the smell of my desperation has become a stench

38 weeks

As of today there are only ten days left until my due date:

38 weeks

Yesterday morning I had a weekly appointment with my OBGYN where she checked to see if I was dilated. You know how that is done, right? Because I remember the first time my old doctor told me how he was going to “check me” when I was pregnant with Leta, and I was all YOU’RE GOING TO DO WHAT? And then he snapped on one of those latex gloves, held up his hand like he was flashing the peace sign, and then I had go home and tell Jon that I cheated on him with the knuckle on my doctor’s index finger.

It is not a pleasant experience, not at all, no way, not even. Someone basically has to reach up inside you and casually estimate the circumference to the opening of your cervix using the tips of their fingers. And in order to garner the most accurate measurement they have to sweep around the opening like they’re cleaning the mouth to a water bottle. When you’re laboring in a hospital room you learn really fast that the person walking around with their index and middle fingers in the air is coming straight for your lady parts, and sometimes that person is not the same person who measured you an hour ago, and next thing you know you’ve violated every single standard of the BYU Honor Code.

The doctor who delivered Leta retired just a few months after she was born, so I had to find someone new to deliver this baby, and this doctor must have much tinier hands because that is the only way to explain the maneuvers she has to pull in order to get her fingers far enough inside me to reach the cervix. And I am not even kidding, at one point I thought her forefinger was going to poke out of my nose.

Jon was standing by my side during this procedure so that I could squeeze his hand when the pain became unbearable, and afterward as he taped up his broken fingers he asked if it had really been as bad as the expression on my face seemed to indicate. And I was all, Jon, that woman just reached through my vagina and scratched the underside of my brain. Whatever the expression was on my face, it WAS AN UNDERSTATEMENT.

The last three times she checked me I’d shown no progress whatsoever. My cervix hadn’t dilated or softened, and I’d go home thinking I was going to be pregnant for another two months, and they do not make a powdered doughnut big enough to medicate that kind of misery. But yesterday when she pulled back her arm her face brightened with the news that I’ve dilated to two and half centimeters and am 50% effaced, a good indication that my body is getting ready. According to all the pregnancy shows I’ve been watching, though, this means absolutely nothing, and I could either go into labor tonight or waddle around for 13 days past my due date and then accidentally give birth in a toilet.

  • Milla

    2009/06/04 at 9:10 pm

    this site is becoming exceedingly good birth control. shivers.

  • Gretchen

    2009/06/04 at 9:10 pm

    The toilet would make a better post. Hope you get there soon, tho!

    And, yeah, when are they gonna find a less barbaric way to measure a cervix? What did they do before? Grunt and throw rocks at it?

  • Allie

    2009/06/04 at 9:11 pm

    You’re enormous! And still wonderfully lovely.

    I’d send you some love in the form of sugar free chocolate mousse (I’m diabetic) from Massachusetts, but I don’t think it would make it.

    Godspeed, Heather.

  • Janet

    2009/06/04 at 9:11 pm

    But check out those huge boobs. Not that *I* care about such things. Just saying: should be some consolation for all this other trouble you are having to go through.

    Best wishes, Heather!

  • sleepypasture

    2009/06/04 at 9:11 pm

    I agree with Milla. Yikes.

  • hms

    2009/06/04 at 9:11 pm


    Now, if it were me, I’d send my husband to the store for hospital snacks.

    Good luck!

  • the mighty jimbo

    2009/06/04 at 9:13 pm

    thank god for a penis.

  • Jennifer

    2009/06/04 at 9:14 pm

    The cervix checks didn’t bother me that much, but the stripping of the membranes in an attempt to bring on labor… dear God. I would rather continue to gestate for another 40 weeks than face that sort of torture again. And the OB who violated me was a woman. I find they are the worst.

  • Coryf

    2009/06/04 at 9:14 pm

    You look great! Best wishes!

  • Kerily

    2009/06/04 at 9:15 pm

    My favorite is that the OB actually warns you. Mine says with a knowing look ‘next appointment, I think that I am going to have to check you’. The ironic thing is that I had no idea what this meant but the mere mention of the ‘check’ sent me into labor for both my kids. I finally figured out that he must have been referring to that horrible experience that the poor labor nurses do to you all the time when you are in labor ‘just need to check you honey’….

  • Erica

    2009/06/04 at 9:15 pm

    wow, time sure does fly. You look gorgeous by the way. A toilet birth would definitely be a funny story.

  • Kelly

    2009/06/04 at 9:19 pm

    Can’t wait to read the birthing story! Or at least the birthing tweets…

  • Shnerfle

    2009/06/04 at 9:19 pm

    I’m convinced that these OB/GYNs are simply witch doctors with better costumes. They measure and torture and spout centimeters and percentages and none of it means anything. Which is frustrating for people who aren’t 4,ooo weeks pregnant. If I were you, I would start the epidural now.

