I’m a big planner. When my husband and I went to Europe years ago, before we had kids, I researched for weeks to find the perfect hotels and activities within our budget, the trains that would take us from town to town, and how much money we would need for food per city, per meal, all laid out in a tidy spreadsheet that automatically adjusted based on that day’s exchange rate.
Fast forward a few years later when we were expecting our first child: I knew that the baby could come as early as 37 weeks, and still be considered “at term,” and so I was prepared for his arrival at 37 weeks. All the baby gear was purchased, the newborn clothes were washed, the diaper changing station was stocked. Months before, we had taken all the classes— childbirth education, breastfeeding education, new parent preparation, and we had our doula booked. I was ready to have this baby.
Over a month later, I was still pregnant. What I was NOT ready for, was the waiting.
After a positive pregnancy test, one of the first things we learn is our estimated due date. One of the things we tend to ignore is the estimated part.
Due dates are not an exact science. The website Evidenced Based Birth gives a whole explanation of how due dates came to be, but in a nutshell, determining your estimated due date based on the first day of your last menstrual period was a technique created in the 1744 in the Netherlands, refined in 1812 in Germany, and then revised again in America in the 1900’s. This method doesn’t take into account the fact that not every woman has a 28-day menstrual cycle, that ovulation can occur earlier or later in a cycle, or that implantation time can vary.
Even if you’re aware that going past your estimated due date is normal, it can still be frustrating to be “overdue.” You might be feeling uncomfortable, as your baby is nearly his or her full size and pressing on both your ribs and your bladder at the same time. You might not be getting much sleep, as you wake up several times a night to pee, or you just can’t find a comfortable position to lay in.
It can be especially frustrating when your family and friends view your estimated due date as an expiration date, and bombard you with texts and phone calls. When’s the baby coming? You haven’t given birth yet?! When are you getting induced? You look ready to explode!!!
These comments and inquiries are NOT helpful.
So if you find yourself pregnant at 40+ weeks, here is what to do when you are "overdue:"
1. Assume that you will go to 42 weeks. The mind is a powerful tool. Neuroscientist Robb Rutledge studies human happiness and developed a complex equation to predict happiness in a given situation. According to this New York Times article on his work, “How happy you are depends in large part on your expectations.” So if you expect your pregnancy to go past your estimated due date, you are less likely to be upset or frustrated when the bun in your oven needs a little more time to bake. And if your labor begins near or before your estimated due date, you may be pleasantly surprised.
2. Tell your family and friends that your due date is actually two weeks later. Granted, this is an extreme measure. And if you’ve already announced your estimated due date to your family, to your co-workers, and on social media, it may be ineffective. Just know that there are other ways to share your good news in early pregnancy. You can announce that you are expecting a baby “in October,” or “late fall,” as previous generations once did. If this isn’t your first rodeo, and you experienced the barrage of inquiries with your first baby, then fudging that due date might not sound like a crazy idea after all.
3. Indulge. See all the movies you won’t be able to go see when your baby is here. Take all the naps. Go out to a fancy restaurant, or any restaurant that doesn’t have a kids menu. Get your nails done. Get a massage. Catch up on that show on Netflix you’ve been meaning to watch. Do whatever you want to do, while you have the time and energy to do it. It may be a while before you are in charge of your schedule again, so take charge of it while you can.
4. Take time to savor these last few days with your older kid(s). Taking care of other kids can be exhausting when you are pregnant. You just want to lie down for a few minutes, but they are suddenly resisting naps. They may seem more clingy or needy, and you wonder how on earth you will take care of both a toddler and a newborn??
Flip the script. Your little kid will be a big brother or sister in just a few days or weeks. You won’t have as much time to color together, or get on the floor and play with blocks, or take a walk to the park. Hold their little hands, which will seem huge after your new baby is born. Listen to their stories and field their incredible questions. Allow yourself to enjoy your older kid(s) in this moment, because everyone’s life is going to get a little shaken up when the new baby arrives.
5. Devote some time to postpartum planning. We focus so much on pregnancy, the baby shower, decorating the nursery, and the birth, and tend to neglect preparing for the postpartum period. We often think, “It will all work out” and “We’ll manage” without realizing that a little bit of planning can make a world of difference in how we feel after baby is here.
While binge watching A Baby Story, you can:
6. Check in with your doula. Your doula can be a great source of informational and emotional support when you find yourself past your due date. If your care provider is bringing up induction as a possibility, your doula can help prepare you for the process, or let you know about possible options or alternatives that you can discuss with your care provider. She will let you know that you are supported, and that she is there if you have questions or need reassurance.
7. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a skill that can be honed with practice. To be present in the moment, able to acknowledge and accept your feelings—good and bad— without judgment, you free yourself from allowing your emotions to control you. Being mindful can positively affect the way you live your life in general, but in the world of birth and parenthood, its effects are significant.
In labor, you can use mindfulness to accept the pain and discomfort you are feeling, and then let it go. This can help immensely with labor progress, with how you react to unexpected challenges, and how you end up feeling about your birth experience.
As a parent, you can practice mindfulness while you figure out breastfeeding, when you have to wake up in the middle of the night to attend to your baby, or when your toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store.
So during pregnancy, as you wait for labor to commence, be mindful of what you are feeling. If you are tired, achy, sick of the constant text messages, fearful, or just ready to have this baby, acknowledge what you feel. Accept it, and let it go. Consider it preparation for your new life as a parent.
8. Find the good. What’s good about being “overdue?” Maybe you realize you do get some extra time with your partner as “just the two of us.” Maybe you get to attend that one last social event you weren’t sure you could make. Maybe your best friend from out-of-state will get to be there for the birth, after all. Maybe you know that when labor does start, you will be so thrilled you will welcome contractions instead of fearing them! Find the good in your situation and embrace the wait.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
Line up your doula now, so that if you go "overdue," you have the support you need!
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.