My husband and I enrolled in birthing classes and I read everything I could find. I wanted my husband and myself to be as prepared as possible. I knew from experience, that the hospital, my insurance covered, would have nurses who were desperately busy. When my mother had received cancer treatments there, it was a good day when the attending nurse spoke English. Our birth class's visit to the hospital's labor and delivery floor only strengthened our resolve to be as prepared as possible. The labor and delivery rooms were standard bleak hospital rooms with lots of medical equipment hid discretely in cabinets. There were no Jacuzzis, labor chairs, or birthing balls here. Despite the fact, all but one of the labor rooms were full, there were no laboring ladies walking the halls either. A nurse sat at a central station watching a bank of monitor displays attached to the laboring ladies, each in their own little room, tethered by monitors to their own little beds.
Two weeks before my due date, I awoke to contractions and a small amount of blood and mucus. The contractions were far from unusual. For the previous month, hours each day were spent having Braxton Hicks contractions. The contractions would start if I sat still too long and end with a little walking. Or, they could start while I was walking and end when I could get off my feet. Sometimes they felt like cramps. Often it was the distinct sensation of a large muscle contracting until my stomach was rock hard and my breath was coming in gasps. These were distracting and exasperating but far from alarming. I took them as assurance that my body was getting in shape for the big day. The bloody show that morning was different. As I walked back from the bathroom, I was overtaken by a sudden wave of nausea and then a quick bout of chills that made my teeth chatter. This was different too. I debated missing work, but decided I should work and save my leave. I had a late afternoon appointment with my ob/gyn, but decided to try and get in earlier. I waited three hours until my doctor's office opened and left a message explaining about the contractions, bloody show, and chills. I asked if I could come in for my appointment early. Two hours later, my call was returned and I was at the doctor's office around noon. My doctor was out of town, so I saw another doctor, who was new to the practice. My blood pressure was very high 160/?. I was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. This sounded hopeful to me, but the doctor explained the birth could come today, tomorrow, or two weeks from now. They had me lay quietly on my side for a few minutes which had the effect of lowering my blood pressure to acceptable levels. The doctor didn't think I needed rest or any special care. Grimly imagining this could go on for two more weeks, I marched myself back to work.
That afternoon the contractions came in quiet, orderly fashion, four to six per hour, I kept a tally going on a piece of scratch paper as I worked. These contractions didn't relent when I changed position or activity, they had a discreet start and finish, I was growing more certain something was up. I ate a very light dinner (not that my Gestational Diabetes allowed much else) and lay quietly trying to rest and read. Between 6:00 and 9:30, the contractions were coming every 10 minutes, distinct and attention getting, but not really hard. Sometime after 9:30, a "real" contraction hit like a vicious kick to the small of my back. There was the sharp stinging sensation of impact followed by a radiating burning pain, exactly like being hit or kicked. I remembered this clearly from my previous labor many years ago. I told my husband something was probably up. I urged him to be purposeful in gathering our stuff and getting ready to leave, but assured him nothing was certain. It took until 10:00 to establish that the contractions were 7 minutes apart and regular. We called my Dad to come and stay with our son. It took my dad thirty minutes to get to our house. The trip to the hospital should have taken 20 minutes, but we were traveling far slower because it was snowing and the roads were slick.