too early to hear about it being too late

I thought something was wrong.  I didn’t think I was going into labor, but the literature said if I was contracting more than four times in an hour, I should notify my doctor.  Why does this shit always happen in the middle of the night or on a weekend?  It can’t happen during regular business hours, can it?  "Do you want me to call the doctor?"

"No."  Yes.  I hate the idea of having to bother my doctor, but I also know they’re used to it, right?  Better safe than sorry.  It’s my health.  "Okay, fine call him.  But don’t make me talk."  I get shy and embarrassed.  I’m experiencing things which seem out of my control, cramps that have me curled, lying on my left side.  I’ve emptied my bladder and had water.  Dehydration isn’t the culprit of the cramps.  Maybe it’s gas or poop pains.  I don’t know!  I’m new at this, but every three minutes my stomach knots into a tight ball, that feels as hard as my forehead.  The balling up is a contraction, right? 

So Phil phones the doctor.  The service picks up.  The doctor on call will call us right back.  It’s 11:40 pm.   When the phone rings, I can tell it’s not our doctor, but a doctor just the same.  Phil doesn’t have the same familiar voice he’d use with someone he knows.  "Yes, sounds like I woke you.  Sorry, we’re new at all of this.  It’s our first pregnancy."  Instead of responding, "How can I help?"  The on-call doctor murmurs, "It’s late."  If I’d been the one to call instead of Phil, I would have hung up and never thought to ever call again.  It’s really hard to work up the nerve to call a doctor in the middle of the night.  To admit, okay, it’s bad enough now.  I need help.   I’m 28 weeks pregnant, in my third trimester, but this shouldn’t be happening now.  I’m scared.

I explain everything to the doctor, the cramps that keep coming, one on top of the next.  I’m not worried that the babies are coming.  Nothing is pushing down.  My cervix was examined that day and was closed.  The doctor says I should try to sleep through them, and if they continue for another hour, I should go to St. David’s and have them monitor my contractions.  I thank him.  There is no way I’m going to the hospital. I’ll breathe through it at home.  I’m sure it’s nothing.  But it doesn’t feel like nothing.  Braxton Hicks was fucking me up good.  They seemed to be coming on stronger and longer.  What if it wasn’t Braxton Hicks but was signs of pre-term labor, so common with twins?

Phil brings up his guitar and plays me soothing songs, asking me to envision a calm place.  "Go there now," he says as if he’s a meditation tape.  "Go there now?  Dude, I’m not going anywhere.  It fucking hurts!"  I whine, knowing he’s doing his best, that I really should be taking deep breaths and trying to relax.  "Come on, let’s breathe together."  It’s not working.  Then he puts on Little Women.  This will work.  He’s afraid to sleep in the bed with me.  "I want you to take up the whole bed and to feel comfortable."  He takes a pillow from the bed and lies on the floor with a spare duvet. 

But I cannot sleep knowing he’s on the floor.  Eventually he comes up to join me, after I yell, "Get in the goddamn bed.  I can’t sleep knowing you’re on the floor."  I sleep on and off through the night.  I’m still contracting, but I’m not worried.  I somehow know it’s not painful enough.  Maybe it’s gas.  But I can’t fart or shit, or get into any position that alleviates any symptoms. 

The next day, we go to my OB/GYN, who measures my cervix at 3.8 ("which is excellent," my doctor says).  He guarantees that "these babies aren’t coming within the next two weeks.  I’m 99% sure."  We leave, relieved, and I learn that those tight balls I was feeling were probably just the babies moving.  How was I to know, though?  It HURT!  What didn’t hurt was hearing my doctor’s reassuring voice, and I was reassured that I have a wonderful partner to help me through all of it.



  1. Also rooting for you. I would be terrified as well. It's funny–I am also one of those people who is relunctant to bother the doctor. Glad you had Phil.

  2. An on-call OBGYN hears from a patient (or her husband) pregnant with twins and cramping, responding with "it's late"??!! Fuck you, Dr. McShithead. If you get this guy when you go into actual labor, remove one foot from the stirrup and kick him in the teeth.

  3. As hard as it is to do, you should call whenever you feel unsure. It is the start of learning that you will piss others off for the safety of your children, and sometimes act a little crazy. It's worth being better safe than sorry.

