I have been quiet here lately, mostly because I spent the week after Thanksgiving in a mad nesting craze, finishing up projects at work and at home. I washed our sheets, “one last time,” you know, cooked up a storm of nursing snacks, packed my favorite sweatpants and nicest socks in the hospital bag, and set up the bassinet right beside our bed. I started labor two days after Janio’s due date and thought I might go a tad early with this one.
There was no need to rush, though: I are now 8 days past due. I’ve washed our sheets again. I’ve eaten most of my tasty nursing snacks and twice drank up my “laborade.” I really miss my sweatpants. The bassinet has sort’ve become a storage spot for my phone and pregnancy books. I know that a due date is not an expiration date. But as a very pregnant, rather hormonal woman, I would like to declare that yes, it is VALID to be disappointed that your date has passed and that the next two weeks might be very difficult. I know all my crunchy birth gurus (whom I love so much, yes you, Ina May Gaskin) want to say “birth month,” and “guess date,” and reassure us that going 41 or 42 weeks is completely normal and healthy. I see their point, and understand their fight to take the pressure off of women. But the reality is that most women aren’t in an ideal situation for simply waiting for baby, trusting, and peaceful. They have jobs wanting to know about the maternity leave, relatives buying expensive tickets to fly in and help or meet baby, husbands who can’t get off work easily, friends on standby for childcare, and doctors pressuring for inductions. As much as they are trying to remain peaceful, there are real dates and details swirling around that have to be taken care of.
So I just want to say to you, past-due pregnant mama, that yes, this is hard. Knowing that it is natural might not really make you feel better, and knowing that only 5% of women actually deliver on their due dates probably doesn’t help. The fact is, you landed in the statistical side you were hoping you wouldn’t be on. It means (perhaps many) more days of anxiously watching for signs, more days of having your kind friend cancel her plans in case tonight is the night, more days of “has the baby come yet?” questions, and more days of watching your pregnant friend’s baby arrive a whole week early.
In my case, I actually feel pretty good for being over 41 weeks now. I’m cumbersome, and waddling, and only make it to about 7pm every night, but I can’t complain too much. The real kicker for me has been that I am on a programmed maternity leave that started right after my due date. The days slipping by mean leaving a younger and younger baby when I go back to work. My husband had to take a week off in December, and picked the week right after I was due in hopes that he’d have lots of time with his new daughter. We officially missed that, which leaves a complicated setup for getting him off work when she does come. My mom has missed Christmas parties and a relative’s out-of-town funeral because I am still sitting here pregnant. I do want to be patient, and let her come when she comes… and I am also so, so disappointed we all missed out on a lovely peaceful week together. I think that’s okay, to feel that disappointment. I do have a few thoughts on being overdue, and want to write them down before I have baby girl in my arms and forget all about this agonizing “due month”!
1. It’s okay to spend 7 hours a day Googling stuff.
I mean, I know you shouldn’t. But seriously? It’s ok, my dear. You can think of nothing else. You really should balance it with The Birth Book by Dr. Sears or Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, but the reality is that once you hit the end of pregnancy the urge to Google symptoms and situations will overtake you. So long as you take what you find on forums with a grain of salt, don’t beat yourself up for the hours you lost to the internet. (You will, undoubtedly, spend a good portion of this time looking up ways to induce labor at home: see #3 for that one.)
2. Anxiety is normal.
I don’t mean that anxiety is a desirable state of mind. I just mean that sitting on pins and needles for weeks on end (and more weeks that you anticipated), about to face one of the biggest mental, emotional, and physical challenges of your life, without knowing at all when it will begin, is bound to produce some serious anxiety. It’s easy to hear the encouragements that baby will come soon–don’t worry!– as chastisement in your current fragile state of mind. Right now, I am just all sympathy for you. Don’t make yourself more anxious over how you shouldn’t be anxious (because what is happening is normal and natural… I know, I know), and how your anxiety might be preventing baby from coming. Do what you need to relax, but don’t feel bad that you are not achieving a perfectly balanced and peaceful perspective at the moment. If a good cry is what you need, cry away and get it out!
3. Use your baby inducing attempts wisely.
I was a bit frantic when I realized baby wasn’t coming close to her date after all. I knew, theoretically, that going into labor was almost completely out of my hands and up to my baby, but I still tried everything: I tried walking, evening primrose oil, acupuncture, acupressure, sex, pineapple, pumping, resting, eggplant parmesan. I’m not going to tell you shouldn’t try to do anything, because chances are you want to be doing something. For me, doing nothing still sounds so awful– I need to feel like I’m doing everything I can! So my recommendation after 8 days of this is to do what feels good, and what would benefit you anyway– just don’t wear yourself out. The most important thing at this point is to be emotionally and physically healthy.
Acupuncture didn’t put me into labor, but it and prayer went a long way to making me feel more peaceful and ready for birth. I have a lovely friend who did massage and acupressure, and though it didn’t “work,” it was a soothing time of talking and receiving her gift of touch. Sex, if you can manage it, is at least good time together as a couple and the last there’ll be for a bit. Pineapple is delicious anyway, and raw garlic is a huge immune and energy booster. I’ve decided not to do anything dramatic, though, that has potentially painful or unhealthy side effects (think castor oil) in an attempt to force things along prematurely.
4. Mornings are the worst.
Give it a few hours! In the morning, you wake up only to realize with a sinking heart that you didn’t go into labor after all. It can be pretty discouraging. Mornings are when I have been crying over my lost plans. I hate all my friends who went a bit early or right on time (horrible, lucky, ungrateful people that they are), and I am angry at my midwives who are so darn calm about the whole thing. And then, as the day goes along, I gain perspective. By the afternoon, I see a friend’s picture who recently adopted a little boy. They met him as a baby, thinking they were about to take him home, only to wait 2 agonizing years as he lived in less-than-ideal conditions in a orphanage in the meantime. I rub my belly and know my baby is warm and safe and close to me, and that we will at most wait 5 more days. Just days. I think of a friend, struggling with infertility, who would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I think about women across the ages (and today, in some places) who faced grim statistics as they waited for the big day to arrive. I know I can do this. Even so, it is hard to wait when the fears about giving birth are real, and each day drags on. So be kind to yourself in the morning.
5. False labor is a beast.
I know, no contractions are false, and none are wasted. Such mind games it makes you play, though!
6. The waiting might actually get better.
This might not be the case for you if you having a complicated induction or are attempting a VBAC, for example. But if you are 40 weeks and 4 days (my personal low point), take heart. It might have been the acupuncture, but I am actually much more calm and peaceful here at 41 weeks than I was last week, and my sister felt the same way. At this point you might have been able to let go of what you’d planned and worked through it, and now you know you really are SO CLOSE. My midwives will only let me get to 42 weeks (hallelujah), and I am accepting that I might have an induction, and deliver at the hospital after all,. But I also know I will meet my baby so very soon, wherever it might have to be. I thought last week I truly could not wait another day. I had to, and I did, and I’m still standing.
So– hang in there! I am going to take Janio to the park, take a walk, and go to bed early. If I feel like it, maybe I’ll make some more delish laborade. Just. in. case.