Overdue and over-anxious
February 27, 2014 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm supposed to give birth any minute now and am completely preoccupied by thoughts of what could go wrong. Can anyone help?

I am either 40+6 weeks today (by scan dates) or 40 weeks today (by conception dates). This is my second pregnancy; my first ended in a miscarriage that was only discovered at the 12 week scan. I got over that without too much difficulty, but throughout this pregnancy have been plagued by thoughts of what could go wrong - although I'm sure the previous miscarriage didn't help, I do tend to focus on the worst-case scenario anyway. This time round, I just sort of assumed I probably wasn't pregnant after all until the 12 week scan, then I stressed like crazy about the anomaly scan (which was fine), then I've been preoccupied by fears of stillbirth ever since. This isn't because I know someone it's happened to (if anything, I have this completely irrational feeling that if it hasn't happened to anyone I know, then it may as well happen to me) or because I have any factors making me at higher risk (again, I would almost prefer this to be the case as then I'd be being monitored more closely rather than assumed to be okay) - it's just paranoia. A few weeks back I had to force myself to pack my hospital bags because I wasn't convinced we'd need them; last week we were decorating the nursery and I was wondering whether it was really worth doing when there might not be a baby to put in it; I haven't bothered writing a birth plan because it seems silly to be talking about how I feel about water births when I just want us both to get through it in one piece. Realistically, I know that very few pregnancies that make it this far end in stillbirth - and I know that if I had the same odds of something good happening, I would just assume it wouldn't happen and forget all about it! - but for some reason, that just isn't helping.

What is really troubling me is the thought that at some point I will have to make a decision between an induction and waiting. I don't really want to be induced, because I know it increases the likelihood of further interventions and comes with plenty of its own risks, but similarly, I'm aware the stillbirth rate creeps up as the days go by. If anything does go wrong, I want it to be something there is no way I could have avoided, not something that happened because of a decision I made. From everything I've read about overdue pregnancies, there is actually much less indication to induce before 42 weeks than is generally supposed, and the rational part of me suspects that waiting is the sensible thing to do, but my instinct is just to get the baby out by whatever means possible while I know it's still alive.

None of this is being helped by the inevitable "any news yet?!" messages I'm getting all the time (I know I've done this to pregnant friends myself - I wish I'd known how annoying it was!). Of course I know they mean well, but it only makes me feel under more pressure, and I really hate the fact that the entire point of my existence at the moment - to keep the thing alive until it decides to make an appearance - is completely out of my control (I'm keeping a very close eye on the baby's movements - even in the middle of the night sometimes - but even then I've heard of people whose babies were kicking away one minute and dead an hour later. Similarly I know you can have all sorts of monitoring done when you're overdue, but that only tells you how the baby's doing at that moment). My Mum in particular never talks to me about anything else at the moment, and I know it's only because she's beside herself with excitement, but I keep wanting to tell her to just calm down until we know for sure there actually is a baby to get excited about.

I suppose my questions are:

1. How do I cope with the rest of my pregnancy in this state of worry? (I realise the worry only continues once the baby's born, but let's deal with one thing at a time here.) I cannot bring myself to feel excited about meeting my baby because I'm just not convinced it's going to happen. This I can live with, but the constant anxiety is really weighing me down. My husband is supportive, but is very, very rational and sees the risk for what it is, which I seem to be incapable of doing - I also worry more about how he, and my parents, would cope if the worst happened than how I would, and I feel terrified of letting them all down.

2. How do I make a sensible and informed decision about induction, if I get to the stage where I have to make one - particularly with the uncertainty about dates? My midwife is happy for me to wait til Monday before I see her again, and she's talking about doing a membrane sweep then - I'd hoped to avoid this too, but at least it's pretty non-invasive (though not especially effective from what I've read either). I imagine at that point I'll have to start thinking about induction really seriously, and I'd like to have made up my mind by that point really.

I know this is all rather vague and rambly and I'm not sure what anyone can really say to help, but if anyone's been in a similar position, or can think of a way to help me reframe my thinking, I would really love to hear your thoughts.
posted by raspberry-ripple to Human Relations (43 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry you are feeling negative and stressed. It sounds terrifying to be lying around pregnant and thinking about dead babies.

I delivered my first baby (naturally) at 41.5 weeks gestation, and my second baby at 41 weeks gestation. I have a friend who delivered her first at 42 weeks gestation. All were totally normal, healthy births.

To answer your questions:
1. I found Ina May Gaskins to be enormously reassuring. Especially if you are going with a midwifery model, you will probably enjoy listening to her or reading about her work. I suggest getting Spiritual Midwifery and reading it, or watching her speak on YouTube. Call friends who have had positive birth experiences and have them tell you that. Think of it as a job for you, to try to change your mindset to a more positive one. Filling your head with good stories will help.

2. It's not really your decision, is it? If you trust your midwife, trust your midwife. You should voice your fears to her (call her right now!) and she will probably help you answer this question better than any of us could.

Also--so many women I know have had (several) healthy children after a miscarriage. You sound like you still haven't gotten over the shock of the miscarriage. Try to "get right" with yourself so that you can meet your new baby with joy and an open heart. Good luck.
posted by tk at 8:12 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

The good news is, this is not a long-term problem! No one stays pregnant forever. I would try to pamper yourself as much as possible- favorite foods, TV shows, find a tub or a pool to float around in. Small glass of wine, perhaps? And definitely do call your midwife and let her know you are feeling anxious; she may have some additional ideas about ways you can control how you're feeling.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:14 AM on February 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

All three of my children were just about two weeks overdue. All born healthy.