  4. awwww. The guppies moving around… who knew it was so painful with twins moving around?
    But they don't move together right- separate sacs?

    cue the mothers of twins' repsonses

    Good luck and stay strong!

  5. Hang in there and don't be afraid to call the dr. That's why they get paid as well as they do! I hope you have a great Thanksgiving. You have a LOT to be thankful for this year.

  6. So glad everything is fine. Be sure to get off your feet and plenty of rest. I had two pre-term babies. I was on bed rest in the hospital with both for 6 weeks and that is no fun! I was able to make it to 34 weeks and 35 with my second! Listen to your body and your instincts.
    Have a great Thansgiving, but don't over do it!!

  7. Glad to hear all is okay with you all (you, Phil and the guppies)!

    Pregnancy is a time where you can feel so uncertain about yourself and your judgement. This is especially so if you happen to come upon a doctor who doesn't really listen to what you are saying and makes you feel stupid.

    As a mommy who had a preemie (born at 33 weeks), I would strongly caution you to be over cautious and to never feel like you are putting anyone out. I wish that I did that when pregnant with my son but I was too concerned about being wrong and allowing uncaring doctors to tell me that "everything was normal for a first time pregnant mommy".

    On a good note though, my son was born very healthy despite his prematurity. I am now 24 1/2 weeks pregnant with #2 and ask questions ALL of the time. Even the times when I have to force myself to ask them. And you know what? Because I mentioned cramping that I thought was gas back in week 17 … it turned out to be preterm labor already.

    You just never know Stephanie, so being overly cautious is better than having regrets. Hang on there girlie – you are almost there and will see that the prize for your bravery was worth every single moment of uncertainty, embarassment, frustration and discomfort!!

  8. the on-call doc sounds like an asshole. . . that is WHY you are on-call, you jerk. so much for bedside manner. i'll never understand why professionals act so unprofessional…as if doing their job is a bother to them.

    glad to hear that all is well and safe. won't be too long now, it seems…

  9. Stephanie,
    I remember these moments. I was always embarrased about calling in and at appointments when they would ask if I'd felt any cramping or anything abnormal-duh-everything felt abnormal-and I just had my babies one at a time. I swear, I couldn't be sure when I was in labor for baby one or baby 2. I felt some better when my labor nurse told me that she wasn't ever sure about labor either and she had 4 kids! Just remeber that when your body does decide to go into labor, things can happen really fast. So don't ever feel bad about calling in or going in. I delivered at St. Davids and both times the on call Dr. delivered. I had a really good experience there and the labor and lactation nurses were really great. In fact the labor nurse did everything and the on call Dr. basically walked in and caught my baby. I think he was in the room for a total of 30 minutes! I hope you can get rest and things go well for you. Take care of yourself.

  10. One other thing- There is a great store called Special Addition on Lamar. Their staff is really helpful and they have a huge selection of nursing bras.

  11. oh my gosh…i can't even imagine how worried you guys must have been all night. i'd like to say i can't believe the on-call doc muttered 'its late' but i work in the healthcare profession so i know better. its late…you're scared and unsure of what's happening…you finally get up the nerve to call and you get the jerk-reply. nice one doc. what does he think 'on-call' means! what an ass! i'm so glad to hear your regular OBGYN and suitor were so wonderful and reassuring!

  12. Please don't ever feel like you are inconveniencing a doctor by calling late at night. That's part of the job and they knew it when they chose the profession! The most important thing is to put your mind at ease and take care of those precious babies!

  13. Scary. That sounds like contractions to me. I can't imagine why they don't have you on a home monitoring system. I was on one for my twins starting at 24 weeks. It's wired to go to a group of RNs, who read the data and if it's showing too many contractions per hour, advise you to drink lots of water or take meds (turbutaline)to slow or stop them. If too many happen, then the nurses call the doctor for you. Nurses also come to home visit and take vitals. It was paid for by the insurance. I never got Braxton Hicks, my contractions were always the "real deal." But with proper monitoring you can keep them in check. I thought this was standard protocol with twins, but I dunno, maybe things have changed since I had mine? You should never feel weird about calling the doctor if you're worried or something doesn't feel right. Should you ask the doctor if you can have home monitoring? There's really no downside to it.

