Labor is a mysterious thing, and for me it was always easy to decipher or even properly identity. You guys, I've been through labor on three separate occasions. In retrospect I'm able to nail down the subtle ways my body was trying to tell me I was about to go into labor, sure, but at the time? Whether it was my first, second, or third impending birth, I had no idea those strange and semi-uncomfortable feelings were anything but the bi-product of being severely tired and oh-so pregnant.
For me, pregnancy was an awesome time of curiosity and awe, especially when it came to what was happening to my body. It was also a time of unparalleled exhaustion and countless new and bizarre tickles and twitches. I was hard pressed not to read into every single new and different twinge, but I had to force myself to surrender to the abilities of my ever-changing person. There was so much "new" going on with my body on a daily basis, if I had continued being a detective intent on figuring out the meaning of every new tingle I wouldn't have had time for anything else in my life. So somewhere along the line I gave into the not-knowing. If I wasn't bleeding or in pain I just allowed myself to acknowledge and be curious about the newness of my body.
By the end of my three full-term pregnancies I was so certain I would never give birth that I stopped paying attention to signs, especially subtle ones. It's no wonder, then, that I missed these obvious caution flags my body was using to let me know I was about to go into labor:
When I Lost The Plug
I didn't even know what was happening. I was almost 42 weeks pregnant with my first and, as a result, convinced I'd be pregnant forever. The truth, dear reader, is that I had so much discharge during the last month of pregnancy I didn't even know the plug came out in that little pink-tinted glob of goo!
When I Couldn't Sleep
With my first I got up in the middle of the night to watch television. I had this strange energy, like I was trying to crawl out of my buzzing skin. With my second, I woke up two nights before labor began to make pies. Clearly my body was trying to tell me, "Yeah, no more sleep for you. You have work to do."
When I Made Pies
Yes, pies. I'm not a baker, you guys. I'm barely ever even cook. Still, somehow it seemed completely normal — not to mention urgently necessary — to get up at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night/early morning and bake three pumpkin pies.
When I Had Preeclampsia
With my third I didn't get the chance to see if these subtle cues continued, because I woke up one morning with swollen everything, an itchy face, and high blood pressure. After a quick hospital visit my OB-GYN confirmed I had preeclampsia and needed to be induced immediately at 37 weeks to prevent a dangerous and even life-threatening event for myself and my baby.
When I Needed To Have Sex
Yes, I was horny when I was nine months pregnant. I've heard other people tell stories of pregnant horniness, sure, but I was not one of the lucky ones to experience an entire gestational period of "let's do it now" feels. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with sex for majority of all of my pregnancies. The day before my second was due, however, I had an intense and urgent desire for sex. Luckily, my partner was totally on board.
My second bean was born at 7:41 a.m. the very next day, exactly 12 hours after the aforementioned sexy times.
When I Needed To Walk
It was the middle of December and ice was all over our streets, but after that third trimester pregnancy sex I needed to take a walk. Again, thankfully, my partner obliged and my mother stayed home with our 2 year old.
When I Needed To Read
After fulfilling my libido and restless legs, I went to a blissful sleep only to awaken with that same strange, calm, skin-buzzing energy I had with my first pregnancy. I went into the nursery to finish reading Sybil because in my mind I just had to finish the book before the baby came.
Yes, dear reader, I was really reading Sybil during my pregnancy.
When I Leaked...
After the surreptitiously emergent mucus plug, I began slowly leaking. Yes, leaking; like a pierced water balloon. I wasn't in pain and I wasn't experiencing contractions, but I woke my partner up at 4 a.m. anyway to take me to the hospital to get checked out.
... And It Was Amniotic Fluid
OK, so this one wasn't so subtle. The on-call hospital staff almost sent me home with my leaking vagina. After they tested the liquid, though, they realized it was amniotic fluid and I was not allowed to leave again until I had baby in arms five days later.
When I Felt Certain My World Was Falling Apart
The night before I became preeclamptic with my third child, I found myself in tears in the middle of the stairs. I couldn't bring myself to put my 6 and 4 year olds to bed because I was sure my partner of 14 years was "just pretending" to be in love with me. Yep.
Turns out, dear reader, I was just incredibly wrought with emotion.
When I Itched All Over
The closer I got to my eventual induction date with baby number three, the more itchy I became. Later, I found out this can be an early sign of preeclampsia. I itched everywhere! My belly, my feet, my knees, my scalp, even the roof of my mouth, you guys. My mouth. I used so much lotion trying to soothe myself in that last month, I'm pretty positive I put some lotion-maker's kids through college.
When My Nose Grew
People said they couldn't tell at the time, but the pictures from late term first and second pregnancies very clearly prove those people were liars.
When My Walk Changed
I never felt the lightening, or dropping of the baby's head into the pelvis, that some pregnant people talk about. The top of my pelvis was pretty tender throughout the last few months of pregnancy, but I did notice a distinct change in the alignment of my hips and the way that I walked those last couple days before labor began.
When I Couldn't Pick Up My Toddler
A few days before my second labor began I attempted to pick my 2 year old up and put them in their crib, as I'd been doing throughout my pregnancy. As I bent down it genuinely felt like the baby was about to pop out. In fact, if I must admit, I was pretty surprised when I didn't see a little arm sticking out when I stood back up.
When My Skin Buzzed
This skin buzzing with pregnancies one and two is unlike anything I've felt before or since. I'll try not to get to new-agey here, dear reader, but it's hard to avoid when I'm talking about this unique experience. The skin buzz was more like an increasingly intense vibration of energy; like a reminder that I was connected to universal atoms through which I could tap in to all the mothers who came before me and after me. I was connected to all the births: the animal births, the human births, and the star births. This energy sounds surreal, but it was the most grounded I have ever felt.
I told ya'll, birth is a mysterious, albeit profound and messy, thing. The cues my body gave me I really didn't put together as clues until after the fact. But with hindsight, those subtle cues are unmistakeable.