I think worry comes with the territory. In my case I just tried to distract myself.

One of mine was induced. So I can understand your preference.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:17 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't have any kind of medical background, but I have suffered from depression and anxiety both, and have three sons of my own. I also suffer from a completely logical and rational husband, who tries to reason me out of my anxiety and worries - but fails. Logic and reason won't reach through, a lot of times.

What does work for me is remembering that some things are out of my hands. Completely. And then letting them BE out of my hands. My births I trusted to the doctors. With my first, they induced - or tried to, as the preparation for it ended up taking me into labor on its own. It sounds like you have researched much more than I had. I was 19 and terrified. I am, however, grateful I hadn't done more research, or I might have been where you are now. Research can make that anxiety worse - it's so easy to focus on the negative (worst case) while ignoring the research and evidence that would soothe you. While it sounds very easy to say, "It is out of your hands," I think we both know that it is nigh impossible to then believe it and trust it enough to stop the futile worrying. That's where the work is - catching myself in those endless feedback loops of stress and anxiety and simply forcing my thoughts to shut up. I have several methods I've used, and they will all sound bizarre, but they worked for me. Humming, if I am in a place where I can get away with it, helps. Simply thinking to myself, "Shut up," also helps, when I find myself stuck in negative feedback loops. You can try narrowing your focus to the positive results you have found when looking up potential scenarios here, but if you are like me, you will decide that those are unreachable for you, because you are different, and bad things will always be fated to happen. That belief is false, by the way. Your head is out to get you.

Remember that women have been giving birth for centuries. Remember that your body knows what to do. Remember that your family loves you, and if anything should happen, you will not have let them down. That is probably the most important thing of all. This is beyond your control, and nothing that happens will be your fault. You will make the decision that you feel is right, with the help of your midwife and/or your doctors, and that is the only thing you can do. We do this all the time in life - but rarely are our decisions so critical to the life of another human being.

I hope this helps. I hope that soon you meet your little one and are able to breathe a sigh of relief and know everything turned out just as it should.
posted by routergirl at 8:17 AM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Stillbirth risk does go up as time goes on, and I personally would ask to be induced if my cervix were favorable on Monday. There's no indication that your baby would be at risk from prematurity, which can be a problem with earlier inductions. Scan dates are very accurate if they're from an early ultrasound.

Your desire to be conservative about stillbirth risk is valid and sensible.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:26 AM on February 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

I know you said I realise the worry only continues once the baby's born, but let's deal with one thing at a time here but this really is all of a piece. But I would flip it on its head; instead of feeling like the worry will never end, why don't you start thinking about it in terms of a life journey in which you're constantly learning how to feel calm and enjoy the experience of [birthing/parenting]. Cold hard facts of the low statistical probability of a bad outcome aren't helping you; how about trying meditation? How about trying to set aside a few minutes every few hours to just feel how marvelous it is right now, regardless of what may happen in the future, to be creating this little person?

Regarding induction: I know, once you hit 40 weeks, things start feeling fraught as you keep waiting. My son was born at 42 weeks, and I nearly took someone's head off at work at 41 weeks for merely remarking that it was looking like I would have a December baby instead of a November baby. One way or another, though, your baby will be born soon. Has your midwife talked about doing a non-stresss test? That can be useful in making a decision on whether or not to induce. Scheduling one may help you alleviate some anxiety, because it's something you can do.

Good luck. Be kind to yourself. Try to enjoy the journey.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:27 AM on February 27, 2014

Frankly, I would talk to your OB or midwife about this because the level of anxiety you have seems like you may benefit from intervention, either medical or talk therapy. They have seen lots of pregnant women before and will be able to gauge if your feelings are typical or heightened even for the final days of pregnancy which can be so nerve-wracking. I imagine your mind is also not allowing you much sleep, which can't be helping things. Hopefully some meds or a session with a therapist trained in pregnancy issues would give you the tools to get to a more relaxed state, which would probably help your mind and body get ready for labor. Good luck.
posted by emkelley at 8:30 AM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree with TYRR. But a lot also depends on maternal age. If you are over 40 (as I was for both my kids) it's more important to deliver on or slightly before 40 weeks to avoid risk of stillbirth. If you are younger I don't think it's such an issue. But yes, call your midwife today and relay your worries. Sending you hugs and happy thoughts to your soon-to-be-meeting baby.
posted by biggreenplant at 8:31 AM on February 27, 2014

It has been a while since my wife was late in pregnancy (youngest kid is now 9 yo). But, I can understand your frustration and anxiety. Here are a couple of suggestions...

First, concentrate on pampering yourself and getting your dude pampered. The first few weeks of having a baby is quite a ride and there is not much in life that prepares you for that. This might be your last chance to do things while your kid is still quiet and less needy. I realize that you are mega-pregnant right now, but maybe you should go see that movie that you won't be able to see in two weeks! Pedicure? Hair cut? Lunch with friends? These are things that will just be harder to do all too soon for you. If that baby isn't eager to come out, then try taking advantage of it to get some low-impact things done that birthed babies can interrupt.

Second, what you do to help with the anxiety depends entirely on your personality. I would try to distract myself with nesting, projects, games, movies. This may not eliminate the worry, but it may give you some breaks from it. I would also study up and start trying things that help moving a pregnancy along (unprotected sex with someone you love might just help soften up that cervix)! There are old-wives tales and modern ideas on how to get that labor started....just do it in a safe way.
posted by BearClaw6 at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2014

Congratulations on your impending baby!