  14. Glad to hear it isnt time yet Stephanie, that the guppies are still cooking. A question though, when the time comes, will The Suitor let your readers know? Will you blog about it from the hospital? I guess that is more than one question…

  15. I certainly hope you told you OB-GYN about the on-call doctor's response to your stressful episode. When they taught doctor-patient relations in medical school he was out to lunch! That kind of behavior is inappropriate, to say the very least.

  16. You are lucky. So much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. A loving, caring husband, and twins on the way. So glad all is well. :)

  17. It's a scary exciting time, that third trimester. For me I began to obsess about everything that could go wrong. The thing is, everything went right and I know it will for you, too. We're blessed in this country with the best medical care in the world. You're surrounded by love and support. You're doing everything you can for your babies. You'll be fine. All of you.

  18. Stephanie I am a doctor, and here's the thing: yes it sucks wildly to be on call- I hate it- never really sinking into real sleep awaiting the pager shriek, praying that no one will need me, and the disorientation when the pager goes off at some awful hour. But, I signed up for it. The person at the other end of the call makes all of the difference for me; those that are polite and respectful and apologize get my full sympathy and attention, others are random and hang up and infuriate me into sleeplessness long after the convo is over. So if you need your doctor, then call them, be your sweet self, apologize for waking them just like you would anyone else, and all should proceed smoothly.
    ps. Barbara, you fail!

  19. Wait, Mary- what you said "We're blessed in this country with the best medical care in the world. "
    Are you talking about the US? Because you must be being sarcastic or something.
    Perhaps you thought we were Denmark (best place to be a mother on the planet, according to reports, as well as that Oprah segment), or the top developed nations of the EU/ Europe where top countries give about 1 – 2 yrs of paid leave to have children and then you are also guaranteed your job for close to 5-10 years?
    In terms of actual doctors and science, I presume we are comparable to other developed countries, but in terms of healthcare and policies we are woefully so beyond being helped.
    (That is, neglecting our non-stop malpractice suits which has led to tons and tons of ob/gyns simply going back to gyn and no more ob.)

    That said- be good Stephanie, be strong, and Phil sounds wonderful. Nice counterpoint to the negative Phil- eps we've been recently reading.
    What an asswipe doctor! Please inform your regular ob about this twatwaffle.

  20. he he he, twatwaffle. I would've just called him a jerk. Some people come up with the funniest names, very creative. That's why I like Stephanie's writing. Like calling her babies guppies. How cute is that? When I was pregnant with my daughter, she was a Goober, like the chocolate covered peanuts, yum.

  21. I just wanted to let you know I finished reading your book this morning. I love it! I love what you and your father have been through, I love the cover, I love what you said to the other girl (in Chapter 12), my favorite part was the grave site.
    Can't wait to read your next book!

  22. I love that Phil tried "his best" to help you. What a stud. Glad your pregnancy is going well – those babies need to stay put for a few more weeks. No kid wants their birthday around Thanksgiving or Christmas. Bad idea, be sure Phil tells them tonight :)

  23. Whew. Glad you're ok!
    I've been reading and rooting for you, the Suitor, and the little ones. Best wishes.

  24. I've said it before and i'm saying it again, you're one brave lady! I'm so glad everything is okay. And that you have such a great man to experience all of this with. Those are lucky guppies causing their momma so much pain and stress!

  25. It must be strange and scary to experience all these things the first time around without a frame of reference. Better to be safe than sorry by calling the doctor. He knew what he was getting into when he chose the OB career path.

  26. I don't want to always bring negative info to you, but I had the same thing and I did ignore it for a day or so thinking it was Braxton Hicks, they would ease when I would rest, but one day I mentioned it to my nurse friend, I got checked and at 26 wks was dialated to a 3cm. Anyway, don't ignore it call your doctor, being an ob/gyn they should be used to getting calls, that one sounded like an asshole. Glad is was nothing though.

  27. Note to self: Avoid doctors with excessive number of vowels in their names. Tiiiiiina.

    BTW, Stephanie, like everyone else, I'm glad you and your passengers are OK. I vaguely recall thinking that my first few hours of labor were digestive discomfort of some sort or another.

