My cervix started to dilate & thin out at my 36 week check-up, which I thought was a great sign considering it never did either of those on its own with London. As it turns out, it meant nothing, because I was somehow LESS dilated & effaced at my 39 week check-up (which was a Friday). I asked the doctor if she could strip my membranes, and was told my cervix was too high for her to reach, so basically "good luck, you're going to be pregnant forever!". She to me to expect some irregular contractions that day but that they meant nothing, so I ignored them for the rest of Friday and most of Saturday. Ben volunteered to take London out to his parents' house so I could run some errands & relax, so I spent Saturday leisurely getting ready and checking items off my to-do list, sans toddler, which was basically a Caribbean vacation at 39w pregnant.
By Saturday afternoon, I noticed the contractions seemed to be coming a bit closer together. Ben was painting the changing table while London & I made brownies, when I told him casually I was going to start timing them. Eight minutes, ten minutes, sometimes twelve. I thought / hoped this was the very early beginnings of labor! I continued to contract as we went to a friend's house for appetizers and drinks (I even had a hard cider!) but was able to work through them so I knew I had awhile to go. When a friend of ours asked about the baby pool, I (only halfway) jokingly told him to pick tomorrow! We came home & put London to bed, and when the contractions started coming closer together, the on-call OB advised we come in to make sure he was head down.
The problem with a second baby is that you can't just quietly sneak over to the hospital to see if you're in labor, saving yourself the false alarm embarrassment from family and friends. Someone has to sit with the first baby (who was sound asleep and oblivious to the impending arrival of her baby brother). We had friends come over while we went to Rex (I was tidying up the house before they arrived - should've known it wasn't the "real" thing!) and the doctor & nurse confirmed that there was no change from the day prior - too high to even check dilation, not in labor, you're going to be pregnant forever, etc. So frustrating and embarrassing for a second time mom who had been having regular contractions for eight hours!
We sent our friends home and got into bed, with the discouraging news that these quasi-contractions could last for days or longer! No sooner had I fallen asleep than an intense cramp woke me up. I couldn't lay down, couldn't stand up, couldn't find a comfortable position. It passed, I fell back asleep, then another one. And another. I asked Ben to help me time them because they were so intense - three minutes apart. I was sick to my stomach and had terrible cold chills, and I remember telling Ben, "If this isn't labor, I think I have the flu!". After a few hours of alternating between the bathroom and being doubled over our bed, he suggested I take a shower - I think it took me 45 minutes because I kept having to stop & brace myself on the wall. Each contraction, I prayed to let them be "real" (productive) or let them stop. Around 3:30am we decided to call the doctor back (who reluctantly instructed us to come back in) and Ben's parents (who drove 40 minutes to stay with London). At this point, the contractions had been around three minutes apart for close to four hours. They started to build, one right on top of the other. I could barely move, much less speak, and I thought for sure I was going to walk in and have them tell me I was 6 or 7 cm dilated.
The drive to the hospital was excruciating (I remember asking Ben to drive carefully but quickly!). The look from the hospital security guard, knowing we had just been sent home a few hours earlier, was almost as painful! But when the head nurse, who was our angel delivery nurse with London, saw me come back in, she took us back to the room without any questions and could tell I was in active labor. This was encouraging, I thought ... Wrong. Three freaking centimeters. After two days of contractions I had progressed a centimeter?! But baby was head down and engaged, so that was something, and they were willing to let me stay even though I wasn't at 4cm yet (which is their normal policy). With that discouraging news, I began to heavily consider an epidural, which I finally got about two hours after getting checked. After hours of that intense pain, I just didn't want to do it anymore. I was hoping for a natural labor this time, but I was also hoping for the super quick second-baby labor the nurses & doctors kept talking about - so since that wasn't happening, I went ahead and asked for the drugs.
[to be continued]