It's okay to be apprehensive, especially when you've had a miscarriage. I was born at 44 weeks, and my mother was convinced she'd be pregnant forever. I came out demanding pizza and with a lust to move the furniture. So, sometimes you're just cooking a brute.

Do call your midwife/doctor and explain that you're feeling very anxious.

This is not something you have to deal with on your own. Talk to your partner, talk to your friends, talk to your doctors.

The more you talk, the better you'll feel.

My prayers are with you for an easy birth and a healthy baby.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:35 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're on Facebook, a simple message: "I love you all and I know my closest friends and family are excited for me but this waiting game is torture. Please know that I or my husband will send out a note when this baby is on the move!" And then reach out to those people who you want to speak to.

I agree with all of the advice above about calling your doctor or midwife and speaking frankly about your anxiety. Ask them how you can prep yourself for what is to come. And then focus on yourself. Meditate. If you've taken prenatal yoga, do some stretches and movements geared toward birth. Anytime you find your mind reeling with anxiety, try to bring your focus back in. Breathe. Rub your belly. Enjoy (I know, right?) these last days with a full belly. Shut off your phone entirely if people are texting you constantly. Go have a glass of wine with a close and trusted friend or relative. See how long you can talk about anything other than birth.

And then imagine your birth going well! It will be what it will be. Every birth is different. However, here are some universal truths: there will be moments of anxiety, moments of pain, moments of euphoria, moments of incredulity, moments of focus more intense than you've ever experienced before, and soon, before you know it, you'll be on the other side. It's a process. You're strong and you'll make it.
posted by amanda at 8:41 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

An acquaintance of mine has been in a similar place, with a previous terrible incident, and then another pregnancy. Literally she is just like "I must wait out this pregnancy, I can think of nothing else." (Reasonable reaction!)

In the opinion of those of us who know her, the one thing she is not doing is TALKING. These kind of anxieties need to get blabbed about until you're blue in the face. People need to blow them up. Right now you're like an anxious flier, gripping the arm rests, looking straight ahead. NIGHTMARE. But what if you talked about this with friends, medical professionals, strangers, mental health professionals, homeless people, astrologers, whatever! AND YES, YOUR SPOUSE, even though he is all rational and whatever. WHO CARES. His job is to rub your feet and listen to your concerns at full length, no matter how endless or "irrational" they may be.

(Mandatory N.B.: there are probably people you shouldn't talk to about this, quite possibly your mother, bless her, and also like the kind of people who minimize anxiety or mock people who are stressed. Ditch those people!)

posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:45 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

You _are_ doing the best you can. You are doing the best you can. You are doing the best you can with the resources and information you have.

After something happens, it's tempting to feel regret over not knowing the outcome prior to the event. That's never going to happen because it's impossible. Nobody knows an outcome before it happens, so they just behave to the best of their ability given the information they have.

It's good that you're finding out as much information as you can now, but all you can get are probabilities. They don't tell you about _you_. Your ability to obtain useful information is limited, so you do the best you can, while not overstressing yourself or losing too much sleep, and know that you are doing the best you can.

You can also, as you know, use this time to prepare for the high-probabilty even that there will soon be a baby in your house and in your life.
posted by amtho at 8:57 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. Those last weeks of pregnancy are miserable, and I don't know anyone who enjoyed them. You're huge, in terrible physical shape, and up to the eyeballs in hormones.

I would recommend some resources about induction but I honestly think that they might not help your anxiety at this point because you might encounter a description of a less than ideal birth. All births have some risk, of course, but attaching that risk to your own behavior isn't entirely accurate. There's not always anything you can do, and the idea that the woman is driving the risk train, so to speak, puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on her during what is generally an underslept and miserable time.

Instead, I would say that the most important thing is to trust in your care provider. She is the best person to weigh risk for both you and your baby based on your own unique case history. There are good reasons not to induce or to use more invasive induction methods unless indicated by certain risk factors--labor is thought by some to be triggered by fetal lung development, for example--and though interventions might (very very slightly) decrease risk to your baby, they may also increase risk for you. And your baby needs you to be healthy to care for it!

If you're going to engage in magical thinking, a better idea might be to partake in some (safe, silly, fun) old wives' tales. By the last week of my pregnancy, I was eating Indian food and making eggplant parmesan and having awkward, big-bellied sex. Sex, by the way, along with nipple stimulation are great not only for taking your mind off the birth but also maybe for things moving. Oxytocin and proglastins are the very chemicals involved in both sex and induction. Go for nice strolls with your partner, if you can stand it (I couldn't; I had no shoes that fit at that point).

And just know that there's an end to this. Time slows at the very end. It's like you live in some sort of weird vortex where your mind is all-consumed by it. And I don't know about you, but pregnancy had the effect of heightening my anxiety incredibly. Your postpartum experience may vary, but I'm sleeping more and better breastfeeding a newborn than I was in my last trimester; I am more centered, less anxious, and happier. There are two wonderful things about giving birth: you have a baby, and you are no longer fucking pregnant.

Mostly, though, I want to tell you that you're doing great. Only you could have conceived of this baby and carried it to term. You are a wonderful mother already. Your care and concern are an expression of love, and that's beautiful, even if it doesn't feel beautiful right now.

