Advice Column

April 12, 2007

One of the hardest thigns about this period is the alarming frequency with which women say the phrase: “You’ll know. You’ll just know”
If you’re me (a relatively high strung woman with an inferiority complex) this phrase will make you feel so fucking shitty. Because here’s the big secret:
Unless you’ve done this before, there is a pretty solid chance YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW.
You won’t know if you are having real contractions or irritating regular old Braxton Hicks. You won’t know if that increase in vaginal discharge is just that or a slow leak of amniotic fluid. You won’t know what it feels like if your water breaks, or if it happens in the bath or on the toilet as you’re peeing how you’re supposed to tell the difference. You won’t know what your mucus plug looks like.
And you’ll feel frustrated, and angry and sometimes you’ll feel like a failure. You’ll feel like all these chicks are out there saying “You’ll know, you’ll know, you’ll know” and at the same time telling 400,000 different versions of what it feels like, looks like, is like. All about the EXACT same event, all wildly different from the next. And so you really have no other choice than just to buy into it, assume you’re an idiot and that “you’ll know” even if everything and everyone inside and out is each telling you a completely different story.
Today I am overwhelmed. It’s day 4 of what we’re going to call “pre-labor”, Day 4 of being at 1 cm dilation and 80% effacement. Day 4 of increased discharge being nothing, of irregular incredibly painful contractions, of being so big that the skin on my belly aches if I have to stand up, feels like I’m going to split my skin in two if I contract anymore, Day 4 of feeling helpless and uniniformed and stupid and histrionic. Day 4 of having person after person tell me: “It’ll happen, you’ll know”
Day 4 of being so indescribeably frustrated with NOT KNOWING.
I told Luke last night that this process feels very much like the ultimate betrayal of my body (or maybe the ultimate payback for all the ways I’ve abused it?) against me. Pain and frustration and crazy mood swings for 3 days straight…with nothing to show for it except pain, frustration and crazy mood swings.
I have never been a patient woman, and that’s part of my problem. I’m sure of it, wanting everything to happen the way I picture it.
But let this serve as a reminder: it WON’T happen the way you picture it. because you can’t. I’m sitting here at the computer and telling you straight out: It’s very possible that my water broke 10 minutes ago but I honestly have no idea if it did or not. And now I’m weeping hysterically and getting more and more agitated because the very strong contractions I had after it (a sign? a ray of hope? I dared think) are completely gone. And all I have is my usual discomfort.
I guess wanted to get all of this out so I remember and never do the grave disservice to someone I love while they’re laboring of telling them that they’ll know. Instead I’ll tell them: “I know how much this sucks, and you can only keep telling yourself that it can’t last forever. Sooner or later they’ll HAVE to induce you.”

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