May 7, 2008

Hysteric – from the Greek, hysterikos – of or from the womb (uterus: hystera); suffering caused by the womb.

Yesterday, I went to the hospital. I wasn’t convinced that I was in full-on regular labor, but something was up, and I was concerned enough about what was going on – over two days of very painful, if irregular, contractions, and reduced fetal movement, and this after a full week of less intense ‘false’ labor – that I called my doctor and asked what I should do. The nurse on duty said, predictably, go into triage, better safe than sorry, this could be labor, it could something else, in any case we want to make sure that you and the baby are okay.

She also said, bring your hospital bag, just in case. Not having packed a hospital bag – because, you know, packing hospital bags just jinxes any possibility of a baby coming in a timely manner, yanno? – I gathered up my phone and camera and laptop, shoved a clean pair of underpants in my coat pocket and commanded my husband to drive.

The nurses at triage were wonderful, sympathetic, gentle women who said all the right things about me coming in and getting checked out and felt my belly gently as it contracted and contracted again and then hooked me up to all of those monitors and things and cooed soothingly as the heart monitor registered a healthy heartbeat etc, etc. Your contractions are registering as mild, they said, but of course that doesn’t mean that they’re not painful. Coo, coo, cluck, cluck, everything looks good, dear.

My doctor wasn’t in or on-call, so they called in a resident to examine me further. The resident did not coo or cluck. The resident sat down in a chair next to the hospital bed and looked me up and down. I’ve looked at the fetal cardiogram blah blah blah, she said. Everything looks fine, and you seem to be in very early labor. She paused again. But it *is* early. Why did you come in?

(Momentary stunned silence)

‘Um, because of the pain? The pain has been bad. Off and on, for days now. DAYS. Since early last week or so. And the baby wasn’t moving so much. So I called, AND THE NURSE TOLD TO ME TO.’

That can happen; it can go on for weeks; it can be painful, yes, but it’s perfectly normal. Your uterus is just getting ready for the birth blah blah blah.

‘I know, I know, but my doctor told me to come in straight away if the pains got worse. They got worse. And the baby, not moving, and I called the nurse and she said…’

Of course, of course, you did the right thing (fake cooing)

She pauses again, and flips through my file.

I see here that you’re a patient in the Reproductive Life Stages* program here at the hospital… *(RLS = Crazy Pregnant and Post-Partum Ladies Psychiatric Care Club, membership by referral only.)

‘YES WHY?’ (hysteria rising in voice)

Just asking. You’ve been feeling okay? Managing your anxiety? Have you spoken to them recently?

(Is she calling me crazy oh my effing god? IS SHE CALLING ME CRAZY FOR COMING IN HERE?)

‘A few weeks ago WHY?’

Just want to make sure that you’re not too anxious about this pregnancy.

‘I am anxious right now because I am in PAIN.’

I know, I know (fake clucking, jotting of notes that I KNOW say something to the effect of batshit loco.)

She pauses again. So, she says after a moment. What are we going to do with you?


I left, after numerous sympathetic back pats from triage nurses who cooed kind things about not hesitating to come in again if the pains worried me, and promptly burst into tears. When I got home, there was a message on the phone from Reproductive Life Stages, ‘checking in’ on me: was I okay? did I need an appointment? At which point I might have burst into tears again, if I hadn’t needed to double over just right that minute to cope with yet another pain.

I’ll talk to my doctor about it, and she will, I know, shake her head vigorously and insist that I was absolutely right to come in, and that I must not hesitate to do so again, and that I should pay no mind to any real or perceived suggestion that my experience with this interminable false/early/whatever labor is anything but legitimately frustrating and worrying and that, again, again I must not hesitate to call or come in at any time if I’m in any way concerned.

But the damage has been done. If I wasn’t a basket-case before, I’m well on my way to being one now. If this baby doesn’t begin his emergence in some sort of very obvious, textbook way, I’m going to be reluctant to call again, ever.