Please feel free to MeMail me and I will happily commiserate. I was there just a month ago, peein' myself, cankles, and all. There's an end to this, and you are so, so close.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:00 AM on February 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

(the membrane sweep was very effective for me, I went into labor the next day)
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:01 AM on February 27, 2014

Oh, also, in the last week of pregnancy my midwife heartily recommended massage because I was an anxious mess and my blood pressure was spiking. Even if yours isn't on the rise, all pregnant ladies deserve rubs. Highly recommend it!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:02 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am right there with you, friend. Well, 39+4, but also irrationally convinced something's going to go wrong with the birth, worrying about induction, worrying about movements even if the baby was moving like crazy just a short time before. I also stressed like anything over the anomaly scan, and in the waiting room we were surrounded by all these excited women bringing their parents and kids along and talking about whether they were having a boy or a girl, and all I could think was pleasebealive pleasebealive pleasebealive. Still haven't finished packing my hospital bag now.

I also lost a pregnancy just before this one, and I do think that has a great deal to do with my (and your) worries. It is apparently fairly common for this to happen - the grief from the lost pregnancy turns into heightened anxiety over the current one. And in a sense, when you've already come down on the wrong side of the odds once, and the results were so devastating, it's really hard to shake the impression that you need to mentally prepare for that happening again.

One thing that has helped me somewhat was a midwife's suggestion to stop trying to fight all the worry. Not dwell on it, but just accept that I was worried about this and stop trying to police my thoughts into not being worried. So now, instead of thinking "I am stressing about X even though the odds are low, I shouldn't be, this is going to make me even more tense for the birth and that'll make things even worse and aaargh" I think "I am stressing about X even though the odds are low. This is what my brain needs to do right now, so I'm not going to stop it, but I'm not going to let it take up 100% of my mental processing space either." It hasn't stopped me worrying (obviously) but it has helped make the worrying less overwhelming. It's given me a bit more mental distance from it - the worrying is something my brain is doing because it just needs to run around in circles going "!!!!!!" right now, it's not an objective warning about the world, and it's not something I need to do anything about other than go "okay, I'm scared about that."

I also found it helpful to write down some stuff for my birth plan, thinking of it in terms of preferences-if-possible. I avoided doing this for ages but did feel better after getting some notes down - it helped me think about the birth as a series of steps, rather than one big cataclysmic scarefest. So I have no idea how the birth will go and that's still terrifying, but I can still make decisions about concrete things like whether I want the baby to have the Vitamin K injection.

Like I said, I'm still worrying like crazy and so not the best source to advise you on how to eliminate said worry, but I have found that the above steps have reduced the worry down to a much more manageable level for me.
posted by Catseye at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

I would second everything that routergirl said. My son was born at 41+2, and at 41 weeks my boss essentially told me to not come in to work the next day because I was such a mess. I had assumed (stupidly) that I was going to give birth early so the "extra" waiting was even harder. If you're looking for tips, I spent the day before I went into labor journaling, shopping, going out for a coffee & muffin, playing Wii... just things that had nothing to do with being pregnant, and didn't put me in contact with anyone who wanted to know what my status was.

Looking back, it's hard to believe how upset I was at being late. My boy turned out perfectly lovely and healthy and amazing, and just know that when you get your first look at your babe, nothing else will matter.

I also agree with others who suggest talking to your midwife. My midwife's office has a social worker who is on call for things like this; does your office have something similar? Talking to other moms in a similar situation or who have been through it before should help a lot too. It also is just a sucky position and there's not much that can change...until everything changes.
posted by bibbit at 9:12 AM on February 27, 2014

(also, brief note for other posters - it sounds like the OP is in the UK, which affects her options re: induction compared to some other places. NHS policy is to offer a membrane sweep after 40 weeks, and offer to schedule induction for 40+12 or after if there are no signs of labour. They won't schedule an induction earlier than that unless there are medical indications to do it. So, suggesting she ask for an induction ASAP to be on the safe side isn't going to be helpful for her.)
posted by Catseye at 9:14 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

One other suggestion: acupuncture. I had never done it before, but at the advice of my midwife and doula I had three acupuncture sessions during my 41st week to try and induce labor. I don't know if it helped or not, of course I went into labor soon after that so it's easy to say it worked, but it did help me to be able to do something active, and also felt like a calm, pampering thing which is kind of what I needed during those last stressful days.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:22 AM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was obsessed with worry when my children were on the way. I worried about what might happen, I worried about something going wrong. Ultimately things did go wrong, but the actual experience of them going wrong turned out to be no big deal. It's sort of like turbulence; even if it happens, it's not very stressful compared to the fears you invoke in your head, and the pilot isn't worried at all because this is just part of flying.

And I say this as someone whose son almost died in childbirth. Now he's totally awesome, as is his sister.

The thing to remember is: it's not like television or the movies, where something goes wrong and suddenly everyone's panicking and it's big drama. Things sometimes happen, and they have strategies to mitigate them. You really have nothing to worry about, since things probably will not go wrong, but most things that can go wrong -- rare as they may be -- are still nothing new to folks at the hospital.

It might help to consider a bell curve, even though it isn't technically the correct chart type to use: a flawless birth is at the peak, very likely, and there are lots of little things that might go wrong on either side but they're still going to lead to a happy and healthy child. You don't need a perfect delivery to have a perfect child (but you might get one anyway!)

My favorite example: a friend's daughter suddenly decided to come out RIGHT NOW before the doctor arrived in the room. The doctor came in with only one glove on, and held the baby in with one hand while trying to pull the other glove on with her teeth. The big light was lowering towards the table at the same time, and the nurse pulled out a drawer instead of merely opening it, and it crashed to the floor. It was hilarious by all accounts (the mom) but her daughter didn't care; she popped out and that was that.
posted by davejay at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm currently holding my 11-day old, who decided not to make her appearance until 41 weeks, and I had a similar experience of that week being the worst in terms of worry. I poked at my stomach so many times just to get her to move. I did have an induction scheduled for 41+4, if she still hadn't arrived. I don't have sources for you on this, but I did read up on the induction outcome literature and found data that suggested that inductions post-41 weeks did not have the same elevated risk of c-section as those before that point.