  28. Stephanie, glad that things turned out ok. Don't be afraid to call the doctor. Don't let the one doctor's negative attitude dissuade you.

    On a sidenote, people – try to remember that doctors are in fact human and are entitled to have off (not so bright and cheery) moments. Yes, it's unfortunate that this doctor responded with "it's late" rather than the desired response. But until you've worked 12+ hour shifts and then had your pager go off a million times in the middle of the night you do not have a right to pass judgement on anyone. Sure they knew what they signed up for, but some doctors, ESPECIALLY OBGYNs, are on call multiple times a week. Everyone is bound to get frustrated from time to time. Cut them a little slack.

    It's true, not every doctor I have come across has been pleasant, but I'm not there to be their friend or relish in their 'charming' personality. I'm there because I've heard that they are the best in their specialty, and that has always been the most important factor to me. You can't always get it all.

    Stephanie – I'm sure whoever your doctor is that you will receive the best possible care. I can't imagine that you would settle for anything less. Best of luck to you, Phil and the little ones.

  29. Asswipe doctor? Twatwaffle? Whoa! The doctor on call was awoken from sleep maybe a little disoriented, human- it happens- then was very helpful by Stephanie's description. I never write in here, normally- I just check out the blog when I'm waiting for something else, like bloodwork here at the hospital where I work. Wrote in this a.m. just because I wanted to reassure Stephanie and whomever else (except maybe barbara!) that if you wake up a MD but then apologize (like you would for anyone else) then it's just fine. From someone who has been on that side- I mean that's what we're here for. You people seem to think that just the MD admitting that that he's getting his bearings-some call centers telephone MDs directly at home + wake you up- is being so horrible.
    Although I bet Stephanie doesn't think this way.

  30. Home monitoring systems made me more stressed with bed rest and oh yeah I followed those damn directions, beeped the bleeping service, was put on hold, finally told not to worry, trashed the manual as multiples thrashed and contracted. I, too, trusted my instincts. A real, live, human being, aka doctor, had me come in before office hours. And now there are 3 thriving teens. So what if they were premature? Whatever happened to customer service? Happy THANKSgiving, Stephanie!

  31. Stephanie,

    Phil sounds like such a fantastic guy. Because this is YOUR blog, your journal, your feelings etc., I feel like we don't hear about him in detail that often. It's good to know that you're in good hands with someone like him by your side. xo

  32. How scary for you (and us–when I saw the title of your post and started reading, my heart jumped)! I'm glad you made the call, and glad you got through the pain OK with Phil's help. What a champ–"Let's breathe together." Sorry the doctor left you questioning yourself.

    I had a similar experience with an on-call doctor recently. I was traveling in another state and had just started taking a new prescription. I rarely get headaches but had had a severe one for hours and finally weakened and called in the middle of the night. I thought I was having a stroke or something. The doctor who picked up the phone said "can't this wait till morning?" and I started to cry, worn down from the pain and ashamed that I'd made the call. Then I was pissed. I didn't do anything wrong; in fact, I'd followed instructions! "Can't this wait till morning?" Sure, I'll just get back into the fetal position with my head in my hands for eight more hours so you can rest up for the call. Thanks, doc. Of course I was sorry I woke him up, but he wasn't getting paid to sleep, he was getting paid to be a doctor.

  33. Hi Stephanie, Glad you're all okay. This post got me wondering: are you still throwing your Thanksgiving extravaganza? If so, PLEASE ask for help. I am NOT trying to scare you here, but even for a foodie who adores cooking, making that amount of food is a huge amount of work… And if you were to have the gups prematurely in the nexst couple of weeks, you would likely feel guilty and wonder what you had done wrong (even though it wouldn't be your fault). I know this because of a good friend who's had 2 preterm babies now. She lost her first one (and NO, I am not saying you will lose your babies if you make Thanksgiving dinner–keep reading–she delivered at 24 weeks anyway, so you're way past that–as you know, two weeks is a lot of time for a developing baby). Her second child she delivered at 28 weeks even after many weeks in the hospital on bedrest. And despite all that, she still wonders what she did wrong (nothing, and her baby is absolutely fine). I am just suggesting that you take it easy as much as possible because I want to save you the terrible guilt if you were to deliver early. I can sense Type A tendencies in you, and the likelihood of if you're going to "do" Thanksgiving you're going to do it up. There's no in between. Maybe this year, try to give up a little control (it's your excuse to boss Lea around) and perhaps make it potluck or conduct cooking procedures from a comfy chair? I know it's your first T-giving in Texas and away from everyone and you're having lots of new people you want to impress, but please, just consider what is truly important. Trust me, no one will miss the carved out mini pumpkins–they'll be too busy fondling your gourd of a belly! Best wishes for a RELAXING week.

