Here is how my labor went and though it may not be the same for you, it will give you some tips on what to look for.
On December 23, 2016, I was having a contraction about once an hour, because they were so short and so far apart, I dismissed them as Braxton hicks. I also had some slight spotting and a lot of discharge, nothing looked like a mucus plug, but guessing now that I was losing pieces of it all day, so I never got the big disgusting glob that some women do.
Then on December 24, 2016, I woke up at around 2 a.m. to what I thought were really bad cramps, which then I thought was an upset stomach as I kept having to run to the bathroom. When I felt I had completely emptied my system, the cramps still continued and so I started timing them around 3 a.m. and noticed that they were occurring almost every 1-2 minutes and lasting 30-50 seconds, so I woke my husband realizing that maybe my cramps were actually contractions.
We called the hospital around 4 a.m. and the on-call doctor told us to wait another hour to see if they would subside, but they did not and only got more intense, so at 5 a.m. we headed to the hospital with the idea that it was better to be safe. After all, the worst thing that could happen is we get sent home. However, when we got there, we discovered I was already 6 cm. dilated! The baby was coming!
Shortly after arriving at the hospital, my contractions got way more intense. I could not stand and I was too exhausted from the pain to even move. At one point I did manage to lay on my side, but I ended up on my back for the birth. Everyone said you would feel the pain in your back or abdomen, but all my pain was in my thighs, so I was not prepared for that! I never knew you could feel labor pains in your thighs as no one ever mentioned it. Luckily, the nurse knew what to do to alleviate the pain, which was pressing down hard on my thighs. She showed this to my doula, and then my doula took over.
I went in with planning not to have an epidural, but I ended up begging for one. However, my labor was so fast that by the time they were ready with the epidural, I was ready to push, so I ended up having the birth I wanted and though I was upset at the epidural people at the time because I was in so much pain, I am now glad that they did take so long!
My water also did not break until just before my baby girl crowned, so do not count on your water breaking to let you know labor is starting! It is a common thing television shows and movies like to show, but only around 15% of women actually have their water break before labor (source).
Baby girl arrived at 8:10 a.m. on Christmas Eve, so my labor was just a little over six hours! However, that was probably just the active portion, as now I know that those "Braxton hicks" I thought I was having, were probably actual contractions and part of the beginning labor.
For a first time mom, I was super lucky to have such a quick labor and I have no idea how those women with 30 or 40-hour labors survive! Six hours was exhausting enough! Kudos to you and for anyone who is currently pregnant, may your labors be short!
I just want to reiterate that not all labors are the same, so what I experienced, you may not. Here are a list of resources for those want to know how to know if they are in labor and what the signs of labor are:
- Mayo Clinic - Signs of labor: Know what to expect
- WebMD - Pregnancy and Signs of Labor
- Allina Health - How to tell if you're in labor
- American Pregnancy - Signs Of Labor
Feel free to share your labor and birth story in the comments!