As for me, I kept myself distracted as best as I could. Lunch with friends, pedicure, movies, etc. I even did a couple of the cheesy superstitious things said to induce labor, just so I'd have that as a cute story if it happened. My water did end up breaking 24 hrs after I ate that Eggplant Parmesan...
posted by bizzyb at 9:44 AM on February 27, 2014

This isn't pregnancy-specific, but as to your first question, this 14-minute TED talk by Kelly McGonigal contains some useful techniques for how to think about stress and reframe your body's reactions to stress as an expression of helpful strength and energy, rather than a horrible scary freakout. It's probably the best tool I've ever found to calm myself the hell down, and to handle anxiety better while I'm in the thick of it.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, I remember this feeling well (my kiddo is four months next week). Overdue or not, the end of pregnancy is ROUGH. So incredibly uncomfortable. So many people up in your grill asking for news. Feeling like you can't make any plans or move forward with anything. Having no idea when or if anything is ever going to happen.

Can I share an incredibly positive induction story? I feel like you only ever hear worst case scenarios and there's absolutely no reason it's guaranteed to end that way even if you do have to be induced. I was induced at almost 41w due to gestational hypertension, and I freaked the eff out in my OB's office when she gave me the news that I was headed to the hospital that evening, panicking and crying about the cascade of major interventions that was surely destined to follow. My doula reminded me that just because they had me booked in that evening didn't mean I HAD to show up, that it was my choice. I did take the day to think about it but in the end, I decided to trust in my (totally wonderful, laid-back, non-alarmist) OB who had never steered me wrong so far, and in the hospital I had chosen, which has one of the best birth centers in the city, and I checked in at six that night. Yeah, there was Cervidil and Pitocin and my waters had to be broken manually, but not ONE of those things was anywhere NEAR as big a deal as I had built it up to be in my head. Honestly, I was shocked by how NOT a big deal they were in the moment. I spent most of the time comfortably hanging out chatting with my husband, nurses, and doula, watching movies and checking Facebook. I was free to move around and use the tub, shower, and bathroom as much as I wanted. I ate several meals to keep my energy up. The pain never got overwhelming, the vibe in the room was one of happiness and anticipation and relaxation. Most importantly to me, there were no time limits put on my progress, which was slooooooooooooooooooow. My daughter was born 32 hours after I was admitted with only 30 minutes of pushing, perfectly healthy, and my own recovery was a snap.

I do still wonder sometimes if I could have gone into labor on my own time, and I am minorly bummed that I never got to have the experience of the "honey, it's time!" phone call with my husband, but really, it's fine. In hindsight, I honestly wouldn't change a thing, and I strongly suspect the outcome would have been the same even if I'd waited a few more days. While I wouldn't have chosen induction on my own, I still LOVE my birth story because it's ours, you know? Whatever the process turns out to be, you'll make it your own.

I do recommend jotting down a few birth preferences if you can. I totally resisted this, thinking it stupid and pointless because whatever was going to happen was going to happen anyway, regardless of my wishes, but I was genuinely surprised by how accommodating the hospital staff were, and how amenable they were to letting *me* make decisions about the next step in the process. I never saw anyone read the plan but they clearly had because they all referenced something on it at some point without my having to mention it.

Congratulations! I know it doesn't feel like it now, but you're going to be on the other side SO soon. I'm excited for you!
posted by anderjen at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Oh honey. I wish I could sit you down for a cup of tea and a nice foot massage.

Have you told anyone about how anxious you are? Your partner? Your Dr/Midwife?

I have been where you are, particularly the constant thinking about "what if...". Partly it's hormonal. For me, what seemed to be at first just extreme anxiousness was actually pregnancy-related depression that manifested itself as obsessive, intrusive thoughts of doom.

Please print out what you wrote here and take it to your medical professional today, and asked to be assessed for depression. Get assessed and get help now, rather than after the baby is born when it will (trust me on this) be even harder to reach out and get help.
posted by anastasiav at 10:29 AM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

hey, I've been there with a late-coming baby. I was induced at 41 weeks after trying every labor-inducing old wives' tale in the book for the prior 2 weeks. It was not fun. But, the induction went fine, and I was able to give birth without any vacuum/forceps or C section. The whole thing felt very medical, but that's fine since it achieved its purpose, which was helping me deliver a healthy baby.

Here are my thoughts on what you've said:
You're setting so many expectations for this situation, some of which are at cross purposes to each other. On one hand, you're terrified because you are scared something bad is going to happen medically. On the other hand, you're terrified because you don't want to have medical intervention. I totally understand how this happens because of mom-society peer pressures, but the thing is, sometimes childbirth does require medical interventions. If they happen it will be because you NEED them in order to have a healthy baby. Medical interventions do not mean that you are "bad" are childbirth or that you "made the wrong choices" or any of that. They are, in general, a function and not a bug of the system. And pregnancy complications don't happen to "bad" people just like cancer doesn't happen to bad people. Health just happens and it's not necessarily a reward or a punishment for your good or bad behavior, although we have a great illusion of being able to completely control our health risks in this day and age. Wonderful people who eat an amazing diet and have a rigorous exercise regimen still die of heart attacks and cancer every day, this is not their "fault". All you can do is your best and what happens beyond that you cannot blame yourself for.

