I was overdue at more than 40 weeks pregnant. All of the weeks pregnant. All of the growing done. Everything was done. I was ready. Then I was just waiting. And waiting and waiting. And getting mad and sad.
I told myself I’d be chilled this time around. This time it will be different, I said to myself. I will not be impatient, I will wait like a calm person.
On my due date, I took the last pregnancy vitamin from the packet. I rubbed my last drop of Mama Bee oil into my crepe paper-looking bump. And, having had period pains on and off for about 5 days, I sat and waited for labour to begin. It must be going to happen now, surely…..
Then my due date came and went. And despite only talking about “late April” rather than a due date to myself and to others, I was still furious when the day passed with no event. In my last pregnancy, my waters broke on the due date so I never had this agonising post-due-date period that 85% of Mother’s experience. I was dishing that stat out left right and centre.
Each period pain was just more “practice” contractions. More Braxton effing Hicks. Who is bloody Braxton anyway? And his Hicks? He could poke them up his bum. That’s how I felt about everything. Everyone could poke everything up their bum.
I’ve never been great at waiting. Patience is not my virtue. I’m normally unapologetic about it – it gets me through life, has helped my career no end and helped me “get shit done”, as Husband eloquently describes it. Except childbirth. That shit I couldn’t seem to get done. I think the problem is that childbirth requires you to switch off your thinking brain. For me this is where all my natural aptitudes sit. But no amount of planning, thinking or doing would get the baby out.
Baby will come when baby is ready
I had prepared very differently for this birth, using Shirley, a local Doula and the Kathryn Graves hypnobirthing method. I was aiming for as natural a birth as possible. Not because I wanted to be a hero, but because I want to avoid some of the awful things I had experienced last time. This meant no interventions. I wanted my baby and my body to do this themselves.
“Baby will come when baby is ready,” said Kathryn Graves, in my daily affirmations. I thought I believed this, having listened to these supposedly empowering statements every day since week 28. But now he hadn’t come when I was ready, I wanted to punch her. I was trying to be cool and patient. But mostly, in those last few weeks, I was sad and frustrated.
The last few weeks of pregnancy are an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you’re as pumped and excited as an American school kid heading to prom. New family! New life! It’s going to be amazing! The next you’re sobbing on the stairs before the school run because you can’t get your own sock on and your 4-year old had to do it for you. I
To start off with, I had been strangely comforted by these outbursts. I hoped they were hormone surges preparing me for childbirth.
I tried to carry on with life as normal for the sake of the Girlies but I couldn’t cope with them. I called a lot on the Nana’s those last few weeks because sadly, I just couldn’t look after them on my own. They ran circles around me. Especially Girly no2, aged 2 and a half, who sensed my weakness and abused it all day long.
I couldn’t really cope with other people. I was mean or rude to people. Especially to those who asked me questions about my bump, my baby or my due date. I didn’t want to answer questions. I didn’t want to see your “I’m sorry for you face” or have to say “yep, still pregnant” when you say “still no baby then?” I just thought, “it’s bloody obvious isn’t it?!”
I pause here to offer you a little piece of advice. When you see a pregnant woman, overdue or not, don’t say it. Whatever you’re thinking, just don’t say it. Pretend you haven’t noticed and have a normal non-baby related conversation because chances are, whatever you say will make her want to cry or punch you. Pregnant women have a reputation for a reason you know. I lost count of how many times I cried in the car after an encounter with someone I knew in those last few weeks. I just stopped leaving the house. It was easier that way.
Social media blackout
This solitude would have been fine if it weren’t for mobile phones. Because of these contraptions, I was receiving between ten and twelve messages a day asking “any news?” or “have you had it yet?” I want to pause here again and ask you why you would send this message to a heavily pregnant or overdue woman. Consider it for a second. There are three possible answers to this question:
1. “Yes I had my baby” but I didn’t want to tell you yet or you weren’t on my “tell immediately” list so get back in line
2. “I’m in labour now” and the last thing I want to do is be messaging you
3. “No. Nothing.” and you asking just exacerbates all the emotions I am feeling including feeling like a failure for missing my fictitious due date. You’ve probably made me cry again.
Another dangerous message to send is the seemingly innocent “how you feeling?” Answer – like a fat, angry rhinoceros who doesn’t want to be pregnant anymore and pissed off that everyone is having a nice life except for me. If you are going to message then a “thinking of you” is perfect. Or if you were overdue yourself, a “I know how tough these days are and I promise it will be over soon” message. That is all I wanted to hear.
After a post-due-date meltdown, being really rude to my tall friend (sorry Mands) and just about every person I know messaging me, I turned off all notifications on my phone and I didn’t go on Facebook or Instagram for three weeks. I barely checked WhatsApp telling my sister, best friend and parents to reach me only by phone. Old school.
The pressure relief was immense. I stopped having FOMO over the things I wasn’t doing and only knew what day it was by the Girlies routine. And most importantly I stopped crying because I hadn’t yet performed this miracle everyone was waiting for.
My Dad called. I answered the phone because it was him and with parents you know they are worried about you, not just being nosey! Dad asked what I was doing. “Having baths, bouncing on a ball and crying.” I sobbed. He apologised lots and I reassured him it wasn’t his fault. I cried when I talked to anyone.
He asked if there was anything he could do. Nope.
He asked if there was anything I could do. Nope.
He sounded sad for me, so I changed the topic. We had a normal conversation and I was OK again.