  34. The doctor's response was unprofessional. You don't need to hear that it's late. You already know that. Plus, he's on-call for a reason. If he isn't aware that this is a woman's most stressful time of her life, then something is wrong. If I break a finger or toe, I can wait until tomorrow. Or I get a bad cut, but can stop the bleeding, you can stitch me tomorrow. My finger might be bent, or I might have a scar, but life goes on pretty well. If God forbid, something is wrong with the pregnancy, that doesn't wait until tomorrow.

    Plus, there is a reason why you get paid $300k pa. If you don't want to be inconvenienced once in a while, find another line of work.

  35. I am glad you are okay. What a great guy! Some doctors can be jerks go with your gut instinct if you feel you need to call, then call. You're not the first and you won't be the last. Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy. Happy Thanksgiving.

  36. Cassie–I never had a bad experience with home monitoring or the nurses, and in fact, just the opposite. Just knowing someone was there I could talk to every day, twice a day really helped and offered peace of mind, and helped answer those little issues–because every session ended with a phone call from them, discussing the results. (I was surprised to sometimes find I'd had contractions, when I hadn't felt a thing!) Every contraction helps push those babies out, and Stephanie doesn't want that. Most insurance companies gladly pay the cost (much cheaper than paying for two premeeies in NICU). Maybe home monitoring services have improved since you had your triplets many years ago.

    Of course there is no substitute for one-on-one OB visits, but even toward the end I was only getting that once a week. The home monitoring nurses provided a daily contact, so that you never lost the sense of being disconnected with medical support. As other readers have mentioned, they picked that feeling up in some of Stephanie's posts.

    As for the on-call doctor's response, I don't think he needs to be called "an asshole" for observing that it was late. He might have needed a second to wake up, like many of us do?

  37. Wow, scary stuff. It's got to be tough to experience these things for the first time.

    Oh, and I never knew the cervix started dilating so early…tell me I'm not the only mid-twenties woman who didn't know that!

  38. do you guys have friends who have been or who are pregnant to talk to? each time you write about a crisis or concern with your pregnancy i get the sense that you are very alone. that you either turn to phil for help or call your doctor. i worry that so much of your focus is inward, that you turn to your diary to vent concerns, but don't reach out to people who could actually help you.

    not that you should have done anything other than what you did in this case, but when you write "i don't know!" with such urgency, it seems a regular check-in with a friend, therapist, parent – anyone – would help calm your nerves.

  39. Scary. Glad to hear you're okay. Being pregnant is tough. Its a different experience for everyone. Try to remain calm and not let your imagination get the best of you. But I'll admit if I was you I would have been freaking out too. You're fortunate to have a good caring husband. Hang in there. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  40. Please listen and think about what Suzanne said. Those are wise words. I held onto my 2nd child until week 35 and then he was born. Every week counts to getting those babies developed and every week will help in not needing to deal with really heavy issues for the rest of your and their lives. Put your feet up and rest. No meal is worth the risk to those babies. Let someone else do the heavy stuff. Sit and cut vegetables, or better yet, go out for Thanksgiving this year. Next year you can have a beautiful feast just they way you want.

  41. wow, how scary. but how sweet of phil to do everything he could. sometimes I wonder how hard it must be for them to feel so helpless! glad you're doing alright. happy thanksgiving :)

  42. Hey Steph, glad you are doing okay…any thoughts on baby names yet? Also, you never posted your wedding pics…everyone is waiting to see you on your special day with the suitor…do things to keep your mind off the impending bambinos…you're going to do great and be an even better MOM!!! :) God Bless!

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