I knew all the textbook answers to the signs of labor, but wasn't prepared for such "outside of normal" labor presentation with DS.
DS was born 11 days after my EDD. I'd been taking LOTS of Braxton-Hicks daily since 26 weeks. For the last week, I'd have 4-6 hours of regular very strong BH every 6 minutes. Some were so strong I'd be bent over, gasping for breath. Still, they just felt like BH, and I didn't think I was really in labor. It felt like my body was organizing and practicing.
The day I did go into labor, I had BH every 6 minutes for 9 hours. DH and I DTD, then went to sleep. Fifteen minutes later massively crampy contractions kicked in every 2 minutes lasting 1 minute. OK, now I'm in labor! I had to use all my Bradley training to maintain relaxation and control over the pain. There was no gradual build-up of intensity or frequency. It stayed this way for over 24 hours while I labored at home. (Labor was cut short when DS went into distress - had 2 knots in cord and ended in C-section.) I wonder how long my labor would have been if it hadn't been surgically interrupted!
So, I've considered BH as a practice run, so to speak. Organizing with regular contractions just made me think my body was trying out, getting ready. When the actual contractions started they were completely different - lower, crampy, responding to my tension/relaxation somewhat. Even so, although these contractions were real, I still sensed that I had a long way to go.