That was Dave, sitting across from me at dinner, as he choked down a stiff drink. He nervously watched me tap a contraction timer on my phone. Contractions were coming less than every five minutes, and they were lasting a minute or longer. This had been going on for a while, maybe over an hour. Maybe two hours.
But let me back up.
Pregnant women get “practice” contractions. I’ve been getting them for a couple of months. They don’t hurt. A contraction feels like the whole top of my rotund belly hardens into a basketball. If I push on the top of my belly during a contraction, I can feel pressure all the way through to my crotchal region.
A number of things can set off contractions. For me, having to pee can cause a contraction. If my bladder is spazzing out, all the rest of the muscles in my torso think it’s a sign to get the party started, and they all start doing the hustle. Likewise, if the boys are really active, and are punching and kicking, it can bring on contractions.
Also, sitting and doing nothing can bring on contractions, which is awesome. Especially first thing in the morning, when I’m drinking my first cup of coffee. Or when I am sitting in front of my computer (even when I try to sit up straight and have good posture). Or after dinner, when I am slouched down on the most god-awful uncomfortable couch that ever existed. I seem to get contractions at any of these times. Oddly, they seem to stop when I get up and move around, which seems to be opposite of most advice.
So I’m used to the feeling, and for the most part, I had yet to be alarmed when I got contractions, even when they were persistent.
But Monday was a particularly active day for contractions. I was getting them first thing in the morning. I got them as I sat at my computer and tried to get some work done. I knew I had a bunch of errands to run before meeting Dave for dinner that day. I tend to batch my errands, especially if I have to get in the car. So I made a list of three or four places I needed to go, and drove all over town.
Now normally, as I said, if I get up and move around, my contractions seem to slow down or stop. So that’s what I figured would happen once I got out of the house. But in this case, they kept coming. If anything, they got more frequent. I battled afternoon traffic and felt the top of my belly tighten up. Over and over.
I was thinking, maybe, this might actually be a time when I really did follow doctors’ advice and conventional wisdom. Maybe I needed to go lay down on my left side and drink a bunch of water. That’s what they say to do if you get a lot of contractions.
I met Dave at a social event with some of his coworkers. We chit chatted as the sun went down, and everyone else drank happy hour drinks. God, I miss happy hour drinks. Not because I’m sophisticated and I enjoy the taste of alcohol. But because I’d love to get shitfaced. It would take the edge off, you know?
As we wrapped up, I was hungry, and I knew we wouldn’t be in the mood to scavenge something to eat at home. We decided to grab dinner out. I wanted salmon. And potatoes.
As we drove, I debated with myself how to alert Dave that I was getting pretty frequent contractions. I, myself, was not alarmed. I normally don’t keep him appraised of contractions or any of my other functions. Unless my functions are really interesting, which sometimes happens. “Hey! You are my husband! Listen to my interesting functions!”
“I’ve been getting a lot of contractions today.”
“Yeah? How much is a lot?”
“I haven’t been able to track, because I’ve been in the car. But a lot.”
“Are they more intense?”
“No, not more intense. Just a lot of them.”
On the advice of a friend, we drove to Country Bill’s on Woodstock. It was the kind of place to get salmon and potatoes. The restaurant was empty, but the lounge had wood panelling, puffy red vinyl booths, and clocks that stopped at 1978.
I took out my phone and started to track the contractions. I tapped the timer off and on. Dave craned his neck over the table.
I didn’t want Dave to be nervous. Again, I wasn’t alarmed. I hadn’t done anything to try to slow the contractions down. I hadn’t lied down. I hadn’t drank a ton of water, beyond the usual giant bottle I carried around with me all day. I felt like there were a lot of things I could do before panicking. It had been a busy day.
Contraction: 1:12 minutes. Time between contractions: 4:38 minutes.
“Of course I’m going to be nervous, that’s my job.” he said. I sipped water. He drank a stiff greyhound, the Monday night drink special.
We decided we liked Country Bill’s. There were a few older couples getting split pea soup, and chicken fried steak with whipped potatoes. We wistfully marveled that would very likely be us in 40 years. Hell, that’s us right now.
Contraction: 1:08 minutes. Time between contractions: 4:37.
“Those are really close together. I mean, those are less than five minutes apart. How long has it been like this?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been in the car. I wan’t able to track.”
“But you’ve been having them for a while?”
“Yeah, for a while.”
We knew from our birth class that 5-1-1 was the magic number. Contractions five minutes apart, lasting a minute in duration, for an hour or more. That’s when moms in labor go to the hospital.
Dave looked at me nervously. I was hungry. Our food came and we ate. I got a baked potato instead of the whipped potatoes.
Contraction: 56 seconds. Time between contractions: 4:25 minutes.
“We should go to the hospital, shouldn’t we?”
“No, I don’t think so. We can call my OB and see what they think. But I think we can go home, I’m going to put comfy clothes on, I’ll lay down on my left side, and we’ll see if that makes them stop. We haven’t tried anything yet to make them slow down. I think we’re going to be fine.”
I meant it. I really didn’t think we’d need to go to the hospital that night. I just wanted to get home, put my feet up and breathe.
I began to realize that I can’t run around like I used to. I have been physically slowing down, of course. It’s just not as easy to move around with a giant belly. And I’ve been stunned at how easy it is for me to lose my breath, or for me to need to sit down after standing for a just couple minutes.
But I hadn’t really come to terms with the new limitations I was feeling. It seems so easy to go run errands. It seems so easy to meet friends for happy hour. It seems so easy to lean over the sink to do dishes. All of those things are a challenge now, though a little part of me yammers away and tells me to stop being such a sissy.
Contraction: 1:15 minutes. Time between contractions: 5:08.
“We’re going to have to go to the hospital, aren’t we? I mean, these are consistently less than five minutes apart. We’re going to have these babies tonight, aren’t we?”
I was at 31 and a half weeks. We knew the babies are going to come early compared to a singleton pregnancy. My OB already told me she’s not going to want to see these babies go beyond 38 weeks. But 31 weeks is early. Too early. Even if these guys are measuring big, we want them to stay in as long as possible.
I am not one to claim that intuition trumps clear thinking. Or that somehow, mothers have magic powers or better judgement as soon as they as wholly responsible for dependent offspring. I’ve said it before, dumbasses have babies all the time. There’s nothing mystical about what a woman “knows” while pregnant.
But I was quite certain, or at least very determined, that we would NOT be going to the hospital that night. I saw Dave, my lovely, wonderful husband, beside himself with worry, and wished I could somehow assure him everything was going to be okay. In the very least, I had the keys to the car, so therefore, I got to choose where we drove. We went home.
I put on my PJs. I drank a ton of water. I lied down on my left side. Dave hovered over me. The contractions got slower and slower. They were still happening, but they stretched further and further apart. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. Half an hour. And by then, it was way past our bedtime. We decided to go to bed, and if I was still getting contractions in the morning, I’d call my OB’s office. We both zonked off.
This isn’t really the end of the story. But everything turned out fine. The babies are still safely on the inside. I’m feeling good. I haven’t had an active day of contractions since.
I’m taking it easy and reminding myself that as much as I may want to, I can’t run around like a nut anymore. I mean, nuttiness is my natural state. I don’t know if these boys realize how much of a sacrifice I am making on their behalf. I’m having to thwart whole psychological complexes for their benefit. I’m suppressing giant pieces of my personality, just so they can have a sane mother.
They better goddamned appreciate all I’m doing for them.