Following on to that, try you best to stop thinking of this process as one you have control over. I can tell that you feel this way because you are making references to "letting your family down" and so forth. Guess what, letting your family down is impossible, because no complication that happens to you or your baby during childbirth is going to be your fault. What happens is going to happen and it's not going to be something you can decide or force or change. Please realize that. One thing about childbirth that really made an impression on me as a planner and type A personality is that this is something that just physiologically IS and HAPPENS and it just kind of unfolds in this amazing way that demonstrates how our bodies actually have whole major life-creating and sustaining processes that are written into their DNA, and our brains and our thoughts really have nothing to do with it. The fact that it goes incredibly well so often is awe-inspiring.

Keeping in mind that what is going to happen will happen, what I recommend is that you place trust in the people who are helping you through this. Because of your anxiety, you're not really in a place to be making fraught decisions right now, and regardless of what happens you need not to be obsessing afterwards about what you could have done differently. In medicine we are taught about risk-sharing and discussing the risks and benefits of every situation these days, because we're trying to move away from the old model which is considered paternalistic. This is good, but not everyone wants or needs to be involved in medical decision making for themselves, and quite honestly it's probably done more than is appropriate considering the lack of background knowledge or ability to assess risk/statistics that most people have (in the best of times, not to mention while pregnant or in labor!). If you get faced with a question like "do you want to induce?" or "do you want me to break your water?" or anything like that, here's your line: "what do you think would be best?" Let your midwife or doctor tell you based on their experience and knowledge what they think the best course would be, and go with that. Do not think that this is a decision you personally have to make. This is what they got years of training for and what they get paid the big bucks for. If they tell you what they think would be best and you have some strong feeling that they are wrong, you can ask them to explain their thought process. If you still disagree, you don't have to go along with what they say. But I would say have option A be do what your health professional thinks is best. It's a lot harder to beat yourself up about later when you take this approach. "I can't believe I did what my doctor thought was best and things went wrong!! I never should have listened to my doctor!" - not so likely to be something you're going to end up saying.

Best wishes! This too shall pass!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:00 AM on February 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm not you so I would never assume to tell you what to do, I will just tell you my circumstances (which are different) and what call I decided to make and you can see if any of this rings true for you. To start with, I was an older mother, having my second at 39. I had gestational diabetes and a history of having larger babies. My first ended in an emergency c section as he was too large and although I tried, he made it clear he wasn't going to come out the normal way.

For my second, I had done more research and learnt that older mothers have an increased risk of stillbirth - to the point that IIRC, Australian hospitals are now considering automatically inducing these babies of older mums at least a week before their due date just to be sure. I had this conversation with my OB and he said absolutely, why take the risk, if this would make you feel better and a week early would pose no risk to the baby, especially considering my babies are extra large.

As it turned out, my eventual gestational diabetes and the large baby thing made my doctor say, too high a risk for me, given that it will almost certainly end in a c section regardless, he strongly recommended we just go straight to it instead of last time where it turned into the emergency one anyway. So I had a c section a week before my due date instead. Mum and bub both fine, I was happy and relaxed and I healed very quickly.

Your anxiety level over this makes me think it is worth at least having a conversation with your midwife about inducing and seeing what she thinks.

At the end of the day, the aim is to have a happy, healthy baby and mother, however that comes about. There is no trophy at the end for avoiding an induction/epidural/c section or whatever it is you think you might be judged for. Do what's best for both of you and try and go into as calm as you think you can - there is thinking that it helps avoid postpartum depression if you're happier with the way your birth went. You're about to have a beautiful baby - go you!
posted by Jubey at 3:40 PM on February 27, 2014

Just a note on the waiting game: when mine was lateish it helped a lot to remember that 40 weeks is the mean length of gestation, not the "right" or "majority" length of gestation. That is, only 50% of pregnant women have given birth by the 40w mark, and a full 50% are still waiting. Those numbers change day by day thereafter, of course, but still more slowly than you'd realize-- something like 1/4 of all women are still pregnant by the 41 week mark. (This website gives a great, enlightening breakdown of day-by-day odds.)

So do be reassured, at least, that your having made it to 40 full weeks (the 40w +6d scan dating is BS, ultrasound measurements are crazy inaccurate this late in labor) is not in itself any reason for extra anxiety or antsiness. Half of all your cohort of pregnant women are still with you, biting their nails.
posted by Bardolph at 4:59 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's been a long thread. Are you in labor yet?

Just kidding.

Look, I had the dreaded BAD NEWS at the 13 week anatomical scan. I knew most probably I was going to have an emegency c-section (or at least an urgent one) at some point, and I knew that there was a very real possibility my baby would die soon after birth. I knew all this since week 13.

Even with all this, I did not have the levels of worry that you seem to be having. It helps to aknowledge that 1)there's not much you can do other than inform yourself and trust your doctors (or midwife in your case) and 2)worrying does NOTHING to help the specific situation, in fact it may very well worsen it.

Also, there are two things that people told me that put things very much into a new perspective for me. My husband and I talked to a priest/friend of the family. We asked him how to deal with the worry and angst knowing we could loose the baby. Instead of saying "well there's nothing you can do but put yourself in God's hands" (probably true if you have any type of faith but completely useless advice), he told us that every day I was pregnant was a day the baby was alive and there with us. That made me think that yes, my baby would be born with an immediate danger of death, but I could still enjoy him during the rest of the pregnancy. After two miscarriages, one full term pregnancy/birth and one pre-term birth, I know these last days and hours of being pregnant feel like torture, but think that every extra hour you are pregnant your baby is as close to you as he'll ever be. Enjoy the extra bonding time of the sort only pregnancy brings. When the baby is born, you'll sometimes still want him or her inside of you.

