intensely trivial

Patience, and some words on f—- l—-

Well, Mama #1 had some kind of flu-bug yesterday, which is probably what caused her to feel like she was in fairly intense labor. (She’s the one I spent part of yesterday with, at a hospital.) After that wore itself out and her labor didn’t go any further throughout the night, she opted to go home and wait for some more dramatic changes.
First: This woman is doing the very best thing for herself and her baby — waiting for labor to start on its own. She could have asked for her water to be broken or some drug to induce strong contractions, but she didn’t. She’s five days past her guess date, and her baby is fine. She’s not giving in to the pressure we feel in our culture to hurry up and have a baby.
Second: Mama #1’s caregiver (a nurse-midwife, by the way) did not let impatience overwhelm her, either. Behold a rare moment in obstetrics!
At times, the thought comes that maybe I am too quick to attend my clients, when their labors seem to peter out like this (e.g. the hours I spent with Mama #3 on Thurs. night and the hours I spent with Mama #1 yesterday). Actually, it’s not I who decide when to attend them. I wait for their invitation or request. But partly, I worry about the reputation of childbirth. When I tell friends that the birth hasn’t actually happened yet, they look shocked. It doesn’t help that the term most doctors and other people use for this occurrence is “false labor.”
I hate the term “false labor.” It implies that the mom’s body somehow did something wrong and unreliable. It’s true that a mom can have contractions, even strong ones, for a long time, and then they can stop. (This happened with a client of mine in March. Her contractions, which looked an awful lot like labor, stopped and didn’t come back for three weeks.) Does that mean her body played a trick on her? No.
Here are a few common reasons a labor might seem to start and then stop, or vice versa:
— Mom isn’t adequately hydrated and nourished. (If in your normal life you were trying to get some physical work done without any food or water, you wouldn’t be able to keep going then, either. Duh.)
— Mom is tired, and her body knows she needs some rest before it picks up again with the contractions.
— Something else is causing contractions, other than a hormonal signal from the baby to be born. That was the case with Mama #1 yesterday. After she took some Zofran and the nausea disappeared, and after she got rehydrated, contractions slowed way down.
— Mom doesn’t feel safe or secure. This is true for animals, too: A mother will first seek out a place of security before having her baby. One of my clients got a call from her mom during active labor. Talking to her mom and dealing with her mom’s expectations made her contractions *disappear*. Only after her husband talked her down from that temporary state of stress did her contractions pick right back up again. In my opinion, being watched/checked/monitored constantly in a hospital often causes labor to slow down or stop altogether, too. Stage fright is a state of threat.
And those are the reasons I can think of offhand. I’m sure they’re gravely simplified. Birth is much more of an art than a science. We can’t pretend to understand all the factors that go into the timing of a baby’s arrival. That’s why I think the term “false labor” should be abandoned; it is presumptuous and does damage to mothers who are waiting for their babies.


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  1. * carmen says:

    I love reading these posts from you! I enjoy hearing your passion come through in your tone, as well as the way you give “new” categories for people to think about regarding birth. Momma #1 has been on my mind A LOT. I’m praying for her and cheering her on (you included) from afar.

    Posted 7 years, 6 months ago

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