I’ve been five centimeters dilated for five days.
That sounds terrible. But I'm still smiling.
In fact, I’ve been here before. Two years ago, when my first daughter was born, I experienced something called Prodromal Labour. Even though I had read stacks of books, articles, and blog posts on giving birth, I had never heard of this phenomenon until I lived it. Prodromal labour can sometimes be confused with “false labour,” but there is nothing false about it. I was actively contracting, and dilating to more than three centimetres, for nineteen days. It was, essentially, a very long early labour phase.”
My labour has now decided to abide by the “rules are made to be broken” law of the universe, once again. Fast forward two years: I'm five days into the slowest, most stalled, labour of all time. It’s not that this is “false” labour. The work going on inside my body, and mind, is very real. In fact, when I arrived at the hospital and was deemed five centimeters dilated and fit to admit, the hospital staff thought I was there to stay. So did I. Baby and body had other plans.
After several hours of slowing contractions (despite my efforts to walk, squat, bounce, nap, and meditate) the labour machine shut down. Resisting the urge to take a birthing room and find myself facing an induction I simply said “Thanks! I’ll be back when I’m ready for a bed.” The hospital staff was supportive, and waved their goodbyes with the impression that they would be seeing me within the next twelve hours. Baby and body had other plans.
So, here I sit at five centimeters dilated more than five days later…and I’m still smiling. What are my secrets for surviving these five days of labour?:
Doing everything the textbooks advise will not result in a textbook labour. I’m the walking, talking, five-centimeter-dilated poster girl for that. Taking the good advice of those who have come before me didn’t hurt, though. A short list of the measures I took to prepare for the last leg of my pregnancy includes:
· A keen eye on nutrition and hydration.
· Practising Hypnobirthing, and using a Doula.
Expecting the unexpected is a part of life, and never more true then when you’re waiting to meet your child for the first time. Here are the real secrets that have sustained my spirits over the last five days:
Take comfort in inevitability. This is going to happen. Nature always wins. Just allow yourself to watch the world slow down for a while, because it soon will be spinning around you at a pace you cannot yet imagine.
Connect with your loves. Your family, friends, and partner will be all-eyes-on-you and your bump. Their impatience shouldn’t frustrate you, but surround you in the biggest supportive hug you will ever feel. Take the time to update them on how you’re doing. Enjoy their company, and their support. Your own personal pep squad has got your back, so bask in their cheers.
Keep moving (literally and figuratively). Stay active for your own sanity, as well as your physical wellbeing. Walk, stretch, and continue to plan your life, one activity at a time. Staring at your bump will not kick-start things. Trust me. It’s a boring view.
Stop moving (literally and figuratively). Rest! I’ve started taking a daily nap along with my toddler. It has been divine. I’m not only keeping my body well rested for the marathon ahead, but deposting some precious hours into my sleep bank. Take a moment to reflect on all that’s happened in your life in the last 40 weeks. To say you deserve a pat on the back is the world’s biggest understatement.
Laugh! Laugh at yourself (five centimeters dilated and wandering the city?! You’re a walking hallway!). Laugh with your loved ones, both about the situation and about random distractions. Cat videos are mandatory viewing.
Stay on target. Don’t lose perspective of the incredible, beautiful, profound limbo that your body and your baby are resting in: half way between womb and world. So much possibility. So much love to be shared between you and your precious egg. You’re about to meet someone who will forever be in your life. Anticipation is more than half the pleasure in life's authentic joys. These things are worth waiting for.
All the best of luck to you, and your baby. You’re ready for this. Keep smiling.