    There no words of comfort for you now that could be anything but annoying, but you’ll manage, and you’ll bring home little Butterscotch Popcorn Pants and Leta will be a big sister and all will be well in the universe. Especially now that the nursery is finished.

    Good luck and have a doughnut for me!

  • Dana

    2009/06/04 at 9:20 pm

    Enormous? My god. No way. You look tiny. And perfect.

    I was overdue with all of mine and never, EVER dilated or softened before the due date (or even within a week after for that matter). So I’m taking this as a good sign for you and hoping #2 comes early.

    Best of luck. Be safe. Find joy in the moments.

  • Jen

    2009/06/04 at 9:20 pm

    Hang in there, girl! My doctors FORCED ME to go 36 weeks with my twins, and with one’s elbows in my bladder and the other’s feet coming out of my eye sockets it was pretty miserable. Think of THAT kind of misery and feel good! You’re almost there!!!!

  • megeram

    2009/06/04 at 9:22 pm

    Despite all the horrible things you’ve said about pregnancy over the past few years, after seeing the Fenstad sheep mobile in the nursery I’m clearly going to have to have children in order to justify having one.

    You look wonderful! Congratulations!

  • Lucy

    2009/06/04 at 9:22 pm

    Yeah, but you make 38 weeks look good.

    That’s no mean feat.

  • Sarah

    2009/06/04 at 9:22 pm

    You look beautiful.

  • Anonymous

    2009/06/04 at 9:23 pm

    Dear Heather,

    Are you sure your doc did not “strip your membranes” or do “membrane sweeping”? When you describe the pain and like cleaning out a water bottle, that sounds like membrane stripping, not a plain jane cervical check. I took a Bradley Method class last year before giving birth, and one young woman said that her friend described membrane sweeping done w/o consent or notification as feeling like “a rape”. It is meant to induce labor, but can be dangerous, especially in Group Strep B positive mothers (one quarter of all pregnant women), which I was. I asked my doctor if he routinely does it, and he said “yes”. I refused to even allow a cervical check, let along THAT, and did not have my first cervical check until I was almost 100 percent effaced and almost 6 cm in Triage. Just be aware of what they are doing to you, and you have a right to say “no”. I allowed two cervical checks: 1) In Triage 2) The resident because they had to do it before an epidural.

    Here – google this: “what is membrane stripping”

    Best of luck!! It’s your body. You are in control. I refused to allow a male intern to watch his first ever natural childbirth.

  • Mary Jane

    2009/06/04 at 9:24 pm

    I work as a labor and delivery nurse, and i just want to apologize to every female who has had a baby about those nasty cervical exams!!

    Heather you’re fab! good luck and ill cross my fingers that you don’t continue to waddle around pregnant for the next 23 days! i’d give some tips to induce labor, but you’ve probably heard them all and honestly, most of them don’t actually work!

    good luck convincing your uterus to expel a human being out of your vagina!!


  • Lisa Rae

    2009/06/04 at 9:24 pm

    You are a gorgeous mama size but where do you get off having that teensy bottom? At 38 weeks I looked pregnant coming and going.
    Keep up the good work. You make nice people.

  • Sarah

    2009/06/04 at 9:26 pm

    PS. I agree that the checks were horrid. I planned to have a drug-free birth until reality hit me in the face… If I could not handle the pain of the nurses checking me, how was I ever going to handle labor and birth without an ep!?

  • Kate

    2009/06/04 at 9:26 pm

    Heather; you look gorgeous. Truly.

    I just finished reading your new book, It Sucked and then I Cried; in record time (less than a day…..). Loved it, Heather. Wonderful book (from the heart). Thank you for writing this important book about postpartum depression and about all the “lighter” topics, like Chuck “barking in Russian”. I laughed so hard I wanted to pee.

    Best of luck in these final days I’ll be thinking of you.

    You are amazing. Best to you,


  • Zoraya

    2009/06/04 at 9:27 pm

    I think you look absolutely beautiful! I am just 6 weeks pregnant with my first child, at age 36 and after 13 years of marriage, and I am completely terrified and also very very happy. I have been learning a lot from your posts but your comments about this checking procedure are scary. The skin in your belly looks beautiful, Did you use something to take care of it?

  • Rebecca

    2009/06/04 at 9:28 pm

    Do you know about nurse-midwives? We are skilled, evidence-based practitioners who don’t do all the checking, because, as you conclude yourself, it MAKES NO DIFFERENCE and is extremely painful. One of these days, you’ll go into labor, checks or not. Just let it happen, and tell them to keep their hands to themselves.