Which means that this baby just might get born in our bathroom. In which case, those clean underpants in my coat pocket really will be a useless precaution.

(For the Countdown To Baby record, the contractions subsided in the night – so I got to sleep for a few hours for the first time in DAYS – but are back again and are hurting and would be it be wrong for me to hit the liquor, like, now?)

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    Heather May 7, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    That totally stinks that you were treated like that. I’m sorry that happened.

    I would have felt the same way, and I’d not want to go in to be checked again either.

    And that’s definitely NOT what should happen. I wonder why some people are in the health profession.

    womaninawindow May 7, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Totally freaken upset on your behalf and this much pain and not labor = not right and not fair! Holy crap, get this baby out! Won’t they just accomodate you and induce you like furreal? Where are you at? I had one baby in the States and I was totally catered to, “Oh, when do you want the meds hon and how many pink ones do you want?” In Canada for my second it was like, “Hey, ya you, you wanna bucket for that?” Oh, good luck!

    Her Bad Mother May 7, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    WIAW – I’m in Canada. My hsspital is excellent – apart from this one experience. Though my doctor is pretty hardline about not inducing unless medically necessary. SIGH.

    Her Bad Mother May 7, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    BP Dada – I know that it’s about caring, and do appreciate honest feedback, when gentle, as yours was ;)

    Karen MEG May 7, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Glad you got some sleep at least. But frustrating as hell at this stage, and yes you look HUGE and quite uncomfortable. Hope your next visit at the hospital will be THE one. And I also hope it is any day now.

    Fairly Odd Mother May 7, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I’m just going to add a big “UGH”!!!!! Totally not cool. Hugs and may this baby arrive soon.

    Anonymous May 7, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    I am sorry you had this experience. I like your response to BPD; you are clear and articulate, you are correct. This resident is lacking; she needs a crash course in RCC relation ship centered care. Here is a quote “Healer and sufferer are not separate and independent units. Each is an observer of the other: each interprets and constructs a subjective world, and these worlds are modified by the dialogue between them. Both healer and sufferer are changed in the
    process.” from Health Professions Education and Relationship Centered Care. You might want to email her superior a copy, or give me her name and I will.

    It is a terrible shame that you have to deal with this cr@p when you are least able to do so. I can’t believe this is still going on; this is the year 2008 is it not? Why are some people still practicing medicine of the 1950′s

    Mom101 May 7, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    How did you not get through that conversation with either sobbing or strangling someone? Am I empowered to give you permission to do either (or both) should, God forbid, it come up again?

    Glad to hear you at least have a great doc. In the end that’s what matters.

    Visualize Chardonnay.

    Her Bad Mother May 7, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Mom-101 – with very great difficulty, and I only held the tears back until I was out of the room. Resisting the urge to strangle was even harder.

    Chardonnay = YES PLEEZE.

    Kate May 7, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Isn’t it a simply fabulous quirk of the language that “hysterical” can mean “all in your head” and “a wee tad out of control” and “wicked funny” all at the same time? Or just one at a time, or maybe even none of the above (I prefer to think of it as, “Freud was full of it.”)

    Sigh. Having spent time in the hospital – overnight, with no books and no captioning on the TV so all I could watch was music videos, and HOW FUN WAS THAT? – and sent home again, with my 2nd, I feel your pain. “Well, honey, pregnancy is hard,” said someone apparently unfamiliar with the experience of pregnancy (“hard” is not a strong enough word) or with my own history.

    And after the few-hour stay following a fall during my 1st, I was told by one snotty nurse that “Moms who are really ready, you know, mentally, don’t come in like this.” Um. Yeah. Bite me.

    Chocolate now. Margarita later.

    crazymumma May 7, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    I don’t think that booze will hurt the baby now, but I think ganja is more the ticket.

    Oh honey. I hate that this is so hard.

    Amanda May 7, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    This time is so hard…hold your head up and just remember, they’re asses.

    SUEB0B May 8, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Hang on. I’m unna come over and smack someone.

