Well, since I have an irritable uterus it was hard to determine which contractions I could call "early labor" and which ones were just my uterus doing it's best to make me mad.
But with dd1 I started getting early labor contractions on sat at around 10am... dd was born wed morning at 5am. The only time they stopped was when I went to the hospital on mon pm and recieved a shot of morphine. But as soon as the morphine left my system the contractions started up again. By tues at 8pm I was only 3 cm dilated, and exhausted. So they broke my water, and I couldn't handle the pain with how exhausted I was and so I recieved an epidural.
dd2 I started getting regular contractions at 28 weeks whenever I was doing anything but sitting or laying down (I know now that this was irritable uterus). I think it changed from just being an irritable uterus (with no dilating happening) to prodromal labor around 34 weeks. As it would take a lot more time to get the contractions to stop and I often resorted to a hot bath and 1/2 cup of wine before they would stop. Finally at 37 weeks I had enough and walked many many flights of stairs... that put me into active labor. But still then I was in "early labor" from 11am to 11pm before going into active labor at 4 cm.
This time, I had irritable uterus from about 12 weeks on. But I did get it under control after learning at 26 weeks that it was probably caused by a low low grade bladder infection. Prodromal labour started at 35 weeks, at first they were light enough that I could sleep through them, but on the wed before ds was born, they were strong and would keep me up at night, just to stop when my girls woke up. On mon am, they stepped it up another notch and I was positive that I was in early labor and about to go into active labour. Alas I went from 9:30 am to 11:30 pm before finally reaching 4 cm and going into active labour. The good part was that active labour was fast though! I was in transition at 7 cm and 3 pushes later he was out. (I started to push at 9 cm, the dr wasn't there yet, and the nurses told me if I felt the urge to push then I should just push) But I was fully dilated by the next contraction.
It is really hard to deal with long early labours. I think the one thing that scares me about having any more children is having to deal with the emotional and physical toll that being in early labour for days takes on me. Right now I wouldn't have a 4th child just because of that.
I'm thinking of you and sending you