Friday, July 29, 2011

Laboring On and On

I assumed that my failure to answer "How long were you in labor?" with Dianthus was because he was induced and I spent an extra day in the hospital with "unproductive" contractions. This time, I was sure, it would happen "naturally" and I would be able to answer the question definitively.
That's hardly the case.
It turns out that I'm really not sure what counts when people ask about labor. The process is much less well defined than I imagined.
I'm fairly certain I wouldn't count the contractions I had on Wednesday that made me tell everyone Thursday that the baby would arrive over the weekend. And I wouldn't say I was in labor 3 a.m. Thursday when contractions dragged me from bed and prevented me from falling back asleep**. 3 a.m. Friday morning I was awakened again by contractions and one could fairly say that I was in labor, because I didn't stop having contractions until RuthRob emerged. Of course, one could fairly say that I wasn't in labor because they weren't painful contractions coming at even intervals. Then again, if one goes with contractions at regular short intervals defining labor, I may never have been in it, or my mother or mother-in-law if I correctly understand their stories.
My water broke sometime Friday afternoon. I realized it about 7 p.m. (yes, it is possible for the amniotic membranes to rupture without one realizing it). I was in the hospital about 8, cervix dilated 3-4 cm, but so far back in my body that it took 3 nurses to find it. At that time, lying down and strapped to 7 cords (monitors for fetal heart rate, contractions, blood pressure and my heart rate, an IV and blow up cuffs on each leg to prevent blood clots), my contractions eased up considerably-- was I in labor? Or was it not until 1:30 a.m. when the contractions (strengthened by pitocin) made me gasp each time. Or 3:30, when I was measured at 6-7 cm? Or 4:15 or so when I told the Mister to get the nurses because I was about to push the baby out? Or 4:56 when the doctor told me I could go ahead and push so RuthRob could emerge at 4:57*?
So, depending how you count, I was in labor 48, 24, 12, 9, 5, 3, or 1 1/2 hours, or 1 push.
I'm genuinely curious-- those of you who ask or have been asked this question, what do you count?
In any case, one week ago and 2 years ago, I was in labor, of sorts. Happy one week to RuthRob and two years to sweet Dianthus.

*For a long time I thought that labor was the same as pushing, so was absolutely in awe of women who had 12 hour labors.

**Which is when I finished Heart of the Matter, by the way. If you read the June or July STIR books, please let me know.


Marieke said...

Re: your first footnote -- I probably still thought that, so glad to know that's not the case!

Congratulations and welcome to the little one!

Sparkling Squirrel said...

M- Basically labor is one stage of Labor and Delivery (the other two being delivery of the baby (i.e. pushing) and delivery of the placenta). Technically, I guess having contractions defines labor, except that there are contractions of "false labor" "pre-labor" "early labor" "active labor" and "transitional phase" (the intense painful contractions prior to actually pushing), not to mention contractions related to breast feeding and afterpains.
Some women can have contractions for days prior to actually needing to head to the hospital (or wherever they head). I suppose some of these women say that they were in labor for 56 hours or whatever, and technically they must be correct, but I'm pretty sure that's not how most casual listeners (like us) are using "labor" but I am really curious as to where most people think it begins.