    Major Bedhead May 8, 2008 at 1:02 am

    Could I come up there and throttle people for you? Because really? That attitude? So. Not. Helpful. What the hell, man? What’s with the patronizing attitude?

    Go back in. Be a bitch. Who cares, at this point, if you’re nice about it. If you are in pain and miserable then, by god, they should DO something for you. God, maternal care makes me wild.

    Gry May 8, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Ugh! It reminds me of when I went into labor, and the doctor at the hospital took a look at my papers, asked me how I’d been managing my blood sugar.

    I said it had been fine, according to the tests I’d had, and she said “No they weren’t fine, it says right here it wasn’t good”.

    So, apparently my midwife hadn’t told me my blood sugar test had been wonky (why I have no clue), but to be honest I just wanted the doc to stfu already, I mean, couldn’t she see I WAS IN LABOR!?

    The more she went on about my blood sugar, the more I wanted to smack her over the head. I was there, I was in labor, my blood sugar hadn’t been perfect, but it was a little late starting to make a deal about it THEN AND THERE.

    Now that I read it, it might seem like a small thing, but I was totally freaking out. And a doc saying stuff like that to you, a woman at her most vulnerable.. *sigh*

    Loralee Choate May 8, 2008 at 2:04 am

    I loathe the way pain is managed in hospitals. It is either “In your head” or you are a “Drug seeking patient”.

    I loathe how you were treated and I really, REALLY hope that your dr steps up to the plate and says something to the managing nurses.

    Anonymous May 8, 2008 at 7:14 am

    So so so sorry for the pain you’re going through. Wish there was something someone could do for you.

    My friend delivered within 12 hours of drinking Castor Oil…. just thought I’d mention it.

    Suburban Turmoil May 8, 2008 at 8:13 am

    That resident’s name wasn’t Alex Karev, was it? ;)

    With Punky, my contractions were four minutes apart and had been verrry painful for about 12 hours, so the doctor told me to go to triage. I got the same kind of treatment- but in my case, a NURSE was all, “Why are you here? When you’re supposed to be here, it will REALLY hurt.” As if it weren’t REALLY hurting already. I was so embarrassed, I went home and wouldn’t come back until I was in very LATE labor and literally seeing spots before my eyes from the pain. GAH!

    Hope you’re at the hospital now! Good luck!

    wright May 8, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Oh, that doc was horrible! I can’t believe she would say something like that.

    You really did do the right thing. HUGS!

    Kimberly C May 8, 2008 at 8:31 am

    My doctor made me feel like an a$$hole too, more than once. So much so that I am not too sure that she will be involved when/if I have another… but that’s a different story all together.

    Why can you (I) never think of anything smartassy to say when you (I) are(am) in the moment? It’s only after the situation’s done, and you want to call them later and then tell them off. Blah..

    Have a glass of something, and give that boy an eviction notice.

    Linda May 8, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Many sympathies. I had an experience like this, only it was the nurses who *also* made me feel like I was crazy. I was at almost 42 weeks, regular contractions had started (I didn’t have pre-labour contrax at all prior to this), baby wasn’t moving much or at all and I was in PAIN. I was only 1 cm dilated, but in so much agony, I was throwing up from the pain. And I have a pretty good pain tolerance — I’ve got endometriosis, so believe me, I know abdominal cramping and pain.
    They wanted to send me home. They all did. But I was in so much pain, I couldn’t even imagine moving, much less getting dressed, standing up and walking to the parking lot with my husband. That may have been my fatal error because I ended up succumbing to demerol for the pain, a way-too-early epidural for the pain (which slowed contrax) and then complications and interventions that I never even imagined I would allow.
    All the way along, I kept getting the impression that people thought I was crazy and unstable. No, I was in a sort of pain that seemed *wrong* for so early in labour and just knew something was happening. I’m not a panicky person, I don’t overreact, but something was definitely wrong and different. I so would have appreciated some genuine understanding.
    Hope you get some rest and that your baby arrives soon!

