What Contractions Feel Like

After reading Elaina’s birth story, I realized that I complained about how no one would tell me what contractions felt like, but I never really explained it to you guys either.  When I was at the end of my pregnancy, I spent A LOT of time googling and asking other moms what contractions felt like and all I got was “it’s hard to explain/describe”.  At the time it was extremely annoying.  I mean, how hard could it be to explain what something felt like?  You can find practically anything on google these days, but for some reason I got no solid answers there. After going through it, though, I completely understand why I never found the answer!

On the movies, everyone’s labor starts with their water exploding (usually in a public place).  I guess it wouldn’t be as entertaining to watch someone sitting there for a few hours wondering if they’re in labor.  When I got pregnant and started researching what labor was like, I realized that the amount of people whose labor starts with their water breaking is rather small.  The majority of women are welcomed to labor with contractions.  Now, my mom had three children and all of her labors started with her water breaking.  One of my best friend’s water broke, and so did my sister-in-law’s aka the freak of nature.  (By the way, the freak of nature gained a total of 19 lbs throughout her 39 weeks of pregnancy.  She just had her 6 week check up and she lost 25 lbs.  Meaning she is smaller now than she was when she got pregnant.  Also, her stomach is flat.  It’s been perfectly flat since about 1 week after she delivered.  Yeah.) 

So, just in case you’re in the minority.  My mom: It was nighttime and she was sleeping.  She woke up to something wet in the bed.  My best friend: she went to pee.  She was done peeing, but liquid was still trickling out.  She stood up and the water gushed out of her.  Her husband had to pack the car while she hung out on the toilet.  My sister-in-law was laying on the couch watching TV when she felt a pop and a little liquid came out. Later, a little more liquid came out and she went to the hospital.  

Now, if your labor starts with contractions it’s not as easy to distinguish as water coming out of your wazoo.  Remember how I thought I had to poop?  And then I went to the toilet and nothing happened and the urge to poop went away?  And that happened like six times before I realized that maybe, just maybe, I was in labor?  Well, early labor feels kind of like cramps.  Read the previous statement several times.  EARLY labor feels KIND OF like cramps.  That’s why it’s hard to know if you’re in labor or just having general discomfort.  It’s basically like a stomach ache.  The difference between cramps and contractions is that contractions have a long pause in between them and cramps generally don’t.  With contractions, you have a cramp and then you feel normal and then you have a cramp and then you feel normal.

Some of you may be thinking “that’s not that hard to explain….why do people have such a hard time describing it?”  Well, because contractions are a pain and feeling you’ve never felt before.  Try to imagine an alien came to Earth and on their planet they only have bruises.  That’s their only painful experience.  And all of a sudden this alien asks you what it feels like to break your arm.  You have to equate it to something they are familiar with….so you say “breaking your arm feels kind of like bruising your arm, but worse.”  Now,  that’s exactly how labor goes.  Contractions feel KIND OF like you-need-to-poop pains mixed with period cramps in the same way that a bruise feels KIND OF like breaking your arm.  It’s a different sort of pain.  It’s not like anything you’ve felt before and THAT’S why it’s hard to explain.  If you hold a gun up to someone’s head and make them describe what it feels like, the thing it comes closest to is TERRIBLE cramps.  But, remember, just like a bruise is not comparable to a broken arm, cramps are not comparable with contractions.

1 thought on “What Contractions Feel Like”

  1. This is actually really helpful to me, even though I'm not a first-time mom. With Genevieve, my water broke, I basically had no contractions, so I had to be induced. Second pregnancy, my doctor was going on vacation the week of my due date and I was already dilating and basically having early, early labor contractions. He stripped my membranes but still nothing. I decided at the last minute to be induced so I wouldn't have to have a stranger deliver (again – that happened to me the first time and I wasn't eager to go through it again). I was 4 cm when I got induced so apparently Seth, Jr. was coming soon anyway. So all I've ever felt are early labor contractions and Pitocin-induced contractions. There's a HUGE difference between those lol. So it's weird – I know what contractions feel like, but I still don't know how I'll be able to tell when it's really time to go to the hospital. Oh well, at least I still have a long time before I start obsessively googling.


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