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For me, it was when I noticed contractions that made me stop in my tracks every few minutes...I couldn't do anything during them...I couldn't talk, I couldn't think, I couldn't move. And then I knew. I simply told my husband, "let's go". He knew I meant business and we high-tailed it out of there. It got worse on the ride. I couldn't tolerate him talking. All I was able to manage to say was "shut up and just drive fast". You get into a zone... I don't know how to explain it really...but you just know. That being said.... I went FAST. 45 min after I got to the hospital baby was born.
My first was a medically necessary induction due to pre-e, so I can't count that.
I waited until my contractions were around 2-3 minutes apart, but the hospital is only 2 miles away. They didn't check me for almost an hour, and by that time I was 9 cm dilated. It was still 7 more hours before Juliana was born.