NATURAL LABOUR INDUCTION
I was doing everything I could to force labour despite saying I wouldn’t. I had tried all the natural methods available to me. When I answered the phone I was in a bath of Clary Sage oil. I spent all my time sat on a birthing ball until my back ached too much to sit up straight. I had hot baths every day, spicy food, orgasms and when we could muster the time/space/energy/logistical planning…sex.
pregnant sex (skip this Dad)
The problem with sex at the late stage of pregnancy is that in your head it’s like a nervous bear humping an angry hippo. It’s lacking many of the vital ingredients one needs to enjoy it and you’re limited to one, maybe two, positions where angles of incidence have to be perfect and then you can only lie like a corpse while “the act” is performed. Every noise and facial expression is misread. It takes twice as long because you feel as sexy as a dead fish and he worries about hurting you or poking his baby’s eye out. You try and be in the moment but can’t help but wonder whether your baby is being repeatedly poked in the head and whether it qualifies as “early years trauma”.
Maybe that’s just us. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe it’s driven by my “giant baby” (actual words used by my consultant in the last appointment ?) or my are-you-sure-it’s-not-twins body (yes dickhead. I’m sure.)
I was trying to be cool. I promised myself I wouldn’t get caught up in due dates, expectations or induction methods. I told everyone “85% of babies come after their due date.”
Except at 6 days overdue I was so caught up in my own misery I couldn’t cope anymore. I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore. I was cross and sad. I just wanted it to be over. “Stop taunting me body!” I thought, “Turn these niggles into something real!”
Luckily, I had a lady called Shirley on my team. She is the doula and hypnobirthing teacher I mentioned in my last post. Shirley checked on me every couple of days – she’s one of the few people whose messages I read. A couple of times I spoke to her and crumpled into a heap of tears (obvs).
The good thing about Shirley though is that was that she could do something in response to my despair. She talked me to sleep over the phone (a relaxation exercise, she’s not boring); she gave me an Indian head massage and sound bath in my living room (Husband asked if I had joined a cult); she took me to a Yurt in a field to sleep on a mat (for a guided meditation and sound bath, not to murder me). I was temporarily converted into a total hippy,
But Shirley is much more than a hippy.
Shirley also reminded / re-educated me of all the science and physiology behind childbirth, highlighting the logic and the science. She spent ages on the phone telling me I was normal and no, this didn’t mean I would suffer with post-natal depression. She sent me useful articles like this one and agreed that yes, time really does slow down for the last few weeks of pregnancy, but promised me it would be over soon.
And I believed her. Most of the time.
Sadly though, Shirley has a life of her own and didn’t want to come and live with me so I just used her on my bad days.
The other people that really helped at this time are the midwives on the Surrey Hills home birth team, who adopted me at 36 weeks pregnant.
I live on the border between three counties so we had a choice of three hospitals. Initially I went with the same hospital I had given birth to the Girlies in, but after speaking to Shirley and making the decision that this birth would be done my way, I transferred to the Surrey Hills home birth team. I went to see them at one of their coffee mornings telling Tanya – the head of the team and runner-up midwife of the year UK – my whole sorry story.
I told her my experiences last time around, my deep-rooted fear of tearing again, and my desire to remember the 24 hours after birth. She nodded knowingly throughout our meeting, inviting Jodie, a member of her team to listen too. She told me I absolutely could have the birth I wanted and that of all her mums that had given birth after a third degree tear in the last two years, none of them had torn again. She was quiet and calm and oozed experience, and I felt a flicker of excitement.
Tanya had an obviously amazing relationship with her team and I immediately believed in her and what she told me. Jodie was equally as warm and reassuring. They said they would take me in and Jodie would “book me in” the following week. I felt like I had passed a test. I smiled for the first time in a while and actually made it through the experience without crying.
The home birth team
Fast forward a few weeks and I had met all the members of the team. They operate on the basis that your baby won’t ever be delivered by a stranger. Each team member was wonderful in her own way. The quietly spoken mother of four who brought with her an overwhelming sense of calm; the pretty and bouncy Mum of two who snuggled cross legged into the sofa next me for a chat like one of my friends would; the technology-averse community midwife who gave great hugs; and the shy one who lit up when she talked babies and pregnancy. Then of course matter-of-fact but still warm Jodie and funny, experienced, “I got you” Tanya. Even the student midwife was lovely, she was being trained well by a team of superstars.
For those last few weeks I saw someone once a week and they saw me in all states. Chipper, excited and busy pre-due-date; dark depressed and teary post-due-date. Once I had passed my due date, I started to worry about being induced. I read the AIMS book, Am I Allowed?, a book that tells you what you are entitled to as a pregnant woman, to understand what I was “allowed” to do. Every pregnant woman should read it, especially those who are under the care of a less forward-thinking midwifery team.
the new birth plan
By the time lovely Laura the midwife came when I was 4 days overdue, I almost immediately barked “I don’t want to talk about induction!” really meaning “I don’t want an induction.”
Laura very gently, like a friend would, said we wouldn’t talk about it. And then we did.
She coaxed out of me why induction riddled me with fear and why I thought it was to blame for all of the issues last time around. Then she said the magic words “so we won’t have one, let’s take it off the table.” We agreed to book a caesarean in for 7 days’ time, meaning I would be 13 days overdue by the time I had to go in for it.
As soon as we agreed no induction, I felt a thousand times better. I wasn’t going to be pumped full of Syntocinon (the fake version of oxytocin, the labour inducing drug) to convince my body it was in labour. No one was going to gawp at me under bright lights. I wouldn’t be confined to a hospital bed.
I would either be cut open, as I had in my first, relatively calm birth, or my plan to deliver naturally would pay off.
After they left, I heaved a sigh of relief. And went to bounce on my ball.
Apologies for the grumpy post but I hope it will resonate with someone heavily pregnant or overdue! I have included links to useful resources but feel free to contact me with questions. My birth story will follow 24 hours after this is posted so keep an eye out for a more uplifting read! Please share if you have enjoyed reading xx