    Aidan Elizabeth's Updates May 8, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Having lost a child before in part because I didn’t listen to myself when I thought something was wrong, I’m certainly in support of tossing the resident overboard. Listen to yourself no matter what anyone else says! With our second, I made many a trip to triage in my third trimester and no doctor was going to tell me I didn’t do the right thing. Hang in there!

    Daisy May 8, 2008 at 10:25 am

    False labor hurts, no doubt about it. Of course you’re anxious! I would be, too, in your shoes! Virtual hugs and pats on the back from over here — my children are 16 and 21, and I still remember.

    Tracey May 8, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Ugh… I hate it when people treat you like you’re a nutcase. Pain is enough reason to go to the doctor. Remember that you don’t need permission to go to the hospital. If you are in what you feel is labor, then you do what you need to do. Some women never have extremely strong contractions, after all! (should we all be that lucky!)

    Hope this is the beginning of the end for your pregnancy. Take it easy, and know that we’re ALL behind you!!

    Mandy May 8, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Sorry to hear you had such a bad visit. It’s horrible to be in pain and to be worried about your child. Hang in there!

    And sometimes I think the medical community is a bit jaded. I once peeked at my former family doctor’s chart and noticed that any time I had come in with a question or a concern about something she had written down Anxiety as the cause of my visit. I quit her pretty soon after that. (I’m surprised she didn’t write Hysteria!)

    iheartchocolate May 8, 2008 at 11:44 am

    That doc was just a big stupid-head. Some people prey on peoples vulnerability. It made her feel superior to make you feel crazy. The best thing you can do is have her paged every 30 minutes with contraction questions. Show her what crazy is REALLY like!

    Elizabeth May 8, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I came here hoping to read OH HAI, I HAS BABEE NOW, and instead I read about this stupid resident! What an awful comment for her to make. What are they going to DO with you? Um, see to it that you have a safe delivery and a healthy baby, perhaps?

    GAH. I prescribe chocolate chip cookies. Or chips and guacamole, or whatever your comfort snack is. I’ll be thinking about you!

    ALM May 8, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Where is that doctor so I can go over there and smack her upside her head. Reading about your whole experience just made me cringe; I’m so sorry that in addition to all of this waiting you had to go through dealing with that nimrod.

    Kate May 8, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Let me just say that I too had early labour with this recent child for over two weeks before the real deal went down. And it was HELL ON EARTH, so I hear ya.

    and also? I too belong to the Reproductive Life Stages club of crazy – I’ve been seeing them for awhile. Enough to have a social worker come see me hours after his birth to say “hey lady?! How crazy are you feeling now?”

    Lisa b May 8, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I’m only saying this because I am following Kate here but the RLS people don’t seem to give a shit about my anxiety, I think I am going to have to ramp that up. Maybe I should show up at Trigage with you and slap that resident. That might get their attention.
    Hello – baby not moving – mother worried? Ten to one that beotch has no kids.
    Hope things either pick up or let up for you.

    the dragonfly May 8, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    I dealt with a nurse I called Mean Nurse, who caused me to say adamantly to my husband, “I am not going back to this hospital until my water breaks.” Thankfully, less than three days later my water broke. :)

    Thinking of you…you can make it through!!

    twelvekindsofcrazy May 8, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Wow, what an ass…
    My condescending doctor just retired, thank god, so he will not be there for my delivery. Which is bittersweet because I wanted the chance to punch him in the face and blame it on hysteria.

    Heather May 8, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Oddly my youngling was watching an episode of Spongebob Square pants where the hospital staff pushed a character out of the hospital…hmm.

    Laural Dawn May 8, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    I dreamt about this post last night so had to come back and comment.
    First of all – Reproductive Life stages – they know me well. I still get weekly phone calls. But did you know that having them listed on your chart when you check in gets you bumped up the list to a private room? Seriously. (combine that with a c-section and you’re golden)
    Also, I had a similar experience with false labour. It sucks.
    I’m sure you don’t need all of the techniques to bring on full-on labour, but … my doctor told me gatorade really helps.