    Congrats on what’s sure to be a lovely baby. You look great, and I really enjoy your blog.

  • Sara

    2009/06/04 at 9:29 pm

    You look great, even without the red lipstick, ciggy, and Donettes.

  • Laurie

    2009/06/04 at 9:30 pm

    I was 4 centimeters for the LONGEST week of my life! While only in my 39th week, in my mind I was late, as the first baby was 10 days early. A well-timed trip to an acupuncturist, some homeopathic remedies and, yes, a tablespoon of caster oil brought it all on. . .very quickly. I hope you’re ready for the possibility of a quick birth. I was in the hospital for all of 17 minutes before baby #2 arrived and I have heard MANY, MANY similar stories.

    Good luck and you look fabulous!

  • Katie

    2009/06/04 at 9:31 pm

    Almost there! You look great, and I’m sorry they harassed your cooter =) In the delivery room I remember saying, “THAT IS IT! You’ll can just ask each other what it felt like, because it’s time to leave my cooter alone!”
    Why do the ALL need to check it?

  • Jacquie

    2009/06/04 at 9:32 pm

    Exciting! I’ll never forget those days leading up to the birth of my second child. I couldn’t look at my firstborn without weeping for how his world was about to be shattered! It didn’t take long for him to realize that the baby was pretty cool to have around, first she was his punching bag but now they’re very good buds.

    I never dilated or effaced or dropped of did anything to indicate that any baby was ever going to voluntarily exit my womb, right up until my due date…when my water broke. Good luck!

  • Mariselle

    2009/06/04 at 9:32 pm

    I am 6′ feet tall and my OBGYN was uhm, I don’t know 5’5 if that. When it was time to do the ole’ check for dilation with my firstborn, I thought I had died at the table from the pain. I feel for you, Heather. Tall is beautiful but when it’s time to check how many centimeters you have dilated, it hurts like a mo fo.

  • Carrie

    2009/06/04 at 9:32 pm

    You know, since it is so uncomfortable you could just ask them not to check you any more. As you point out, it doesn’t really indicate much of anything.

  • chrisubus

    2009/06/04 at 9:34 pm

    You look fantastic! Effaced is good — it’s better than not effaced, for sure.

    And that whole “checking” thing? Seriously, I mean, at least buy me dinner, right? Hoping everything is easy for you!

  • Corinne

    2009/06/04 at 9:36 pm

    You’re going to have your baby next Saturday. Leta was born on my birthday and when I realized the rough area your due date is on I figured the next little Armstrong would be born on my wedding day. So if you have the baby on the 13th, I won’t know, but congratulations in advance.

  • Amy

    2009/06/04 at 9:37 pm

    Heather you look great! I was way bigger than you look when I delivered at 32 weeks, granted I’m also wicked short. With my last pregnancy I was dialated to 2 cm for about 3.5 weeks before I was induced b/c baby was over 9 lbs. Did I mention I am short? He broke me. LITERALLY. I pray your labor is quick and as painless as possible and that you get to squeeze that adorable lil baby girl real soon!

  • Anonymous

    2009/06/04 at 9:38 pm

    oh they have to come up with another way of doing it. my doctor had huge hands and was a woman and not at all sensitive to the fact that it would hurt when she shoved her hand in there. oh my god it is so unpleasant. hopefully u won’t have to go through it too many times (the way i did) 🙁

  • Sara

    2009/06/04 at 9:38 pm

    It could probably be considered one of my greatest gifts to humanity that I din’t blog my pregnancies…..It just wasn’t pretty. My favorite thing about membrane stripping is the conversations you have to endure while there is a hand in ones lady’s parts. By the way you look radiant-almost as radiant as you did last week!

  • dooce

    2009/06/04 at 9:39 pm

    #19, I know what having my membranes stripped feels like, and no, she did not strip my membranes. I am very aware of what is being done to me.

  • Katya

    2009/06/04 at 9:41 pm

    Woah woah woah,

    you look great in the photo by the way.

    But I don’t know how to put this any other way, but woah.

    good luck with all you have to go through, you know.

    I’ll stand over here behind Jon and support you with all the internet love I can get.

  • Katya

    2009/06/04 at 9:41 pm

    and rock on, as you always do.

  • Heather

    2009/06/04 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you, as always, for bringing a smile to my face. I think giving birth naturally is so much easier than those shity exams. It would be great if they trained our partners to do them…kind of like foreplay a bit!