Another thing that put things instantly into perspective with my first baby was that when I had to be induced and then my ObGyn was telling me I probably needed a c-section and I didn't want one, the doctor told me "look, at the end of the day, you came here to have a baby, not a natural childbirth". So yeah, trust your midwife and doctor but at the end of the day, and induction isn't so bad, medical interventions aren't so bad, and a c-section doesn't mean failure in any way. Sure it hurts emotionally to not be able to have your birth go the way you pictured, but you'll get over it eventually. Just remember, the end result to a looooong pregnancy is a healthy baby and a happy mom, any other wish you get fulfilled is a bonus.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 6:32 PM on February 27, 2014

Don't stress the induction! There are studies indicating that induction past 41 weeks REDUCES risk of c-section and adverse fetal outcomes. I was induced and it was totally fine.
posted by yarly at 6:51 PM on February 27, 2014

So I had a high-risk pregnancy that ended in a live baby at 30+ weeks, but pretty much the whole pregnancy was "Is she dead yet?" because of so many issues. I know some high risk parents who also did not tell people about the pregnancy for the same reasons, because it was just additional pressure. You have a way way lower risk but you know what, pregnancy is scary and even a small risk can feel overwhelming and terrifying.

I got through it by imagining how safe and happy my child felt, knowing that she was in no distress even if anything went wrong, that because of all the endorphins and hormones floating around, she was basically in a pain-free dreamstate. There's some science about this that I found fascinating, the transition from womb through birth where the baby's entire body goes fully online. It meant that all my distress or pain wasn't being transmitted to the baby, that to her, this was the sweetest and happiest time and she was safe.

I found it really hard to plan ahead for things, and I promise you all that baby shopping can be done by friends *fast*. You could get your mom off your back by asking her to do the shopping and store it at her house so you don't have to look at it.

I wrote her letters a lot. I couldn't bring myself to write a letter to my family if I died, so instead I told my husband what I wanted to plan for them and for her, and vice-versa. Later when she was super-sick, it helped to knit something for her, thinking this would be what she would be buried in or go home from the hospital in. Morbid, but it was incredibly comforting at the time to put my fears and hopes into each stitch.

I also slept as much as I could and played so many many many hours of mindless computer games. I wish in hindsight I had stopped work earlier and given in more to my need to curl up and be mindless and weather the storm of it all, instead of trying to cope with the anxiety and the baby. I would take maternity leave earlier if it helped, ask about anti-anxiety meds you can safely take if there are any at this stage, and basically tell people to back the hell off, including your husband. This is a sort of liminal time and if you can't cope like other people want you to, then sod them.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:56 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, bear with me here. I was induced the day after my due date, for pre-eclampsia. About a thousand things went wrong, so my birth experience was pretty bad, and full of (unfortunately necessary) interventions. Overall, it was scary as hell - although most of the individual interventions weren't nearly as awful as I had been warned. Pitocin worked out okay for me. My water was broken, and it was no big deal. I did have a very rough time, though.

That was only a little over two weeks ago. I still feel like a garbage truck hit me, then reversed to hit me again. But my daughter and I are alive and improving, thanks to a shitload of interventions that nobody is ever raring to endure. They sucked, and I hated them, but our lives were in danger without them.

What I'm trying to say is: Even if you have to get an induction, even if you have a pile of interventions, even if the whole experience sucks ass... it's still going to be okay. You're going to come out the other end with your kid, and you'll carry on. And PhoBWanKenobi is SO FREAKING RIGHT about this: "There are two wonderful things about giving birth: you have a baby, and you are no longer fucking pregnant". YES.

Also, everything treehorn+bunny said is truer than the truest of all truths.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:18 PM on February 27, 2014

If you'd like to do something to possibly make your labor start sooner, consider using a breast pump for nipple simulation. There are some small but good studies showing that this can be effective at something like tripling the chance you'll go into labor within 48 hours. It's the only at-home labor induction method that has evidence of being effective. This is discussed in the book Expecting Better if you'd like to read more about it. It does require a lot of time with the breast pump - 3 hours a day.
posted by medusa at 4:26 AM on February 28, 2014

Thank you all so much for your thoughts on this. Just to clear up a few things:

- I'm 31, no medical issues, normal BMI etc etc. I've read a lot about factors that are thought to up the risk of stillbirth and the only one I have is nulliparity. (Well, and being overdue, now...)
- I am indeed in the UK.
- I should have been clearer about the dating scan: this happened when I thought I was 11+6, the scan made me 12+5. I know early scans are very accurate, but not to put too fine a point on it, there is no physical possibility I could have been any further along than 12+1.
- I mention this at every midwife appointment I go to. They ask how I am, I say "worried", they look shocked and ask why, I explain, they just say "yeah, that does happen, but let's just assume it won't happen to you". (I've got "very anxious" written five or six times in my maternity notes.) My husband's very aware of my anxieties because I burst into tears about it on roughly a weekly basis (I'm a real joy to be around at the moment), and he has assured me that if the worst does happen we will get through it; I occasionally try to voice my concerns to my Mum but she just insists everything's going to be fine. This is a large part of what worries me, actually: because of my natural pessimism, I wasn't entirely shocked by my miscarriage and that helped me cope with it, but I worry that my parents are doing what a lot of people do, and assuming that if all's well at the first scan then you're more or less guaranteed a healthy baby later on. The thing is, Catseye absolutely hits the nail on the head with this:

when you've already come down on the wrong side of the odds once, and the results were so devastating, it's really hard to shake the impression that you need to mentally prepare for that happening again

...this is exactly what I'm trying to do, but I just don't see how I can prepare myself for something so awful. An early miscarriage is a horrible thing, but to get all the way to the end of a pregnancy and end up without a baby - I've half-convinced myself it's actually going to happen, and I still have no idea how I'll possibly cope. I feel like I'm putting myself through a whole load of worry and sadness and fear in order to prepare for something that is so big I can't possibly prepare for it anyway.

