I'm standing in the Winco check-out line on Sunday. Cam and I are playing our usual game of "How much did we blow our budget by?" (Spoiler alert: It was a lot. We're making double batches of all our meals this week to freeze for the post-baby fallout). Anyway... I'm bagging groceries when the checker catches on to our guessing game.
"Well, it's no wonder you're buying so much food! When are you due?"
I smiled... kind of. "Wednesday."
"Like, this Wednesday? Oh my gosh! No way! That's so cool! You know, my husband and I..."
I'm not sure what she said next. I know it's rude, but I tuned her out. Small talk with strangers isn't my forte on the best of days, but man, I'm so over talking about pregnancy. I'm over being pregnant in general. I just want to pop this kid out and move on with the next chapter of my life.
Unfortunately, the end is nowhere in sight. Your due date is just a guesstimate based on the date of your last period and the growth of your baby over time. It's not an exact science. A full-term baby is born between 38 and 42 weeks, so when my providers say I'm due Jan. 11, they really mean I'm due sometime between Dec. 28 and Jan. 25. That's not a due date, it's more of a due month. As someone who likes to plan things down to the last detail, I can't begin to tell you how frustrating that is.
Now, there are some signs and symptoms you can watch for in the weeks leading up to labor, but to quote a blog I was reading the other day, "If you interviewed 500 women about their labor symptoms, you'd get 500 different symptoms." Some women say their baby got very quiet before labor began, others say their baby was more active than ever. Some say they had Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks leading up to the big day, some say they never felt a thing. You get the idea.
But, for the sake of conversation, here is a short list of the symptoms pregnant women are supposed to watch for:
What to Know: A few weeks before labor, the baby is supposed to "drop" into your pelvis to prepare for labor. This is often when the signature pregnant-lady waddle begins. One of my best friends described it as, "feeling like you always just got down off a horse."
Charlotte's Symptoms: Truthfully, I'm not sure. As we speak, the baby is still sticking his/her butt way up into my rib cage. But I have noticed more bladder pressure and little aches and pains in the pelvic area. Maybe my child is just a giant who is simultaneously touching both my cervix and lungs.
What to Know: For most of your pregnancy, your cervix is sealed by a... well, cork, for lack of a better term... of thick mucus. It's a good thing - it protects the baby and your uterus from infection and foreign bodies and the like. As your cervix softens in the weeks or days before labor, the mucus plug comes loose and exits the vaginal canal. I love the mucus plug. It comes with the best adjectives in the world of pregnancy: juicy, gooey, snotty, gelatinous, globby, jellyfish-like. If you have a strong stomach, do a Google image search for mucus plugs. Some truly fascinating stuff.
Charlotte's Symptoms: One day before my due date and I have still haven't lost mine. But some women lose theirs and never notice, or don't lose them until they're in the hospital in active labor. Cam has a very weak stomach when it comes to mucus-like substances, so I've promised not to notify him if I do lose mine.
What to Know: The same hormones that relax your uterus and cervix in preparation for labor also relax your colon and rectum. After months of constipation, many women suddenly experience diarrhea in the days leading up to labor. Sexy, right? It may also be your body's way of making enough room for the baby to depart.
Charlotte's Symptoms: I have no qualms about discussing diarrhea with you, but I haven't had any to speak of. I will say it's easier to poop than it's been in quite some time, but that could be hormones or the baby shifting or hydration or dietary changes. Honestly, it's probably a combination of all of those.
With all that in mind, Dr. Jessica Fu told me she had very few pre-labor symptoms before the birth of her own son. This made me feel better, since she had just examined my cervix and declared it 0 cm dilated and 0% effaced. With any luck, my boss will be posting next week's blog with a photo of my squalling, gooey child and its haggard-looking mother. Or you might be stuck with me again. Only time (and mucus plugs and diarrhea) will tell...