Get ready, get set…

I woke up with pain gripping my lower back. It snaked its way around my side and dug into my lower abdomen. I clenched a pillow in my fist until the wave subsided, then I drifted back to sleep. Minutes later, though, the same discomfort jolted me conscious.

This was yesterday morning. The pattern continued for about 45 minutes before I woke up Eric and asked him to rub my back. It helped, but I decided to get up and see if a change in position would relieve the pain and what I realized were contractions.

I’ve been feeling Braxton-Hicks—the “practice” contractions that tense my whole belly but don’t really hurt—for months, but this was different. The contractions felt stronger and came more frequently. About an hour after I first woke up, I started to time how often they came and how long they lasted. 3:58, 60 seconds. 4:01, 50 seconds. 4:03, 50 seconds.

In response to the pattern, I didn’t gather the things for my still-unpacked hospital bag or bring the still-uninstalled car seat to the car. I didn’t call our midwife or my mom.

I cleaned the kitchen.

I paused from washing dishes and wiping the counter whenever my belly clenched. I dutifully recorded times while Eric alternated between pacing (“I don’t know what to do with myself,” he said) and trying to rest on the couch with Finn.

After another 45 minutes, the waves slowed down. By 5am, I crawled into bed. Soon I was asleep.

When I spoke with our midwife later that day, she assured me the experience was normal. “It’s just your body’s way of getting ready,” she explained. Peeper’s been as active as usual, which stopped any leftover worry.

Still, I felt unsettled. During those few hours, I wasn’t particularly scared about labor itself. I was anxious because I didn’t know if I was actually in labor. Is this it? I asked myself. Are we on?

I was afraid of overreacting. Was that really a contraction, or am I imagining things? I didn’t want to jump to the wrong conclusion. It’s probably nothing; go back to sleep. My inner voice was full of doubt.

The false alarm was good, though, for being a wake-up call. It reminded us that Peeper is now 37 weeks and could safely arrive at any time. It demonstrated what a painful contraction might feel like—and proved that a whole bunch of not-painful contractions in a row doesn’t equal active labor.

I’m hoping that with this experience, the next time won’t make me so anxious. This practice round helped take the novelty and utter unknown out of early labor, so maybe bout two—and three and four and beyond, if that’s the case—will inspire less uncertainty.

Then, when we arrive at go, I hope we’ll be ready.

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