Early in pregnancy, I’d read about Braxton-Hicks contractions, real contractions, false labor, and all that kind of thing. Some women reported pain, some reported cramping, and others seemed not to have any contraction-y type feelings at all until actual labor. Reading about them didn’t help — I had no idea how to imagine how they felt.

Well, for the past week or so, I’ve been getting some really “interesting” and effortful feelings in and around my belly.

A week ago, I woke up and my entire belly was HARD. No pain, but it was nearly impossible to maneuver myself in that state, as my abdominal muscles seemed totally inaccessible and not under voluntary control. And because I was on my back, it had me feeling a lot like an upturned turtle, except with the shell on the belly. It lasted probably 10 (long) minutes and finally softened on its own accord.

(It occurs to me while I’m writing about sudden uncontrollable hardness that many men would probably sympathize.)

Thursday night, standing around at Noisebridge after Five Minutes of Fame and talking with people for like 3 hours (you know, like you do, because you can’t escape the scene even by looking uncomfortable, because everybody there is a nerd and ALWAYS looks uncomfortable), I got a hardness just in my lower abdomen that developed over the course of 15 minutes into some obnoxious and gut-wrenching cramps. I had to sit down and breathe deep for 5 minutes before they’d pass.

And finally, today, I’ve had full-belly hardness accompanied by occasional shooting pains down through my cervix. The top of my belly got so hard and uncomfortable that when I lay down for a nap this afternoon, I had to keep myself elongated just to keep from choking on my fundum.

Naturally, I’m curious about the meaning of these three different experiences. So I ask the interweb [a word just yesterday ratified into the OED], and I find my way through myriad horrible discussion forums full of paranoia and ignorance to this oasis of wisdom on A woman asks,

Q. I am eight months pregnant and sometimes my stomach feels as hard as a rock. There are other times when I can feel the different parts of the baby, but then it feels as if the fluid and the baby are one solid rock. Is this normal?
-Jennifer, Pennsylvania

A. Yep The rock-hard times are probably when you are experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions. Sometimes you may feel cramping or pain with these contractions and sometimes you won’t. They can last anywhere from a few seconds to a several minutes.

When you experience real contractions, your uterus will be rock-hard all over, unlike Braxton Hicks, where the fundus remains soft. To check to see if your fundus is hard, press down on the top of your uterus, just below the top of your rib cage.


But wait, wait. I’m getting full-on fundus hardness, no mistake about it. So… am I having REAL contractions or what?

Not that I’m worried. They’ve only happened as singletons. But I don’t feel as though the whole Braxton-Hicks-versus-”real”-contractions issue has been elucidated.

(For the record, I’m at 35 weeks of pregnancy as of yesterday. Tangentially, STILL at 145 pounds!)

Update: the morning after I wrote this (Saturday), I woke up to a rather crampy contraction all over my abdomen, which subsided as I fell back asleep. Then yet another such contraction happened the next hour. I was exhausted, or the contraction was exhausting me, so I went back to sleep again. There was a third contraction in there somewhere whose quality was rather different, occurring mostly in the lower abdomen and accompanied by a shooting pain in the cervix.

When I finally got up around 2pm, Josh suggested, “stop drinking that damn chai,” in his delightfully gruff way. Checking, I saw that the first ingredient of my beloved Divine Chai mix is ginger. And I’ve been drinking a LOT of chai… like 3 cups of mix per day.

So, I gave that up (went back on the tonic and lime drinks, just in time for the weather to get nice and hot too). I haven’t gotten any contractions like that since then, but it’s only been a few days.

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