I realise I have come across, as treehorn+bunny's answer points out, as completely contradictory here - not wanting anything bad to happen but resisting any form of intervention. I do want to point out that I am in no way opposed to interventions themselves - I'm just worried about the risks those interventions carry if they're not absolutely necessary. One of my closest friends admits that her daughter's birth was awful for her only because it didn't meet her own expectations - she was desperate for a totally natural birth, and after a 44 hour labour with an induction and ventouse, she felt somehow like a failure. This makes absolutely no sense to me at all - you're both okay, how can that possibly be a failure?! - but I'm looking at her birth in retrospect, knowing that it ultimately turned out okay: it's harder to think I might have to have this intervention, and that might cause this problem, not knowing what the outcome will be. I do 100% feel that us both getting out of this alive is the only thing that matters - it's just which route is more likely to get us there that worries me. (The funny thing is that I am normally completely fascinated by anything medical - any time I have any medical procedure done, I always want to know exactly what's going on and how it's working and so on - and if someone could only guarantee that we would both be okay, I would be seeing the whole thing as a big adventure, scary interventions and all. It's just that the stakes are so high this time, I can't see it like that.)

However, I am just feeling worse and worse about this, and I really feel now as though I just need this pregnancy to end one way or another for my own sanity. I think that, assuming all is still well until my appointment on Monday, I should perhaps talk about the possibility of being induced sooner rather than later; and until then, distract myself as much as possible, try to do and think about things that have nothing to do with birth or babies, and possibly tell the next person who says "any news??!!!" that yes, Russian naval forces are currently occupying Crimea. I do have a hypnobirthing CD, which I've been resisting using because of my fears, but seeing as giving birth in one way or another is the only thing that is definitely going to happen here, I may as well listen to it anyway if I can bear to.

Thank you so so much again for all your thoughts, perspectives, and stories. It's good to know I'm not the only one who's had these fears, and it's really helpful to hear that an induction doesn't have to be horrific. One way or another this will all be over soon, I suppose!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 4:34 AM on February 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best wishes to you rasperry-ripple. May everything turn out ok and end up with a healthy mom and a healthy baby.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:14 AM on February 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

As far as the "overdue" part, is your midwife saying you're overdue? My kids were both born around 42 weeks and nobody was suggesting they were late (in a medical sense).

You're having intrusive thoughts, anxiety... do you think you have antepartum depression? I urge you to talk to a doctor about it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:04 PM on February 28, 2014

Oh my dear. For those of us who are prone to pessimism and worry, this is a very trying time. It's a moment where we really have very little control and the consequences in every direction feel life-changing and momentous...because they are. But we can only do what is best in the moment. Reach out to your midwife again. Please. Going in to your birth overwhelmed with anxiety is not a great place to be. Ask her about massage. Your muscles are probably tense and tired. Have your husband hold and massage you as well. Your challenge in this moment is to focus inward. Not out into all the possible outcomes which you have no control over. A small dose of an anti-anxiety medication might help you make the shift to the calming meditation that you need right now to prepare for the journey.

Please come back and tell us how things turn out. I and many here will be thinking of you.
posted by amanda at 8:13 AM on March 1, 2014

I just wanted to update this - and to thank you all so so much - as I'm now recovering with a tiny newborn...

It wasn't exactly the nicest birth in the world - my waters broke on Sunday night, I went into hospital to check, and they wanted to induce me as they didn't think I'd go into labour on my own and were worried about infection. I started having contractions that night so they kept me under observation. 18 hours later I was only having sporadic contractions, so they put me on IV antibiotics, a syntocinon drip and continuous fetal monitoring (after rupturing my membranes on the grounds that it was only my hindwaters that had previously gone), though I could still move around. The fun didn't end there, as I ended up having a catheter, a fetal scalp clip, a ventouse delivery and a tear, and two lots of IV antibiotics because my temperature was high after the birth. I lost count of the number of people in the delivery room at one point.

And do you know what, I didn't swear once (at one point I even stopped breathing the Entenox so I could tell one of the midwives not to apologise).

Our tiny baby girl, on the other hand, has been an absolute paragon throughout, passing endless non-stress tests, shouting the second she was out, and never giving anyone a moment's worry. She even cries in a cute way. So really, I couldn't be happier with the way things have turned out.

(I just wouldn't want to do it again in a hurry!)
posted by raspberry-ripple at 6:07 PM on March 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

Congratulations! Please snuggle the baby on behalf of metafilter--and give yourself a high five, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:18 PM on March 3, 2014

posted by CrazyLemonade at 6:33 PM on March 3, 2014

Congrats! I had a somewhat similar birth so feel free to mefimail me if you'd like to talk about it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:52 PM on March 3, 2014

Hooray! You did it! Congratulations. :)
posted by amanda at 7:40 AM on March 4, 2014

Many congratulations! I was thinking of you.
posted by fussbudget at 3:16 PM on March 4, 2014

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