my labor is so quick that this gets overlooked).  I learned about Groaning Cake when reading The Birth House by Ami McKay, a lovely novel and a must-read for any birth junkie.  According to McKay, “the tradition of the groaning cake, or kimbly, at (or following) a birth is an ancient one.  Wives’ tales say that the scent of a groaning cake being baked in the birth house helps to ease the mother’s pain. Some say if a mother breaks the eggs while she’s aching, her labour won’t last as long.” (source and recipe: http://bit.ly/nkk0TT)  I love baking — and eating — and I’m all about easing pain and shortening my labor, so what have I got to lose?  Plus, I’m rather enamored with the idea of carrying on an ancient tradition since we are, in a way, having a bit of an old-fashioned birth.

So, now you know what I’ll be eating, drinking, doing, and smearing on my Kotex pads when I give birth to my son in (eek!) 3-6+ weeks.  Hopefully you’ll be able to borrow an item or two from my “Pantry” for your own pregnancy, birth, or postpartum experience.  In fact, if you’re reading this because you, too, are gestating a little gymnast in your belly as we speak, I’d like to wish you and yours a very happy, healthy Birth Day.

Suzanne