If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent a fair amount of your pregnancy wondering what labour will actually feel like. Will you know when you’re in labour? Will my water break and gush everywhere like it does on the movies? Will I have to rush to hospital?
I also spent a lot of time Googling ‘signs of labour’ and paid attention to every little niggle and twinge. Looking back now, I can laugh about it because I realise I was actually in early labour for a while without even realising it.
The reason it’s so hard to find a definitive answer to what labour will look and feel like for you is because every labour is different. Every woman is different. Even the same woman will have different labours with each pregnancy.
But I did find comfort in reading and listening to what labour was like for others.
So, with that, I want to share what happened for me on the day I went into labour and hopefully it can bring some comfort (or entertainment) to you:
(For reference, this was my first labour, I went into labour spontaneously at 9pm when I was 37+4 weeks and had my little man the following morning at 8:11am and was 37+5 weeks).
1 – Something Felt Different
How vague is that, right? But it’s true. Something just felt different. I felt a need to get a few things organised, I seemed hungrier so I ate more meals, and I just felt different.
It’s so hard to explain, I kind of felt more irritated, but also more calm. I wasn’t nervous about labour and birth, I was excited, but I felt kind of irritated, like I needed to get things done.
It seriously amazes me at how much our bodies work to prepare us for labour, even when we don’t realise what’s happening.
2 – Went On A Big Walk
Because I knew my son was going to be a NICU baby, and I was under specialist care at a hospital that was an hour and a half from home, I had to stay at accomodation close by (thank you Ronald McDonald House!!).
I was asked to be there from 36 weeks, and really, there wasn’t a lot to do. I didn’t have a house to nest, I didn’t have a nursery to set up, I didn’t know what to do.
So I walked. A lot.
I actually walked around 5km a day on average, but on the day I went into labour I’m sure it would have been further than that because walking helped me ease the pain in my back (hello early labour!).
I know some women try curb walking to help bring labour on, but I really enjoyed the relaxation of walking and it seemed to ease some of the pain in my hips and lower back.
3 – Back Pain Woke Me Up
I had horrible back pain the night before (which I now know was likely to be early labour) and struggled to get comfortable.
I had used my yoga ball to roll my hips around (not bounce) and it seemed to ease some of the pain, but sleeping felt like it was going to be impossible.
I actually fell asleep on all fours with my butt in the air (kind of like a cross between a child’s pose and a downward dog in yoga) as it was the only position I could get comfortable in.
The back pain continued to wake me up, but I had no idea it was the stages of early labour.
4 – Struggled To Get Comfortable
Again, looking back this is one of those key signs of early labour that I totally missed, but I seriously struggled to get comfortable in any position that day and perhaps this added to that irritated mood I seemed to be in.
I couldn’t get comfortable sitting, or laying down, or even walking – which is also probably why I paced around and walked a lot more than usual, in an attempt to get comfortable.
5 – Ate A Bunch Of Food
Again, I am so blown away at how the body prepares itself for labour. In the days leading up to my labour I noticed I was hungrier, but I just figured it was a pregnancy thing.
Then on the morning I went into labour I had the biggest breakfast, which was weird for me because I didn’t often eat breakfast until much later in the day. But by 7am I was starving.
I kept eating throughout the day, and craved wholesome foods high in protein. It was seriously like my body was storing fuel and energy for the upcoming labour marathon.
Not knowing much about labour and hospital policy, I didn’t realised I ‘wouldn’t be allowed’ to eat during labour (keep in mind, no one can ‘allow’ you to do or not to do anything – policy is not law, as I now know).
Knowing what I know now about labour, it is crazy to think that we are expected to go 10, 20, 30+ hours without eating while our body is doing the most exhaustive thing it will ever do… but thankfully my body started storing energy by making me eat more during the days leading up to my labour.
6 – Lost The Mucous Plug & Bloody Show
I had heard about losing the mucous plug and having a bloody show as a sign of labour, but I had also read that it just meant labour could happen ‘soon’ – aka within the next day, or week, or two weeks. I didn’t pay too much attention to it because it didn’t really mean that much to me.
However, I lost my mucous plug and had a bloody show on the day I went into labour. This happened with my second pregnancy as well.
Keep in mind, the mucous plug can grow back, and many women often lose bits and pieces of it over time, it’s simply a sign that the cervix is getting ready to dilate, or may have started to dilate, and your body is doing what it is meant to be doing.
7 – ‘Pop’ and Rupture Of Membranes
Let me just say, this is NOT what happens for everyone. I am very aware that this is more of a movie’s style ‘pop and gush’ which is not that common. More than likely you’ll be in the realm of ‘light trickle’ aka ‘did I just pee myself?’ which is perfectly normal.
For me, however, I was struggling so much to get comfortable that I ended up falling asleep, on my hands and knees, leaning down with my butt up in the air (as previously mentioned). It was the only way I could move the pressure off my back.
Then, while somehow asleep in this position, I remember feeling and hearing a pop, which woke me up, and leaping off the bed in time for a gush!
Looking back I have no idea how I knew to get off the bed or what it was, but I remember hearing the pop and feeling kind of a release.
I then spent a fair while in the shower, because the amniotic fluid just kept on coming and I couldn’t keep myself dry long enough to get dressed. It was honestly the weirdest feeling, and such an uncomfortable feeling.
I was also different in that my membranes ruptured before I was in established labour and before I had regular, intense contractions. This just goes to show that no two labours are the same, so it’s good get an understanding of ‘normal’ and not just ‘common’.
I seriously loved being in labour and I love hearing labour stories – so hopefully hearing what happened for me has helped you in some way. Remember to talk to your Midwife about any concerns you may have leading up to labour, and do your best to relax and allow your body to do what it needs to do.