You might be feeling duped at this point. The doctors, blogs and baby books were all very clear—this pregnancy business lasts 40 weeks. And yet, here you are, a week (or more) going past due date, over this hard and fast deadline, with no end in sight, your belly still painfully swollen as your baby continues to stretch and arch without any seeming interest in ever moving out. You are most likely very, very over it. If you’re like me, you fluctuate (sometimes by the hour) between tears and laughter. Your Google search history alternates exclusively between ” natural ways to induce labor ” and “earliest signs of labor,” the latter tapped out on your keyboard with the hesitant hope that maybe that extra heartburn you had this afternoon is a good sign? Maybe those weird (and extremely uncomfortable) pushes on your cervix are actually early labor? (Spoiler alert: Probably not.)
Because you’re still pregnant. I see you, desperately ticking off every suggestion in that “natural ways to induce labor” list, living off a diet of spicy food and pineapple washed down with raspberry leaf tea. You walk and walk and walk despite sciatica or run-of-the-mill nerve twinges every time your baby bears down. You have sex (whether or not you’re feeling particularly sexy) and break out your breast pump because your sister’s co-worker’s wife swears that’s what sent her into labor in the end. You listen to (and attempt) every off-hand suggestion friends, relatives, and perfect strangers offer.
And you’re still pregnant. In short, you try everything. And nothing works. You wonder if, in fact, you are a medical marvel and pause on googling the risks of castor oil to look up the longest pregnancy on record. (375 days—a whopping three months longer than normal—but the details are a little fishy.) Sometimes you’re able to laugh at yourself, quoting the gestation of an elephant (a year and a half, but you already knew that re: the aforementioned googling) and answering every inquiry into your well-being with, “Well, I’m still pregnant! So… !” Other times, you’re borderline inconsolable. Late-night doubts keep you up despite your doctor or midwife’s recommendations to take advantage of the opportunity for more sleep. You worry you’re doing something wrong, as the “what is going on in there” questions continue to build in your mind. You worry something is wrong with your baby, the “what-ifs” and “what will be’s” rolling through your brain like the world’s worst broken record. You worry that you’re broken.
And you’re still pregnant. Every contraction becomes a taunt, a tease of something as you start to tentatively track or lie down at night certain that tonight will be the real thing…only to wake the next morning, all signs of labor having dissipated in the night. Leaving you still uncertain. Still anxious. Still pregnant. Maybe you feel yourself start to stop trusting your body, or at least question whether it really knows what to do or when things are ready. Even if this isn’t your first baby rodeo, you wonder, “Do I even know what labor feels like?” You begin to forget the time before you were pregnant. Maybe you start to lose sense of the space-time continuum as everyone and their dog seems to be bringing home their babies around you. Even friends with later due dates than you. Even celebrities that you swore announced their pregnancies months after you did. Like when the YouTube star whose prenatal workouts you follow announces that she only has 30 days left to go, you find yourself shouting, “IN THEORY, KATRINA!” at your tiny phone screen. You may have gone a little pregnancy stir-crazy.
I see you, mama, because I’ve felt those overdue pains, those overdue stretches, and that overdue stress. I’ve read and reread the same articles and sent my midwife panicked texts and stared at my belly, tears in my eyes, and wondered what am I doing wrong . And while I waited, I tried to remember: Odds are, everything is totally and completely fine. Most of the time babies are born when they are ready to be born—even if it’s way past when we’re ready. Due dates are necessary, but they’re also estimations . Setting our hearts on them is a quick way to set ourselves up for disappointment. This is actually way more common than you think. Only about 5% of babies are born on their actual due dates. The more people you tell you are overdue, the more the stories of overdue babies start to pour out. So many of my friends were overdue babies, and even more have had overdue newborns of their own. As isolating as it feels, you’re actually joining a very big club of very strong women. There’s still so much to appreciate about this time. When it feels like you’re rivaling that elephant in gestation time, it can be hard to remember what a fleeting time this is. But please remember how short pregnancy really is in the grand scheme of things. And if this is your last pregnancy, do your best to still feel a bit of wonder at the magic of your baby moving in your belly. Marvel in the miracle happening in your body right now. And, at the very least, do your best to take advantage of these last few days when you can sleep through the night and don’t always have your hands full.
There’s not a wrong way to bring a healthy baby into the world. You are not broken, mama. You are not failing because your body isn’t cooperating with your self-inflicted expectations. Every day of your overdue pregnancy will one day be part of your baby’s story—and yours. Let go of your expectations or the idea of a “perfect” pregnancy. Because, trust me, your baby will be perfect either way. One day (so soon!), this will all just be part of your baby’s story. Think of it as the perfect fodder to guilt your kid when he’s a teenager! (Kidding!) (Kind of!) When you’re waiting for an overdue baby , it feels like your whole life is on hold until you can break through into the next phase. But once it happens, every extra day of pregnancy suddenly fades away. All you remember is how much you wanted this tiny baby who is now in your arms, and everything you had to do to get there was just part of the journey—and feels so, SO worth it. And they will come out—promise. [Editor’s note: Justine works here at Motherly, and we are very pleased to say that she did, in fact, welcome a beautiful, healthy baby into the world. (Congrats, Justine!) So hold on, mama! You’ve got this.]