Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | June 1, 2009
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How do I know if the baby is really coming?
Emma Dalton-Brown, Gleaner Writer

POSITIVE Parenting

Let me tell you, this labour malarkey is confusing. Books, and my doctor, say that I am going into labour when my contractions are painful and are only minutes apart. The day I am writing this, I am thirty-three weeks along in my pregnancy, and for the last seven I have gone through this several times! Other signs of the baby's arrival are one's waters breaking, or the body's expulsion of the mucous plug, which often accompanies a bit of blood. All sounds rather gruesome to many of you, no doubt, but so it goes.

I'll recount a funny story to you, which wasn't all that amusing at the time, but if you don't laugh at these things after the fact, you'd go crazier than the hormones are making you!

I'd just reached the 32-week mark, knowing that six days before this, my cervix was only half of a centimetre in length (not to be confused with dilation, which it starts to do once the cervix has shortened to zilch). More information, you might feel, than you need to hear about, but if you've been reading this column regularly, you'll have caught on to the fact that I hide little!

Anyway, I was happily chatting on the phone (a pastime I'm rather good at) when a really strong contraction came on. I sort of ignored it, at first, but then I noticed that it was going on longer than usual, and pain was increasing. This was five hours before my medication, to stop it, was due, so I wasn't too concerned. However, it continued on, and on, with brief moments of relief every so often, until an hour later when I decided enough. I would take the nifedipine now. It had been eight hours since my last dose. Another hour passed, and the contractions got so painful that I couldn't even move in my bed. Now I was worried.

This is when dilemma enters. Should I call my doctor now, or wait to see if the pill kicks in? Is this the real thing, or just a false alarm? I wasn't too keen on the idea of giving birth on my clean sheets. Sorry, I mean at home, without medical care! But I've been told that labour lasts for hours, so shouldn't I stay at home, bathe, put on some clean and respectable clothes and then head down to the labour ward? If I go now, I might not have the baby for another 10 hours, and then by the time I'm allowed to shower again, way more than 24 hours would have passed. If I end up needing a Caesarean section, who knows when I'll be allowed to wash! Yuck! If I have a bath, and my waters break, how will I know? What if this baby comes quickly, and he's born in the bathtub?

Wish I had a crystal ball

I decided it was probably best to phone the doc. From what I tell him, he deduces that I am going into labour and I should make my way down to the hospital. I hang up, and then realise that the contractions are slowing down. Bath it is then. Now I'm feeling so much better, and I sit there for a while. So do I call Doc back and tell him I'm okay? No, because I'm still experiencing pain, just less frequently. However, the car journey might tip the scale and a very small baby would be born before his time. If I sit tight at home, the medication could work and I might just be fine. This is the point when I wish I had a crystal ball. Am I in labour for true this time? How do I know if the baby is really coming tonight?

Next week, Emma will start a series on her experiences as a first-time mother. Emmadaltonbrown@gmail.com

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