    Like you, I was dialated and thinning out many days before my due date, and then went the allowed 14 days past with my first daughter! With a little help from Cervidil she was evicted…I like to think I am just such a super hostess that she didn’t want to leave my party. But like that drunken party-goer that pukes all over your lawn and dry humps your car, you just can’t wait for them to get the fuck out!

    Best of luck and a speedy delivery with a nurse who has slender, long and delicate fingers who is so gentle, you don’t even notice them – kind of like a bad boyfriend!

  • fat mum slim

    2009/06/04 at 9:43 pm

    The old stretch and sweep. I want an epidural next time just to get through that appointment. Ouchy. xx

  • Rachael

    2009/06/04 at 9:44 pm

    I hated those checks. Since I was severely high risk I got them at every visit which was once a week from 24 weeks on. My daughter was still breech at 38 weeks (she had been breech for a couple of months) so I ended up with a c-section. It saved me from the constant rummaging of every person in the L&D department. You look great! I know the last couple of weeks are miserable but you’ll soon forget about all of it when Not Maria shows her beautiful little face. Good Luck!!!

  • Keep On S'myelin

    2009/06/04 at 9:46 pm

    Sending some dust that you don’t go 13 days over.

    Good Luck!

  • NoBaby-Yet

    2009/06/04 at 9:46 pm

    You are hands-down one of the most put-together and good looking pregnant woman I’ve seen.. I just had to thank you for being popular enough to acquire the realm of “haters” that you have- I just read through all 400+ comments on the bathroom remodel and killed time while the hubs watched some “apparently important” basketball game.

    Also, I’ve been meaning to comment on all the people who get on your case for calling yourself “fat” and talking about feeling so unlike yourself being pregnant and gaining weight. I totally feel you- putting on ANY number of pounds just makes you FEEL DIFFERENT… while it may not be everyone’s definition of “fat” it’s “fat” for YOU! I feel ya.

    Captcha: Pressures Noted

  • Cindy

    2009/06/04 at 9:46 pm

    I’m so glad I had my elective c section. I scheduled the surgery, have the tiniest scar, never had cooter checks and got great drugs and had a gorgeous round headed baby. I know people are all against them but trust me don’t knock it till you try it. Trust me if men had babies that’s how all babies would come out. Plus I can hold my pee when I sneeze. Just do it and tell us it was an emergency c section :).

  • Jaimey

    2009/06/04 at 9:49 pm

    When I had my first son I got the lovely realization that I get to have whoever is on shift when I *go into labor* plan as I might to have my baby on my midwifes shift (induced the day before) it was still 77 hours and well past her shift before he came (via C section) In those long agonizing hours I had many many checks, one of which ruined me for all time! I had the tiniest doctor known to mankind and she had the smallest hands with the shortest fingers, Coupled with my very high cervix, I was climbing the bed screaming from a mere CHECK! It was horrible. Every other doctor that came near my room got the finger check and if her fingers were not long and narrow she was turned away in search of another. I joke not, we sent them away! I feel your pain, and raise you a scream!

    Good luck in delivery, its finally rounding the corner! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    2009/06/04 at 9:49 pm

    You do look wonderful, Heather! I’m with those, though, who suggest you opt out of having a vaginal check done when it a)provides NO useful information whatsoever and b)not only is uncomfortable but carries risks of infection etc. Just because it’s something OBGYNs typically do, does not mean it is OK or is an evidence-based good practice, or anything.

  • Nicole

    2009/06/04 at 9:50 pm

    I cannot believe how tiny you are. It’s stunning, and must mean the difference between a long-limbed beauty like you carrying a delicate little girl, and my lumpy figure grappling to contain a 9.5 lb. boy who was born with a set of P90X DVD’s and a pair of boxing gloves strapped to his thigh.

    We’re all rooting for you. And I’m personally, strangely envious of everything, even the really tough parts of the first month that are coming at you like a speeding locomotive. You can do this. No problem.

  • Anonymous

    2009/06/04 at 9:51 pm

    I am SO jealous. Today is my due date and, apparently, my fetus forgot her calendar, because not only am I still remarkably pregnant, I’m not even dilated 1 cm. That’s right. My violation yesterday resulted in me learning that my cervix is closed so tightly that they can’t even do a check.


    You look great, by the way. Hope you have one of those ridiculously easy deliveries that makes us all say, “Oh, good for you!” while secretly hating you.

  • momtrolfreak

    2009/06/04 at 9:52 pm

    I had totally BLOCKED THIS OUT until you mentioned it. I remember a nurse doing it at the hospital when my water had broken and I literally started climbing backwards off the top of the table. She got annoyed with me but I could not sit still and take it. I AM NOT A SOCK PUPPET.

    p.s. you look GREAT. I was a PLANET by this point; I had my own gravitational pull.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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