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Friday, June 25, 2010

3 cm dilated and 80% effaced...

After a pretty long wait in the doctor's office we heard some good news and got to see our midwife!
She appeared with a very kind 3rd year medical student who observed and assisted in our examination today. The student completed a simple measurement with a hand-held measuring tape and a quick sonogram- to which the baby decided to give the med student a little kick. The student responds like a giddy girl on the playground, commenting to us all, "did you see that? she 'kicked' me!" (I let the "she" part slide in her excitement)

Then, our kickass midwife, gave me an examination.
To be completely blunt: Up goes the hand.

After undressing from the waist down and a friendly little white sheet is placed over my lower body, the midwife asks if I mind if the student watches. With my legs spread eagle for everyone in the room to see, I say that I can't be shy now. Then, in a scissor-like fashion, she's up and feeling around in there.
While she's exploring me like a caver, I think I might have even heard a slight echo in her voice as she comments that my cervix is "far up there."  And then, her hand goes in even farther. Now, while I didn't watch, it felt like she was up to her elbow. And until this moment, other than hearing about some pretty gross pornographic films where these things occurred to women who've been poked, prodded, and stretched numerous times, I have never realized that an entire hand could fit in me...let alone to have it disappear into what feels like my stomach. Then, just as though it couldn't be any weirder, there's a horrible pinch and her hand slips back out. She says, "You're 3 centimeters dilated, 80% effaced, and at Zero Station. This baby may come out before Monday!"

So here's some anatomy:

The cervix, which from the front looks like a pigs snout with only one nostril (check out the picture above) is thick and long and includes a "plug" to keep the cervix closed. During the "first stage of labor," (there may or may not be contractions at this time) the cervix begins to shorten and thin out. The medical world measures it by percentages and the higher the number, the closer the cervix is to becoming a part of the uterine wall and the baby is to being in place for moving down the birth canal. At the end of the cervix is the "mucus plug" which seals the cervix from any outside aggravations or grossness inside the vagina. In my humble opinion, the "mucus plug" is one of the grossest terms to ever have to refer to in any setting...ever. 

Anyway, as the cervix thins and shortens (called effacement, or effacing- an in: the baby is starting to show his face to the birth canal), the mucus plug is released out comes a "small" amount of blood, which is usually pinkish. Sometimes they call this escaping blood, "bloody show," cause it shows you that you should pack your bag if you haven't done do already. Like me... I've been packing like a madwoman ever since it began.

Image source from: 
So, maybe around the same time, usually after effacement, the cervix begins to dilate. So once it shortens and thins out and the plug is released, the baby's head has to fit through so it can come down the birth canal. Since I am at 3 cm, I still haven't entered into "active labor," which is when the contractions usually start. You don't start pushing the baby out until you've hit 10 cm, so I've got a while to go. But as the baby wiggles into a comfortable place and exits the cervix, that's where the term "station(s)" comes from.

Stations refer to how high/low the baby's head is in the pelvis (if (s)he is coming out in the ordinary position, otherwise this will refer to the baby's feet). At "Zero Station" the baby is ready to come out. Anything with a negative number is higher or more inside the pelvis, anything with a plus means the baby is on his/her way out.

So while he's definitely on his way, it was all shocking news to us considering we are "due" until July 1st. But before we go all crazy, this is only the beginning of labor and I'm still bumming around at home waiting for it to continue to progress and for contractions to start.

I'll keep everyone posted!