Braxton Hicks contractions are those fake contractions you get before you go into actual labor. According to the interwebs, some British dude figured out what they were in the 1870s, and of course, named them after himself. They supposedly get the uterine muscles in shape for the real deal, but really, they just suck.
These contractions are annoying, sometimes quite painful, but mostly, they are LIARS!
I started having Braxton Hicks contractions a few months ago, but they were the type I could barely feel, and they didn’t hurt at all. It was really just a weird feeling of my entire belly going quite rigid. Over time they amped up into periodic bouts of discomfort brought on by walking or other activity. Last week I started having painful contractions at irregular intervals, between five minutes and a few hours apart, pretty much all day long. This was when the “For the Love of God, Someone Get This Baby Out of Me” phase of pregnancy really began for me.
Last night, around 5:00-ish, I started getting contractions at regular intervals. By 7:00 or so they had regulated to every five minutes. I got excited. The books and the doctors all say that when contractions are coming every five minutes, and lasting a full minute, for at least an hour, that means it’s go-time. I didn’t want to rush into a trip to the hospital in case it wasn’t time yet—I didn’t want to be that person—so we waited and timed for another two hours.
I decided to call it around 9:00. I wanted to go to the hospital and have them tell me if it was really happening or not, so that if I was wrong and they sent us home, Robin could still get a decent night’s sleep before work. I was very optimistic about my sensible decision. Because the world always operates according to my sensible plans.
First, I called Labor and Delivery at the on-post hospital. I’ve been seeing a doctor there, and the L&D unit was closed the past month for a remodel but recently reopened, so it seemed like the logical choice. They said they would call the on-call doctor and call me back when he said what should be done. But when they called me back, they informed me that they had a staffing problem and wouldn’t be able to take me. Instead, they said, I should go to one of the hospitals in a nearby town, check in via the emergency room, and get taken care of that way. Well, that sucks. Army doctors are never in one place long enough to get privileges at other hospitals, so if I gave birth elsewhere, I would have to use a doctor who was a complete stranger.
Whatever, off we went to the hospital we passed on the highway all the time. But we got there and they said we were in the wrong place. Yes, this was a hospital with an emergency room sign and everything, but they don’t have a labor and delivery unit. Please proceed ten minutes further, into a very scary neighborhood, to the other campus of the same hospital. Okay, whatever.
We finally got to the hospital and were treated very well, despite the fact that everyone was like, “Who is your doctor? You don’t have a doctor here? What is going on?” A very nice lady hooked me up to the monitors, which confirmed that I was, indeed, having regular contractions 4 to 5 minutes apart. Then she checked my inner bits and told me I was still only one centimeter dilated. Well, that’s a bummer, since I’d been one centimeter dilated at my last check-up, and I felt like all of those contractions over the past week were just wasting my time and being unnecessarily painful.
The nurse called the doctor who said that I should stay at the hospital overnight, that if I left it would be against medical advice, and that he would come see me in the morning. Well, okay then, I guess that meant this was the real deal, right? Right? We were finally left to ourselves around midnight to get some rest, with Robin on a pullout bed/chair thingy. I got very little sleep because the contractions were still going strong for several hours, plus, you know, it was baby time, so I was excited. Also, my room was right next to the nurse’s station, and it sort of sounded like they were having a party, but I’m guessing they were just having a usual night shift.
Unfortunately, when I finally did drift off, the contractions stalled out. The doctor arrived in the morning, waking me up, looking very put out that I was there wasting his time with my fake labor. He checked me out a bit roughly, and told us to head home. At this point, I started crying, which the nurse (a different one from the nice lady the previous evening) seemed to think was a little ridiculous because I was still a week before my due date and all and the baby would come eventually.
But really I was crying because I was so damned frustrated. I’ve always known that Braxton Hicks contractions are a thing. I knew that I was supposed to wait until the real contractions started up before getting too excited. But contractions are tricky for someone who doesn’t really know what they’re supposed to feel like when they’re the real deal. They felt pretty damn real to me. And I had asked everyone along the way to tell me if they weren’t real so that I could just go home. But they didn’t, so I stayed. And so now I felt like an asshole, who had been jerked around by at least three different hospitals, just to be roughly dismissed. So I cried for a while as Robin took us home so that he could get to work.
I married this guy for a reason, though. He was very cool through the whole debacle and very supportive. And when I was upset this morning, he swung us through a McDonalds, because he knows that when I’m upset, McDonalds makes me feel at least a little bit better (it goes way back to when I was about two and had to get stitches, and all I wanted was fries). And then he put me to bed and went about his day despite the fact that he had also gotten very little sleep.
So now I’m home, still pregnant. My doctor from the post hospital personally called to apologize for the hospital sending me away last night, which was nice. And wouldn’t you know it? The contractions started again just after lunch. But I’m not going anywhere any time soon. Because these are liar contractions, I just know it.