So I spent most of my labor in denial that I was actually in labor. I know that sounds crazy, but it just didn’t seem real. For one, I was so close to my due date, and everyone knows that nobody actually gives birth on her due date. I mean, due dates are like unicorns or the tooth fairy or the male g-spot, amirite? The last thing I wanted was to sound the alarm and call in all the troops, only to be wrong. I really was expecting to go late; I’d already had countless imaginary arguments in my head with some faceless doctor* telling me I have to be induced**. Furthermore, I don’t think I really realized I was in labor because let’s face it: it’s hard to know if you’re in labor when you have no idea what labor actually feels like. Not that I hadn’t done my research. Truth be told, I’ve been a bit of a “birth geek” since long before I was even pregnant. The ever-helpful mamas at babycenter.com (with which I have a love/hate relationship) describe the pain of childbirth as akin to everything from “being impaled on a hot fireplace poker” to “menstrual cramps on steroids” to “a 400 pound man pressing down on each hip.” Not particularly helpful.
So when I woke up on the morning of Saturday, May 4 to what felt vaguely like a menstrual cramp but also sort of not at all like a menstrual cramp (I don’t know, maybe I had to poop?), I honestly didn’t think much of it. I got up and get dressed and went about my day. I had plans – no time to dwell on what probably wasn’t labor. My mom was in town so we met my sister downtown to get lunch before a mani/pedi*** appointment I’d made a few days earlier. I’d heard that certain pressure points in the ankles and feet could help get labor going, plus I had long since lost sight of my lower half, so I figured it might be nice to get a little pampering. As I awkwardly lowered my nearly-200-pound body into the chair, the manicurist asked me when I was due, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the look of shock (and maybe panic?) that crossed her face when I replied “tomorrow!” I had a few more not-sure-if-they’re-contractions while I was there, but continued to brush them off. After that I’d figured I’d go home and take a nap, but it was a gorgeous early spring day and my mom was planning on going to Harvard Square, so I went along with her instead, maybe-but-probably-not-contractions be damned.
We walked around Harvard Square for a while, window shopping and stumbling upon some Morris dancers:
We stopped for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant, where the hostess, in awe of my very pregnant state, gently guided me by the arm to my seat, oohing and ahing over my belly. At this point, my okay-these-might-be-contractions were coming a bit more frequently, but I still wanted to go on with our plans. After dinner we jumped back on the T and headed downtown to see my burlesque troupe’s show. Around this time I started noticing some maternal side-eye coming from my mom, but like the good mom she is, she went along with me when I insisted that I was fine. After all, burlesque is more important than probably-not-labor!
The show was great, but I found myself increasingly unable to focus due to what were obviously contractions. Still, I brushed off any sense of urgency. My mom suggested I try to time them (with my fancy contraction timer app), but I told her I felt rude taking my cell phone out during the show. We did a little after-show schmoozing,**** and decided that perhaps I should try to get some rest.
As we got off the T at my stop, we ran into a friend, who I insisted on stopping to talk to, ending the conversation with a jaunty “well, my mom thinks I’m in labor, so I guess we should go!” Our walk to my place from the T took us through a semi-lit parking lot, which can feel a little ominous late at night, particularly when filled with teenagers***** like it was that night. As we walked through, though, the boy hitting rocks into the wall with a makeshift bat paused to let us pass, and the kids sitting under the streetlight asked us how we were doing. I answered with a shaky “a bit tired!” and my mom told them I was due the next day. They asked if I was having a boy or a girl, and my response set all the girls shouting that I should name her after each of them. “Maya! Kayla! No, name her Jessica!” I told them I’d think about it and waddled on my way, mom in tow.
My plan when we got home was to get into something comfy, make a PBJ, and get to sleep. My husband was out with friends and I’d texted him telling him that maybe something was happening, but I wasn’t sure. By the time I’d gotten into PJs, sandwich in hand, I found myself doubled over in pain, grasping my dresser for support. I feebly reiterated that I was okay and that no, it wasn’t quite time to call the doula, but it very quickly became apparent that I was in fact in labor. No more denying it.
Stay tuned for part 3!
*this is particularly silly because I didn’t even have a doctor; I saw a midwife for all my prenatal appointments.
**me, barefoot and cross-legged, patchouli-scented, between sips of kombucha: “I trust my daughter to tell us when she is ready to come earthside.”
***things I rarely do: use the phrase “mani/pedi,” get mani/pedis.
****me: “That was awesome! I think I’m having contractions! The show was great!”
*****I don’t know when I became afraid of teenagers. I used to teach high school.