    Her Bad Mother May 8, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    GATORADE? For serious?

    Liza May 8, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Can I just say, reading this made me want to go in and start smacking people around? How DARE they treat you this way? Of all the sexist assholish bullshit!

    I hope you and the little one really ARE ok, and that the real labor signals are so loud and clear as to be unmistakable, even by sexist jerkoffs who think that the pain is all in your head.

    Mumma Boo May 8, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    You absolutely did the right thing. Trust your instincts, no matter what that insipid, rude, ridiculously stupid resident said. You were in agony and concerned about Sprout’s movements. Do not be afraid to call again. And if you get that same resident, I recommend starting your conversation with “Remember me? On a scale of 1 to 10, my pain is at freakin’ 24. Kind of feels like this!” and then promptly rip her ear off. Also, this far along, a glass of wine won’t due any harm – it’ll help relax the muscle spasms. Good luck! Sending big hugs and virtual back rubs your way.

    Lara May 9, 2008 at 9:00 am

    AS IF!!!
    Seriously. That’s so wrong! I went in when I hadn’t felt the baby move for about 12 hours and I remember feeling like a moron (especially because he started moving while I was waiting to see someone :P ) but all they did was tell me I had done the right thing, that it wasn’t worth the risk. And knowing people who have had things go wrong, this is DEFINITELY the kind of thing where you use the “better safe than sorry” motto.
    I want to kick that resident in the head!

    Laurie of the Seven Stories May 9, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Wrote an entire post on false labor, hope you have a chance to get over and read it.

    My advice to you- treat yourself as if you are in active labor and do whatever makes you comfortable and helps you pass the time!

    Best wishes and happy mother’s
    Day, hopefully sooner than later.

    Anonymous May 9, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    catherine i hope you used your superpowers and made that silly condescending dotors head explode and not your own.sending you calming painfree birth vibes your way hugs LAVANDULA

    Anonymous May 10, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    I debated sharing this with you but it might help take the urgency edge off. Your body might be doing what mine did with #2. I had painful contractions every night like clockwork from 5 pm to 8 pm for the last 3 weeks. I’d dilate every week a little more. The last week I was walking around at 5 cm’s dilated and thinking the baby would just fall out and I pretty much hated life and anyone who dared come near me. I was not a happy camper. Good news is when the labor hit for “good” that last night I had a baby in my arms about 20 mn after that first big contraction. SUPER fast. So think about the positive!! :)
    But I can honestly say I understand how horrible that early labor is especially when it is drawn out over the course of 3 miserable weeks… hang in there…

    Lady M May 10, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Thinking of you and wishing you well! I have my fingers crossed that you get the same “second time is easier” delivery that I did. I figure that since the pregnancy was harder, *something* should be easier!

    Damselfly May 11, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Just wanted to say Happy Mother’s Day!

    lucky May 22, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Nice blog. Thats all.

    alianora September 12, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    i know this is massively late to the party, but reading this one hit home for me. I read your birth story – great zombie jesus, i thought MINE was fast at 3 and 1/2 hours from inital contraction to birth.

    But, Ive been here, too. We were living in DEEP RURAL ALASKA while I was pregnant, 600 miles by air to the closest hospital, $600 a person to fly in and back.

    I wake up one morning (25 weeks? maybe?) and Im having tons of Braxton Hicks. I know they arent real labor – they dont HURT, Im just having oh..1 every 2 minutes. All day long.

    So, I call the doctor on call. “COME IN,” she says. I say, “but..” she insists, COME IN.

    So, my husband and i shell out an obscene amount of money to come in to Anchorage on the ONE FLIGHT A DAY from our village, just to be checked by another doctor who literally makes fun of me and tells me I am wasting his time. and no matter how many times I tell him, no matter how many times THE NURSE tells him that I was following medical advice, he continued to laugh at me in derision.

    And, of course, when kiddo came (while i was in Anchorage, already) and they thought they might have to get him out quick, guess which doc was on call?


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