What to Expect: Weeks 38 and 39

You would think at this point the baby isn’t really doing much in there besides getting fatter and practicing her high kicks. I mean, how much more developed can she get after 37 weeks of growing and becoming an entire human being? But there are still important things going on, including the production of surfactant, which coats her lungs and will keep her lung sacs from sticking together when she first starts to breathe. Sounds pretty crucial, don’t you think?

Also, she’s shedding the lanugo (downy hair) and more importantly to Aaron and I, the vernix. Don’t remember what vernix is? It’s the gross, white, cottage cheese/wax stuff that the baby has been covered in for awhile to protect her skin from getting all wrinkly and water-logged. Babies that are born early are still covered in it, which we did not realize until watching the horrifying birth video, in which a scary, ghostlike orb began to protrude from the mother’s nether-regions like we were watching some science fiction movie, and Aaron and I began to FREAK OUT!!! I distinctly remember leaning over to him and whispering, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT BABY??????” After seeing the birth of cottage-cheese alien ghost baby, I ordered Aaron to make sure that if our wee one comes out covered in that stuff, they are to clean her off before handing her to me. I really don’t need that to be my first mental image of my poor child.

**CAUTION – beyond this point, this post uses the words cervix, dilation, membranes and other potentially gross and/or frightening phrases related to my lady parts. If this qualifies as “TMI” for you, then stop reading here. Seriously, I’m not responsible for your queasy stomach.**

I had my first internal exam last week, and it wound up being a doozy! I was a little traumatized by the whole thing, as some of you reading this have already heard. Here’s what happened: I knew according to the lovely little handbook my OB’s office gave me at my first visit that I would be getting internal exams from this point forward to check for dilation (how open my cervix is) and effacement (how thinned out it is.) These are indicators of progress toward labor and basically let the doctors know that everything is proceeding as it should toward the baby exiting the womb. However, I was surprised when it didn’t look like the midwife I was seeing that day was going to do the exam and started to have me leave after only measuring the uterus externally and listening to the heartbeat of the baby. When I asked about the internal exam, she said she’d be happy to do one “if I wanted her to.” Well, it said in their book that they should do one, plus I’ve been paying them $25 a visit for the past 10 months just to have them spend 5 mintues with me on a more and more frequent basis and this time I wanted my money’s worth! So I said yes, please, I would like you to perform an internal exam.

I don’t know if she took that as a challenge or what, but HOLY CRAP, did she give me an internal exam! She was pushing down really hard on the baby’s bottom (which is up near my ribs) and then pushing up really hard into you-know-where. Seriously, it took my breath away. She told me that I was 1cm dilated, and then I asked her, “Is this what it will feel like in the hospital when you guys check me? Because this SUCKS!” Her answer was when things started to go really wrong……

“Well, this is basically what it feels like, but I went ahead and stripped your membranes which will hopefully get labor started.”

Excuse me? Labor? I’m 3 days away from being 38 weeks and you’re talking about LABOR??? I practically squealed at her, “I DON’T WANT TO HAVE HER EARLY!!!!” at which point she said that really all it would do is make me have more “productive” contractions.

Basically this is the point where the freak out began, first with an inability to speak, then with a few frantic phone calls describing my violation to my husband and my sister (and my dad, who should have warned me about the internal exams since his wife had JUST gone through them!), deteriorating into Google searches of “stripped membranes” to find out how fast I would go into labor now that this insane woman had stripped my membranes over two weeks before my baby was due, and reading horror stories about how she may have broken my water accidentally and my amniotic fluid was going to leak out and cause my baby to be stillborn. (Okay, that was just one person, and several doctors had responded to her post saying one was not related to the other, but in the moment, I was TRIPPING!)

Here’s the thing: it wasn’t that stripping the membranes is a huge deal when it comes down to it. It will only help you go into labor if your body is ready. The problems are that #1: she didn’t ask me if I wanted it performed before she did it. (And I assure you, my answer would have been NO!) #2: She didn’t explain the procedure at all, even after she had done it #3: I didn’t know about any of the side effects until afterwards (Aside from me completely losing my mind in unsubstantiated fear, another lovely side effect of the membrane stripping was spotting, so I had that to enjoy for 3 days. Seriously, lady? YOU SUCK!)

Bottom line, this incident totally destroyed my trust in this woman and I would like her to stay as far, far away from my vaginal area as possible, and considering she could potentially deliver my baby, that’s kind of a problem.

Of course, this week I had another visit scheduled, with another internal exam imminent. I went in with a plan to discuss last week’s horror show with Kim, the midwife I was seeing that day. After explaining the situation, she was totally on my side – I should have been asked if I wanted the procedure performed AND I really shouldn’t have been offered the procedure in the first place at this stage of my pregnancy. She made me feel a lot better about the situation, assured me that the midwife I had the problem with is very knowledgeable and competent despite her rather gruff bedside manner, and gave me an internal exam that was only slightly uncomfortable (which was pretty impressive considering I was still having flashbacks about the one from the week before.)

The only problem at this point is that as there are only 3 midwives currently on rotation, so there is still a 1 in 3 chance that Little Miss Stripped Membranes could deliver the baby. It’s just the luck of the draw and I’ll get whoever is on call that day. And next week, it won’t be Kim because her daughter is having surgery and she’s taking the week off, so that raises my chances to 50/50 that I’ll get the lady I don’t like. So right now I’m focusing all my energy on hoping beyond hope that I get one of the two ladies that I like and if not, formulating creative ways to keep the membrane stripper out of the room as much as possible. I’m thinking a lot of crank calls to the nurses’ desk may be in order, so have your phones on standby, people!

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